In this week’s interview Speedway Media catches up with Fast Track Racing crew member and former ARCA Menards Series driver, Dick Doheny.
Doheny has a unique relationship with Andy Hillenburg, former owner of Rockingham Speedway and current owner of Fast Track Racing. Last year he would start the race and then get out of the car to crew chief for someone else on the team. But in 2020, Doheny has stepped away from driving duties and is building race cars for the Fast Track Racing team. During the interview, we talk to Doheny how the opportunity came about to race ARCA, why he is good friends with driver Ed Pompa, and the advice he would give to drivers.
SM: You have a unique story in racing. You start a race, run a few laps and then get out of the car to work as the crew chief for the same team. Explain how that all came about?
Doheny: “Last year, we started with three cars committed at Daytona and Talladega,” he said. “Only with the point structure in ARCA, we decided to fill in the remaining three races of the first five. It kind of snowballed from there.”
SM: Do you find it challenging having to race a few laps and get out in time to crew chief for someone else?
Doheny: “Yes, it can be,” Doheny said. “While the rest of the crew tries to keep me apprised of what is going on with the other cars, I still have to play catch-up after I get out of the car. In practice, I try to go out early and get my stuff done, then I can concentrate on getting the No. 11 car up to speed. It can get confusing at times, but having just been on the track, it can also help in giving feedback to the other drivers.”
SM: With that in mind, what brought you to racing and how did you get connected with Andy (Hillenburg, Team Owner) to give you your shot?
Doheny: “I have always been a big fan of auto racing,” he said. “I decided to give it a try myself. After pit crewing on a few local race teams, I built myself a Hobby Stock and then a Late Model and I got to run a Small Block Dirt Modified a few times. I had some success with a few wins and a track championship. Like a lot of racers, life happened. The bank doesn’t want to hear that you can’t pay the mortgage because you had to put a new motor in the race car. So, racing got put on hold while I helped raise a family. After several years, I felt that I needed to scratch the itch and did one of Andy’s three-day racing schools. I’ve been scratching ever since. I don’t think Andy was as impressed with my abilities as much as my willingness to work cheap.”
SM: While being connected with the team, you and Ed Pompa have become great friends through the years. Describe why that friendship is very special between the two of you?
Doheny: “Ed (Pompa) and I go back a long way,” Doheny said. “I would tell you how long, but then you would know we are a couple of old farts. We grew up in the same small town, working in family businesses. While we went to different schools, we knew each other from working in racing. At the time, I was driving at the local short track, Ed was the track photographer. We both ran tech for a radio control racing club. We both wound up at Fast Track from completely different directions. Ed has concentrated primarily on driving, while I have come to realize I am better at building them (cars) than driving them.”
SM: I’ve heard for some drivers that racing is a hobby for them. Is that a correct term to say that?
Doheny: “Everybody has a hobby,” he explained. “Some people whack a little ball and go chase it. I can say that because my son-in-law is a golf pro. Some people whack a ball and someone else chases it (softball), while I build race cars and drive in circles. Fortunately, for me, I get to do my hobby full-time.”
SM: Before you made your career debut at Pocono in 2006, what else were you doing? In follow up to that, what are you doing aside from racing?
Doheny: “I own a small building mechanical business,” Doheny said. “It’s HVAC design, building automation, etc. Most of what I do is design and planning. So my nights and weekends are spent on the computer doing that. I still go home about half a dozen times a year to oversee large projects.”
SM: Do you wish you were full-time actively and winning races?
Doheny: Sure, but I need to be realistic about it,” he said. “If you put me in a top-flight NASCAR Cup ride, I would still probably finish last, if I could even make the show. Like I said, I’m better at building them than driving them.”
SM: What is it about the ARCA Menards Series you enjoy so much?
Doheny: ARCA is just a big family,” Doheny said. “I can go from discussing ideas with an ex-Cup crew chief one minute and then with another grassroots weekend warrior the next minute. We all fight like crazy to beat each other, but in the end, if you have a problem, everyone, ARCA officials and series competitors will be the first one to give you a hand.”
SM: Every racer always remembers their first time at Daytona. What was it like going there for the first time?
Doheny: “Not going through the tunnel as I had already been there as pit crew, but rolling out of the garage,” he said. “The first five laps were spent saying to myself, ‘holy crap! This is Daytona! What am I doing here’? At the end of the first practice, my spotter said, “welcome to Daytona, you can cross this off your bucket list.” I replied, ‘this was never on my bucket list.’ Back when I was running my local short track, I had never considered that someday I would be able to race at a place like Daytona.”
SM: Since then, you’ve had some pretty special moments in ARCA. What’s been your favorite racing memory in your career so far?
Doheny: “Probably some of the obvious ones,” the New Yorker said. “The first Daytona start (2014), 12th at Springfield, and ninth in the final points (2019). However, also building and crewing cars that have been competitive.”
SM: That said, you finished ninth in ARCA points in 2019 while driving and being a crew chief at the same time. Do you pay attention to that and if so, what does that say about you and the team? What are your goals in 2020? How long do you plan to keep doing ARCA?
Doheny: “Andy came to me early in the season and said, he thought I could wind up with a top-10 points finish,” Doheny said. “I was more like, let’s get the other cars performing where they need to need to be first. By the end of the season, I was willing to flat tow a car to Kansas just for the points. Fast Track Racing consists of two full-time people and three part-timers in the shop. Last year, we put three cars in the top-15 in points and two drivers in the top-10. I think overachievers would be a good description. We have been able to consistently race in the top-15. For 2020, I want to see that change to top-10s. Personally, I’ll keep going in ARCA until they throw me out.”
SM: If someone came to you after your career is over and asked if you would do it all over again, would you? If not, what would you change differently?
Doheny: “On one hand, I wish I had started earlier,” he said. “However, I would never have been able to have the home life with my family that I have. So no, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
SM: To wrap things up, what advice do you have, if any, for future drivers or crew chiefs that hope to make a career out of it?
Doheny: Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut,” Doheny said. “Show me what you can do, just don’t tell me. The people in charge will see your abilities and act accordingly. Working long hours, being on the road, not having a weekend off is all tough. But the results can be very gratifying. Above all, have fun doing what you do.”