A Conversation With Sprint Car Racing Champion Glenn Styres
Though Sprint Car racing champion Glenn Styres, Tuscarora, may have the number zero emblazoned on his car and his jacket , he is certainly not a zero on the track or in his life. As of April 2012, when ICTMN last spoke with him, Styres boasted 27 career victories racing 360 and 410 Sprint Cars.
Since that time he has had added a few more wins. And he's also won by losing--pounds, that is. Styres made a healthy effort to lose weight, and he's been successful. And that's helping him on the race track, too.
In a conversation with ICTMN, Styres, the owner of Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario and 2012 winner of the King of the 360’s, talked about his success in his professional and personal lives and how the two concepts work well together for a life of continuous achievements.
How have things been going the last year?
You know, I’ve won three of the last four races. I started out the season and I swear to God I could have won the first one I was in, but I started my victory speech before I crossed the finish line. I guess you call it counting your chickens before they're hatched or some damn thing like that.
What else has been going on for you?
In January, I went to the Chili Bowl Nationals. It’s a race that I race in every year. I had gained a lot of weight and I was not taking care of myself. I broke my wrist; I had shoulder surgery, knee surgery and suffered from ailment after ailment.
The weight just creeped on. Before I knew it, I was 250 pounds and I did not fit in my car very good. My face was squishing into my helmet's windshield. I was really snug in the car, I was really uncomfortable and it was dangerous and I couldn't breathe.
Something happened where I said, ‘This is it, and I’m going to turn my health around.’ I got a personal trainer and a nutritionist, I focused, worked hard and after 12 weeks, I am now 202 pounds. I lost 48 pounds.
I was speaking to someone at the office and told her, "I hope I do well this year." She said, "You are already working on it. What you are doing today is creating your future.’"I never forgot that. For six weeks, I have maintained my weight. I have now set a new goal to be 195 pounds with my personal trainer.
I was 27 years old when I was last 205 lbs. I haven't been 195 since high school.
That is impressive to make such a healthy change. Has it affected your ability to race a Sprint Car?
My car loves the new weight. I have laid down the fastest laps, I am strong in the car and I don't run out of wind like I used to. I don't lose focus. It is something short of a miracle.
I've been fortunate to work with such people as Sylvester Stallone, Tiger Woods and Al Pacino, and if I'm going to be representing diabetes I am not a very good representative. I didn't like the way I looked. I want to practice what I preach.
To do this, I have been carrying my lunch bag with me with all my fruits and vegetables, which is hard to do in this day and age because this whole industry is designed for failure. You can't go to a restaurant and get a salad, there's too much crap in it. I stay out of restaurants now. If I go to a restaurant, I make my shake and I will go in and have a light salad.
Out of all the vehicles in the world to race, you chose to race Sprint. What is a 360 or 410 Sprint Car and why did you choose this particular vehicle?
This is my analogy of a Sprint Car. You have heard of the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]? It is very violent and an all or nothing kind of fighting. That is Sprint Car racing. It is the fastest and most violent form of motorsports with 4 wheels you could ever imagine.
If you get somebody that races Formula One cars to come and race one of these, they will say ‘Are you freaking nuts? I ain’t freaking driving one of them.’
These things take you for a ride, you don't drive them. This car is two seconds faster than NASCAR or Formula One's. They took this car to Bristol to find the fastest racecar; The Sprint Car was by far the most dominant, had the most horsepower per pound and was the most feared car to drive.
Sprint cars weigh about 1,450 pounds. The 360 is 740 horsepower and the 410 car is 900 horsepower. But the 410s have an aluminum front engine, which makes the front end a lot lighter. It is wicked and spooky. Just to drive the 410 car has taken me several years to get used to.
I talked to Donny Schatz, a World of Outlaws champion, and said, "these things are scary, they petrify me." I asked him, "how long is it going to take for me to get used to these things?" He said, "It doesn’t go away." I said, "you gotta be kidding me."
Driving a Sprint Car is going 160 miles an hour in a snowstorm on roads you don't know. That is basically how much you pucker up driving these things.
You were heading out to the Knoxville Nationals last August. How'd it go?
Out of 150 cars approximately, I was the sixth fastest overall. And I was 250 pounds at the time. I am going to go down there this year 50 pounds lighter and I got a special engine made which is 30 pounds lighter so I am taking 80 pounds off my car. Those guys are going to catch hell.
What's your career highlight?
The biggest race of my career was in East Bay, Florida in February, The King of 360's which was a $10,000 to win show, I missed practice, our event was Thursday night and I started 42nd in points - which is last place. I still turned up number one at the end of the night. It was spectacular. On the last corner, on the last pass it was wicked.
In general, what would you say are the key factors to your success?
The biggest thing is that your attitude controls your altitude. If you have a good attitude you get a lot of help and a lot of support. In this industry I see a lot of bad attitudes and they're not around for very long. With me, it is "yes sir, no sir." To carry yourself as well-mannered and as a polite businessman is key. If you do the right thing, the right things will happen.
It is tough, because I didn't start racing until late. I was 35 years old when I started. A lot of people are retiring at this time. For me to get into a sport at such a late age and not ever having driven a Sprint Car, now that I think about it, it's quite amazing.
One of the analogies I use is that driving one of the Sprint cars is like learning to play a fine instrument like a violin or piano. It takes 12 years to become a phenomenon. I started racing in 2000 so this is my 13th year. I am telling you, my car is magical. My whole team and everything is magical. I am just speechless.
I don't know how to describe it, but I am at the point in my car that I don't know what my feet are doing, I don't know what my hands are doing, they are just trained and conditioned now to do whatever they have to do without me thinking about it. It is an amazing feeling. I have people coming up to me that say, 'Man, you just make that look so easy, that car is just gliding around.'
I don't know how to describe the feeling, the energy - I am so proud, I don't know how to describe it. I can have the worst day of my life, but when I get into that car, everything just disappears. It is just paradise.
Do you have any words of advice for a young person who wants to get into car racing?
I have always said to anybody that would listen, "Never give up on your dreams. Dream big and keep dreaming and just keep it in sight. Look at my dream; it didn't happen until I was 35."