On the Fast Track: Glenn Styres and the Business (and Thrill) of Race Car Driving
Glenn Styres grew up to do exactly wanted he to - race cars. But the 47-year-old Tuscarora, who lives in the Six Nations community of Ohsweken, Ontario, is also much more involved in the auto racing industry.
He's also a racing promoter. And he heads up Styres Racing, which not only includes himself but other drivers as well. And oh yeah, he also happens to own the Ohsweken Speedway, one of the premier sprint car racing tracks in North America.
Styres built the 3/8 mile oval track in 1994, after selling his shares from Grand River Enterprises, a successful cigarette manufacturing company. The Ohsweken Speedway, which has a seating capacity of about 7,500, was built on 80 acres of Styres-owned land. And the track is mere steps from Styres' front yard.
"I can throw a rock and hit the track," he said of the proximity of his house to the speedway.
Of all the racing hats that he wears, Styres said there is one that he enjoys the most.
"I always prefer to be behind the wheel of a car," he said.
Styres started racing himself in 2000. He's managed to amass 27 career victories in various series. He primarily races 360 and 410 Sprint Cars, vehicles that weigh 1,400 pounds and that have engines with 700 and 900 horsepower, respectively.
Styres' most noteworthy victory came earlier this year, on February 25. He shocked the field by winning the 40-lap Ronald Laney Memorial race, which was held during the King of the 360s Nationals. The race was staged at the East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Fla.
Styres began that race, which featured 20 entrants, from the Number 18 spot. And early on it didn't appear he would have much success at this event as he spun his car. But he managed to recover from that setback and work his way up towards the leaders. Styres secured his win by flying past the race leader on the final corner of the last lap.
Styres credited his victory in part to attending a star-studded charity event two days earlier in Hamilton, Ontario. Among those who attended the event, which raised funds for the Canadian Diabetes Association, was actor Sylvester Stallone, best known for his Rocky films.
"With all the positive stuff going on (at the fundraiser) it must have empowered me," Styres said.
Though he also gets a big kick when one of his Styres Racing drivers wins a race, that feeling is magnified when he himself pulls out a victory.
"It's 1,000 times better," Styres said. "It solidifies that you can drive a car. It's just amazing."
Styres has also captured numerous awards for his promotional and business efforts in the sport. During the past seven years he has been selected as the Promoter of the Year six times, in the 360 Sprint Cars category, by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum, located in Knoxville, Iowa.
Since the Ohsweken Speedway runs events most weekends from May through September, Styres has been sticking around close to his home track most years. But he's planning to branch out somewhat more in 2012.
"This year I'm going to tour around a bit," he said, adding he's planning to participate at events in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
Styres also wants to compete at the Knoxville Nationals, which will run Aug. 8-11.
"That's like the Daytona 500 of sprint car racing," he said.
He's only entered the Knoxville Nationals once before, in 2003. He didn't have much success there, crashing a pair of his cars during the week.
"I've always wanted to go back," Styres said.
Styres is not the only member of his family heavily involved in sports. His older brother Curt currently owns a pair of professional franchises, the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League and the Hamilton Nationals, members of the Major League Lacrosse. Curt Styres is also the former owner of the American Hockey League's Rochester Americans.
As for the younger Styres, how much longer does he plan on racing cars?
"As long as I'm competitive," he said. "If I'm still winning races at 60, I'll keep racing. But if I become a pylon out there and just keep getting in everybody's way, I'll find somebody else that can drive."