My Two Sons
Nothing increases the chances of success like having more than one car in the race. However, victory becomes sweeter when members of the same family work together to achieve it. A perfect case in point is the sportsman racing effort of Ray Sawyer and his sons Mike and Brian, a team which has generated a winning combination.
For the past few seasons, the Sawyer trio has been racing together in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Mike was the first in the family to achieve success in the Series, taking his 1967 Camaro to the 2002 Division 1 Super Street title. Not to be outdone, dad Ray decided to reinforce the idea that his better days were not behind him. After garnering his first-ever Super Gas national event title in 2005, he went on to win the Division 1 crown and eventually took home the Super Gas championship crown as well. While the accolades went to Ray, those around the family will testify that everybody in the family won that championship.
The vision started for the Sawyers back in 1984 when Ray got into drag racing on a full-time basis.
“I have always been a fan of drag racing,” Ray said. “I was a teen in the late 60s and early 70s when muscle cars were in their heyday, and having owned a couple of them it was hard for me not to get involved in drag racing.”
Ray decided in the early going this had to be a family effort. His wife Denise and his young sons could be found at his side at every race he attended. Ray had his first taste of success with a Super Pro title at New England Dragway in 1993. After winning the same title again five years later, he decided to try and go after something bigger and set his sights on the divisional circuit. Originally starting off in the 8.90 Super Comp category, the elder Sawyer soon switched to Super Gas and scored his first divisional win in 2001.
“One reason (I chose Super Gas) is because Pro Stock is too expensive,” Sawyer explained. “Another is that Super Gas is contested at national and divisional events. For years I ran my old ‘87 Firebird in Super Comp, but in the heat it wouldn’t cover the number, so I decided to run Super Gas and I found a home there.
Ray quickly acclimated himself to the challenges and passed the knowledge to the next generation Sawyers.
“I went to the track pretty much every weekend with Dad since I was five years old,” Mike said. “I grew up at New England Dragway watching him and a lot of other good racers. The older I got, the more attention I paid, and if I wasn’t on the starting line with dad, you could usually find me watching from the top end.”
The logical next step for Ray was to introduce his offspring to driving.
“I’d basically been the one to do the numbers for Dad and Brian, so that wasn’t that big of a deal,” Mike explained about his role on the team.
While Ray and Brian were racing, Mike was at Nichols College, where he earned a degree in Management Information Systems.
Mike’s prior racing experience had been at the local level only, but he stepped up and gave divisional competition a try in 1999 behind the wheel of a Super Street 1967 Chevy Nova. When Brian stepped out of racing, Mike stepped into his brother’s 1967 Camaro. Watching his father helped Mike to start winning soon after he took over behind the wheel of the car.
Brian, meanwhile, moved to the west coast to pursue a music career and is reportedly doing quite well.
“One reason that my brother and I had always been successful over the years is because of our father,” Mike said. “When you grow up watching your father win championships bracket racing, you tend to learn a little bit. Plus, his experience has helped us immeasurably in terms of getting the right set-ups on the car.”
Success came quickly for Mike, when, with Brian’s name still on the car, he won the 2002 Division 1 Super Street title. In quick succession he finished fifth in points in 2003, scored his first national event win the same year at Bristol, and was runner-up in Super Street points in 2004. Ray remained successful in Super Gas, taking his 2002 Camaro to an eighth-place finish in national points in 2004, making it a great year for the racing family from Acton, Massachusetts.
Then the trouble for everyone in Super Gas doubled.
After starting out the 2005 season in Super Street, Mike graduated to Super Gas, giving the Sawyer clan a potent one-two punch.
“The reason I changed classes was that I wanted to run for a national championship,” Mike said. “The last couple of years I’d been running the full six nationals and eight divisionals with success at both levels. Since it really doesn’t look like Super Street will be a true national class anytime soon, and since it’s really expensive to go fast in Super Stock, Super Gas seemed like the next logical step.”
Starting out first with his trusted Camaro, Mike eventually saw Edmond Richardson’s Cavalier roadster as a better sword to do battle with.
The opportunity for success in Super Gas effectively doubled for the Sawyers. While Mike was sorting out the new car, Ray was wiping out the competition, showing all that his son’s move to Super Gas wasn’t a distraction but an added weapon to the arsenal.
“I think it helped quite a bit,” Ray said of Mike’s move into Super Gas. “Now there are two of us watching what is going on in the Super Gas class. Mike’s move to Super Gas was planned, although it could have been Super Stock, Stock, or Super Comp. Running Super Street is great on the divisional level, but we both wanted to be able to compete at the national level for world points. When the Cavalier roadster crossed our paths, we both knew it was time to swap.”
The Cavalier wouldn’t be the only thing that crossed their paths that year, as both Mike and Ray ran into each other in eliminations numerous times in 2005. Not to be deterred, Ray kept on winning, and when Mike sorted out the new ride, he followed suit.
“I expected there would be some growing pains when we first started to sort out the new car, because we had to make my motor, transmission, and converter work in it,” Mike said. “It took me until the Englishtown points meet to find one problem with the car that was affecting consistency and predictability, and then I found another one just before Cecil.” The end result was a win at the Cecil County Lucas Oil event and an eventual second place finish in Division 1 Super Gas points.
Through it all, the Sawyers have raced as a family and have won as a family, and they continue to do so for a long time.
“I’d just like to keep racing with my family for as long as I can,” Mike said. “Sure, the success we’ve had has been great, but to be able to do this as a family is even better. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Ray agreed. “I think I accomplished the ultimate goal in 2005,” he said. “The friends you meet along the way make the sport so satisfying to me. Winning rounds and races comes as a nice bonus.”
Nothing makes for a better bonus than added opportunity.
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