In just his second season in the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series, Woodstock native Tyler Speer made a climb to the top with a Pro Modified Division world championship.
After finishing his debut season in seventh, Speer finished the nine-race 2016 season with 3,186 points, 198 clear of the field. Even after the results became official, it took a while for his accomplishment to set in.
“It took a little bit to sink all the way in,” said Speer, who turned 26 last week. “We knew what we needed to happen in our last race to clinch it, and it happened. I was pretty pumped inside the boat. I just couldn’t wait to get down to the other end. It was neat. It took all day to set it, but once it did, it was really cool to see what we did in just our second year.”
A strong finish to his rookie campaign left Speer feeling confident heading into the 2016 season. He was ready to apply the lessons he learned, but things did not start off well.
Speer was eliminated in the first round of each of his first two races. It was not the way he imagined starting the season, but he dug himself out of his early hole with a win, two trips to the finals and four semifinal appearances to work his way back into the championship hunt.
“We started off kind of rocky,” Speer said. “After that, things started falling our way, though. One thing led to another. We won a race. Then, we just kept making the rounds. It all started falling together pretty quick.”
As Speer continued to find his rhythm, he also found himself at the top of the points standings with two races to go.
Having just taken the points lead, Speer set his sights on defending that advantage through the final races last month in Arizona.
“We did so much maintenance before we went out west for the last two races,” Speer said. “We did tons of maintenance we normally would not have done, but we were in the points lead and wanted to make sure we kept it.”
The prep work may have been a new career-high for Speer, but so was the work he had to do at the course as a broken valve screen, a malfunctioning starter and failing oil pump gave Speer and his team last-minute obstacles on the final day of the season.
They were issues that could have cost Speer the championship last season. Instead, he used his experience to improve on the mechanical side of things.
“Last year, we learned maintenance is the most important thing,” Speer said. “These engines make so much power, they break easily. There are so many parts and pieces you have to stay on top of. Last year was a big learning curve for us figuring out which parts would last and how often we needed to change them.”
Though Speer may still be learning the ropes, he is not alone.
Working with his father, Tim, and family friends Justin Roach and Brian Ousley on his boats and ARCA Series race car, Speer still considers Amphibious Motorsports a family operation.
Speer’s girlfriend, Joslynn Wilde, also helps on social media and help run his website — tylerspeer.com — and Speer said reveling in his championship with family and friends was one of the best parts.
“It’s a family operation, but we went out there this year and beat a bunch of guys who are legitimate, full-time racers with pretty big back ends,” Speer said. “It was pretty neat to do that with the group we have on board here, and I can’t wait to see what do next year.”
Speer said he saw his following grow later in the season, thanks in a part to a pair of races he ran in the Top Fuel Hydro division, the sport’s top division.
Speer said he plans to run a few more races in that series next year, but he said the future is wide-open.
“We’re not 100-percent on what we want to do,” he said. “We may end up running Pro Modified again or Pro Outlaw, which is just a little quicker and 1,000 feet instead of a quarter-mile. We’re finishing it up and getting both boats geared up for next year. We’re still just kind of figuring everything out and enjoying the offseason right now.”
By: Alex Resnak
Article Source: Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News