USAR: Andy Thurman - Making His Mark

This young and talented USAR Hooters Pro Cup series driver was influenced and guided by some of the great names in stock car racing. Andy Thurman now uses that guidance to make his own "mark" on the stock car racing world. In 1988, from an old...

This young and talented USAR Hooters Pro Cup series driver was influenced and guided by some of the great names in stock car racing. Andy Thurman now uses that guidance to make his own "mark" on the stock car racing world.

In 1988, from an old garage building housing the racing team owned by Tony Furr, the current Crew Chief for the #25 team of Winston Cup star Jerry Nadeau, Andy Thurman purchased his first late model stock car and began his career in late model stock car racing. Andy Thurman's family knew Tony and were frequent visitors to Concord Motor Speedway where Tony and other great short-track racers made their mark on the stock car racing scene. Another champion racecar driver, NASCAR Winston Cup driver Billy Hagan, also knew the Thurman family, Hagan having lived on the same street as Tony Furr's family, and as young as seven years old, Andy Thurman came to know the great Billy Hagan. Andy's acquaintances with Tony Furr and Billy Hagan laid the foundation for Andy's entry into the racing world and his involvement with some of the great NASCAR Winston Cup drivers and teams.

Growing up around Concord Motor Speedway, Andy was able to see his favorite drivers in action and was introduced to the stock car racing world, including drivers like Jack Sprague, Fred Query and Billy Hagan. Billy Hagan took an interest in Andy Thurman early on, encouraging him and giving him advice on how to get involved in stock car racing. Billy told Andy that if he wanted to learn the intricacies and techniques of driving racecars he should attend the Buck Baker driving school which Billy held ownership in along with Buck Baker. Andy took Billy's advice and completed the school the year he graduated High School. Buck Baker Driving School officials were so impressed with Andy they asked him to instruct at the school so Andy spent two summers in 1987 and 1988 instructing for Buck Baker until his freshman year at Louisiana State.

Following his first year in college Andy joined the Fast Track racing school organization and began teaching young drivers the skill of racing. Fast Track was also impressed with Andy's skill as an instructor and by 1993 Andy had been promoted to Chief Instructor at Fast Track. At the same time, Andy was building his own racing credentials racing at Concord Motor Speedway in late model and the ultra-quick late model sportsman cars. Andy achieved impressive results racing at Concord winning five "Big Ten Victories" and eight pole awards. Andy's accomplisments were supported by his experience with Fast Track and his natural talent for racing. the school. Andy's experience driving the late model cars at Concord Motor Speedway, and his experience in the Winston Cup and Busch Grand National style cars used in the driving school, proved extremely beneficial to his success in the sportsman division.

As time went on, Andy was faced with growing responsibilities and the task of prioritizing his goals. He wanted to continue his racing career, continue his racing instructor job and still maintain his family life, all of which presented tremendous demands on him and his family. Because the driving school was a full-time job requiring many hours away from family and his racing career, Andy had to make a choice to leave the Fast Track organization in order to better balance his time. Later Andy was hired as an instructor with the Richard Petty Driving Experience which gave Andy more flexibility in his hectic schedule. Since then Andy has logged over 30,000 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway and over 10,000 miles at Atlanta Motor Speedway through his involvement with both driving schools.

As Andy was growing up he had opportunities which most of us dream about. Having known Billy Hagan, Andy and his family were often invited guests at the Winston Cup tracks on race days. Andy was able to meet many of the stars of Winston Cup in the 1980's and Andy was given the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes at NASCAR. Andy watched as his favorite drivers prepared their cars and raced for championships so it's not surprising that Andy learned to have an appreciation for the teamwork he knew was essential for winning. He watched as mechanics, tire changers, gas men and crew chiefs worked together like an unstoppable force to perform flawless (and sometimes flawed) pit stops, keeping their driver out on the track and running hard. Andy has continued his involvement with the teamwork side of racing having worked as part of the pit crew for the likes of Kenny Wallace, Robert Pressley and currently working for Bill Elliot during the 2000 Winston Cup season.

Working for Bill Elliot as the rear tire changer gives Andy a great feeling of accomplishment but also challenges him to perform a physically demanding task in less than 16 seconds. The job requires concentration, speed, agility and great physical conditioning. Andy works out on his own to maintain peak physical condition and runs drills with the Elliot team three times a week honing their skills, timing and expertise to be able to perform pitstops in less that 16 seconds. If a pit crew falters even half a second it could mean the difference of 2-3 positions on the track. Although Elliot's crew is composed of almost completely new people (Andy and the front tire changer are the only "veterans" on the team), Andy says the crew is turning pitstops in the high 15 second range and when you look at Bill Elliot's improvement this season, it is obvious that the pit crew is giving it everything they've got.

When asked how he handles so many responsibilities, working with the Elliot team throughout the week, preparing for and racing USAR series events on Saturday, pit crew responsibilities on Sunday and fulfilling his current obligations to the Richard Petty Driving school in Charlotte, Andy tells me he's not sure himself how he gets everything in, including precious time with his wife, Gloria and son, Evan. Andy has a strong commitment to his family and believes if it were not for his family's support and their love of racing he would not be able to accomplish everything that needs to be done. His wife and son attend every USAR event and are able to support Andy every weekend he races. Andy believes in dedication and commitment to the sport he loves and sacrifices must be made if you are going to be a champion driver. Sacrifices, although not easy, must be made if you want to be as successful as Andy has been.

Andy has come full circle in his racing career, having moved the team back to Concord and renovating the garage from which he bought his first late model stock car. The team has increased the size of the shop from it's original 2000 square feet to a full 8000 square foot complex. Andy Thurman and LTM Motorsports races the USAR Hooters Pro Cup series, a series of 20 races held across the southeast United States. USAR Hooters Pro Cup cars are Busch Grand National series style cars which gives the drivers the valuable seat time needed to become skilled at Winston Cup racing. Andy won the season opening race at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Florida in February, his first USAR victory. His second race of the season, the Jackaroo Sauces 250 at Florida Speed Park in St. Augustine, proved to be a challenge to the team. Having placed 11th in practice but only 18th in qualifying, Andy and the team knew they had their work cut out for them. During the first half of the race Andy demonstrated his determination to succeed and moved into second place following pit stops by the leaders. Andy raced Mario Gosselin on the restart and fell back in position as Gosselin passed him. It was then that Andy experienced major problems with the transmission, losing first and second gear coming out of the pits. Although the crew worked hard to fix the problem, Andy had to suffer the loss of position after position, finishing 13th for the night. A setback such as this is disappointing to the crew, but Andy and the team move forward to the next opportunity to win, Tri-County Speedway in Hudson, North Carolina. Andy told me he was excited about racing Tri-County Speedway in April because he races well there and knows he can win there.

Andy Thurman is a driver with all the qualifications of a champion. His early influences, acquaintances, mentors and advisors have helped mold and shape this young man into a fiercely committed, loyal and dedicated driver. He is also fiercely committed, loyal and dedicated to his family. He is also fiercely committed, loyal and dedicated to the sport he loves, the sport he hopes he never has to leave, the sport that has been a part of his life from childhood. Yes, Andy Thurman's roots are grounded in stock car racing's past and Andy Thurman is dedicated to becoming a significant part of stock car racing's future. But it is not enough to just have qualifications to be a champion and secure a place in stock car racing's future. A champion driver must also have values and a commitment to race others like you want to be raced. Andy has those values and runs a clean race, demonstrating the commitment and dedication it takes to be a winner and a champion both on and off the track. On Andy's website (http://andythurman.com) Andy states that every New Year's Eve he makes the resolution to be a better person and a better Christian. Andy will continue to bring those values into his racing career, making stock car racing a better sport for it.

-Timothy Williams

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Kenny Wallace , Robert Pressley , Jack Sprague , Richard Petty , Mario Gosselin , Billy Hagan
Teams Williams