Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SPORTS >> Young gunner

Leader sportswriter

He’s still a few weeks away from his 16th birthday, but Beebe driver Dallas Everett is ready to run with the big boys.

That’s how he will finish the 2009 racing season. Everett, who started the year in the E-mod division, will compete in the modified class at Beebe Speedway and other area tracks as the season winds down. That will put him in competition with a laundry list of drivers who have been in that class longer than he’s been alive.

But proving himself to competitors is something Everett has become accustomed to in his five short years of racing.

“I was ready to do something different,” said Everett. “I had been wanting to move to modified for a while. E-mod was still a challenge, but I felt like it was time to end on a good note and move up to modified.”

It is a bold move by a youngster who was well-positioned in the E-mod season point standings at Beebe Speedway. Through the first half of the season, Everett had four wins, 10 top fives and 11 top 10s, with only two finishes of 12th or worse. He also had similar success at Conway County Speedway in Plumerville.

Despite missing a number of weekends, Everett is still currently listed sixth in the E-mod point standings at Beebe. But it’s not the points Everett is after – it’s the hardware.

“I’m not too worried about points; I’m worried about winning races more than anything,” said Everett. “I would just as soon run different tracks and be able to run well, so I can run different (special) shows. Now that I’ve moved to modified, I plan on running at a lot of different tracks rather than just Beebe and Plumerville.”

Dallas’ father, Rick Everett, has spent a great deal of his adulthood in the hot-rod circuit. His customized trucks have been featured in national publications over the years, and Rick was hoping that his son would catch the bug also. Dallas got hooked in when he got his first go-kart.

“He would run it up and down the driveway every Saturday and Sunday,” said Rick Everett. “He would get in that go-kart and go to the top of the hill and sling it around and come back down.”

Dallas finally convinced Rick to take him racing, but what was supposed to be a one-shot deal turned into much more, according to Dallas’ mom Shelly.

“Dallas wanted to race so bad, and we told him, ‘We’ll let you race one time, but that’s it,’” said Shelly Everett. “Dallas raced and did well, and by that next weekend, we had an enclosed trailer with two go-karts and extra motors. We bought someone out.

We went from racing one time the week before to having a complete operation the next.”

Everett won a handful of go-kart events in a year-and-a-half of competing before moving on to full-sized cars. He started full time in the mini-stock class in 2007 at age 13, and wowed fans while bewildering competitors by winning three of the first four races at Beebe that year.

That led to mass protest and even a boycott of the track by several of the mini-stock competitors for most of the remaining season over what they believed was an illegal car. Everett’s wins were protested on two different occasions. Both times, his E 26 Ford Mustang was declared legal by track tech inspectors.

“It lets you know that you’re doing good when you have people saying stuff like that,” said Everett. “I was surprised at how the year was going. It went great; it was a lot of fun.”

Everett and his family even used that suspicion against his accusers during their first visit to Conway County Speedway.

“I called the promoter to warn her about dirty driving, because there were guys out there getting aggravated,” said Rick Everett. “She told us she would watch out for it, but that if Dallas ran and won, the other guys already had the money set back to protest him.

“I asked her, ‘Well, instead of getting tore down, we could just load up and leave if that happens, couldn’t we?’ And she said that would be fine.”

Dallas added that he and his parents actually wanted to lead on his competitors that he may have been cheating.

“So (the promoter) told them that if we ran there, we probably weren’t going to tear down, we were just going to load up and go home,” he said. “I went up there and won my heat and the feature. I pulled into the infield, and they said, ‘You’re being protested,’ and I said, ‘That’s good. Do we need to tear down here, or at the trailer?’”

To everyone’s surprise upon inspection, Everett’s car proved to be more stock than many of his competitors. He became more respected at that point, and eventually went on to claim 20 feature wins and the 2007 mini-stock championship at Beebe.

Though he is mature for his age, Everett has still had a lot of help from his family in his racing endeavors. Both Rick and Shelly work in the family business at Marple Auto Sales in Searcy. Dallas’ grandparents, Roy and Shirley Marple, bought Dallas his modified ride two years ago. They serve as the car’s primary sponsor. He also gets setup help from Mike Knight on race weekends.

Looking ahead, Everett said he would like to try the growing crate late-model class at some point, but for now, it’s all about modified racing.

“I’m looking forward to getting to race with people who have a lot of experience,” said Everett. “I think it will be a lot of fun.

That’s what I wanted to do was just run modifieds. I knew that E-mod would be the correct choice, since that was a little easier way to get into modifieds rather than just jumping into that class. Because that would be such a big jump.”

On the track, Everett relies on his own knowledge for setup feedback and lane choice. A lot of younger competitors try and emulate their favorite drivers, but Everett’s philosophy is surprisingly like that of most veterans: race the track instead of the guy ahead of and behind you.

“I do watch a lot of other races, but the main reason is to see what the track’s doing,” said Everett. “I really don’t watch it to see what other drivers are doing. Yeah, the people up front are going to be smoother, but I want to know what the track’s going to do.”

While his 36 feature wins to date, along with training at the Brooks-Shaw modified racing school late last year, has given Everett the confidence to enter the modified class, he is making sure he doesn’t become overconfident.

“I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch,” said Everett. “A feature win would be great, but I would be happy with just a heat win and some top fives before the end of the year. I just want to be a consistent car for the rest of the year.”