Cana Driver Leads The Pack On 'Madhouse'
BY ALLEN WORRELL, THE CARROLL NEWS
CANA, Va. -- Over the past 17 years, Tim “The Rocket” Brown has won more championships at legendary Bowman Gray Stadium than any other driver. That's quite an accomplishment when you consider some of the sports' greatest have driven at the quarter-mile oval -- the Pettys and Earnhardts included.
But amazingly, the past few weeks seem to have done more for the Cana resident's profile than his eight championship seasons combined. That's because Brown is now one of the stars of The History Channel's new series “Madhouse,” which documents the 2009 season at the Winston-Salem, N.C. race track.
“I've signed a few autographs because I race, but now I've signed a lot more autographs because of TV. That part of it is pretty cool,” said Brown, who moved to Cana from Yadkin County, N.C. with his wife several years ago. “I've worked my whole life to make a career in racing and it seems the TV show has done more to make me more famous.”
Since its debut on January 10, “Madhouse” has continued to grow in popularity as it features NASCAR's oldest sanctioned track, the high-powered modifieds that race there, and the rowdy fans that love them. The first show focused on the bitter rivalry between two of the track's top drivers -- Junior Miller and Burt Myers. But while those two were duking it out, Brown was winning the race, like he has done 50 other times at Bowman Gray. While Brown is not allowed to give away what goes on in future episodes, we know it is sure to have a happy ending for him as he captured his track record-tying eight championship last season.
“I won the championships for that season. I won a bunch of races, too,” Brown said. “You'll see as it comes out. I'm not supposed to tell much about the season because that'll spoil it.”
Of course, winning is nothing new for number 83. Since being tabbed Bowman Gray's Rookie of the Year in 1991, Brown has 51 feature wins to go along with eight championships, tying him with PeeWee Jones and Ralph Brinkley for the most at the 61-year-old stadium.
“There's a lot of history there; the Pettys raced there and the Earnhardts and all the guys that got NASCAR started. It means a lot to me to be one of the most successful drivers to race there,” Brown said. “At 36 years old to have won eight championships and more than 50 races means a lot. I've dedicated my whole life to racing.”
He became only the third driver to win three straight titles at Bowman Gray from 1996-98 and is looking to make it three a row again in 2010 after championships in 2008 and 2009. Brown's career may start to take on a more national role in the near future, however. He also runs in the Modified Tour, a 10-race series that takes him to Bristol, Atlanta, Charlotte and South Boston. Last year, he made his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series in Martinsville. He's scheduled to run five truck races this year and debut in some NASCAR Nationwide (formerly known as the Busch series) races as well. Currently the manager of the suspension components at Michael Waltrip Racing, Brown said he'd love to transition into the Nationwide Series or the big leagues -- the Sprint Cup -- if the chance presents itself.
“I would love to. I'm a manager at Michael Waltrip Racing and I'm pretty high on the chain there. It would take a good deal from a good race team to leave the job I have to go race full-time,” Brown said. “If the right deal arose and a good job came up, I would do it. I would love to be a full-time truck driver or Nationwide driver but it would have to be the right deal. I would love to be racing Cup on Sunday and Nationwide on Saturday but as it is right now, I have a great job.”
But that doesn't mean Brown hasn't lost focus on going bumper-to-bumper with the Burt Myers and Junior Millers of the world. Staying at the top of the Bowman Gray racing world is a top priority for 2010. “
I go over there to win the race and I let those other guys do what they're going to do. Everybody says the only reason I've won eight championships is because Junior Miller and Burt Myers take each other out. To hear the Junior Miller fans and Burt Myers fans talk, I wouldn't win the championships if they didn't take each other out every week,” Brown said. “I know I've won eight championships and a bunch of races. We're going to keep trying to win races and championships, I don't care what Junior and Burt do.”
And not everybody likes a winner. At the end of the first show, the fans at Bowman Gray let Brown know their displeasure for his season-opening victory last year. Such is life when dealing with some of the sports' most passionate and loyal fans.
“The stadium's fans, it gets crazy. The fans are passionate about their drivers. I'm one of the top drivers there and I'm not very well liked,” Brown said. “They'll let me know. They throw stuff at you when you win. They're passionate about their driver. When I was growing up and playing football and basketball and baseball, I was just as competitive about that as I am now about my racing.”
Perhaps that same competitiveness is what makes the show and Bowman Gray so popular. Certainly, no Saturday night driver pours his heart and soul into it for the money or glory.
“I don't make any money doing it. I'm trying to take advantage of this TV deal and ink some big sponsors to help pay the bills on this car. These modified cars cost a bunch to race,” Brown said. “(But Bowman Gray) is pretty neat. The fans are what makes the stadium so special. To be one of the most successful drivers in the history of the stadium is special to me. I've been blessed to be able to race as long as I have. I'm blessed. I'm surrounded by great people, I have a good race team and good sponsors. It's a humbling feeling.”
Racing truly is a lifestyle for Brown. When he's not going 100 miles per hour in his Hayes Jewelers modified down Bowman Gray's straightaways, he's in the shop like he is right now, helping Waltrip Racing get ready for Daytona. Having worked for Cale Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. among others, Brown has enjoyed watching Waltrip Racing go from a struggling new team to a competitive one that won a race year (David Reutimann at the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, 2009).
Likewise, the boys at the Cornelius, N.C. shop have a new tradition on Sundays that doesn't involve the Sprint Cup Series — watching Madhouse on The History Channel at 10 p.m.
“Michael Waltrip, my boss, thinks it's a great show,” Brown said. “Everybody there kids and cuts up, but they're watching it and that's what matters.”
This article appeared in Wednesday's edition of the Carroll News.