A chance meeting turned into a chance to make a big impact for Todd Shute.
The veteran Iowa driver, who’s spent most of his career racing Modifieds, has become a force at Lucas Oil Speedway in the Warsaw Auto Marine & RV ULMA Late Model division. Shute has won two straight features to go with a second place in late June.
“It’s going real well. We’ve had some minor bugs, but we’re getting all that stuff worked out and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Shute, the Tailgate Guys Radio Show Spotlight Driver of the Week for Lucas Oil Speedway.
Shute tries to make it three straight on Saturday night when KOLR 10 and Z27 Present Ozarks Food Harvest Night at the Races. Fans will be receive one free general admission ticket by bringing four non-perishable food items to the front gate.
One of the emerging names during the Big RV Weekly Racing Series in 2017 is Shute. It hasn’t been a conventional path to south-central Missouri for the Des Moines, Iowa, resident who works during the week for Karl Performance.
“I don’t see the car until I get down there,” Shute said of the Longhorn-chassis that’s owned by Eddie and Sandy Young of Sedalia, Mo., and is housed and prepared by his race-night crew in Independence, Mo.
“The guys are doing a good job of tweaking on things we need to,” Shute added. “We’re gaining on it and getting better every time we go down there.”
Shute joked that he “fell into this deal. I’m just the guy who was lucky enough they chose to put into” the car.
It all began before about a year ago, when Shute attended his cousin’s wedding. He takes the unlikely story from there.
“My cousin’s from Cole Camp, a little town south of Sedalia,” Shute began. “The lady he was marrying turns out to be Ed and Sandy Young’s daughter. We all kind of figured out that I raced. They had owned some (Modifieds) in the past that Terry Schultz out of Sedalia had drove and they had just bought a Late Model.
“We all had some beverages. They were kind of looking for a driver. Now, when you’ve had a few beverages, you never know how serious things are. But I gave them my phone number on a napkin. A few months later, Eddie calls me and says, ‘We about have that thing ready, you still want to drive it?’ ”
Shute recalled thinking at the time that he “had no idea what I was getting into,” but said it’s been a great experience.
“You couldn’t ask for better people,” he said of the Youngs. “Just as nice as they come and generous. And I feel like we’ve got as good of equipment as we possibly can. I’m very fortunate.”
Shute said he drove the car, then adorned with No. 2, about six times late in the 2016 season with some decent results. This year, the number was changed to Shute’s familiar No. 5 and he’s become not only a contender but now a multiple winner.
With his only previous experience in a Late Model being in a Rayburn chassis owned by Billy Moyer Sr. about 10 years ago, Shute is comfortable and confident in the car. In victory lane interviews, he’s quick to mention the owners and crew (Fred Reneau, Jim Whisler, Richard Collins, Steve Downing, Robert Collins, Richard Collins and Troy Shute.
He also pays tribute to the late Jim Hammer, who was the crew chief prior to his death before the season.
“He was crew chief and he built the engine,” Shute said of Hammer, who battled cancer and some other health issues. “Him and I got along real good, along with all the crew guys. We have a real good chemistry. But we definitely miss Jim being around.”
With his own Modified program an immediate priority, Shute said he’s open to expanding into doing some open Late Model racing later this year for the Youngs.
“That’s something we have talked about,” Shute said. “He has an open engine coming.”
For now, he’s glad to make occasional visits to Lucas Oil Speedway to feed his Late Model appetite.
“We enjoy coming down there and racing the ULMA,” he said. “It’s a five and a half hour drive, but when you pull into the drive of Lucas Oil Speedway, you forget about the drive. That place is the Taj Mahal of dirt racing.”
The Tailgate Guys Radio Show, with co-hosts Lyndal Scranton and Steve Koehler, airs each Saturday on KICK 92.3 FM, 1340 AM and online at 923kick.com. Topics include barbecue, sports and a preview of each week’s racing at Lucas Oil Speedway.