Stroll through the pits of 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tennessee, and you’ll encounter cars as colorful and as unique as the racers who drive them. The vehicles in the enduro class provide a sharp contrast against a sea of black late models that look all too similar. Case in point, a 2007 Infiniti G36 that appears as if it got in the way of a manic graffiti artist.
“I picked up some paint cans, started in one spot, and worked my around — whatever happened, happened,” said Earl Jordan, 30, of Graysville, Tennessee, who doesn’t work as a professional graffiti artist, but instead as an owner of a tattoo shop.
Go next door to Jordan’s pit and you find a massive, green 1970 Plymouth Fury.
“I’ve always been a Mopar guy,” said Damon Croucher, 29, of Knoxville, Tennessee. “I’ve owned nothing but Dodges, Chryslers, and Plymouths. I like to entertain people and do something a little different that stands out.”
A Wild Collection Of Race Cars
Continue making your way through the pits and the cars get even more interesting. Eric Henry, track announcer for 411, steers a 1992 Cadillac Sedan DeVille — complete with late-model sides. Was he looking for an aerodynamic advantage? No. Needed more room for sponsors? No.
“Just strictly for a ‘wow’ factor,” said Henry, 30, of Cookeville, Tennessee. “It’s something that would be unique. I went to [dirt late model teams] to see if they had any extra door panels. One [came from] Eddie King Sr. The other side was Greg Martin’s.”
Then, toward the back of the pit area sits a pair of Ford Crown Victorias still sporting the colors of their previous life as Knoxville Police Department cruisers.
“It’s a fan favorite,” said Robert “Opie” Barndt, 41, of Newport, Tennessee. “A lot of people have police cars, but they’re painted a solid color. We have ours like that because it’s neat.”
What It Costs
One of the hopes of enduro racing is to convert fans into racers with simple rules that lower the financial barrier of entry into the sport. To participate, obtain a passenger car, knock the windows out, keep it stock, and go. The track strongly recommends safety items, such as a fire suit, rollcage, and a racing harness, but they do not mandate their use to keep costs down. At 411, they discourage participants from spending big bucks on high-end cars with a “buy rule,” where you can purchase a competitor’s car for $1,500.
Barndt bought his police cruiser, which was wrecked, at an auction for $375.
“It’s a 2011 [model] with 28,000 miles,” Barndt said. “It’s the newest vehicle I own, with less mileage than anything else I own — and I’m out beating it up every chance I can get.”
Henry paid $250 for his Caddy from an impound yard.
“The [owner] had gotten a DUI, went to jail, and never came back to get his car,” said Henry. “After 60 days, it becomes the tow yard’s. It still had good plates and was running.”
Jordan spent the most among the four we spoke with. He purchased his Infiniti for $1,000.
“It was a car I couldn’t get a title for,” Jordan said. “I got it for the motor and transmission to put in a little pickup truck. [I wanted to] do something cool with the car before I pulled the motor out.”
Croucher found his Mopar on Facebook after the owner got in over his head with the project.
“I ended up giving $300 for the car,” said Croucher. “I rebuilt the carb, changed the oil, and did a couple of things. I had it ready for the track for $500. That’s what made enduro racing appealing.”
Where These Drivers Come From
The Hangover race at 411 last December was the first time Croucher had raced a car on an oval.
“I did a little bit of drag racing — never in anything fast,” Croucher said. “I ran in a couple of demolition derbies. I raced some motocross as a kid.
“My wife and I go out to 411 every weekend. I’ve never been able to afford to build a race car. When they started the enduros, it was an affordable way to get on the racetrack and have fun.”
Jordan raced an enduro once in 2010, at the track now called Mountain View Raceway in Spring City, Tennessee.
“I’ve always watched dirt racing since a kid,” Jordan said. “I heard about [the enduro at 411]. I had that car sitting around. I was like, might as well.”
Henry used to race when he was younger. He saw the enduros as his chance to return to the driver’s seat.
“I got out of racing a long time ago — I had to become an adult [and] take care of bills,” said Henry. “I’ve always wanted to get back into racing [cars]. The opportunity was there when 411 had an enduro.”
Unlike the others, Barndt is a racing veteran, steering cars at tracks, both pavement and dirt, in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina.
“I’ve been racing since I was 18,” Barndt said. “Pretty much all enduros and classes like them. I’d rather run an enduro than NASCAR.”
Enduro Racing’s Appeal
At the 3/8-mile dirt oval of 411 Motor Speedway, enduros run 100 laps, with typically 50-or-so cars, no cautions, and red flags for only when a driver is in danger.
Jordan enjoyed racing the enduro last December.
“Enduro racing is something anybody can do,” Jordan said. “No matter who you are, you can get a car, go out there, and have a good time. I didn’t care if I won or not.”
Croucher was glad he made the transition from fan to a racer.
“The enduro was ten times more fun than I thought it would be,” said Croucher. “It was just a blast.”
For Henry, it allows him to enjoy his two passions — sometimes at the same time.
“I can still announce, but I can still get into a car and have fun,” Henry said. “[When I raced enduros,] I announced from inside the car. Whenever it got thinned out, or we were under a red flag, I would commentate.”
Barndt sums up why he raced enduros for years.
“If you got a $10,000, or a $100,000, race car … you want nothing to happen to that car,” Barndt said. “When you got an enduro car, you go out there knowing this thing could get wrecked and hauled to the shredder Monday morning. When it doesn’t happen, you’re ready for the next race. You don’t have to work on it six days a week and have your sweetie mad at you, and your kids miss you. You air the tires up on Saturday morning, make sure the battery is charged up, and you go.”