Middleton native David Currier Jr. is working toward his dream of some day racing in NASCAR and being one of the few Boston-area natives to do so.
He would put me on his lap when he'd drive and I'd take the wheel
He'd say "What do you think about that, son? How does she feel?
You just wait till them little legs get long enough to reach the gas
Once you put her on the floor one time there ain't no turning back"
— Drive-by Truckers, “Daddy’s Cup”
David Currier Jr. recently put the gas pedal to the floor like the above southern rock band’s song goes and he roared to 140 mph around a North Carolina racetrack.
His racing career just gets better every day.
“The adrenaline I got this weekend from going at 140, which was my fastest so far, was the most I’ve ever had,” said Currier, a Middleton native now living, attending school and racing Late Model Stock cars out of Lincolnton, N.C. “It was a stomach-lifter, but it was exciting.”
Currier is working toward his dream of some day racing in NASCAR and being one of the few Boston-area natives to do so.
From where he is now, the next logical step will be to the Craftsman Truck series or possibly the Camping World series (formerly known as Busch East), as well as the - wait for it - USAR Hooters ProCup Series.
That’s where it’s at; he’s climbing a ladder that a select few can, all the way to Daytona Beach. Currier’s need for speed goes back a long way, said his father, David Currier Sr.
“When he was 4 years old, we bought him a little mini dirt-bike. Instantly, he flew away and went flying along the trails,” said his father. “Then we got him a go-kart, and he and his brother Dennis, who’s now 16, and his sister Katie, who’s now 20, would all go around our property [which was on Forest Street in Middleton].”
Pressing a pedal and making the carriage that carries you move has been a passion for David Currier Jr. since then. He remembers fondly those early days, especially after he moved into Quarter Midget racing on a track in Connecticut.
“I was 7 when I first got behind a wheel; it was just a rush and the adrenaline … I didn’t know what adrenaline was, but I really loved it; I never wanted to let go,” he said.
According to the Web site, www.quartermidgets.org: “Quarter Midgets of America is a family-oriented sport that involves racing in special prepared cars. The cars, rules and safety procedures are designed specifically for kids. They race on oval tracks approximately 1/20 of a mile. A child who is 5 to 16 years of age can race.”
To the common eye, quarter midget cars resemble miniature dune buggies.
“It’s a go-kart with a roll-cage and suspension; a lot of future stock car racers start with these because they feel like a real car,” said Currier Sr.
In 1997, Currier Jr. won the Grand National Championships of Quarter Midget in his 6- to 8-year-old division. Following that, he progressed to dirt-bike racing for three years.
“He got a little big for Quarter Midgets but I took him out of motocross - that was too dangerous,” said his father. “He didn’t have any injuries, but I got him out of there before that.”
The Currier family moved up to New Hampshire during that time, and David moved into the Mini Stock division of racing.
“It’s smaller but it’s the same principles as NASCAR; it’s more of a four-cylinder vehicle. It was his first year in a full-size,” said his father, who witnessed his then-15-year-old son win Rookie of the Year, Sportsman of the Year and the Mini Stock Championship at Canaan (N.H.) Fair Speedway.
At the age of 16, David spent time at the Finish Line Racing School in New Smyrna, Fla., a former haunt of NASCAR great Jeff Gordon.
“I was 16 years old, and that’s mainly when I learned a lot of how to drive into the corners and around a track,” David said. “[The school] taught me the procedures to braking and how to handle the car.”
With that experience, he finished in the top three a number of times and in the top 10 several times at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H.
During that season, NASCAR team owner Richie Childress called the Currier family and advised them to move to North Carolina.
This was a complicated move, said David’s father.
“I owned a business [Currier Septic and Drain] - and my wife and David’s mother, Cynthia, works with me in the business - and I had to move that,” he said. “It was very difficult. I owned a lot of property; there was a business I had to sell and some properties I had to sell.”
It took the family about a year to get the new business, Lake Norman Sewer and Septic, under way. Through this business, David, Sr., met Annamarie Strawhand, whose husband works in the plumbing and septic industry.
Annamarie Strawhand has worked in the racing business in the public relations and marketing field for more than a dozen years and was able to get young Currier settled into the racing business down south.
“I’ve done marketing and PR for over 20 years in the short-track realm, and now I have my own motor sports company,” said Strawhand.
“I designed David’s Web site (www.davidcurrierjr.com) and marketing materials, and I’m advising him on his future,” he said. “He’s not going to need a lot of advice; I think he’s very natural. We’re hoping to look out for him and put him with good people who can put him in a good direction.”
As a 17-year-old, David raced through the 2007 season in Limited Late Model cars (“They look just like NASCAR, but they’re built specifically for the short tracks,” said Currier Sr.), most often at Hickory Motor Speedway, which boasts, “Birthplace of the NASCAR stars.”
In his first year in Limited Late Models, David picked up one win, one second-place and three third-places, finishing 15th in the division out of 20 racers. Last year, he experienced his worst crash of his young career in his first time on the Hickory track.
“It was definitely different than anything I’ve seen before,” David said. “I spun out in turn 1 - the caution flag had been out. Another guy came around, locked up his brakes, slammed into us. I hit the wall hard, then went on fire, and I jumped out of that car. It was a really big upset, because it was the first race of the season. Money got tight after that.”
It took a couple of weeks off the track before young Currier could get back on the track in a rented new car.
“It can sometimes be a lot of bumping and crashing. You get your occasional clean racing, clean passing and full green [-flag] racing. You do get your occasional wreck fests,” David said. “There’s plenty of guys who go out to cause trouble. They get mad when young guys beat them on the track. They go after you; when you’re a rookie, it’s a challenge.”
Accelerating his career
Now the Curriers have Gary Hargett as their crew chief. Hargett formerly was on the crew for both Dale Earnhardt Sr. and most notably was the Late Model Stock (pre-NASCAR) crew chief at one time for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“We’ve only run one race and one practice, but he’s going to be really good,” said Hargett. “I really like him. He pays attention, he listens to you, and he knows how to drive a race car.”
Strawhand, who designs Hargett’s Web site (www.garyhargettracing.com), introduced Hargett to the Curriers.
“We’re running at Concord [Motorsport Park], one of the fastest tracks in the country, and I’m impressed with how he caught on to the race track and the traffic,” said Hargett. “He’s got this deal about him, like Dale Jr. - Junior was a little bit younger [than David] when I got him, but there are a lot of similarities.”
Hargett and the Curriers struck up what is basically a two-year deal. This first year, Currier will run a full season of Late Model Stock (a step up from Limited Late Model), and they’ll get him into possibly as many as three or four United Auto Racing Association (UARA) Tour races.
David is racing a Chevy Monte Carlo with a 500-plus horsepower engine, a Chevy 350 V-8.
“We want to get him racing good cars and have him learn how to drive the long races week after week,” said Hargett. “It’s a tough thing for a young driver to get used to doing. Next year, we’ll have him run a full UARA schedule, which will get him into running on a different race track every race.”
“He’s been around for a while, so he knows what he’s doing,” said David of Hargett. “I go work on the car in his shop.”
The entire Currier camp was in mourning when they took to the track for their first Late Model Stock race at Concord (pronounced like the aircraft). A member of David’s crew and a close friend of Hargett, Randy Haywood, passed away on March 19 following a massive heart attack.
“Last year was our first year with [Haywood]. He was really excited about David’s year this year,” said Currier Sr. “He was really stocked, he knew we’d have some fun and win some races. One thing led to another.”
Dedicating this 2008 season to Haywood, the team is not only seeking out good finishes and scores but also significant sponsorship. Logos on the cars are more than just decoration; they can determine how far a driver goes, Hargett said.
“Your odds are one in 10,000 in getting a ride even at the Craftsman Truck series,” he added. “In the past, if you were a really good driver, you’d get a ride. Now, if you can bring in a big enough sponsor, then you get a ride. That’s what hurts all the young drivers. You’ve got to have the big, big bucks.”
David’s father said the team is actively seeking sponsorships, especially from the Boston area.
“We’re out looking for sponsorship,” he said. “Gillette had just gotten into racing up there, along with Roush-Fenway [a racing team 50 percent owned by Fenway Sports Group, owners of the Boston Red Sox].”
“We’d love to have a sponsor behind him that can be with him all the way,” said Strawhand. “He’s the only potential NASCAR driver who could come from the Boston area.
“The Curriers did the right thing by moving to Carolina. The plan is in place, the wheels are turning, and he couldn’t be in a better position than working with Gary Hargett.”
It’s all happening so fast for young David Currier, but that’s the way he likes things. One of these days, he’ll have to get to Daytona, even if it’s just to get a taste of driving a full NASCAR model, which people can pay to do.
“I’ve always been too young for that. I just turned old enough to go to do something like Daytona’s trial,” he said.
At Daytona, David Currier Jr. would certainly get a jolt of adrenaline, the body fuel he didn’t know the word for when he was 7, but that he has lived for ever since.