West Lafayette residents Jason Dolick and Rick Mardis live to race.
Dolick drives a winged sprint dirt car and races at tracks like Wayne County Speedway and Ohio Valley Speedway (near Parkersburg, W.Va.).
Mardis pilots a dirt modified car and does most of his racing at 250 Speedway near Cadiz and at Millersburg's Hilltop Speedway.
Though they own and drive dissimilar types of race cars, their individual stories are remarkably similar.
Each got their racing start early. Dolick was nine years old when he first raced go-karts at the now defunct road track at Port Washington. By age 13, he had moved to micro-sprint cars, but always on dirt and he began his foray into winged sprints in 2002.
Mardis started later, at age 14, in the pure stock division at Muskingum County Speedway. He graduated to the dirt modified series at age 17.
Each has continued to pour heart, soul and plenty of money into their respective racing ventures.
"I finally got serious about my racing about four years ago," Mardis admitted, "and now I am getting more competitive."
The 25-year old driver competes now in the "Renegades of Dirt Modified Series" which races at various tracks in Ohio and West Virginia. He currently sits eighth in their point standings and leads their Rookie-of-the-Year standings.
"My goal is to get at least two feature wins this year, to finish top-5 in the points and win Rookie-of-the-Year," Mardis concluded. He has one feature win to his credit, but it came earlier in his career at 250 Speedway. His recent Cannonball appearance was forgettable, by his own admission.
Dolick has had a bit more career success, but, at age 41, has had more time. He is 41, works at Frontier Power, and has four feature wins on his racing resume. One of his feature wins came at the Ohio Valley track, two wins were at Lakeville (Ohio), and another win was at Mercer (Pa.).
Dolcik's yearly operation costs him between $15,000 and $20,000. Sponsors such as Sheetz Market, H&H Body Shop and Walton Graphics have helped out some, but most of the money comes out of his pocket.
He has ascended to as high as third in the points, but has fallen lately. At Cannonball Speedway on Sunday, June 24, he wasn't very competitive. His recent on-track problems continued the following night at Wayne County Speedway, although he did get to hook up and reminisce with a former competitor from his younger days, NASCAR's Tony Stewart.
For Mardis, yearly expenses for 2012 will run between $40,000 and $50,000. His car is a $30,000 investment. The rest of the expenses cover engines, fuel, tires, parts and transportation to the race venues. He has no sponsors, so paying expenses comes out of his pocket. He is employed at Casco in Roscoe where he helps restore old Camaros.
Both Dolick and Mardis have had to learn how to race by trial-and-error. Neither has a big-time business or corporate sponsor. Each has a one-man pit crew -- his dad. Each loves dirt track racing and both know that the key to future success lies with the set-up of their respective machines.
"Car set-up is the key to success with dirt modifieds," Mardis noted.
"We can get more competitive if we set the car up better and get some help with setting up the shocks," said Dolick.
Dolick and Mardis are engaged.
Each epitomizes what racing is at its roots: Guys or gals pouring nearly everything they have into the pursuit of speed and victories at their favorite local short tracks. Dolick and Mardis are content in knowing they are not going to get rich racing. They may never have big sponsor dollars or be seen on television.
Racing is just something they live to do.