Monday, August 25, 2008
A conversation with Nathan Berwager
Today Central PA Racing Scene has the pleasure of sharing a conversation we had with Nathan Berwager. The second generation driver from York Springs, PA who drives the number 4u 358 sprint car at both Lincoln Speedway and at Trail Ways this season, has become one of the consistent young guns looking for his chance to park his car in victory lane.
Nathan who is in his first season of being a driver/owner sat down the past few weeks and shared his thought's on his career so far, and what he thinks the local rules should look like to help the 358 division continue to grow. Please take a few minutes and check out our conversation with Nathan Berwager
Central PA Racing Scene - Nathan how did you get introduced to the sport?
Nathan Berwager - I was introduced to auto sports through my dad. After watching him for a couple of years I knew that I wanted to race. So I bought my first go kart when I was 18 years old and raced ever since.
How long did you race Go Karts before deciding to take the step to the next level?
Nathan Berwager - I raced go karts for 2 years. In October 2004 my dad asked me to run his sprint car to see if it was something I wanted to do. So he took me over to Lincoln for the last 410 race of the season. I thought I was fast as hell, even though I got lapped twice in the heat race and blacked flagged in the feature. From that point it took until July of 2005 until I started running 358s at Williams Grove.
How much help was your father when you started racing 358's at Williams Grove?
Nathan Berwager - My father was a motivator. He would always find a way to make me angry with his constructive criticism, even if nothing was wrong. He was hard to deal with, but his racing analogize and lucrative tactics helped support me in the beginning.
So how did the first year at the Grove go?
Nathan Berwager - It went good for my first year in a sprint car. The fourth race I was there I won a heat race and finished 11th in the feature, after leading the first 8 laps against Adrien Shaffer and Kevin Nouse. In the future I plan to run a full season at the Grove, but financially it will be a year or two.
How hard is it to run a 358 race team?
Nathan Berwager - Sell your house, dog, wife, and lawn mower about mid July cause the bills start to get tight. Thats what most people say, but its not that bad after you get past the start up costs. This is my first year on my own. The biggest thing that is hard, isn't the money, but trying to separate the garage from the drivers seat. I cant afford to pay someone to maintain my car and that gets a little overwhelming. I have a Job that the time is set from 7:30-5:30 everyday, so that doesn't leave much time through the week to get the car ready. With the right help and the good people I have backing me, I will race as long as I can to afford it.
How hard is it then to keep the 2 sides from crossing over on the track? It can't be easy to run full tilt on a race track and worry about what it might cost to fix something if you get into an accident?
Nathan Berwager - When I first built the car I just wanted to stay away from others on the track, but now that the paint's scratched, and the new parts are used, I feel like I am getting a lot more aggressive on the track, and forget about what happens. It is a lot of stress if you worry about your car on the track. Sometimes if your focus isn't on racing hard and winning, and your thinking about the car thats when shit happens. Right now I just forget about the car and just want to drive as fast as I possibly can to win. I want to win bad even if it takes a bent up wing or two.
With 2 hard charger awards this year so far at Trail Ways, how close do you think you are to being able to put your team in victory lane?
Nathan Berwager -
I think at any given time I could win there. I haven't started better than 12th place since the first race. If I start in the first couple rows in front of the elite 5 or 6 top dogs there I should have a good chance.
Speaking of Trail Ways, why do you think it is that most of the teams that run Williams Grove don't run at TW on the nights they have off?
Nathan Berwager - Before I ever raced Trail-ways, I thought that it was to tight, not enough room to pass, dry and dusty. I also thought there were alot of wrecks. But after racing the track I liked it. There is room to race and this season so far there hasn't been many wrecks. Anyway maybe those teams just want a night off or are judging the track like I did before I raced it.
What rule changes would you like to see made to help with the cost of racing?
Nathan Berwager - The right rear tire rule is the only rule that I would have changed, but that has been changed. The reason for that change is so I could run two good used tires in one night instead of running one used tire threw heat and feature. It gives me a better chance in the feature. I also wish we would run the bigger dimension wing like the 410 and 360 class. I don't think that would be cheaper, but they would be a lot easier to buy used from a 410 team.
I can see your thought process with the bigger wing, but wouldn't that hurt you in the long run? Running a bigger wing would slow the cars down by bogging the motor down, not to mention that it would hook the cars to the track to much and then you would have no passing like the 410's. Am i correct in thinking this way?
Nathan Berwager - Well I am looking at the fact with more similarities then the change of the performance. It just seems smarter to have the same kind of wing a 360 sprinter would have and a 410. The fact of changing the outcome of the performance, I disagree due to the fact of handicapping and more in experience drivers like myself in the 358 class. I just wish we could take our cars and race in Florida if we wanted to, kinda like the ASCS....just a thought.
I have always thought that we where not thinking correctly with running 358's instead of 360's. Should we switch to a 360 class so the teams could run anywhere, or is that why the tracks don't switch, so that the teams have to run here and only here?
Nathan Berwager - That is a very good point that the tracks want to keep us local. Anyway I think it was a dumb idea not to run a class that gets more publication and is more than just local, I would love to race in a class where I know at any given weekend I could race a bigger event if I wanted to travel.
How much money does it take though to travel compared to just running local every week? With the price of fuel just to get to the track every week going up and up, it would make more sense to just stay local would it not?
Nathan Berwager - If 360s were local we would not have to travel, but it would be costly to travel and race. When I said about having the opportunity to race wherever would be nice whether our team would travel 2 or 3 times or not. Sometimes its just nice to get out and compete at a different track if you have have to spend more on fuel and board or not.
What has been your favorite track that you have raced so far, and is there a track somewhere that you would love to race at at some point in your career?
Nathan Berwager - My favorite track is Williams Grove. I love it there the speed is great you have time to think and it is smooth racing. If I had an engine to compete there Id be there. Also I would like to try Eagle raceway, on the game its a fun track. Obvious Knoxville and Eldora would be right there. Anyway I love the big tracks, if I had the engine I would run Selinsgrove and Williams Grove.
So who all helps out on the race car ?
Nathan Berwager - Matt Mentzer, and his dad Sam Mentzer are the biggest help I have. Scott Smith and Swift help when they can. George Clouser is starting to help set-up the race car. My Girlfriend Tasha helps with my helmet and mental support.
How about the business that help out with sponsorships?
Nathan Berwager - Matt Mentzer, on my crew, is Upper Bermudian Nursery and Excavating which is on the hood. He helped out alot with getting things started, and also hauls the car to the track every week. Sam Mentzer, on my crew, Is David Menzter Builders which is on the right side. We work on the car at his garage for the advertisement. Outback Imagery, and Anstine's lawn care are sponsors I carried over when I raced with my dad. WhyKnott Advertising is my brother which he put together my complete website for nothing which it turned out awesome, www. berwager. com. The biggest sponsor I have is CaddWorks that is on the wing. Greg, the owner, has a really cool business, and is a awesome person that really helped keep things going at the beginning of the year through where we are now.
How can people get in touch with you?
Nathan Berwager - You can email me through my website www. berwager. com. Also in person, you could catch me at the track.
Is there anything else you would like to say to the fans in central pa?
Nathan Berwager -
First I would like to say thanks to the fans and supporters of dirt track racing, without them we wouldn't have a chance to race towards our dreams. Second the 4u team is excited to end the season on a good note and come back next year to race harder then ever and win, win, win, and just take this year as a good learning experience as a new team and well learning curve to race without my dads support. Also like to thank Central PA Racing Scene to give me the opportunity to express some thoughts and answers questions. Thank you.
Good luck to Nathan the rest of the season. with the big money races coming up in the 358 division at Lincoln,TrailWays,Selinsgrove,and even Hagerstown with their $3,000 to win even on September 13th, Nathan just might be making some headlines with a big win. If you get the opportunity please stop by Nathan's hauler and say hi as you could not meet a more humble young man.
photo courtesy of Chad Warner. Chad can be reached at chadwarnerphotography.com