- Last Updated on 05:00 PM 04/11/13
- BY Travis Barrett/Special to The Gazette
It’s almost as if it is a plot line stolen straight out of a Hollywood script.
A young man stands at a railroad crossing. Behind him, the only life he’s ever known, decorated by the faces of the people he loves the most and the comfort that comes with a support system strong enough to weather any storm. In front of him, though – if he’s only willing to take a simple leap of faith – is a different life, the one he’s imagined since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. It’s the one where he’s allowed to live out his dream each and every day.
All he has to do is take that leap.
Andy Seuss did it, and the perennial NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship contender hasn’t regretted his decision to move from his New Hampshire roots and permanently settle in North Carolina to focus on being a race car driver.
“As I got older and more involved in the family boat business, it was obvious I had to make a decision,” the 26-year-old Seuss said. “It was either be a race car driver or be a boat mechanic. If it didn’t work out, I knew I could always go back and work on boats. But I really wanted to give this a shot, and the opportunity was there.”
He’s making good on the opportunity at the moment. Through two Whelen Southern Modified Tour races to start the season, Seuss is one of only two drivers to finish in the Top-5 in each race. His current fifth-place showing in the standings is the best start to any year he’s ever had.
A fixture on the Southern Tour since 2008, Seuss finished second in the final standings twice (2009 and 2011). In both cases, he said, he found himself having to fight out of an early hole. Not so this year, at least not yet.
“It’s huge,” Seuss said. “If you look at the first two races of last year, we finished dead last in the first race and didn’t finish the next one. Both times it was because of wrecks – one was a racing incident and the other one was a flat tire. I’ve never had a top five in the (season) opener. To come out with two in a row, it gives us hope. It’s not like we’re sitting here saying it’s the greatest thing in the world, like all the pressure’s off, but we know we’ve gotten a good start and we can only get better.”
The quick start out of the gate isn’t the only thing that’s different for Seuss’ this season. Last year, he and three-time tour champion George Brunnhoelzl III were teammates at Ideal Racing – with Howard Harvey owning Brunnhoelzl’s ride and Harvey’s son, Eddie Harvey, owning Seuss’ No. 11. Howard Harvey has stepped back from racing this season, leaving Seuss as a single-car team for the first time since 2010.
It’s a little different, but not as different as it might appear from the outside, Seuss said.
“We were teammates, but I drove for Eddie and (Brunnhoelzl) drove for Howard. Last year, the 11 car was the only one working out of Lexington. It’s really the same now. I’ve been friends with Georgie since before we were teammates, and we’re still pretty close now.”
There is irony in Seuss and Brunnhoelzl forging a friendship in the heart of Whelen Southern Modified Tour country. Seuss, the New Hampshire native, and Brunnhoelzl, a native of West Babylon, N.Y., don’t fit the mold of tried-and-true southerners.
“When I win races down here, they tell me to go back home,” Brunnhoelzl has joked in the past. “And then when I won at Thompson (Conn.), they all were yelling me to go back where I came from. I guess I don’t have a home.”
Seuss noted that it was originally tough to break into the heart of the Southern Modified Tour faithful, but now that he’s been appearing in races since 2006 (he ran part-time in both 2006 and 2007) things have gotten more comfortable.
He races full-time on the Tour, works as a mechanic at Rahmoc Racing Engines in Concord, N.C., and owns a house nearby.
“The southern fans, they’re the ones that could make it tough sometimes,” Seuss said. “It’s such a passionate fan base for Bowman Gray Stadium (in Winston-Salem, N.C.) that follow those guys there. I wasn’t only the new kid on the block on the Tour because I didn’t race at Bowman Gray, I was also from out of state.
“Now, though, I feel like my opinion is valued a little more. I’m more comfortable. I feel like I can talk to the officials. There’s no ‘outsider’ feeling there anymore.”
He shouldn’t. His win at Thompson International Speedway last September marked his sixth consecutive season with at least one win – the longest such streak in Whelen Southern Modified Tour history. It also came just days after his car owner and crew chief Eddie Harvey’s mother passed away, giving the team an emotional lift that has carried over into this season.
“That win was huge, for a number of reasons,” Seuss said, noting that the team had been trying to crack the win column all season to no avail, and that Harvey had long wanted to win at the track. “Every year when you start this out and commit to every race, your goal is the championship. I’ve got plenty of seconds in the points run, but I haven’t had that one (championship) year. It’s not so much what we want to accomplish – it’s the DNFs, wrecks, bad decisions that we don’t want to have happen.
“If we can do that, and put ourselves in a position to win every week, at the end of year I think we’ll be fine with ourselves.”
And he’ll look back on that difficult decision to leave home fondly, especially with the script’s storybook ending.
“It was hard to leave,” Seuss said. “The biggest thing is that my whole family is really close. We all work together, we all play together. That was really hard. Leaving my niece and nephew, who I like to watch grow up, made it even harder to leave the nest. But everybody has been really supportive, and everything’s turned out really well so far.”