Racing in the blood at AusraPublished 12:11am Thursday, July 26, 2012
Racing is most definitely in the blood at Ausra Equipment Racing in Dowagiac.
From fathers and sons to husbands and wives to uncles, the family hits the track each weekend during the season and is having the time of their lives.
Phil Ausra got the ball rolling in 2001 when he went from helping work on another driver’s car to driving one of his own.
Steve and Doug Ausra followed in 2006 and now Justin Pauley and Pat Harding are in cars and learning what it takes to come home a winner.
All of them wonder if they would be racing today had it not been for father Steve Ausra Sr. and uncle Bob Ausra hadn’t decided to step up and have Ausra Equipment become the main sponsor for the race team.
Once they had the family business behind them, it’s been full speed ahead.
Phil actually started out drag racing, but soon got into stock cars.
“I was into drag racing and then I started helping a guy that was doing the circle track,” Phil said. “I said to myself, I’m doing all the work on this car I might as well have one of my own and be driving one. The adrenaline rush in drag racing only lasts about 11 or 12 seconds depending on what car you’ve got. In this deal here, it lasts 45 minutes.
“Plus, in drag racing, if you have a bad pass you’re done. Where with the circle track if you have a bad lap, you have 19 more to make it up.”
Steve and Doug caught the bug by watching Phil and seeing his enjoyment.
“You could see it was fun,” Steve said. “You could see he was loving it.”
Interestingly, it wasn’t a competitive fire that drew in Steve and Doug.
“For a while, we were in different divisions,” Doug added.
Phil has been the most successful of the race teams so far at Ausra Equipment with three track championships.
Steve and Doug have also brought home some hardware having won two rookie of the year awards and a most improved title respectively. Harding is currently leading the rookie of the year points.
The three drivers, along with Harding, are now running in the same late model class Friday nights at Hartford Motor Speedway. Phil also is in a touring series that takes him around the Midwest on Saturdays.
“It’s probably a little odd to have four drivers from one team all in the same class,” Steve said. “Generally, you would have one guy in each class rather than literally racing against each other every night. It works for us though. We don’t have a problem with it.”
You can’t argue with their success. Doug is currently second in points in the S&S Agriculture UMP Late Model Division, while Phil is third, Steve is fifth and Harding is sixth.
Harding and Pauley, who is running in the Coors Light B-Mods Division, started out as crew chiefs before switching to driving.
All the drivers agree the sponsorship of the family business was the key to staying on the track.
“When Phil was the only one running factory story and he was the only one racing, every once in a while he would need help because he was trying to win a championship,” Steve said. “He would come in and talk. They started to get a little interested in it and every other night or every three nights they would go to the track and watch.
“It just snowballed. They just got the bug, too. They just wanted to see him faster and win. So they became a main sponsor of Phil.”
When the idea of running in the late model series came up, Phil was given the green light to shop around and find a car.
“That’s how it started,” Phil said. “We started with a lower end late model and all used stuff. From that point, every year we stepped up a little bit more and got to where we are now.”
The drivers also agreed that it’s the help they receive from their crew and their teammates that has led to their success and the growth of the team.
“Jeff (Kuseske) does 98 percent of the work on my car,” Steve said. “Without him, I couldn’t go racing. You have to have help. You have to put a lot of work into these cars to make them go fast and without help, it won’t get done.”
While Ausra Equipment Racing is a large team, they remember how it all started. Their advice to those wanting to get into racing it simple.
“Start off in a lower level class,” Phil said.
“Let your pocket book guide you,” Steve said.