Sunday, 20 September 2020 11:51

Tadlock's family history, love of racing puts him on the fast track

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Jonathan Tadlock, standing beside his No. 57 1976 Chevy Nova, wrapped up his first season of competitive racing. Jonathan Tadlock, standing beside his No. 57 1976 Chevy Nova, wrapped up his first season of competitive racing. Contributed photo.

ROCKINGHAM — A deep family history of racing has been the driving force behind Jonathan Tadlock’s decision to enter the competitive circuit.

Combining his love for racing with his love of working on cars, Tadlock just completed his first season behind the wheel of his 1976 Chevrolet Nova. Although it’s his first official go at racing in the pure stock class on dirt, Tadlock’s relationship with racing dates to his elementary school days.

“My dad, Cary Tadlock, used to race late model stock cars in the 80s and 90s,” Tadlock explained. “I remember being a little kid and going to the track to watch races and that my dad and Uncle Gary used to help set up cars for those races.

“I never thought about racing myself until my dad and my brother Camden started racing go karts in 2017,” he added. “I helped build their engines when they raced in Bennettsville, and being around it so much, I decided to buy my own car.”

A 2018 graduate from Richmond Senior High School, Tadlock is currently attending machining school at Richmond Community College. The 20-year-old also works at Rankin Race Engines in Laurel Hill, which helped put him on the fast track to racing.

While in high school, Tadlock purchased his stripped down Nova and spent the better part of two years rebuilding it. He started working at Rankin’s in Nov. 2019 and the shop’s owner, Mike Rankin, helped him piece together a race-ready vehicle.

“The car we bought already had the gauges and roll bar, so it was something good to start out with,” Tadlock said. “There was no motor or transmission, everything was stripped. My brother and I bought a stock Chevy 350 motor, and with Mike’s help, we totally rebuilt the whole thing. 

“With Mike’s help and his knowledge, it came together really fast and we made exactly what we were looking for in a pure stock car,” he continued. “Then we bought a stock transmission, and my uncle and my dad helped me build a new rear end for the track we were going to run.”

Of his dad and uncle, Tadlock said their experience with racing and setting up cars for over 30 years has “helped a ton with the entire project,” especially with his learning about how the weight of a car impacts its handling. They are also knowledgeable in the art of racing on dirt, which has trickled down to Tadlock driving on the track.

The final personal touch Tadlock added to the car was his paint scheme, which is a black base with white racing stripes. He said he wanted his car to “stand out” and the racing stripes have been a really big hit with fans at the track.

He and his brother Camden came up with the No. 57 as the car’s official number by combining two numbers that were sentimental to both.

“All through middle school and high school, I wore No. 17 when I played soccer,” Tadlock explained, who was a varsity starter at Richmond. “When my brother ran go karts, he was No. 51. So, we just decided to mix them together to get 57.”

Jonathan Tadlock races the No. 57 Chevy Nova earlier this year.

Because he races on two regional dirt tracks, Carolina Speedway in Gastonia and Lancaster Motor Speedway in South Carolina, Tadlock is required to race seven-inch racing wheels. Part of racing pure stock means the car should run as if it were factory made and it can’t have asphalt tires.

The key to racing on dirt, Tadlock said, is to hold the car steady. He said it’s easy to get sideways, but the goal is to “set the car at an angle” and play with the throttle through the turn and “find the sweet spot.” 

Tadlock didn’t hide the fact that racing can be an expensive sport, and said he and his crew race most weekends throughout the season. The No. 57 crew has decided to shelf the car this season in preparation for a hopeful complete 2021 schedule.

The season, Tadlock explained, runs from mid February to November, but because of COVID-19, a lot of the races were suspended over the spring and summer months. During the offseason, Tadlock will be looking for sponsors to help keep his car on the track, while also making upgrades.

“This year was my first year of running and it was a slow process of me learning how to drive,” Tadlock said. “It’s trying to get to that edge, and it’s a little scary in the car. The motor is screaming at 7,000 RPMs and it’s intense. I get a rush out of it and there’s a lot of adrenaline running just like any other sport.

“What I enjoy the most other than the actual driving part, is that every weekend my whole family comes out to support me,” he said. “We’re there to hang out, enjoy the sport of racing and do what we love to do. I’ll bang doors with guys on the track and then in the pits we’re all friends.”

Tadlock closed by saying he couldn’t forget his crew chief and younger brother Ben Tadlock, who helps keep the show running. He also expressed his gratitude to his mother Amy Tadlock, his girlfriend Katie Curtis, and the guys at Rankin’s “who have all helped support me throughout the entire process.”

Last modified on Sunday, 20 September 2020 13:52
Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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