NASCAR dreams fuel teen mini stock car driver
NASCAR ambitions: Mini stock car racer Cody Kershner is on the brink of earning his first title.
Ric Dugan/The Herald-Mail/AP
After his fiancee has gone home for the night and everyone else in the house starts winding down, Cody Kershner will spend evenings in the basement watching prior races like football players review tape.
The 19-year-old mini stock car racer is on the brink of earning his first title. Cody leads the points race at Shippensburg Speedway in Pennsylvania and is four races away from winning the series.
Watching old tape, he says, is what it takes to become a champion.
Cody lives with his family in the farmlands just west of Hagerstown. He attended Clear Spring High School and graduated from Washington County Technical High School. He's been racing since he was 14, but he's been enamored with racing since before he could see over a dash panel.
"I'd like to make it to NASCAR one day," Cody said.
While he's come a long way from the days when he turned wrenches for his dad, Mike Kershner, and entered his first race, Cody's family says they're proud of the man he's become off the track.
"I think he is a good example for other young people to follow their dreams," said his grandmother, Peggy Kershner.
Months ago, Cody gave his trophy to the Stine family in memory of the late Jeff Stine, who was killed in a car accident on June 6. Jeff Stine owned Stines Radiator Service in Hagerstown. His brother, Doug Stine, said it's been hard.
"I was pretty happy to get that trophy," Doug Stine said. "I thought it was a pretty special thing for him to do. They're good people."
Cody said he recently gave away another one of his trophies to a fellow driver whose father died.
"I have trophies to show my accomplishments," Cody said. "Sometimes I feel like if someone has that, that can be given to them, it cheers them up, get their mind off things when they're in a situation."
Racing is a family affair in the Kershner household.
Cody said his first win was in 2007. He was competing against his father. "I started first and led every lap," he said. "My dad finished second to me. That was the first time we ever raced against each other."
Cody has a sister, Jamie Kershner, 23, whose daughter Makenna, 4, has already started hanging around the track, giving her Uncle Cody the thumbs up when he wins.
His great-grandparents, Charles and Rose Dale, don't attend the races, but they do pray for his safety. "They're his prayer warriors," Peggy said.
Watching the races can be scary.
"The one I remember the most is when he went up on the wall," said Shirley Kershner, Cody's mother. "Oh my goodness, is he going to roll? That scared me the most."
But Cody finished.
"There was a big pile up," he recalled. "One of the cars flipped. I got a flat tire. It ripped the whole nose piece off the car. I had to pull off the track. I had to put a new tire on the car. I came out, I started in last and finished in second."
Cody's fiance, Ashley Pearcey, 20, of Clear Spring, said it's not so hard for her to watch her future husband compete because she grew up around drag racing. Her stepfather, Bobby Smith, runs a race engine and automotive business in Clear Spring. She and Cody met each other when he came by to pick up a motor. She says it was love at first sight.
"He was too shy to say anything," Ashley said.
Inside of Cody's car, there's a heart with Ashley's name in it.
As for the future, Cody said he's been trying to do everything he can to make it to the next level of competition and get a fancier car. He wants to land a spot on a traveling series, the types of drivers who come through the Hagerstown Speedway not too far from his home - or at least find something lucrative enough so that he doesn't have to work full time.
He's employed with the service department at a Hagerstown car dealership.
His dad said they've been talking to a man with a race car that's not being used. But it takes a good bit of dues paying before people are willing to fork over a $50,000 to $60,000 car to an inexperienced driver.
"I've got to do the best I can in the division I'm in and just continue to win," Cody said. "Hopefully, someone sees I can get good results and take care of equipment, get a fan base."