Martin emerges from latest Cape teammate scrap for USF2000 title

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
0 Comments

The form book followed the preseason script in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda almost to a T.

The two top returning drivers in the series, Anthony Martin and Parker Thompson, switched from their respective single-car teams to the proverbial powerhouse of the championship, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, and promptly set the stage for a title bout.

And it’s not the first time this has happened in recent years. The two more prominent title battles in recent years occurred with Matthew Brabham and Spencer Pigot in 2012 and Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico in 2013; lesser teammate title tilts were Florian Latorre and Jake Eidson in 2014 (with RC Enerson proving the interloper) and Nico Jamin and Aaron Telitz last year.

The Martin-Thompson bout felt most akin to the Brabham-Pigot one, though. You felt for both of them at various points throughout the year and you really never wanted either of them to lose the crown, because both had worked so hard to deserve it.

Ultimately Martin ended ahead on a more significant seven-to-four win advantage over Thompson, and also had one fewer direct pitfall that hurt his points hopes. Two finishes of 15th or worse were enough to doom Thompson despite an otherwise sincerely consistent season.

For Martin, who follows the lineage of other Australians who are trying to make it in America – Will Power and Ryan Briscoe come to mind as two of the most successful, along with New Zealander Scott Dixon – the title may have been the make-or-break moment of his career going forward.

Thompson, Martin, Franzoni. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Thompson, Martin, Franzoni. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The 21-year-old from Kalgoorlie never got too high or too low throughout the year. Bounce backs from two incidents in Toronto to a runner-up in the second race there and a crucial three-race weekend sweep at Mid-Ohio were among the deciding factors in the title win.

Earlier, though, Martin had taken as much a psychological win at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis when he used a slower car as a pick on Thompson, denying him a near certain victory. It propelled Martin forward to two more wins at Road America to cap off a four wins-in-five race stretch, to counter Thompson’s prior run of three wins in four races earlier in the season.

“Yeah mate, it’s been a big roller coaster ride essentially,” Martin told NBC Sports. “Parker and I swapped points numerous times. The big thing for me was putting my head down and moving on to the next thing.

“I made the pass at Lucas Oil to take the win there, and that started a chain of events. Grabbed a couple wins at Road America, Toronto, then Mid-Ohio – the big turning point – I grabbed some important points there. The past was the past and you couldn’t change it; you just had to move forward.”

Martin had shifted from John Cummiskey Racing, where he overachieved as a rookie on a single-car team renowned for excellent car preparation. With the Capes, he took the next step.

“For sure, yeah the team developed me as a driver,” Martin reflected. “They got me better the technical aspects, and I suppose they’ve toughened me up!

“Dom and Nicholas really push you. But at low moments they pick you up. Move forward and attack it. For as well as the technical aspect, they’ve helped me grow. We’ve had an awesome car all year. When I go out, I have a good car underneath me. They’ve helped me grow.”

Martin was not present at the weekend’s Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test, thus missing his first shot to test a Pro Mazda car, but he’ll be in line for a step up there next year.

In the interim, he’ll be back home in Australia, carrying the torch and flying the flag as potentially that country’s next big open-wheel star. He raced with Jordan Lloyd and Luke Gabin here, with all three having had their moments in USF2000 in 2016.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
0 Comments

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”