View from the Stands (5/21/2013)
by Eric Arnold, Knoxville Raceway Blogger & Twitter Commentator
Dustin Selvage started racing sprint cars at Knoxville Raceway in 2005 at seventeen years of age. With no previous experience in racing, Selvage decided to enter the 360 class. Racing is in his blood with his grandparents being former Knoxville Raceway promoters Ray and Naomi Grimes. Dustin was able to run a few races in 2005 and in the 2006 season finished twenty-third in points.
His experienced over the first couple of years resulted in an improvement in 2007 with one feature win. He won another feature in 2008 and was sixth in points. In 2009 he was a contender and finished third in points with one win, and 2010 he showed he was one of the best on the track finishing a close runner-up in the track championship with three feature wins and was fourth in the 360 Nationals. In the winter of 2010-2011 Selvage decided to move up to the 410 class, but that wasn’t his plan until he received some advice from a fellow competitor.
EA: So why move to the 410 class in 2011?
DS: At the end of 2010 we were planning to buy another 360 engine, building two race cars, and really buckling down to win that 360 championship. We were so close in 2010 the first three or four weeks with Clint. (He lost by 88 points at end of the season.) We came real close and set a goal to try to win that championship and do some extra racing. That winter me and Russ Hall went to a little gathering at Terry McCarl’s house. We were bench racing and Terry asked me what my plans were and I told him. I was always under the impression that to be competitive at Knoxville you had to have two $40,000-$50,000 engines and Terry basically told me that was a myth, so we talked a while and maybe got my mind changed to switch to 410. I called the engine builder (Lee Nelson at Ostrich) the next week and talked to him about it a little bit and we came up with a used 410 engine for about $18,000, which was about $5,000 to $8,000 cheaper than a 360 engine on the market. I had to spend some extra money to get it freshened up since it was a two or three year old engine, so it was a total of $24,000.
EA: Wow! That’s not a bad deal for a 410.
DS: You can get on Hosehead’s and find a fresh 360 for the exact same price, if not more. I was surprised. Depending on the engine builder a brand new 410 is $8,000 to $10,000 more than a new 360. You hear all the stories that you have to have this, you have to have that to be competitive. It’s nice to have all of that equipment obviously, but it’s not a necessity. You hear you can only get 10-12 nights on a 410 and that is the case.
EA: So how do you plan for that?
DS: With Lee, in April we would sit down and say, our refresh date is going to be “this” weekend in July and he would have the parts ordered so when that 10-12 nights came around and it was time to get the engine refreshed, I would take it to him on Sunday and I would have it back Friday, and we don’t miss a week and still have a fresh engine.
EA: And you have been competitive the last two seasons in a 410 finishing in the top ten in points each year.
DS: We’re happy with our performance in the 410 class. It just seems like the fast guys are EXTREMELY fast and hard to beat. We’ve had our nights where we shine and lead some laps and maybe let a win get away. With the 360 car we had a set up and a balance with the car where for three years we didn’t change hardly anything on the race cars. We found what I liked as a driver so I could be fast and we were competitive night in and night out. We have struggled with the balance in the 410. One night we would be fast enough to win the race, and we would show up the next week and struggle to get a fifteenth place finish. So it’s been a struggle to get consistent and find that balance in the 410, but we are slowly getting there.
EA: How did you end up driving the Bruce Williams 7k this season?
DS: At the end of 2012 I told Bruce I would like to have the opportunity to drive his car. He called me and we went and raced with the MOWA series in Granite City and we ran second. The next night we ran at Pevely with the Outlaws and were relatively competitive. We talked over the winter and he said he would like me to drive this year for him.
EA: Are you supplying the engine or any equipment?
DS: It’s not one of those deals where I just show up and race. I help out financially as much as I can. It’s awful expensive to race and it’s hard for an owner to pay for 100% of everything. And that may be some of the reason he picked me to drive, because I am able to help out with things like fuel and tires, but it’s all of his equipment.
EA: What kind of equipment are you using this season?
DS: Bruce has one Eagle and two Maxim chassis, two Parker engines, and two USA engines out of Colorado.
EA: You still have your own equipment at home?
DS: Yep, I still have my own stuff. In a few weeks we will be racing out of my trailer.
EA: Has the new Hoosier tire been hard to figure out this season?
DS: With teaming up with Bruce this year there is so much that is new to me with cars, shocks, engines, and tires. I’m working with different people too, but we are making a little ground every week I feel. The tire is difficult to figure out, but I can’t pinpoint our performance just with that. But from week to week we are making leaps and bounds I feel and by the end of the year we will be a competitive team I hope.
EA: I think so too.
DS: I hope so! (Laughs)
EA: How did you first get started in racing?
DS: I’ve been around it my whole life with my grandparents being involved with the track. I was one of those kids going to the races when I was still in diapers. I was born into the racing family. We just decided one day, me and my grandparents and bought a race car. It was one of those decisions they left up to me, and as a seventeen year old kid, do you spend the money to go get an education or go racing? Of course I decided to go buy a race car.
EA: Well who wouldn’t at seventeen?
DS: It was kind of a no brainer there. (Laughs) We bought a car off of Johnny Anderson for my first race car.
EA: Johnny helped you in the pits at one time didn’t he?
DS: The first year he quit racing, I believe it was 2008, Johnny was the crew chief for me. We have been family friends forever. He and my brother went to school together. His family and my family all live in Indianola.
EA: Myself and Bob Wilson have been writing a book about the Knoxville Nationals and we have bench raced some about how genius the idea was for your grandparents to create the Nationals scoring system.
DS: My Mom has told me stories about her and her sister sitting at the kitchen table with a piece of paper and pen and going over all the scenarios possible and that’s what they all came up with as a family and it stuck.
EA: What do you for a living?
DS: My brother and I started our own plumbing business in 2008, at the worst time possible when the economy tanked. But we have survived and grown. We deal with newer construction primarily in the greater Des Moines metro area and we now have ten employees.
We did this interview on Friday evening before this week’s race, but Dustin and the Williams team decided to change from Eagle chassis to a Maxim this week and it paid off with qualifying seventh, and a fifth place finish in the feature. Dustin was running third most of the race but fell to fifth on the last restart. He had one top five a year ago, so with one top five already this season it appears the Selvage/Williams marriage is progressing quite well so far. I think Selvage is on the cusp of bigger things this season and the more laps he runs the better he is getting, and closer to that set-up he is looking for. I learned that 360 and 410 cars behave differently over this interview as well. I always assumed it was similar cars just more horsepower. However I do think it’s probably easier to race a 410 first, then go to a 360 and you can adapt quicker. The debate of costs in 410/360 racing has been a topic I have covered a few times previously in Flat Out Magazine. I was surprised that the used engine market was that cheap (if you consider $24,000 cheap). I too had assumed the 410 engines were higher dollars. But I also know that Shane Stewart and Paul Silva finished second at the Nationals with a used broken engine they bought relatively cheap from Zach Zimmerly and had Wesmar rebuild it. I also think it is a myth that $40,000 engines is needed to compete. Good interview, and thanks to Dustin for volunteering and for his time.
You can follow Dustin Selvage on Twitter @sprntcar7
*Eric can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @_EricArnold.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Knoxville Raceway.