As the summer heats up, so does the racing action at short tracks across the country. RacingJunk.com slid Behind The Wheel with a driver who is currently burning up the charts at Winston-Salem, NC’s famed ¼-mile, Bowman Gray Stadium.
Currently the points leader in the track’s Sportsman late model series, Primetime Derek Stoltz has continued to turn heads and burn up the track for many years. This 35-year-old Walkertown native found his passion for the sport after spending much of his youth around the sport.
“My grandfather, father and uncle were always involved in both the automotive and racing business,” said Stoltz. “I remember spending many Saturday nights while I was growing up with my dad who worked for drivers like Jimmy Johnson and the entire Clifton family at Bowman Gray Stadium. While I never really pictured myself competing here someday, there was just something about the whole scene that got my gears grinding.”
While Stoltz wouldn’t begin racing at this popular short track right away, he would soon be picking up wins in a go-kart. “My brother and I spent a lot of time racing four-wheelers, and at the age of 9 years old I saw my first go-kart race. Shortly after this my brother and I began competing with our family-owned kart team,” said Stoltz.
After spending a few years racking up wins throughout the Southeast, Stoltz knew he had found a sport he would long have a passion for. “I guess you can say that I was bit by the bug,” he said. “I was never that good at stick and ball sports, but I felt good when I was racing and knew that I wanted to keep doing this.”
Despite his love for racing, ongoing travel began to take its toll on Stoltz and his family, leaving the born-to-be driver with a new focus. “It became pretty difficult to keep up with school and my ongoing race schedule, so I stepped away from the sport for a little while,” said Stoltz.
While the speed junkie would step away from the sport that he loved for a short period, it wouldn’t be long before he would return to the track that brought his racing dream to life. In 2003, Derek Stoltz began competing in the Street Stock division at Bowman Gray Stadium. After five years and several wins in this series, Stoltz would make the move to a challenge that would forever cement his name at Winston-Salem, NC’s famed ¼-mile.
In 2008, Derek Stoltz slid behind the wheel of his first late model at Bowman Gray Stadium, and although his start in the Sportsman Series was a rough one, it wouldn’t be long before his no-nonsense, intimidating driving style would have both fans and fellow competitors talking and yelling, all while earning Stoltz the nickname ‘Primetime.’
“While I enjoyed the Street Stock Division, I couldn’t wait to compete in a late model” said Stoltz. “There is nothing like trying to control these full-bodied stock cars on this challenging track and I have always wanted to prove that I had what it takes to win and the Sportsman Series gave me this opportunity so much more than the Streets.”
As Stoltz began to rack up the wins in the Sportsman division, the rumors started to fly. “Some would say that I was cheating and I even had to deal with a controversy at this track after race officials deemed my carburetor illegal following one of these wins,” said Stoltz.
Despite ongoing rumors, Primetime Derek Stoltz would continue to be a force to be reckoned with at Bowman Gray Stadium, and there would be no question about this following an on-track incident that had the whole nation talking and also earned the ¼-mile its Madhouse status.
While competing for a 20-lap race win against fellow driver Mike Robertson, during the 2013 season, Stoltz gave the No. 31 driver a shove, leaving Robertson kissing the outside wall in turn one with only a few laps remaining. Expressing his displeasure with the No. 02 of Stoltz, Robertson climbed out of his car to approach the passenger window of his rival’s vehicle. As Robertson began to reach inside Stoltz’s vehicle, the No. 02 would take off, leaving Robertson hanging on for dear life and eventually tumbling on the track in front of the remaining field.
“Some people said I darted at him but no, I didn’t,” said Stoltz about famous incident. “I was trying to go around his brother, who was stopping. Mike grabbed the window, and it looks like it was all my fault, but when I took off I was just following the orders from my spotter, who said ‘Go’ to get around. It wasn’t a second later he was hollering ‘Stop,’ and I saw legs and arms flying and it happened to be Mike. I wouldn’t hurt anybody for anything in the world. It was just one of those deals where he probably shouldn’t have been on the racecar, and we probably should have used better judgment.”
While the 2012 Sportsman Series Champion would continue to compete for the next two years, he would eventually take another hiatus from the sport in 2015. Stating that his two-year hiatus would be due to his both losing his passion for the sport and having a desire to focus on both family and his full-time job, one can’t help but wonder if Stoltz lost part of his passion due to this incident.
As he returns to the sport that he loves this season, Stoltz currently holds on to the Sportsman Series lead just four races into the 2017 season and said that he is only focused on winning. “Although leading the points battle is nice, there is nothing like winning a race,” said Stoltz. “I would have gone for the win in one of our biggest races of the season, but I am also trying to return to racing with an all-new style of respect for those other hard-working drivers around me.”
As this weekend warrior continues his battle at the Madhouse, we at RacingJunk.com hope to be cheering on the No. 02 to another Sportsman championship at the track that made him what he is today.