Reporter: Ellie Mahan
July 21, 2021
People who have lived in the country for a long time may have friends who made a hobby out of racing on dirt roads, cruising on back roads every chance they get. For Joe Sheddan, owner of Joe Sheddan excavation and a 21-year Whitney resident, it’s not just a hobby anymore. It’s now his way of life. Sheddan races with DFW local late models, and he also won the Last Chance Qualifier in the 604 Late Model race at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.
Sheddan said, “The main thing I really love about racing is, after all the hard work, when you get in that car and you’re going down the back stretch waiting for the green flag, as soon as that green flag drops, you’re not worried about truck payments, house notes, relationships, nothing. Everything goes quiet in my world, and it’s just fast. Everything just slows down. I do my best thinking at 150 miles an hour.”
Because Sheddan’s grandfather was a racer, Sheddan became fascinated with the sport at a young age and began racing when he was about 17 years old. During his first full season in 2003, he won rookie of the year in the Dwarf Car class. In 2013, he competed in 28 races and won 24 of them. In 2014, he competed in 26 races and won 22 of them. Sponsorships with Yount Motorsports and All Plumbing in Dallas gave him the opportunity to compete against some of the best racers in the business by moving up to the late model category.
“They gave us an opportunity, and we’ve done pretty well. We haven’t been in it long, and we’ve already won a few,” Sheddan said. “They said it could be years before we win, and we’ve already won two [late model races], so we’re kind of excited about it.”
When Sheddan was at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track, he enjoyed hearing the location of his local sponsors announced over the loudspeaker because it brought the small towns in Hill County recognition. Both of his grandparents have lived in Hill County for his entire life, and he has an appreciation for the small community he has spent most of his life in.
“When we raced for Bristol at the national level and beat a bunch of those guys that race every day and are paid millions of dollars to race, it was neat because we’re from Whitney, Texas. When you look at our little camp, and you look at some of those guys, you think ‘how in the world am I even competing with those guys?’” Sheddan said.
Sheddan’s two teenage daughters, who go to school and play sports at Aquilla, both support their father by going to his local races.
“My daughters love it [his racing career] until there’s a wreck. We’ve been pretty fortunate though,” Sheddan said. “By the time it’s all said and done, with the car and the motor, the car is going to be about $70,000, so you try not to wreck it, but when you put 30 cars together, side by side at that speed, it’s almost guaranteed at some point.”
Sheddan said to become a late model racer, you have to have a passion for the sport because it is very time consuming.
“You can’t just like racing. You have to love it because it’s 24-7,” Sheddan said. “Most of the time we’re in the shop or we’re in the garage. A lot of guys have time to go to bars or go fishing with their buddies. We’re in the shop 24/7. We’re working on something, trying to get better. That’s the tough part, but I never miss my kids’ games.”
According to Sheddan, one of the most difficult parts of preparing for a race is finding a track to practice on and finding a time when not many people are at that track. Otherwise, opponents could attend the track to attempt to scope out the competition and learn the driver’s tactics. The day after Sheddan competes, he starts preparing for his next race.
“It’s a scramble. You finish that Saturday night; Sunday is wash day. You strip the car down, wash it, service it, check the fluids in it, check your safety equipment. You start reloading the trailer back up. Monday night is getting the car back going. Tuesday is tire prep. Wednesday is going through your safety gear. Thursday it’s ready to load up,” Sheddan said.
One part of the racing world that Sheddan enjoys is interacting with his fans. Fans have worn his merchandise, asked for autographs, posed for photos with his car and shouted at him to toss his helmet into the crowd.
“It’s pretty neat. We were at Bristol, and I looked up, and there was a kid. He’s probably eight years old, and he’s got my hat on. Sixty thousand people are there, and this little kid has got my hat on,” Sheddan said.
Sheddan enjoys the fans but always remembers where he came from and feels grateful for the opportunities he has been given.
In an interview with KHBR radio station in Hillsboro, Sheddan said, “I get excitement out of seeing the kids and giving out hats, and just giving back because I came from nothing. We didn’t have anything. We got very fortunate to catch a ride with a team like Louie, or we wouldn’t be here having this conversation. That goes to show what I’ve always said, I think some of your best talent in the world, dirt track drivers, they’re racing at your local dirt track every single weekend, and they’re never going to get that opportunity to showcase what they can do because there’s just not many of those kind of rides out there.”
Sheddan’s advice for young racers is to try not to let the ridicule from fans of the opposition get them down. When racers hit another car on the track, the opposing fans will boo and name call both during the race and immediately after the race. The criticism also continues long after leaving the track, due to social media. Sheddan said young racers have to keep in mind that upset fans’ negative comments such as “You’re the worst racer out there,” aren’t based in fact, just anger.
Sheddan also advised, “It’s going to be the most humbling sport you’ve ever been a part of because you could be on top one day, and the next day, you’re struggling to get in the feature. It can bring a grown man to tears in a matter of minutes. You may lose friends in it that get in bad wrecks and end their career.”
Sheddan plans to race his newest car, a 2021 Rocket Chassis XR1, in a $50,000 to win competition at Chattam Speedway in Rustin, Louisiana.
Sheddan thanks his sponsors for their support. Some of those sponsors include Yount Motorsports, All Plumbing, NAPA of Hillsboro, White Rock Ranch, Dirt Defender, 517 Designs and P&W Sales Oil Field Manufacturer.