ENCINITAS — Encinitas native Tyler Hicks grew up going to the race car track with his grandma and grandpa and now he’s starting to make a name for himself competing in the race car circuit.
Hicks, 25, is the grandson of Scott Dailey, owner of Scott’s Automotive in Encinitas. He started racing competitively in 2012, the same year he graduated from Sunset High School. He competes at speedways in Irwindale, California, Tucson, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, driving Legend race car #6.
“We have three main event wins in Tucson this year,” Hicks said in an interview at Scott’s Automotive last week. “Last year I won a couple there as well. Naturally we’re really fast there, it’s just a fun track.”
Hicks said he was leading in points at a race a few weekends ago in Tucson, and looked to be gearing up for another win, until another driver intentionally crashed into him, causing his car to slam into a wall.
“The whole chassis of the car was moved to the left three inches when it hit the wall,” Hicks recalled. “There was frame damage, it destroyed the rear end housing, the rear gear, the steering box. It cost me like $2,000 in damage.”
His car is out of commission while he works to repair it, so he’s currently getting used to racing in another car for the time being. But he said he luckily wasn’t injured in the crash, he was just a little sore the next day.
Hicks said he’s currently in third place at Irwindale, where the competition is a lot harder.
At the end of the month he’ll be racing for the first time at South Sound Speedway in Washington State. It’s a money race where the winner takes home $1,000. Two weeks after that, on the second weekend in September, he’ll be back up to race at Irwindale.
Hicks said he inherited his love of racing from his grandparents — Dailey, who also races cars, and Dailey’s wife Leeann — who would take him out to El Cajon Speedway when he was a kid. That track closed down in 2004.
“I never got the chance to race there but I was there every single weekend, even if my grandpa wasn’t racing, with my grandma,” Hicks said. “She had college rule notebooks of every division, every qualifying time, starting positions, ending pit finishes, every lap time. It was crazy.”
Dailey said it was in Hicks’ blood even when he was a toddler.
“He’s always been kind of a dare devil,” Dailey said. “He used to bonsai our driveway on his tricycle and the funny thing is he never crashed.”
When he got a little older Hicks started getting into go-karting and used to be a kart tester for K1 Speed, an indoor go-karting company. That’s when his talent started really beginning to show, Dailey said.
“When he started going to K1 Speed I remember saying, ‘Boy that sure is expensive,’ and he says, ‘No I just bet all those people I’m going to beat ‘em and then never have to pay,’” Dailey said, recalling a conversation he had with Hicks. “Whoever lost paid for the race, and very rarely did he pay. We’ve got probably 30 trophies on the piano at home from K1 Speed.”
Now, with the Legend cars, Hicks races at pro level on oval or short tracks, where drivers generally do 25 to 35 laps on a 1/3- to 3/8-mile track, and on road courses, doing anywhere from eight to 15 laps on a 2 ½-mile track. He said he prefers road racing over the short track.
“It’s more forgiving,” Hicks said. “On short track if you’re not hitting the perfect mark every time you’re losing just that little bit. But on a road course you have 13 corners to make up. Where you give up this spot, you can make up way more ground over here, and you’re still coming out on top.”
Hicks, who works full time at Scott’s Automotive, said he’d like to be a part of introducing new drivers to the sport and they have plans to start a rental car program to get new drivers out to the track.
“There’s no point in having all the old faces at the track, you have to introduce new faces to the track to be able to continue the sport,” he said.
His grandpa said they’re currently looking into getting Hicks racing bigger cars, like GT3s. He’d like to see his grandson advance in the sport, referencing how current NASCAR driver Kurt Busch started out racing Legend race cars against them in the ‘90s.
“We used to race against Kurt Busch when he was 17 years old,” Dailey said. “You go up the ladder from there and see what you can get going. We’d like to see (Tyler) advance, he’s the fast one.”
Photo Caption: Race car driver Tyler Hicks, an Encinitas native, poses with two vehicles in front of Scott’s Automotive in Encinitas on Aug. 16. Photo by Terry Anderson