Racing is a Family Tradition: A Conversation with Team Rodgers

Posted on August 6th, 2013

There is a real youth movement happening at Speedway 660. The Rodgers brothers are two of our most talented, most exciting and fastest young drivers. Andrew and Matt, who run in the competitive Martins Home Heating Sportsman Division, are proud to follow in the tracks of their grandfather Bob and father Steve. Wade Wilson recently had a Conversation with the Rodgers men about their love of racing.

Wade: Bob, I think you must be responsible for all of this. When and how did you first get involved in racing, where did you race and who are some of the guys you raced against?

Bob: I always had an interest in racing, especially when my brother Pat started racing down in Petty many years ago when it first opened. So I built a car the next year with the help of Ed Floyd and we started racing on Saturday nights at Petty Raceway. Over the next few years we also raced at Riverglade Speedway and Hammond River Raceway. Some of the guys I raced against were Les Lamb, Ken “Apples” Paley, Jim MacPherson, Frank Moore, and Rob Halpin to name a few. There are a few guys like Jim and Dan Duke and Bill Sommerville who have raced against all three generations of the Rodgers family.

(left to right) Steve, Matt, Bob and Andrew Rodgers enjoy a moment in the Geary Woods. Matt and Andrew, 3rd generation racers, are having a great season in the Martins Home Heating Sportsman Division. The Rodgers boys are both in the top five in Speedway 660’s Sportsman points race and will be contenders in this weekend’s Firecracker 150.

Wade: Steve, you were pretty successful here at Speedway 660 a few years ago. Did watching your Dad race, when you were younger, inspire you to get into the sport?

Steve: To be honest, when Dad started racing I was 16 years old and like most boys that age I had other interests. I went to the track and helped with the car occasionally, but it was mainly Dad and Ed Floyd who did all the work. It wasn’t until Dad decided he was ready to hang up his helmet that I asked if I could try my hand at it. I don’t think anyone ever would have thought that 23 years later we would be fielding two Sportsman cars for a third generation of drivers.

Wade: And how old were you young pups when you started coming to the race track and when did you decide you wanted to continue this family tradition?

Matt: I started racing go carts when I was six years old in 2002, but I’m sure I was sitting in the stands watching Dad race long before that. I don’t really remember when I decided I wanted to continue the family tradition, but I’m sure it was at a very young age. The best memory that I have of that is when we found out that NBICK was starting up and Dad asked if I wanted to race go-carts and of course I did. I am very thankful that my family got me into racing, and very thankful for the opportunities that I have had to race three different kinds of cars, plus go carts, and for all of the things in life that racing has taught me.

Andrew: I began to drive a go-cart in 2003 when I was five, although I’m certain I have been at racetracks around the province since I was born, back when my father was racing. At a young age I saw the joy racing brought my Dad and from then on I knew it was something I wanted to do in my life. I’m just thankful to have this opportunity with a family who has supported and taught me positive lessons throughout my life both in racing and in everyday experiences.

Matt Rodgers had a great run earlier this season when he finished 2nd in the Martins Home Heating Sportsman 100. Matt is looking forward to this weekend’s Firecracker 150 and hopes to do one better this time around and end up in the Riverview Ford Lincoln Victory Lane!

Wade: Matt, you graduated from high school this year and are a couple of years older than Andrew. How competitive are you guys as brothers when it comes to racing?

Matt: Like most brothers we’re competitive in almost everything we do, so of course when it comes to racing we are pretty competitive too. We race each other just as hard or harder on the track as we would any other driver. Throughout the week though, we work together on both cars getting them ready to go for Saturday night.

Wade: Andrew you have really become a fan favourite here at Speedway 660. You have rattled off three straight second place finishes in the Martins Home Heating Sportsman features. You must be pretty happy about that, but I also figure you must be wondering what it’s going to take to get to the Riverview Ford Victory Lane?

Andrew: At the beginning of the year, my goals for the season were simply to grab a few top fives and learn all that I could out there for years to come. This season has been above and beyond my expectations. With more laps and experience, I’ll become a better driver and hopefully someday that will earn me a win in this division.

Wade: Racing is a great sport, but it’s got to be a lot of hard work preparing two cars for competition every week. And then there’s the job of getting them to the race track. You guys are from Smithtown, down near Hampton. That’s a pretty long haul.

Steve: It is a lot of work, and sometimes we get to the point where it seems like it is too much. We have been fortunate though because some of Matt and Andrew’s friends have taken an interest in helping out. And that makes things a lot easier for Dad and I. Having some younger crew members allows us to delegate a few more things and at the same time a younger generation is learning a new set of skills.

Wade: What is it like racing against each other? And Andrew since you have been on a pretty good hot streak recently, does that give you bragging rights in the Rodgers household these days?

Andrew: Once we hit the track, the brotherhood is always in the back of our minds, but to me Matt just becomes another fierce competitor out there with a shot to win every week. Matt has taught me a lot about these cars from setup work to race lines on the track and everything in between, so I see no reason to brag to someone who’s helped me get to where I am now.

Andrew Rodgers is the youngest driver ever to win a feature in one of Speedway 660’s top three divisions. Andrew, who was 14 at the time, won a DMR Auto Sales & Service Street Stock feature!

Wade: Your Grandfather and Father obviously make it possible for you guys to go racing every week. How good are you guys in the garage and who else works on the cars and helps you out on race days?

Matt: Our Father and Grandfather play a huge role in getting the cars to the track every week and we definitely couldn’t do it without them. We also couldn’t do it without the help of our friends including: Tyler Hodgin, Tom Woods, Matt Perry, Rob Hodgin, Spencer Hodgin, Chris Kingston and Marcus Perry. It is pretty hard keeping two cars ready to go racing each weekend and we definitely couldn’t do it without the help we get from these guys.

Wade: Racing is expensive these days, especially if you want to be competitive with the top Sportsman teams. Who are the sponsors that support your racing efforts and what does their support mean to you?

Andrew: We’ve got some great sponsors. R.A. Lawrence Engineering Limited is an incredible sponsor and are playing a key role in our racing program. Wilkins Signs, Thomac Services, Eastward Sales Limited, Hampton Auto Supplies, Cannon Security, All Sorts for All Sports, as well as Rustick Auto are also great corporate sponsors and we appreciate each and every one of them. Another man who’s been a large contributor to our small team is Richard Martin of Martins Home Heating who helped me get going in the street stock division and is the title sponsor in our sportsman division. As well, the ladies in our family provide tremendous support for my brother and I, no matter what happens on Saturday night. Our Mom Angela and Grandmother Lynn mean the world to us, because they have always been there for us and have always encouraged us to be the best we can be, not only in the sport of racing, but everything else we are involved in.

Wade: The Firecracker 150 is coming up this weekend. It’s the second of three big races for you guys this year. Matt you finished 2nd in the Martins Home Heating 100. What’s it going to take to win this Saturday night?

Matt: To win this Saturday night, it’s going to take a well prepared car and a lot of patience. There will be some strong competition there for sure and if we bring a couple of good cars to the track, stay out of trouble and not have any parts break, then I think both of us can have strong runs.

Wade: Andrew, I know you were disappointed with your 15th place finish in the Martins Home Heating 100, but you’ve really stepped up since then with those three straight second place feature finishes. Is that momentum going to help you when the Firecracker goes green Saturday night?

Andrew: In the Martins Home Heating 100, I felt like I had a great car to pick up a top five, but mechanical failures aren’t something we can always control. This weekend I hope to qualify well and get the chance to race alongside some of the best in the Maritimes including my big brother in the 42! These past few weeks I’ve had a car which was fast from first practice until the feature and hopefully that consistency remains and I can keep it in one piece.

Young Andrew Rodgers is riding a wave of momentum heading into this weekend’s Firecracker 150. Andrew is hoping his streak of three straight second place finishes in Martins Home Heating Sportsman features continues with another podium in one of the biggest races of the year.

Wade: Steve and Bob you’ve got to be pretty proud of these two boys.

Steve: It is nice to see them having so much fun, being competitive and having success in this sport. But I think what makes me the proudest is how they carry themselves and interact with the other competitors who, for the most part, are quite a bit older than them.

Bob: I am proud of the way they have come together as teammates. They both take an active role in working on each other’s cars and they race each other hard on the track without developing any animosity towards each other.

Wade: Good luck this weekend boys and we look forward to seeing you guys race with us here at Speedway 660 for many years to come?

Andrew: Thanks for this Wade, looking forward to seeing you and everyone this weekend at the Firecracker 150 as well as for many seasons to come.

Matt: Thanks Wade, looking forward to going racing and seeing everybody on Saturday night for the Firecracker 150.

Bob, Steve, Matt & Andrew: The Rodgers family would like to take a moment to extend our condolences to the Gillespie and Stevens families this week.  Our thoughts and prayers are with these two families during these trying times.