Beginning the 2013 Bandolero race season, goals were established by 10-year-old racecar driver Tyce Church of Belpre and Spencer Motor Sports. Last season was all about gaining experience.
"We weren't worried about wins," said Dana Spener, Spencer Motor Sports owner. "It was all about seat time for Tyce. In 2013, we were going for wins and a possible series or track championship."
The 2012 season paid off for 2013. The first race of the season was at Kentucky Speedway (part of the FAST series) in March at Sparta, Ky. Church won both of his preliminary heat races and proceeded to outdual 50-year-old Reed Soyert of Lexington, Ky, for his first triumph. In the next five races at Kentucky Speedway, Church accumulated three second place finishes along with a third and a fourth. Racing at Kentucky was scheduled to resume in September. Leaving Kentucky, Tyce was second in points to Alan Serato, of Indianapolis, In., by only a few points.
Tyce Church poses with brother Blake Church, left, and friend Conner Baker, middle, after LCS feature win.
In June, Church and his No. 21 Bandolero moved on to race at Lake County Speedway at Painesville. In the first race at LCS, he won one of his first two heat races. He started on the pole in the feature race.
Church led 14 of a 15-lap feature (which ran 54 laps due to cautions), dogged closely by the Buell brothers (14-year-old Daniel and 16-year-old Donald). On the last lap, Donald Buell and Church battled for the lead coming into turn three with the former gaining the advantage and scoring the win. It was a great race with a little disappointment.
In the next race at LCS, Church won his second feature race of the season, with the Buell boys finishing second (Donald) and third (Daniel).
The third race at LCS was very eventful. Church started last in the field and raced his way up to first by lap 7, (passing both Buell brothers) only to spin out on his own on lap 8. The spin put him at the back of the field again on the restart.
Church raced up to third place by lap 12. The Buell brothers had a substantial lead which Church was unlikely to make up. The only hope was that the brothers, known for racing each other hard, would crash each other out. Sure enough, on the last corner of the last lap, Donald, passing Daniel for the lead, got into the side of Daniel, spinning them both. Daniel went high into the wall and Donald into the grass. As he saw this unfold, Church said he was saying to himself, "Yes, yes yes," followed by "No, no, no," as Daniel's No. 29 Bandolero rolled back across the track.
Church, running at full speed for the finish line, had no chance to avoid the No. 29, and hit it broadside. Both drivers were uninjured. Meanwhile, Donald regained control of his car and crossed the finish line first. Due to all other cars being a lap or more down, it appeared that Daniel was second and Tyce third. Race officials however, disqualified Donald for rough driving, and awarded Daniel first and Church runner-up.
In the following two races at LCS, the Buell boys were no shows, and Church walked off with feature wins.
Church now led the points in the LCS Bandolero division by 14 points. All he needed to do to capture the championship was to just finish the feature race in the last race of the season on Aug. 30.
The last race.....boy, what a day!" Spencer said. "In practice the primary motor was leaking oil. Time for a motor change. Second motor in and we're ready for the first of two heat races. After the pill draw for position, Tyce started third behind the No. 19, Randy Holbrooks, and the No. 1 of Chris Bread (both first year drivers)."
After the start, Church dropped in line in third place. On lap 2, the No. 1 went high on the front stretch and Church dropped in low for the pass. Going into turn one the No. 1 body slammed him behind the right front tire spinning and driving him No. 21 driver's side first into the concrete wall.
The impact was so hard, the car was totalled.
Church's driver's seat was twisted and the safety crew had difficulty extracting him from the car. He complained of pain in his right knee as well as a headache and blurred vision. As a precaution, he was transported to a nearby hospital. He was diagnosed with a mild concussion and a bruised knee. Unfortunately,(on doctor's orders) this crash and injury ended the race season for Church and the SMS No. 21 "Buckeye Bandit " racing Bandolero.
Due to the crash, Church didn't make the feature race at LCS. He lost the Bandolero division championship by one point to Randy Holbrooks. As local racer, John Church told Tyce Church on Facebook, "Cars can be replaced - championships will come".
As the younger Church was being placed on a stretcher for medical transport at the track, all of the Bandolero drivers (some in tears) talked with him, wishing him well. Randy Holbrooks even offered him his heat race trophy.
Although the season ended on a low note Church is fine, and he's made great progress as a driver. He was always a force to be reckoned with at the track. At LCS, his best laps were in the high to mid-14 seconds range.
His fastest lap was 14.4, just .3-tenths off the track record of 14.1, by a Legend car.
Church scored four feature wins, as well as numerous heat wins.
"Maybe, SMS and Tyce didn't reach their ultimate goals this season," Spencer said, "but we had great success. And remember - 'championships will come.'"
Spencer Motor Sports and Tyce would like to thank the following individuals and businesses for their help and support during the 2013 racing season. Jayson and Amy Church, Tyce's parents, along with his brother, Blake Church. Crew Chief Chris Forshey, for all his hard work and dedication setting up, repairing and setting up the car again, that carried us to four wins this season. Special thanks to all our sponsors that help us race; Advance Auto Parts on Murdoch Ave, Parkersburg, WV; Auto Teck and Tire on SR 7; Forshey Marine Service, Colgate Dr; Franklin Sign Machine, all of Marietta, Straightline Collision of Belpre, and Geddings Machine Racing of Belpre.