Column: Tanner VanDoren Building To Super DIRTcar Series Future; Eyes Future As Series Regular
Column By: NICK GRAZIANO / DIRTCAR – SCHNECKSVILLE, PA – Get home from school at 3:02 p.m. To the shop by 3:10. Back home around 9 p.m.
It’s a routine 15-year-old Tanner VanDoren, of Schnecksville, PA, committed himself to during the winter in preparation for an expanded year of Big Block Modified racing – mixing in homework too.
“He’s a  year old with a dream,” said Tanner’s father, Jason VanDoren. “He wants to race race cars for a living.”
To put him on that path, Jason said their plan is to run as many Big Block Modified events as they can this year with the goal of eventually joining the Super DIRTcar Series tour full-time.
Jason grew up around racing his whole life, driving Micro Sprints and working on asphalt Modifieds. He introduced Tanner to that world when he was 4 1/2 years old, starting him off in Quarter Midgets.
At 7, Tanner moved into motorcycle engine-powered Junior Slingshots, while still running the national Quarter Midget tour. At 8, he won his first USAC national Quarter Midget championship and moved up to the Senior Slingshot division.
After a few years in the Slingshots, Jason let Tanner chose his next path: 600 Micro Sprints or Modifieds.
“I just wanted to run a bigger car,” Tanner said about his choice. “I’d say there were more opportunities for me to run a bigger car. My dream is to race for a living. That’s what I wanted to do. Modifieds are where I felt like I could achieve that dream. I just felt like I wanted to go big car racing with Modifieds.”
Racing weekly at Orange County Fair Speedway – a 5/8-mile track, one of the biggest in New York – Tanner claimed the Sportsman track championship at 12 years old. He ran Sportsman for two years before moving into the 358 Modified and Big Block ranks last year.
He brought himself national attention at the 50th Running of NAPA Super DIRT Week in October when he made the prestigious Billy Whittaker Cars 200 with a Small Block engine.
Tanner was initially only going to compete in the DIRTcar 358 Modified Salute to the Troops 150. But a broken fuel fitting during the week led to him not making the show.
Before they loaded up to go home, his father noticed his lap times were on par with some of the mid-pack Big Block cars. So, they entered Tanner’s car as a Big Block and he competed against 70 of the best Big Block Modified drivers in the country to try and claim one of the 41 starting spots for the 200-lapper.
After racing his way in through his Heat Race, he survived all 200 laps and finished 19th in his first Super DIRT Week appearance.
This year, he plans a Super DIRT Week (Oct. 2-8) return but with a proper motor and plan to run the Billy Whittaker Cars 200.
“It was very challenging, especially with the motor,” Tanner said about his first 200-lap experience. “It’s good, because I got experience around those guys, racing with them, I know what they’re going to do now. Plus, next year, we’re going to be more prepared than we were this year. We did it once, so now we’re going to be better prepared for next year, knowing what we need and to compete with them guys and with the pit stops.”
He’ll make an appearance at several Super DIRTcar Series races this season as he continues to chance his dream.
“If I could get a championship on the Super DIRTcar Series, that would be big on my career,” Tanner said. “Just the amount of effort that goes into do that. It’s challenging. It’s the hardest Series to run in Northeast Modifieds.”