PORT RICHEY — Now is the time for Cody Lane to make a splash.
The 17-year-old race car fanatic, full blown mechanic and driver has until his 18th birthday next January to race with dollars provided by his parents and their upholstery shop housed in the USA FleaMarket on US 19. After that, Cody's father, Kevin Lane, can't afford to foot the bill when his son begins to race with the big boys of the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA series).
"We've got a decent motor but we're running against teams that have four and five cars and big dollars behind them," Kevin Lane said. "The guys he's going up against now are the sons of NASCAR drivers. It means a lot for Cody to be accepted in that group, but we're getting to make-it-or-break-it time. He's 17, the cuteness of it is going away and it's getting to that point he either makes or it he doesn't. His talent is carrying our equipment right now, but I'm just not sure how much longer we can throw everything we have at it."
To continue racing, Cody will need sponsors. Some races, including the March 9 at the ARCA Mobile 200 in Mobile, Ala., will give Cody the chance to attract the attention of major sponsors if he has a good showing against the best drivers. The pressure is on, but the confident Fivay High School student is ready to show what he can do.
"My parents have put everything behind me and I know that I'm going to have to show myself," Cody said. "I think I'll do really well. I know these guys I'm going to be racing against, so it isn't something new. It's just an ordinary Saturday night race."
Cody began racing at the age of four, when he immediately showed potential. He has honed his craft over the years in cars that he and his dad built from scratch, using parts and tires that other teams with lavish sponsorship contracts threw away. He is considered one of the top talents in racing circles, but as he gets older and the cars get fancier, he'll need sponsorship money of his own to keep up.
"It's something that I hang my hat on that I can race with these guys without having the money they do," Cody said. "Being able to compete with them is something I'm proud of, but I know that if we can't get some more sponsorship money coming in, I may not be able to keep going. There isn't anything else I want to do, I've been racing for so long I just want to keep going."
To help fund their race adventures, Cody built his own go-kart track behind the flea market next to his racing barn where he and his father charge $5 for five minutes of go-kart racing on the weekends. The expense of upkeep on the race car, trailer, Peterbilt truck and travel all are covered almost entirely by the Lane family as has been documented in an online video series called Blue Collar Racing, which Cody and his family star in.
Their experience has shown that the dream of being a race car driver can be taken on by anyone, not just the sons of the racing elite.
"Equipment certainly makes a difference, but what Cody has done is evidence of the range of budgets you can race on," ARCA communication manager Don Radebaugh said. "I think Cody has shown maturity beyond his years in his racing. He's gone after this dream the right way and progressed up through the ranks. It will say a lot for his talent now if he can compete at this next race of the ARCA series."
If the sponsorship dollars come in, his racing career is set. If they don't, he may have to let go of his dream. If that happens, Cody doesn't know what he wants to do, but his father is confident in his son's ability to do just about anything, especially if it involves a car.
"His friends' parents call up and want him to come work on their cars," Kevin Lane said. "When he was younger I used the racing as a reward to him. If he got good grades we'd go to the race. But now he's older, he still gets good grades and has a great head on his shoulders. Everyone loves the kid and I just want to see his dream come true, but if it doesn't he'll do fine working on cars or whatever he decides to do."
Regardless of whether or Cody procures sponsorship funds, he said his run to reach this point has been an incredible journey.
"The experience of a lifetime," he said.