NEW PORT RICHEY — Cody Lane has spent his life behind a steering wheel preparing himself for the opportunities that currently lay ahead.
The 16-year-old Fivay High School student has been crowned with Rookie of the Year awards, pushing himself to the limit while balancing a steady dose of good grades and extracurricular activities at times. But Cody, a Missouri native whose family moved to New Port Richey to care for his grandmother, always feels at his best behind the wheel.
"I think I'm a natural driver because when I get in the car I just know what to do," Cody said. "I'm in my zone there. It's been that way since a young age. I still have a lot to learn but that's why I watch the other drivers closely and just try to learn as much as I can while I'm out there. I would like to race NASCAR one day, but my real goal is to do the Indy Racing League where it's road courses."
His father, Kevin Lane, is the mechanic, pit chief, financier and coach. They are a two-man racing duo the whole way, sharing the sport that they love and getting Cody ready to move on to the next level.
"We started him out at 4 years old," Kevin Lane said. "We moved him up steadily from go karts to the NASCAR Bandolero series and on to late model stuff around the age of 14. Now he's in a super late model car and he's competing against the big boys. That's the money game and that's always pitted us against the odds. Just competing is a big deal."
Cody currently races in the super late model class calling Citrus County Speedway his home. That will soon change, when Showtime Speedway in Pinellas County opens at the end of the month, providing Lane with a series of races to be a part of and a chance to regularly show off his skill.
The biggest challenge for the teenager and his family is funding. With new tires running around $600 each week and regular car maintenance needed, the elder Lane has splashed the cash to keep his son on the track.
"To go buy one of these custom-built motors is about $32,000," Lane said. "The chassis is $22,000 and these guys we're racing against are changing the tires every week where we have to change them less often and rely more on our set up. We're racing about $10,000 worth of equipment between the car and everything while they're running $80,000 worth. It's a big money game, which makes it tough for us."
Inevitably, the Lanes have to make sacrifices on the track other than just the quality of the car. Cody Lane has adapted to racing on used tires and in the process has become one of the smoothest drivers on the track.
Off the track, the sport takes its toll on the family as it is a 24/7 hobby on top of the father's upholstery shop.
"He's just an incredibly smooth driver, which helps us keep the tires going longer," Lane said. "We go seven days a week at keeping the equipment kept up and working on getting the finances right. We ran hard last year and it really takes it toll on your parts and equipment as well as us. I don't get much sleep these days between getting him to school, opening the shop and everything else."
The father and son against the racing world story could potentially lead to them becoming reality television stars after being filmed by local aspiring producer James Sherry for a project called Blue Collar Racing. Sherry is trying to get the show aired on a major network after filming the Lane family for a year.
"I've learned a lot this last year about the racing world from watching them and following them around," Sherry said. "The kid can tear apart the entire car and put it back together by memory, it's really impressive. On the track, he is a very good racer for the budget constraints that the family has to deal with.
"The show is basically chronicling what they go through, from Cody's dual life as a driver and a student to Kevin's work with him and what the family has to go through to make it all happen."