Tony’s Road To Race 101:
For Tony Blanchard, all roads in his life and career have led him to his purpose in the sport: Race 101. He has become known among the ‘insider’ racing circles as one of the top crew chiefs in the industry for working with and coaching young race car drivers. He is especially well known for his work with Joey Logano as Joey’s crew chief for Joe Gibbs Development for the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series.
Tony grew up in a racing family, and like many turned wrenches for his dad and brother’s race cars. Soon, Tony was behind the wheel himself in the early 1990′s becoming a top super late model driver in the Carolinas. This included earning the Rookie Title at Southern National Speedway. He garnered many wins, and was also helping out fellow racers set up their race cars along the way. He began traveling all up and down the East Coast racing himself and doing set-ups for a living, and soon landed in New England where he met his wife Mia in Massachusetts in 1997.
While up north Tony found out that his father, Joe was ill and he immediately returned home to North Carolina. He was very close with his dad, and considered him his mentor in all things including racing. Tony continued racing close to home, and soon his father was too sick to attend the races. One weekend while racing his late model, Tony was leading the race at Coastal Plains Speedway. On lap 30 he pulled off the track, parked his race car, and never got behind the wheel again. His dad was not there with him at the track, and his heart was not in driving or racing at all — only be with his dad. Tony’s father passed away sadly, soon after.
Tony and Mia moved back north to New Hampshire. His reputation as a chassis engineer was not forgotten, and he immediately went to work for a NASCAR Busch North Series Team, Baker Racing. Tony threw himself into his work, as well as learning everything more he could; reading books, taking shock classes, and learning from the top racing veterans. In the northeast he soon became the go-to guy for the track setups. Teams and drivers began relying on him and referring him to other teams. Eventually, racing parents began seeking him out to work with their kids which was quickly becoming the new trend in racing. A referral from NASCAR Busch Series driver Andy Santerre put Tony with Joey Logano’s father Tom, who recommended him to the Gibb’s team to take over the crew chief duties for a 16 year old Joey.
When Joey was ready to move into the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Gibbs, Tony had the option to move on and start his own team. He moved up to Hickory, NC and started TB Development. Still, he would keep getting calls to come work as a full time crew chief. When his son Avery was born he was now a dad himself, and being on the road all the time as a full time crew chief kept him away from his son more than he wanted to be.
Again, referrals kept coming his way, many of them from Tom Logano. Tony once again found himself working with young drivers as a crew chief. Which usually ended up mainly as teacher and coach to them…. something he found very rewarding. This prompted his vision and calling for what he truly wanted to do in the sport; something that he realized was badly needed, and he wanted to find a way to make it happen.
The Race 101 Plan:
In the fall of 2008, Tony opened up a shop in Denver, NC and during that time he teamed up with motorsports marketing veteran Annamarie Strawhand. Annamarie also specialized in consulting and working with up and coming drivers and racing parents. Tony had the vision and idea for Race 101 and shared it with Annamarie. They both wanted to do something for drivers in an education and mentoring capacity in which the principle is quality, not quantity. Work yearly with selected drivers, and give them each ‘one on one’ attention. Focus on teaching and coaching drivers and helping them in their area of need. Find a way to help deserving drivers who may not have the means to make it on their own. Bring in experienced professionals, partners and sponsors that also believe in these principals to offer a complete program. Have a ‘house team’ to run a recognized touring series, that is not too demanding; so the staff as well the students in the program can still can spend quality time with their families, attend school and even race at home in between Race 101 classes. Both Tony and Annamarie did not want to continue to see parents of young drivers make huge financial and family sacrifices by moving to Charlotte to race. Very few drivers were finding success this way. They believed that it can be done by good coaching, mentoring, education, seat time, and strong PR programs behind each driver.
The two set out to make this happen and Race 101 was founded and implemented in 2009.
The Race 101 Reality:
The Race 101 Yearly Scholarship Program is the primary program for Race 101; It focuses on working with specially selected young drivers (ages 13-28) from the US and Canada through an application process similar to a college or university. The program lasts over the course of a year, with proven teaching and coaching methods that give the students one on one time with instructors, classroom time, track time, hands-on experience as well as homework assignments. This is not a typical three day or one week racing school; this is a longer term, full year program that covers areas that are crucial for young drivers to learn and understand — which in turn educates the youth that is coming up in racing or drivers that are in need of guidance; ultimately helping the sport overall to continue to grow in a positive way. Teaching racers to have better instincts at driving, and give them a fuller understanding of the race car itself and how to communicate that to a crew. Racing on a budget, understanding the industry, the engineering and safety with guest experts. The students also learn the importance and skills of the marketing and management side as well. The scholarship program is geared to find and assist deserving drivers who have shown talent, the drive, the desire and attitude to learn, earn, and better themselves; in an effort to advance in racing — as well as know how to properly build, maintain and have longevity in their careers.
Along with the yearly scholarship program Race 101 also offers seminars, webinars, individual or group coaching sessions as well as services for drivers, teams, and mechanics. Race 101 also fields a super late model ‘house car’ with a premier student as the driver each year. Race 101 sponsors and partners are represented through all the programs.
In the fall of 2010, RACE 101 formed a major partnership with Howe Racing Enterprises. RACE 101 and Tony Blanchard will be the program of choice that Howe Racing will send customers for on and off track consultations; and Howe will also be supporting the RACE 101 Scholarship program providing cars and equipment for the students. RACE 101 and Tony Blanchard will also be majorly involved in new product development for Howe Racing as well as chassis design and development.
Certainly, all roads traveled have led Tony Blanchard to this destination and his destiny; Race 101. His life and experience brought him here and he feels he can now be a mentor to many racers as his own father was to him. Tony Blanchard, his staff and partners look to the future of the sport they love, sharing the passion about helping to build that future and the people in it through Race 101.
Together they hope to ”Improve the sport of auto racing across the board by educating people in their area of need”. That is Tony’s mission and the mission of Race 101 and its partners.
“I want to touch people’s lives, and racing just happens to be a part of it” – Tony Blanchard