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Auto Racing: He’s 15 and winning NASCAR Modified races

Auto racing may be second nature to Dillon Steuer, but he wasn’t forced into it. His father, retired racer Chuck Steuer saw to that.

“I made him wait,” Chuck Steuer said Saturday afternoon in the pit area before the racing began at Riverhead Raceway. “I made him beg for a while, for a few years, and he didn’t even drive a go-kart until he was 10 because I wanted to make sure he really wanted it. If you want to win and you’re really good in racing, you got to really want it.”

Dillon Steuer must really want it. At 15 years of age — and a young 15, at that — the Connetquot High School sophomore who lives in Bohemia is holding his own in the NASCAR Modified class, the most high-profile division at Riverhead Raceway. The youngest driver in the class already has two wins to his credit. With his runner-up finish Saturday night to Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead, Steuer sits 11th among 30 drivers in the point standings.

“That’s pretty amazing that he’s able to control his car and he’s able to win races,” driver Roger Turbush of Riverhead said. “… He’s definitely an outstanding driver because he also does some dirt racing across the northeast, so he’s one talented driver and being a 15-year-old, that’s amazing to me because I remember when I was 15 I didn’t think I would be ever in something as much as he’s doing.”

Asked what it takes to win, the young Steuer answered, “You just got to be the fastest and most consistent.”

He doesn’t have a driver’s license, but that doesn’t mean he can’t drive. His tender age aside, Steuer is no rookie. This is his second year in Modified. He figures he wasn’t even 1 when he was first brought to Riverhead Raceway when his father drove.

“He was always at race tracks,” Chuck Steuer said. “Since he was in diapers, we had a dirt track in our backyard.”

Dillon Steuer has done all sorts of racing at tracks throughout the northeast.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Kyler Driscoll, 16, a Riverhead High School student who helps work on Steuer’s black No. 11 car. “He adapts really well. Because he runs so many different types of cars and different tracks, he picks new things up very fast.”

Following Saturday’s race, Rogers was quoted in a raceway press release as saying Steuer “is good and he’s going places. Whether it is on asphalt or dirt remains to be seen but he’s the real deal.”

Racing Modifieds on Riverhead’s one-quarter mile asphalt, high-banked oval track isn’t for the faint of heart.

“You’re at top speed,” Turbush said. “You have 600 horsepower under the engine. You’re going at least a hundred” miles per hour.

Is it nerve-racking for the older Steuer to watch his son tangling on the track with experienced veterans?

“Sometimes, but not always, just every once in a while,” he said. “I don’t know why. I don’t know what does it.”

At the same time, Chuck Steuer sounded as if he has no reservations about his son racing. “He’s the youngest, definitely by far, but if he can do it, I don’t think age matters,” he said. “I don’t know. If he can handle himself and he’s not going to get into any trouble, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I wouldn’t put him out there in Modified if he didn’t show me something in crates and stuff like that.”

One potential issue for Dillon Steuer is his height. He’s 6 feet tall and squeezing his frame into the tight confines of the vehicle could get tougher.

“He needs to stop growing,” Chuck Steuer said. “It’s going to become a problem fitting him in the car. If he has a few more years of growing, that could be a problem.”

Call it growing pains.

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Photo caption: Dillon Steuer, 15, has two NASCAR Modified wins to his credit this season and ranks 11th among 30 drivers in the point standings. (Credit: Bob Liepa)