Tweaking His Talent
Clint Field Is 17 And Racing In Grand Am
© Andrew S. Hartwell
Like many teenagers interested in racing, Clint Field has
racing idols. But unlike many other teenage fans, he has
a unique way of getting to see them up close. He races
against them on the track. At the Rolex 24 Hours of
Endurance at Daytona, Field had his first taste of
professional prototype racing in a Lola B2K-10, owned -
and co-driven by - his dad, Jon Field. Teamed with his
dad, and his Uncle Joel Field, they managed to bring
their car home fourth in the SRP class. Not a bad start to
what Clint Field hopes will be a long and successful career.
And while a career takes a long time to construct, the
building of the foundation for it can sometimes come at an
accelerated pace. Field is a still a Junior in high school and
so he has to balance his learning time between what the school
books say he needs to know and what his heart tells him he wants to know.
"I think I'm a normal 17-year old, except that I race cars. Racing takes a lot of my time and it kind of keeps me away from doing stuff with friends. As far as school goes, I like math, geometry and history, stuff like that, but I get average grades. After school I'm at the race shop a lot. The shop is in the back of the building where my dad's business, Banana Joe's (a chain of restaurant/bars in the Midwest section of the US) has its headquarters. Intersport Racing is in back and Banana Joe's is in the front. It's just 5 minutes away from home and I like to go there and check on things like telemetry and promotional work, stuff like that. Right now, school is really secondary because, this is a big deal to be involved with racing at my age.
Many drivers get their start in racing by running karts in their early years. That is the route Field has taken as well. "When I was 9 my dad bought a 100 cc Yamaha. He put me in that and said, 'Let's go!' We would go down to a local track in Circleville, and I raced and practiced in that car for about two years. After a while the 50-mile ride was a bit much, and other things were going on, so I was away from it for a few years. When I was around 14 or 15 we got a shifter kart and I have been driving that ever since.
"Dad was usually away racing the big cars but he would come down to watch me when he could. I'd take care of the kart myself along with someone who helps me with the set up and stuff. It's kind of basic compared to a racecar so I can do it."
Field's interest in cars is primarily limited to the view over the dash. The construction and engineering elements of racing just don't hold the same fascination for him. "I'm really only interested in the engineering side to get better as a driver. Working on the cars isn't what interests me; it's the driving. I help the guys put things together and stuff, but it's more about being helpful than being involved in the engineering side. I really want to work on tweaking myself and improving my driving abilities.
In any walk of life, professionals in their field, from public speakers to athletes, business leaders to doctors, will all tell you that the best way to improve your talent is to continue to find more challenging endeavors. To be the best, you have to constantly challenge yourself to do more. Field realized, with his father's attention, that he would need to move to a higher level if he wanted to really improve his skills as a racer. The next step then, was a logical one for him to make. "I went from shifter karts to Skip Barber's 3-day school. I then ran a couple of races in a Formula Ford and I did a Motorola Cup race at Mid-Ohio. Next I ran a sports 2000 race in the American City Racing League at Road America.
But before you can drive a car you need a driver's license. In Ohio, where Clint lives with his parents, Jon and Wendy, the process begins at age 15. "At 15 and a half you can get a temporary license and at 16 you can try for a real license. You need to take drivers education and do some in-car sessions and then you go for a road test. And yes, I passed the first time!"
"And I never drove dad's cars until I was old enough!"
Another Racing Family Joined At The Wheel
"I think I have always been interested in racing, just not as much as I am now. I can remember dressing up as a racecar driver when I was 4 or 5. I never really watched it back then but I always sort of thought it was something I wanted to do. When my dad started to do it that's when it got to be really big.
"John Fergus got my dad interested in racing in the Skip Barber School. He said he would try it, and he really liked it. He went from Formula Fords to the Saab Series. Then he bought a 1991 Lola, a former Michael Andretti car, and ran in the American Indy Car series for two years. In 1996 he bought the old Spice from BRIX racing.
"I have been going to the races with my dad since 1996, when he started in IMSA. I go to Daytona ever year. I went to Mid-Ohio and Elkhart Lake and Lime Rock. I would sometimes be the deadman on the crew. It was exciting to be there with him.
"When he started racing, well that is when I realized racing is what I wanted to do. It has brought us closer together too. We are always talking about racing. We work out together and he, my uncle (Joel) and I are always pushing each other to do better. That definitely brings us all closer together.
"My brother Jon is 21 and my sister Taylor just turned 3. Jon (Jr.) always used to go karting with me but he was just never really interested in it. He works in dad's company. He is a supervisor and takes care of the building of the new restaurant construction.
"My idols include James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, all the Dyson guys, Jimmy Vasser and Buddy Lazier. My dad is my #1 idol. He has taught me everything. He gives me secrets and helps me with my racing. It is neat to be racing against the guys he raced against. He is where I want to be. He is at the pinnacle of where I want to be.
His First Green Flag Came At Daytona
What was it like for Clint Field to get behind the wheel of his dad's Lola and take to the high banking at Daytona? "To tell you the truth, it was kind of scary. When I was going to Daytona with my dad in the past, it was just like a vacation for me. But this year it was like, 'Wow! I'm going to race in the 24 hours at Daytona!' I was going to race against some of the idols I have looked up to since my dad first raced.
"I think that, being this was my first race, it was a pretty big race and I just wanted to go out and show them that I could race clean.
"At first, I was going to drive the Riley & Scott, but then they let me try the Lola and I guess they thought I was fast enough so they put me in that car. I had driven the car before, at Putnam Park. We did a 3-day test there and then we did several more tests. running in September, November and December.
"I'm running the entire Grand Am series this year, and a few ALMS races too. Right now I'm in the Riley and Scott for Homestead but which car I'm in will vary throughout the year. I'll do some of the endurance races including the Petit Le Mans. It is going to be awesome!
"The team is great and they really help me to become a better driver. They put the car together in the shop and it feels good to be with so many people who are trying to help you.
"In between races I will be practicing in the karts. Karts are great but jumping from them to the Skip Barber cars is just without comparison. Karts teach you how to find the right line and how to race with other people but, when you get into a real racecar, it is a whole different feel. You have to be really fit to drive a racecar!
"I encourage people to go karting but now, it really doesn't teach me anything more.
This Young Man Simply Wants To Drive
"I would like to be in a racecar all the time. I think I can drive any car. I really don't care what kind. I have a long road ahead of me and I just want to show everyone I can do this.
"I hope to run in many series, even NASCAR. I don't care which series right now; I'll drive anything. I'll try sports cars for a year and then see if I can try my hand in Indy Lights or Atlantic races. I'm already past some of the smaller series right now so I think I have to look ahead to some bigger series. First I need to focus on getting a sponsor.
Has this young man got a girlfriend to steal away his heart? Yes and no. "My girlfriend is named Lola!"