AMARGOSA VALLEY, Nevada -- Dan Fitzgerald, a 34-year-old Las Vegas middle school teacher, must be considered one of the most dedicated IMCA Modified competitors in auto racing. He travels 25,000-28,000 miles each year running dirt tracks in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Northern Nevada and Southern Nevada.
His schedule is mind-boggling and his dedication to both auto racing and education is unmatched. His travel schedule sometimes finds him arriving back in Las Vegas in the wee hours before heading off to school. With fuel prices soaring, he is a natural for a sponsor just to cover travel expenses.
“There are times when I’ll get home at 4:30 or 5 in the morning after a race, get out of the truck and go to work,” says Fitzgerald, who teaches honors algebra.
Fitzgerald’s iron man schedule continues Saturday night at 7 p.m. when he takes his IMCA Modified points lead into the eighth race of the year here at Death Valley Raceway, a 1/3-mile dirt track situated between Death Valley and Lathrop Wells just south of Highway 373.
Coming off a win last weekend at Mohave Valley Raceway in Arizona where he owns the points lead there, too, Fitzgerald is literally hooked on auto racing. He has his own web site (www.87racing.com) which he updates on a near-daily basis detailing everything from his weekly trips that include his race victories along with setbacks such as the time a rock knocked a hole in the oil pan of his car at Death Valley Raceway.
In short, Fitzgerald is a combination racer, educator and publicist. When he’s not racing, he’s putting on special events for kids at tracks. And after 12 years of teaching school, he’s a true professor of both auto racing and education.
“I just enjoy competing,” said Fitzgerald, who is a two-time IMCA Western Region champion (04-05) whose titles have also come at Mohave Valley Raceway and the old Pahrump Valley Speedway along with Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I like the challenge of different race tracks running against different drivers.”
While the season has been productive, the loss of his father, Dan, Sr., Feb. 2 definitely made the season even more stressful. But the mild-mannered younger Fitzgerald decided to carry on in a sport that develops its own share of challenges on a constant basis.
“I wasn’t sure what to do after my dad died,” he said of his father’s death. “He hadn’t been going to the races since July of last year because he didn’t feel like riding in the truck since he was so ill. I took some time off and then went back to racing. I returned to it for my mom’s (Judy) sakes along with my friends. They all wanted me to keep going. Even while at my dad’s funeral, I wasn’t sure what to do.
“Then, I saw that my dad’s burial plot was No. 431, the same number as my chassis number on my race car. I just felt that I needed to keep going.”
With a total of four wins this year, Fitzgerald is considered one of the top IMCA Modified drivers in the southwest, and probably one of the best in the country. He enjoys running at Death Valley Raceway, which opened earlier this year.
“This is the toughest place I race,” he said. “That’s why I only have one win there. Ronnie Williams (the track’s only three-time winner) and Ryan Cotrell are killing us right now. They’re so much better than us right now.
“It’s a lot of fun racing at Death Valley Raceway. I have thanked the people there several times for giving us a place to race. The track is very challenging because of the banking changes.”
Fitzgerald is quick to point out the support he receives from his mom along with crew members Blake Greenwood along with former drag racers Kelly and Jerry Buesig.
The DVR program will also include Micro Sprints, Super Stocks, Mini Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Classic Coupes.
Further information can be found at www.deathvalleyraceway.homestead.com.