Thursday, September 21, 2023

End of an Era, Iconic No. 126 Calls it a Career – (DTD Exclusive)(Poppa Pepper's Photo)

By Ken Bruce

“The No. 126 will ride no more.”

Those were the words spoken to me by iconic owner Glenn Hyneman. The legendary owner of the No. 126, piloted by some of the best modified drivers to have ever sat behind the wheel of a modified, has decided to sell off his current inventory, truck, trailer, and all. It was a difficult decision for Hyneman, but it was one he knew it was time to make.

“It all started when I got inducted into the (DIRT Hall of Fame,” said Hyneman from his shop on Wednesday afternoon. “That’s when I made my mind up that this would be my last year. After getting inducted, I knew I was kind of treading water at that point. After that, in July, I told Jeff that this would be my last year, and we sort of trudged through that, not having the greatest of years. I have a feeling that Jeff wasn’t too thrilled with me after that, but he knew it was one year, two years at the most, depending on how things went and my age.”

This was the second go-around for the Hyneman and Strunk pairing, and Hyneman told Strunk what his plans were when they got back together midway through the 2022 season.

 “When I hired Jeff (Strunk) a year ago, about halfway through the year, when Dominick (Buffalino) decided he didn’t want to run as many races,” explained Hyneman. “I told him (Strunk) I would do one more year, two years at the most, with 40 to 45 races a year max, and we kind of mapped out a strategy for this year, then we started to add more races that we didn’t plan to run. I was prepared to finish the year, and we had four more races to run this year, but there was a dustup in the pits after the 76er. It had nothing to do with the racetrack, but it was other things, and I decided at that time it was too much stress for me, and it might be a good time to say we hit our 45-race schedule, and this is it.”

Unlike other owners who have left the sport and you will never see again, Hyneman will still stay involved in racing, just not as a car owner.

“I’ll still be around. Honestly, I have been to more sprint car races this season than I have my own modified races,” cited Hyneman. “Bonita (Hyneman) is definitely a modified girl, but I sort of like the sprint cars myself.”

Hyneman has been a sponsor of the Tom Buch No. 13 sprint car driven by Justin Peck for a couple of years now and will step up his sponsorship of that team even more now without having a modified on the track.

“I have known Tom (Buch) since he was a kid,” mentioned Hyneman. “I used to help Bill Brian over at his shop in Farmersville, Pa., and Billy (Brian Jr) and Tom would be the crew before Billy started to drive it, so I was always over there and was always Uncle Glenn to them. I know Tom could use the help with their team, and I really like Justin (Peck) a lot, and I just like sprint car racing in general.”

Sprint car racing has different rules than the modifieds do, and Hyneman was not afraid to explain why he is drawn to the winged warriors.

“In sprint car racing, you have to earn your spot,” cited Hyneman. “I have to tell you what brought this all on: these dam draw races. We are the worst drawers when it comes to these races; we haven’t drawn the pole at any race one time all year; we drew second one night, and the next best one we had was a fifth, and then we drew 25th at the 76er. If I want to do something, I want to do something where you earn your position. If we go to a racetrack and I time trial and suck, then I suck, and then you just work harder to bet better. Look, they had over 100 late models at the World 100, and they all ran time trials. Based on what Deyo and these others tell you, they can’t draw cars if they do time trials, so then why do the late models do it? Why are the late models professionals, why are the sprint car professionals, why is NASCAR professionals, and why are we so secondary? I feel like we are treated like street stocks anymore.

“That was okay when we were running junkyard stuff, but now we are running engines in these modifieds that rival the cost of a sprint car motor, and our cars cost more than a sprint car, so why are we second-class citizens everywhere we go? How are we going to develop professionalism in our racing if we cannot earn our spot? I just don’t like that it comes down to the luck of the draw. I am tired of bitching about it, and Deyo and others aren’t going to change it because of me, and I am okay with that, but I also don’t have to do it. So, the bottom line is that I am still going to be around, and all I can say is “Go Peck.” But just so everyone knows, I will not be the car owner.”

Hyneman has owned cars for many, many years, and like I said earlier, some of the best drivers in history have sat behind the wheel of the iconic No. 126, and Hyneman knows he has the best of the best and is very appreciative of what those drivers have accomplished.

“I have been blessed with the drivers I have had,” stated Hyneman. “I certainly couldn’t have done what I’ve done without the talent behind the wheel that I had. Luckily, I had the means to spend enough money to attract the best drivers. 

“I am not going to tell you that I won’t miss it because I am. But you have to know when it is time, and after the 76er was over, I knew I had met my 40 to 45 race obligation, and that was it. Everything is for sale now, including the truck and trailer, and I am okay with it all. I knew yesterday when you contacted me, I wasn’t ready to say anything, but today I knew it was the right time to talk to you and release it.”

The last thing Glenn wanted me to say was to let everyone know how appreciative he is to all the drivers that have driven for him over the year, along with all the people, crew members, and sponsors that have supported him over the years, and finally to the fans who have cheered for the No. 126 throughout his many years of modified racing.

The No. 126 has six Freedom 76 wins with three different drivers (Von Dohren 1, Billy Pauch 1, and Jeff Strunk 4). 231 wins between Billy Pauch (89, both modified and sprints), Duane Howard (50), Craig Von Dohren (48), and Jeff Strunk (44). It earned one Coalcracker win (Howard).

Pauch, Howard, and Von Dohren each took a second to talk about their experiences with Hyneman.

Billy Pauch: “Glenn was the first car owner I ever signed a contract with, and he taught me a lot about business when I drove for him, and that was big. I think I have the most wins with Glenn and won a lot of championships in our short time together. We got along really good and I probably would’ve stayed with him if he didn’t want to go sprint car racing. The best thing I can say about Glenn is that he took Billy Pauch from being a good driver to a great driver.”

Duane Howard: “When I got the No. 126 ride for the first time, I thought I was a very special driver going to the iconic No. 126. Some of the funniest and best days were driving for Mr. Hyneman in the No. 126 against Doug Hoffman, and then Bob Faust, and Jay James, and the doctor. Those days were so much fun, and the racing stories that Glenn would tell in the trailer were iconic. It was fun times racing for Glenn, and we never had any harsh words with each other. It was a true honor to drive for Mr. Hyneman.”

Craig Von Dohren: “I am very grateful for the opportunity that Glenn and Bonita gave me back when I started racing and started to travel to different tracks and states.”

This is the end of an era in modified racing, and I, for one, will miss seeing the iconic red No. 126 speeding around the track. Thank you, Glenn and Bonita, for everything you have done for modified racing and for always taking the time to talk to me when I had a question regarding your team.



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