BELPRE - After 15 races, 10-year-old driver Tyce Church of Spencer MotorSports completed his rookie season of INEX competition in a Bandolero race car. The majority of racing was done at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., where Church competed in 8 Combined Bandit (eight to 11-years old) and Outlaw (12-years old and up) Division races. Church managed to claim two third-place trophies and a fourth-place finish in three of the races. He collected first-place points for the Bandit Division in six of the races. In the seventh race at Kentucky Speedway, Church was involved in a crash that sent him airborne over another car and into the outside wall. With the car nearly demolished, he emerged unshaken and uninjured.
"When I saw the wall coming, I remembered what Grandpa (Dana Spencer) had told me to do," Church said. "I let go of the steering wheel, closed my eyes, and went along for the ride."
The SMS crew worked long into the night and again the next morning to repair the car. By race time it was ready for the final race of the season.
Tyce Church stands by his Bandolero race car.
Other highlights of the season consisted of good runs by Church at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pa. He also experienced being rained out one week and black flagged on another occasion for losing tower communication from a malfunctioning radio.
In July, SMS and Church raced in one of the Summer Shootout Series Races, sponsored by INEX, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The SMS #21 competed in the Bandit Division with some of the top cars in the USA.
Many of the drivers were children of NASCAR drivers or crew chiefs. The SMS team found itself pitted between former NASCAR driver Ernie Irvin and former NASCAR Nationwide Champion David Green.
Church had a very good showing, finishing 10th on the rough Charlotte track.
In September, SMS raced at Lake County Speedway in Painesville, just east of Cleveland. This was a 5th mile short track where Church's experience began to pay off earning him second- and third-place finishes.
He also set a Lake County Speedway record for being the youngest (at nine-years old) driver ever to have competed at the track.
Capping his rookie season, Church finished 80th nationwide in the INEX Bandit Division, driving a part-time schedule. He also finished runner-up in points for the season in the F.A.S.T. Midwest Series, Bandit Division, in Ky.
"We got to experience much of what racing is all about?the high finishes, low finishes, rainouts, being black flagged, and even a terrifying crash," said SMS President Kitty Spencer of Church's rookie season. "We learned a lot, spent a lot, and had a great time.
"We have a fantastic crew. Chris Forshey and his crew have put in so many hours to make the car a great one. Tyce has been awesome. He never complained about the 4 a.m. wake-up calls, racing late into the night, the extreme heat, and the many miles we have traveled. He has done everything we have asked and more. He has become a phenomenal driver for his age and we are so proud of him. We'll take a small break, and in the spring, we will start it all again."
Kitty Spencer is also Church's grandma.
Added SMS owner Dana Spencer, "This wasn't just a rookie season for Tyce, it was a rookie season for all of us. We've all made so much progress, it amazes me. With Chris and his crew, and Tyce, we are expecting bigger and better things for next season. We have all ready begun preparing the car and strategizing our 2013 racing season."
"We had great sponsors come on board and help us out this season," Spencer continued. "Their logos also helped us present a sharp professional looking race car. We want to take this opportunity to thank our 2012 sponsors and hope they will be back next year. In order that they came on board: Washington County Sheriff's Office, "Click It or Ticket It" program; Auto Tech and Tire, SR7 Marietta; Advance Auto, Murdoch Ave., Parkersburg; Forshey Marine Service, Colegate Dr., Marietta; Gedding Machine Racing, Washington Blvd., Belpre."
Church is the son of Jayson and Amy Church of Belpre. He is the older brother of six-year-old Blake.