Most kids start driving on their own when they turn 16. Garrett Poynor started when he was 4.
Now 14, the Richland native drove his 1934 Chevrolet Coupe around the oval in heated competition during Hermiston Raceway’s Hometown Heroes event Saturday evening.
Although he hasn’t even started high school yet, Poynor participated in the Legends division — a class typically driven by adults.
“It’s just addicting,” Poynor said. “You can’t beat that adrenaline rush.”
While most cars that hit the Hermiston Raceway are built and tuned-up by the hands of their drivers and crew, Legends models come straight from a manufacturer. Any repairs or new parts that are needed come straight from the factory.
While this gives drivers without the mechanical know-how the chance to race, it’s also one of the toughest divisions to compete in, according to Raceway owner Greg Walden.
“It’s lightweight, but has more horsepower,” he said.
And that’s exactly what Poynor likes about it.
Although he finished sixth out of the nine racers in the division on Saturday, Poynor is well aware of his potential. He came in off a third-place finish from the Raceway’s last event earlier this month.
“I love the Hermiston Raceway,” Poynor said. “The racers are competitive, and friendly. They race how I’d want to be raced.”
The first wheel Poynor ever sat behind was that of a go-cart. This year is his first behind a real car, as well as his first competing at the Hermiston Raceway.
But he’s not the first in his family with a need for speed. His father John is also an experienced driver, and now helps his son throughout each race.
“For his rookie year, we’re going to start with this track to support Hermiston and the Hermiston raceway. That’s our goal for this year,” John Poynor said. “We want to promote the Waldens. They’re good people. They treat their fans and racers good. If it’s within their means to improve something, they will. And if it’s not, they will soon.”
A passion for racing has been maintained in the Poynor family for generations. Poynor’s uncles Chris and Kelly are also on his pit crew — Chris is the crew chief and Kelly is the tire specialist.
“They’re night-after-night working on this car,” John Poynor said. “It’s that way for a lot of the racers out here.”
Poynor crossed the finish line with a 17.6-second time for his final lap — just 0.3 seconds behind his season’s best time, which earned him third place in a Legends race just two weeks ago.
“Garrett’s great because he has a lot of go-cart experience,” Walden said. “He’s well-schooled in the craft.”
A recent graduate of Richland’s Carmichael Middle School, Poynor knows he’s younger than the typical Legends driver, but he doesn’t let that distract him.
“It’s not intimidating,” he said. “With as well as I’m driving, I think they’re the ones who are going to be intimidated.”
His father shares his confidence.
“There’s a lot of people excited about (Garrett),” John Poynor said. “Even the Legends drivers. They all like him. He’s a clean driver.”
Saturday night also consisted of races between cars categorized by their size, weight, and other specs, including Bandeleros, Hornets, Super Mini Stock, Mini Stock, Bombers, Roadhogs, Street Stocks, and Late Models.
The Hermiston Raceway will be back in action on Saturday, June 29 for another Hometown Heroes event. The night will be capped off with a pre-Fourth of July fireworks celebration.
Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Main events commence at 6 p.m.
“It’s addicting. It’s entertaining,” Walden said.
“People know they’re going to see a good show.”