Oakwood 16-year-old brings home Champion sponsorship grand prize
OAKWOOD — At the age that most people start driving, Bobby Pierce of Oakwood is already one of the nation's top Super Dirt Late Model race car drivers.
Now the 16-year-old Oakwood High School sophomore is also the $50,000 grand prize winner in the "Search for a Champion" racing sponsorship contest from Federal-Mogul Corp.'s iconic Champion Spark Plug brand.
Pierce, who currently is ranked fourth in points in the Lucas Oil Dirt Series, was one of 15 finalists selected from hundreds of entries in the contest, which required contestants to submit a two-minute video describing how a Champion sponsorship will help them dominate the competition.
The finalists — who represented almost every form of engine-driven racing including circle track, drag, motocross, boat and snocross competition — and the grand prize winner were selected on the basis of votes received at the http://www.AlwaysaChampion . com website and through input from Nascar Sprint Cup driver and Champion spokesperson Kevin Harvick. Pierce received more than 13,000 of the total 114,000 votes cast in the contest.
"Bobby looks, acts and drives like a champion, and his video projected the passion that's required to build and maintain a successful racing career," Harvick said in a release.
For Pierce, racing is a family affair. His father, Bob Pierce, is a National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame driver and professional car builder, who was among the most successful Super Dirt drivers in the 1980s and 1990s. And his mother, Angie, and sister, Ciara, are members of his crew.
Bobby Pierce — whose racing number is 32, his dad's number when he raced — started racing quarter-midgets at age 8 and won a lot of races in the two years he raced them. He moved on to the KidModz series, launched by his dad, when he was 10, then to the Crate Late Model series when he was 12.
"It's basically what I'm racing now, except the engine is a lot smaller," explained Pierce, who moved to the Super Dirt Late Model series when he was a mere 13. His two cars, built by his dad, have motors that produce 800 horsepower and can go up to 135 miles per hour.
The first year in that series, Pierce began competing against drivers two and three times his age in races all over the country. He didn't win any features (races), but he got some good experience.
"The second year, I started progressing more," recalled Pierce, who won six features. Last year, Pierce — whose driving style earned him the nickname "Smooth Operator" — also won six features, along with some prize money.
This is the first year he's part of the Lucas Oil Series, and most of those races pay out $10,000, $20,000 and more to the winners.
"It's really tough competition," said Pierce, who has competed in more than a dozen events since the season started in February. Out of 12 races in Florida, he advanced to the feature in 11.
This past weekend, he got the fastest lap time in the qualifying at an event in Texas, and he finished 10th in the race.
While some older drivers don't like the competition he brings, Pierce said others are pretty supportive. "They think it's pretty cool that a young guy like me is coming up through the ranks," he said.
Pierce entered the contest as a way to help finance his racing, which will take him all over the country this year. He, his family and their Shih tzu, Peanut, will be on the road every weekend through November or so.
When he submitted his video, he thought he might have a good chance at becoming a finalist. But late last week, he was still in shock that he had won the grand prize.
"I just want to send a big shout out to all of my fans and everyone who voted for me," said Pierce, who credits his family for helping him spread the word via Facebook, Twitter and his website and at events and his teachers for letting his classmates vote for him at school.
Angie Pierce said her son remains humble and focused on the right things.
"That's just his personality, and I think that's going to get him to the top," she said. "I'm really proud of him, of both of my kids, for the young people they are on and off of the track."
In addition to the $50,000 grand prize sponsorship, Pierce received $5,000 for being one of the 15 finalists. Federal-Mogul awarded a total of $125,000 to grassroots driver who entered the competition.
"'Search for a Champion' has become the top sponsorship program of its kind for the grassroots racing community," Michael Proud, Federal-Mogul's director of marketing, said in a release. "Champion Spark Plugs are part of the fabric of amateur and professional racing in North America from kart racing and local dirt tracks to the leading Sprint Cup programs. This contest is an example of the many ways Federal-Mogul and the Champion brand continue to invest in this important legacy."
To learn more about Pierce, go to http://www.bobbypierceracing.com  and follow his blog at http://www.smoothoperator32.blogspot.com . You also can connect with him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bobbypierce32  and Twitter (@BobbyPierce32).