Young stars in racing aren’t too difficult to find, and it cannot be denied that there are many talented hopefuls in racing waiting for their big break. The story of Ben “Butch” VanDoorn is different though, because he doesn’t dream of becoming a famous NASCAR driver. Still, racing is his passion, and just like drivers, he dreams of victories now and in the future.
Only he wants to do it atop a pit box as a crew chief.
Butch VanDoorn is currently the crew chief for his older brother John VanDoorn, driver of the #61 CRA Super Series Super Late Model and Erik Jones, who drives the #4 Chevrolet on the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, both of whom were listed in the top 15 drivers on Speed51’s Short Track Draft in 2011. Butch has been this three-year-older brother John’s crew chief for the last three years and has helped big brother to win back-to-back CRA Super Series points championships.
This year, thanks to a non-conflicting schedule, VanDoorn has stepped up to help the young and talented Erik Jones as well in his pursuit of the new JEGS CRA All Stars Tour presented by GM Performance Parts championship.
VanDoorn first got involved in racing at age seven, where he ran go-karts along side his brother, but when the year came for John to move up to full size stock cars, Butch decided to step down from driving and step in to the shop.
“I started working on it when I was eight and (John) was 12, and I just helped out in the shop doing little odds and ends, cleaned things, changed tires and did everything I could to learn,” said VanDoorn. “Finally, when we went to race for Tim Steele I worked there after school everyday and then during the summer full time and I learned a lot.”
VanDoorn might not have seen his way to crew chief so young if it hadn’t been for his persistence with his brother after his previous crew chief plans for 2009 fell through.
“Butch kind of took it upon himself that he wanted to be a crew chief when I quit driving for Tim Steele and I didn’t really plan on having a crew chief,” said John VanDoorn. “He just took the responsibility. I had no idea that he would be so interested. Next thing I know, he’s calling people and taking care of all the duties a crew chief would. The first two years he’s been the crew chief we won the championship, so you can’t ask for more.”
John VanDoorn says that it’s Butch’s dedication that makes him an excellent crew chief, and that sentiment is echoed in Butch’s description of what it takes to win races and make accomplishments as a crew chief.
“It’s a lot of all nighters and NOS Energy drinks, while other students are supposed to be reading books for class I’m reading the Penske shock manual and in the shop every day after school, and it pays off.”
Even though he wasn’t shy about studying racing, his schoolwork got done as well, as the Coopersville, Michigan native graduated high school earlier this year. As for his future in racing, VanDoorn plans to keep working towards some pretty big short track dreams.
“My ultimate goal would be to own and run my own race team. To see John or Erik move up in the ranks in racing would be great, my big goal is not to be in (NASCAR Sprint) Cup, but if it happens it happens. If the opportunity came around I would probably take it, but more than anything I just want to be the best short track crew chief their was.”
While that may be a lofty goal, it would certainly be hard to argue that VanDoorn wasn’t the top crew chief on the first weekend of September. On Saturday, September 3rd, VanDoorn led Erik Jones to victory lane for a second time this season in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour at Owosso Speedway in Michigan. Two days later on Labor Day, VanDoorn was back in victory lane with his brother in the CRA Super Series event at Winchester Speedway in Indiana.
It could be a championship year for VanDoorn, as well, as he has Jones 20 points on top of the standings in the JEGS Tour with just two races remaining on the schedule.