The Navy brought both Rick Poust and Louie Pasderetz to Virginia, and it just so happened they both fell in love with racing while there.
Poust and Pasderetz are both active duty members of the U.S. Navy and stationed on the Eastern shore of Virginia. Poust had been a race spectator his entire life, going to races at local tracks in Pennsylvania as a kid with his grandfather and dreaming of getting the chance to be like the drivers he idolized on the track.
“I always wanted to be one of those drivers. I looked up to them. They were my heroes,” Poust said. “And then when my grandfather passed away, I wanted to pursue that dream of racing for him in his honor.”
It was the summer of 2015 when Poust found someone on Craigslist who was willing to swap a race car for Poust’s Jeep. Later that summer he walked through the gates of Langley Speedway – a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.397-mile paved oval track in Hampton, Virginia – and “had no idea what I was doing,” he said.
Pasderetz was also a fan of racing growing up, and his dad was a driver in Illinois where he grew up.
When he moved to Virginia, he saw a commercial for Langley’s annual Hampton Heat.
“We went and watched it and then a couple months later I bought a car and we started racing,” Pasderetz said.
Poust and Pasderetz will be competing for a win in Langley’s Super Trucks Division this Saturday night, but they’ll also be driving for something more, too. Langley will host “Armed Forces Night,” this Saturday, honoring members of the military with the annual Commanders Cup. The top seven drivers in each division will randomly draw for which branch of the military they will represent during the race. The branch with the lowest average finish will be awarded the Commanders Cup.
“To me, this is honestly the biggest race of the year,” Poust said. “Being active duty and having the opportunity to represent all the active, reserve, and retired fans in the stands. Just having that opportunity to carry that military banner is an honor. I feel like I represent everybody up there that’s ever served… It’s honestly a real honor to be able to partake in this.”
“It’s so awesome the track really puts on an event like this to represent the military,” Pasderetz said. “It means a lot to us and my whole team. Being active duty and knowing what it’s like to be on deployment and miss races and miss holidays and getting to do something like that, where we can be active duty and represent a branch is really awesome.”
Poust is currently third in the Super Trucks points at Langley this season, but his main goal is to just be as competitive as he can in what will likely be a shortened season for him. He will start working towards a deployment in June, and will deploy shortly after, though he doesn’t know where yet.
“If we can pull off a win, great, otherwise just have fun,” Poust said of his goals the rest of the season.
Pasderetz is the defending champion in Langley’s Super Trucks division, and he leads the points this year with a win and a second place finish so far. Having only been racing for about five years, he’s learned a lot about the sport in a little amount of time.
Both drivers have found that while racing is a good opportunity for a competitive outlet, there’s also a close-knit bond among drivers, which has helped them acclimate to their new homes a lot quicker.
“We just got lucky with some of the people we partnered with and they really made a big difference. We were kind of slow and we ran in the back when we were by ourselves,” Pasderetz said.
“The only friends I had was a couple military people and I was just living in Virginia and didn’t really know anybody. And then going out to Langley, they kind of welcomed me into their family and it gives you something to do and keeps you out of trouble. Langley is really welcoming to all military people.”
Poust estimates 95 percent of his friends are from Langley, and said most have become more than friends. They’re an extended family.
“That’s probably the thing I’ve taken away from it the most. No matter what happens on track, if you have an issue, there’s always somebody willing to help make sure you can get out there and race,” he said. “Fortunately, with the truck division at Langley Speedway, we all have each other’s backs. We’ll all go out there and beat the crap out of each other on the track but between races and leading up to the races everybody helps out. Somebody is willing to drop what they’re doing and help out. The teamwork aspect, the family aspect, that’s the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten with this racing gig.”
Both drivers also have family near and far cheering them on and helping in any way they can. Poust’s dad, Richard Poust Sr., works on the truck during the week.
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for my dad’s hard work,” he said. “I just hold the steering wheel, but my dad really puts in the time and effort on the truck to study the set up and see what’s going on with it and try to make it fast. We work together in the garage but he’s the brains behind everything.”
Pasderetz isn’t able to be with his family throughout the week, but he has a cheering section back home in Illinois on race day. His mom throws a big party for family and friends to come over and watch a livestream of every race, putting up banners and checkered flags throughout their home. Julie Pasderetz even threw a championship party last year to celebrate her son’s first title.
For both drivers, their new race track families will be supporting them on and off the track and in an even more special way this weekend.
Langley’s Virginia Army National Guard Armed Forces night will kick off at 7 p.m. on Saturday with late models, modifieds, super streets, super trucks, and enduros. Fans can also watch the racing on TrackPass on NBC Gold.