With his mom spotting above him and his dad in the pits beside him, Nate Walton and his family headed into Berlin Raceway this season as the defending late model champions.
The 2019 title for Walton was redemption after coming up incredibly short in 2016. Five years ago, it came down to the last night, and Walton ended up one point short of a title.
In 2019, the Waltons weren’t planning to run a full season until they saw how well they were doing.
“We went out, ran the opening night, did really good, but we had an issue with the car,” Walton said. “So we fixed it and said, well, we’ll just run the next week. Once we got it fixed, and we ended up doing really good we kept showing up every week and the next thing you know we won the championship. It worked out good.”
It was the second title for Walton at Berlin – a NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series sanctioned 7/16-mile paved oval track in Marne, Michigan. His first came in 2011 in the track’s super stock division.
In all, the 31-year-old driver has won four championships in his 22 years of racing. Walton’s mom and dad asked him when he was nine if he wanted to get into racing go-karts. After going to a race then renting a cart to give it a try, “since then, that’s been it,” he said.
He won a go-kart title in 2001, his third season behind the wheel, and a dirt mini-stocks championship in 2005. He moved up to racing at his home track when he was 17.
Success has come early and often for a family that Walton said didn’t know what they were doing when they first started. The Walton family lives about 20 minutes from Berlin Raceway, and a body shop and towing company his family used to own stows tow trucks there for races.
“It’s pretty much in our backyard,” Walton said. “My parents went there a lot.”
“It’s kind of crazy. You grow up and you see these big names out there and next thing you know you’re racing against them,” Walton said. “You never figured you’d be doing that.”
Walton’s mom, Julie, now serves as his spotter during races, and his dad, Gary, is his crew chief. His tight-knit team also has friends, sponsors, and people from Walton’s work who come out and help whenever they can.
Racing has been a learning curve for the entire family, especially since none of the Waltons had ever worked on cars before he got into the sport, but they’ve never really showed it.
“Oh yeah, big time. We’re all still learning,” he said. “We still don’t’ really know all the ins and outs, so we get a little bit of help from other people, too.”
Walton is currently third in the super late model points at Berlin, 16 points behind first place. Like years past, the plan is to travel a bit, and the team wants to get more wins wherever they go.
But if it comes down to the end of the season and they’re in the running for another championship, “we might as well go for it,” Walton said.
After so many years of racing, for a family that didn’t know much about the sport before diving into it head first, Walton said they’re all still having fun, which is all that matters.
“It’s fun knowing that they’re there and they’re supporting me like they do,” Walton said of his family. “Just having the family there with their support… I kind of feel good about how we can all work together. It’s kind of like a family thing. Some families like to go camping. What we like to do is go racing.
“We always say that if we’re not having fun we’re going to stop doing it… You know you have your trying times where you struggle but that’s part of racing unfortunately. But it’s fun when you can brush that aside and keep going.”