Living only 4-minutes away from one of Michigan’s premier dirt tracks, Crystal, Michigan’s Austin Wonch is never too far from racing action, and there is no place he would rather be.
The 23-year old driver of the Darrell’s Sales/Fisher Outdoor Wood Services #98 has steadily been making headlines and solidifying himself as one of the premier IMCA Modified drivers in the region. Austin wasn’t born into the sport of auto racing, instead his exposure to the sport came later on in adolescence when his mom Renee began dating and subsequently married Crystal Motor Speedway standout Brody Bowser.
Having the wheel-man behind the #78 IMCA Modified as a step-dad meant Austin’s summer weekends were spent at nearby dirt tracks and weekdays were spent turning wrenches on a racecar, and Wonch couldn’t get enough. After a couple of years of turning wrenches on Brody’s machine and finally hitting his teens, Austin was allowed to hop in the drivers seat of the #78 machine, “I got in his car on Sundays at Mid Michigan Raceway Park” proclaimed Austin before adding, “Then the next year he bought a new car and I got his old one and starting racing full time”.
The then 15-year-old Austin began driving his #98 machine Friday nights at Tri-City Speedway and Saturdays at Crystal Motor Speedway, and it wasn’t long before he began making his name known; capturing Rookie of the Year honors at Tri-City & Crystal Motor Speedways in addition to being named the IMCA Michigan State Rookie of the Year and finishing 2nd in overall IMCA rookie points. By 2014 Austin had already captured a feature victory at Tri-City Motor Speedway, won a $1000 Memorial event at Mid-Michigan Raceway Park, all while most his age were still flashing their learners permit on the streets.
In the seasons since, Wonch hasn’t slowed down proving that it was no beginners luck. In 2017 he was the envy of many as he captured the checkered at the $3000 to win Great Lakes Nationals at Crystal and then in 2019 Wonch’s smooth and methodical style earned him the title of Crystal Motor Speedway IMCA Track Champion.
For 2021 Austin made some changes to his racing program, switching from being a Tri-City regular to Winston Motor Speedway where he had ran occasionally in 2020.
“Its 2-hours one way for us, so it’s definitely a long haul but this year we decided were running there. I started off the year very good so we just committed to going there on Fridays and we wrapped up the championship there so that was cool”, smiled Wonch.
“I don’t really set any goals, as long as I am having fun it doesn’t really matter”-Austin Wonch
Although Austin isn’t one to set his sights on the future of his racing career, he also isn’t showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. “I don’t really set any goals, as long as I am having fun it doesn’t really matter” Grinned Wonch, “Over nine years there has been a lot of good times, and every win is a good memory honestly”.
Of all Austin’s accomplishments, a few do stand out more than the rest, “For sure winning the Great Lakes Nationals was a highlight” stated Wonch. The $3000 to win event was his first big money win and set him in an elite group of IMCA drivers in the state. Another event that will forever rank high in Austin’s mind was the 2021 Player Hater 50 at Winston Motor Speedway, “I came from 8th to win so that was a good one” he exclaimed.
When Austin is not working at Greenville Tool & Die or piloting his #98, you will usually find him enjoying his free time with his long-time girlfriend Bree Brasington whether in the garage, at the track where Bree pilots the #10 Pro-Truck, or just relaxing with Austin’s dog Piston.
It takes a lot of time an effort to keep the #98 machine on track every week, and as Austin stated with a grateful smile, “Bree and Robert turn 90% of the wrenches and help in the pits and I can’t thank them enough as well as all of my marketing partners who have been on board with me like Darrell’s Sales, Fisher Outdoor Wood Stove Services, Tom Benson Realty, Brody Bowser Racing, Morelands Painting, Algeo, and Prime FX Graphics who came on board this season”.
“We are a small team just trying to hang with the people who spend a lot more money than us”.Austin Wonch
Of the 2021 season, Austin claimed with a shy smile, “It’s been a pretty good year”. With a Winston Motor Speedway track championship, a podium finish in Crystal Motor Speedway points, and a top-five finish in IMCA Michigan State points and a top-five in IMCA Regional points, Austin’s season was certainly a successful one, and has fully established him as one of the top IMCA drivers in the state. There is no limit to what this smooth and patient driver will accomplish in the years ahead, but as Austin humbly stated, “We are a small team just trying to hang with the people who spend a lot more money than us”.