For as long as he can remember, 16-year-old Dove Creek native Camron Spangler has lived and breathed dirt track racing. So, too, has his older brother, Brody Spangler, who began twisting bolts and tuning engines in his family’s multibay garage as soon as he learned to walk.
“For as long as I can remember, my family has been racing,” Camron said. “I started racing a quarter-midget, which is a quarter-scale sprint car with a lawnmower engine, when I was 4 years old.”
A family traditionTo fully appreciate the Spanglers’ racing tradition, one must understand the seeds of their passion, which were planted when their father, Aaron Spangler, climbed into his older brother’s race car for the first time.
Like most boys his age, Aaron, who was 7 years old at the time, idolized his older brother and wanted to follow in his footsteps. That desire, combined with a natural love of speed, drew him to area racetracks and kept him coming back time and time again.
“My older brother started racing when he was a senior in high school, so I started going to the track,” Aaron said. “I knew early on that I loved racing, and it sort of became a family tradition.”
After several years of racing in the Montrose area, Aaron moved to Dove Creek in 1989. He raced late-model stock cars until 1995.
Unlike today’s stock cars, sports mods and modifieds, late-model stock cars contained few aftermarket parts and body modifications. Races tended to be less regulated and less organized, yet competition was always intense during dust-raising events that often lasted late into the night.
“The technology wasn’t there then,” Aaron said. “Everything came out of junkyards, and they were actual cars. There wasn’t all of this aftermarket hot rod stuff back then, and you showed up to races, timed in and ran with the cars that you timed with.”
Although full-time work and racing responsibilities occupied the vast majority of Aaron’s time during the ’90s, fatherhood became an equally important aspect of his life after Brody was born midway through the final decade of the 21st century.
In the same way that Aaron’s brother had mentored him during his early years at the track, Aaron mentored Brody. Soon the latest member of the Spangler family was racing a quarter-midget car at the same tracks as his father.
“I was 8 years old when I started racing,” Brody said. “I was lucky enough that my dad got me a quarter-midget car and taught me to drive. Dad taught us everything that we know, although I’m not sure that he taught us everything that he knows.”
About the time that Brody began racing, Camron was born. Four short years later, he climbed into his older brother’s quarter-midget car to continue a family-tradition which, by that time, had been going on for roughly 30 years.
“It’s hard to remember specific races, since I’ve been to so many, but I remember one trip where I lost my shoes on the track,” Camron said. “Racing and racetracks have just always been part of my life.”
A labor of loveNow preparing to enter his junior year of high school, Camron spends the vast majority of his days alongside Brody and Aaron in the family’s race shop in Dove Creek. Doubling as a tire repair store, the shop contains pressure washers, tool boxes, sheet metal, and scores of other items that are necessary for the family’s racing business to function.
“When I first came to the Four Corners area, I spent several years racing on and off and working,” Spangler said. “When the IMCA modifieds were introduced, that’s when I really got into full-time type racing, and I started building cars and selling parts.”
During an average week, Aaron, Brody, and Cameron unload their cars from transport trailers on Sunday morning and thoroughly pressure wash the machines. Cars are then taken apart, shocks are checked, spring rates are examined, engines are tweaked, and bolts are tightened.
After placing the cars on several scales to ensure balance, any issue with the sheet metal bodies are resolved, and cars are eventually loaded into trailers and transported to the next race. According to Brody, the family attends 60 to 80 events per year in states including Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho.
“The thing about racing is that it is a full-time job,” Brody said. “You’ve got to have a full-time job to support it, and another full-time job is taking care of it. We get to the shop at 7 o’clock in the morning. and we stay until eight or nine at night.”
A track record of successAlthough long days at the shop and endless hours on the road can get tiring, success for Aaron, Brody, and Camron have made the racing experience more than worth it.
Over the course of his career, Aaron has won more than 100 IMCA feature races in the modified class, three mountain region championships, and several other racing-related honors.
Brody, who also drives in the International Motor Contest Association’s modified class, has won several rookie of the year honors, and Camron, who won the sport-mod class in Cortez earlier this year, has earned rookie of the year honors at Montezuma County Fairgrounds Speedway and at a track in Price, Utah.
While all three Spangler men are nearly inseparable off the track, once the green flag flies, they race against one another to win.
“When you’re in the car, you try to win races,” Aaron said. “I’m probably a little easier on them, but I guarantee you, I race them to win. I hope that they race me the same way too.”
“Dad’s the one who has set the accomplishments high,” Brody said. “It’s always fun to line up against him.”
Races this weekendCurrently midway through their season, Aaron, Brody, and Camron will next race at Fairgrounds Speedway in Cortez on Friday and Saturday. Races will begin at dusk on both evenings and several car classes, including hobby stocks, stock cars, sport-mods, and modifieds will compete.
General admission to the weekend races is $10. Tickets for children ages 6-12 are $5, and veterans and children under age 6 get in free. Fans interested in gaining access to the pits can purchase pit passes for $30. A burnout contest will take place during intermission on Saturday.
“Every race track has its own unique characteristics,” Brody said, when asked what he enjoys most about racing in Cortez. “We’re fortunate to have a race track 30 minutes from home.”