Teen drives sprint car
Third generation in racing
By Angie Landsverk
The first time Tyler Tischendorf went to a race car track, he was about 5 years old.
“We started going to watch races,” he said.
His grandfather, the late Hal Tischendorf, raced for a living long before Tyler was born.
Tyler’s father, Tim, did it as a hobby.
It did not take long before Tyler also had an interest in racing.
When Tyler was 10 years old, he was given a dirt go-cart.
Two years later, he received a micro sprint car.
Last spring, he moved up to racing a sprint car.
“You have to be 16 to get into sprint cars,” explained Tyler, who turned 16 on May 31.
Tyler’s car has a 360 Small Block Chevy engine that runs on methanol.
It is direct drive, so it does not have a clutch, transmission or starter, he said.
“It was a back-up car, so it was never used,” Tim said. “So Tyler was the first to race it.”
Tim said a lot of drivers have spare cars, and this one was never needed.
“When Tyler is in it, it weighs 1,400 pounds,” he said. “It has been clocked at 160 mph. He mainly races on one-third and one-half mile dirt tracks.”
Tyler said, “You come off a curve and then go straight for a second or two and then right back into another curve.”
His dad said the races are a lot of fun to watch.
During the season, races take place on just about every Saturday.
The first one of the season was on April 22, and the last one was on Sept. 30.
Tyler races in the Wisconsin Wingless Sprints.
Most of the time, he raced at Wilmot Raceway in Kenosha County.
There were also opportunities to race on tracks in Beaver Dam, Plymouth and Sun Prairie.
Every track is different.
“You have to adjust on the fly, because track conditions change that race,” Tyler said.
Race nights begin with the qualifying round.
“The better you qualify, the better spot you will have in the heat race,” he said. “That race determines then the feature race, the main race of the night.”
Tyler said the heat race consists of about 10 laps.
There are usually about four heat races, with eight to ten cars in each of them, he said.
A maximum of 20 to 24 cars are in the feature race.
Tim says it takes a lot of finesse to make one of the cars go.
“Things happen so quickly,” he said. “He has to just react. He covers one-third of a mile in 14 seconds.”
Tyler loves the adrenaline rush he gets and said his mother is OK with his racing.
“It’s not her favorite thing,” Tim said of his wife, Julie.
He gets nervous before Tyler races and checks every bolt to make sure they are tight.
“When he goes out there, then it’s Tyler’s turn,” Tim said.
Tyler said, ‘Before the race, when I’m waiting to get pushed off, my heart is pumping. Once you don’t think about it, it’s all good.”
The father and son take the car to car shows.
“It’s always a lot of fun going to car shows. People don’t see a sprint car often,” Tim said.
Tyler said, “We’re not in sprint car land.”
Tyler is a junior at Waupaca High School.
He and his parents live on King Road, near the high school.
People wave at them when they are outside with the car.
Tyler said racers will loan parts to others during the middle of races.
They have about $15,000 put into his car and engine.
“National guys will put $30,000 just into a motor,” Tyler said.
Most of the tires he got for his sprint car were slightly used tires from racers who go to national shows.
They approach racers after a heat and ask if they have any extra tires, and racers will give them some.
“Racers are awesome people,” Tim said.
Sponsorships also help cover Tyler’s racing costs.
Most importantly, Tim wants his son to be safe when he is in the car.
“By the time I’m belted in and have all my equipment, I can hardly move,” Tyler said.
When he races, he wears a one-piece, fire resistant suit.
Tyler’s grandfather raced for about 20 years and had no protection around him.
“I remember when I was 10 years old, my dad flipping it over. It was a terrible sound,” Tim said. “He would bite on a piece of leather so he wouldn’t bang his teeth together when he hit bumps.”
Tim enjoys watching his son race on the same track his father once did.
“The ultimate is just to be able to do this for a living, to basically follow my grandpa’s footsteps,” Tyler said. “He raced all around the country.”