A Productive Change of Plans
Darrel Herron ’ s unconventional path to drag racing By Kelly Wade
Crew chief Darrel Herron has been an integral part of four championships in NHRA drag racing , including the Comp Eliminator title earned by Bruno Massel in 2021 . A somewhat surprising fact is that Herron came into the sport of drag racing looking for an alternative activity for his son , Cody .
At nine years of age , Cody was involved in Little League baseball until a series of injuries prompted Darrel and his wife , Ginger , to look for something outside of stick-and-ball sports for their son .
“ I ’ m not very good on the internet , but I got on there and one-fingered it ‘ til I found some stuff about sprint cars ,” explains Herron . “ Well , I had to travel a hundred miles for Cody to do that , so I kept looking . All of a sudden , I saw Mike Spitzer was building Jr . Dragsters . I got him one , and I ’ ve been here ever since .”
The Indiana-based Herron family started racing Jr . Dragsters locally at Ohio Valley Dragway , and one day , their location in the pits set up a fateful interaction .
“ This guy pulled in with a great big trailer and truck and all this stuff , and his name was Bo Butner ,” laughs Herron . “ He parked next to me , and he was trying to help his son but didn ’ t really know anything about the cars . He came
over and asked me if I ’ d give him a hand , and the next thing you know , he asked me to go to a real race with him . I said , ‘ This is a real race ; the light comes on and goes off .’ But I went with him to Columbus , and then I started helping him with this or that here and there . The next thing you know , I ’ m building cars . It just evolved over the years .”
Herron ran a large crane and rigging outfit in southern Indiana and was a union iron worker for over 25 years , but he found a second career building race cars , working on them , and winning . Last season was his first full season as crew chief for Massel , and this season , he says they ’ re “ just having fun running around with the No . 1 on the window ,” racing whenever it makes sense for their schedules .
“ I ’ ve been part of four championships – first with Jeff Taylor in Comp , then Bo in Comp , Bo in Pro Stock , and then Bruno ,” says Herron . “ But I really enjoy racing with my son . He drives a Stock Eliminator / Super Stocker FS / B ( or ) FS / C , and it ’ s probably the fastest in the country .”
Herron built the 2014 Mustang himself , and with his son behind the wheel , he sometimes feels the pressure .
“ It ’ s harder to race with Cody than anyone else ,” he admits . “ It ’ s very intense ; I can ’ t mess up . We went to Chicago this year , and I did a few things wrong . He ended up spinning the tires , and that wasn ’ t good . I think I feel worse than he does , but that ’ s racing . You ’ re going to win some , and you ’ re going to lose some .”
Herron ’ s knowledge of this fact is only from outside the car . In fact , he ’ s never been a drag racer himself .
“ I don ’ t want to drive ,” he says . “ Everybody asks why I don ’ t , but I don ’ t need to . Some people are better out of the car . I ’ ve had a lot of good things happen in my life , and I ’ ve been very blessed to be around good people with good equipment and the means to do this . I have a lot of good friends out here , and it ’ s a good time . But when I see my son run , that ’ s the best . I like that .” DI
PHOTOGRAPHS BY SHAWN CROSE
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