Since deciding to become a professional sportsman racer at the age of 23, Brad Plourd has been a staple in the uber-competitive sportsman classes while traveling the NHRA circuit. Known for victories like his double-up in Stock and Super Comp at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals in 2012, Plourd feels he is driving better than ever and has two important people joining him at the races that make the wins that more sweet.
Since taking the plunge to make a living as a sportman racer, Brad has been a weekend warrior – traveling to racetracks across the country and earning his living on the drag strip. Now, with wife Katie and six-month-old son Paxton by his side, Plourd has transitioned into a new phase of his racing career.
“There were times when I would leave for three or four weeks at a time and now it’s one weekend at a time and then I come home,” says Plourd. “Generally at national events, my wife is able to come out and, luckily, she gets weekends off. Usually she gets off on Thursday afternoon so we drive late into the night and we do parking and tech early on Friday before qualifying and we make it happen. She’s so good with Paxton during the day while I’m racing and working on the cars.”
Racing with his wife and son has brought a lot of joy into Plourd’s racing successes, but he remembers a time when going to the races was purely to make a paycheck in order to keep racing.
“When I decided to go race full time, winning the races I went to was important to earn a living. I would go to races praying I would win at least some money. At that time, I had a home back in Seattle, Washington, but I didn’t have a lot of expenses at home so I was able to do it. At one point, I had the idea to run two cars and I kind of got in over my head for a little bit and all I could do was bank on that next win. That really takes a toll on you and your racing because you’re basically showing up to the track almost needing to win and we all know how hard that is. Drag Racing is extreme luck and skill combined – there are literally no guarantees. This sport, honestly, is almost like gambling in a way – you have to take your skill and hope it’s better than the other guy/gal’s skill and that you’re lucky enough to come out with the win. You need both – skill and luck.”
Plourd thanks Lucas Oil for being there and supporting him since the beginning. The partnership started with a small amount of help and has blossomed into a big time partnership with Plourd. The assistance from Lucas Oil has allowed Brad to focus on his racing instead of the pressure of having to win the “Happy Gilmore Check” at the end of the weekend in order to continue racing.
“When I got married, I wanted to slow down on racing a little bit because I didn’t want to be on the road as much anymore,” he says. “When you have a home base with a beautiful wife at home like Katie, you don’t want to be gone long.”
The birth of their son Paxton has opened Plourd’s eyes to a new chapter of his racing career.
“I’m not that kid driving across the country anymore,” Plourd admits. “I feel like I’m driving as good as I’ve ever driven and I feel partly a reason for that is I know I have a beautiful wife and beautiful son when I come back to the pits. Racing is still very important to me, but racing is secondary to my family. Racing has been my whole life for as long as I can remember, but I feel like the pressure is off now because I get to come home to them.”
Although Plourd’s priorities have shifted since his early years in the sport, he still feels he’s growing in his driving and the best is yet to come.
“Every time I go out, I feel like I’m getting better,” says Plourd. “That’s weird to say because about five years ago, I thought I knew everything, but now I think I learn something new every run I make. The results may not show it all the time, but I’m racing better than I’ve ever raced before.”
As for if Paxton will be encouraged to race when he becomes of age, Plourd says he will gladly turn over the keys to his blue 1966 Nova to his son when he’s ready.
“The blue Nova is my baby,” he says. “I’ve had it since I was in high school. We’ve already given the car to Paxton and when he’s ready to race, it’s all his. Around here, he can race locally when he’s young; you don’t have to be 16. We’ll get him in the car earlier than most kids if he wants to.”
Plourd couldn’t imagine racing without the love and support of his wife, Katie, and his parents Bernie and Ronna, as well as his in-laws, Richard and Pam Yeager, but he’s tremendously grateful for the companies that have stuck by his side through the years, including Lucas Oil, Hoosier Tire, BTE Transmission and Converters, and Huntsville Engine.
“The driver always gets the glory, I guess,” says Plourd, “but I know I couldn’t do it without all these great people around me.”
Story by Sadie Floyd
This story originally appeared in Drag Illustrated Issue No. 110, the Sportsman Issue, in June of 2016.