Sometimes kids watch what their parents do and then go off and do something completely different. And sometimes, like Scott Hitchens — who spent much of his childhood watching his dad, Greg Hitchens, race cars — they feel the pull to do those same things themselves.
At 24, Hitchens is at the top of his game in the Short Track Super Series class, in which he has been driving the No. 15 car — sponsored by his dad’s business, Millsboro-based Greg Hitchens Enterprises. He is poised to be the top points winner in the class when the season wraps up later in the fall.
“I’ve pretty much got that wrapped up,” he said without a trace of braggadocio.
Maybe that’s because Hitchens has already started a new challenge, where he’s no longer the top dog. On Wednesday, Aug. 30, he raced in the Big Block Modified class for the first time, driving the No. 65 car, sponsored by Blades HVAC, at the Georgetown Speedway.
Although his car blew a tire in the headline race, he said he was pleased with his first outing in the car, and his first outing in Big Block. Having qualified for the main event of the evening along with 26 other drivers, Hitchens said he was in 12th place when the tire blew, and ended up in 15th place.
“It went good,” he said. “I was pretty happy with the results.”
Hitchens said, “The Big Block class is the top of the top, as far as racing around here. It’s very different” from his previous STSS class, he noted. “It’s so much faster.”
In addition to the cars themselves being more powerful and faster, he said the drivers themselves are pretty intimidating.
“These are people who have been racing for around 20 or 30 years. The level of competition is much higher.”
“It’s definitely more exciting,” he said.
Before Hitchens dons his helmet and racing suit, there’s a very important part of his pre-race routine that most drivers don’t have to think about. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 14, Hitchens checks his blood sugar one last time before he climbs into the car. Since he wears an insulin pump, he said, his blood sugar “stays pretty leveled off,” but if it’s not where it should be, he keeps candy bars close at hand to give his blood sugar a quick boost.
Hitchens said the diabetes doesn’t affect his ability to race at all. On the contrary, he said, the most physically challenging part of the race is simply “Winning. Passing everybody, and trying not to get wrecked.”
Before his first race in the No. 65 Big Block car, Hitchens said he wanted to test the car’s abilities, but not necessarily take the 920-horsepower engine to its limits quite yet.
“I don’t want to drive it as hard as it’ll go — I don’t want to break stuff,” he said. “You don’t want to tear it up the first night.”
Hitchens said that when he’s rounding the dirt track at speeds up to 130 mph, in addition to not breaking stuff, “You’re just trying to keep your cool,” and stay focused on the track, the other cars and his own car’s status — things like oil pressure and water tank levels have to be monitored closely.
“You learn a lot of stuff, mechanically,” in the process of racing, as well as preparing the car for the race, said Hitchens, who is a 2011 graduate of Sussex Technical High School’s automotive tech program.
While he races a few dozen times a year, Hitchens said he and his crew also spend three or four nights a week working on the car to make sure it’s race-ready. During a race, he typically has a pit crew of eight people.
That doesn’t include the family members who come to his races to support him, including his dad, his grandfather, his sister and his girlfriend, Hitchens said.
“It’s a family deal.”
Hitchens, who spend much of his boyhood at the speedway watching his dad race, said the current promoter at Georgetown, Brett Deyo, “does a great job” for the racing community. “That place is awesome,” he said.
While he said he generally doesn’t ask his dad for advice, despite his years of racing experience, Hitchens admitted that “without him I wouldn’t be able to do any of it.”
While he is often seen on the track at Georgetown, Hitchens said he races at other tracks in the region, from New York to North Carolina.
“You travel all over the place,” he said. “You meet a lot of good people” at the race tracks, he added.
Although he said the money he makes from racing is a nice bonus, “I’m definitely not in this to make any money.” The top prize at the Aug. 30 event was $1,000.
“You sure as hell spend a lot of it, though,” he said. “It’s an expensive hobby.”