Grandpa is focused on passing along knowledge to grandson racing teammate

Jeff Bobo • Jan 19, 2017 at 11:17 AM

COEBURN, Va. (July 2, 2001) - Brian Blevins isn't old enough to have a driver's license but he's already been to victory lane once and has a slew of good finishes in the weekly Late Model racing division at Lonesome Pine Raceway.

A victory at that level is something that many racers twice his age have never accomplished, but Blevins knows he owes much of the credit to his grandfather, veteran short track racer Paul ‘‘The Mountain Man'' Shull.

Shull put Blevins in the driver's seat of a Late Model car for the first time when he was only 13-years-old, and two years later they're midway through their second season as racing teammates.

Blevins, 15, and his grandfather, both of Clinchport, compete with and against each other every Saturday at LPR in a matching pair of dark blue cars owned by Shull.

Blevins who drives the No. 40, won his first Late Model feature this past May in a race where he also spun out his grandpa's familiar No. 48 shortly after the drop of the green flag.

Blevins said he knows he didn't have the fastest car when he won, but when the top two cars wrecked each other in the waning laps he learned a valuable racing lesson: Sometimes it's better to be lucky than it is to be good.

‘‘I think I was more tickled about him winning that race than he was,'' Shull said prior to this past Saturday's 75-lap feature at LPR. ‘‘It don't make any difference how you win as long as you win. When we're out there racing together we race each other just like we race anybody else, but the night he spun me out it was the spotter's fault.

‘‘I went down the back stretch and in the corner, the spotter said ‘you're clear'. But when I turned down into the corner it wasn't clear - he was there - so actually I got into him. He switched over to my channel on the radio and said ‘Papa I didn't mean to, I'm sorry', and I told him ‘don't worry because I'm coming'.''

Blevins admitted before Saturday's race he knows he's got a lot to learn about driving race cars, and experience will be the key to his success.

‘‘I need more seat time in the car in races against more cars,'' Blevins said. ‘‘Right now Lonesome Pine is a good place to get experience. I feel like if I can finish in the top five and bring the car home in one piece I've done a good night's racing, but I want to win every time I get into the car.''

Blevins qualified for Saturday's race in fifth place, and stayed in the top five for most of the way before something went amiss on the car and he began to drift backwards with about 15 laps remaining.

Shull passed him for eighth place on the last lap, but Blevins did meet his goal of bringing the car home in one piece.

Shull said it didn't take too much of a leap of faith putting Blevins in a race car at such a young age. He said he never would have done it if he didn't think his grandson could handle it.

‘‘He's wanted to drive ever since he was a little boy,'' Shull said. ‘‘Then, (LPR track manager) Harold (Crook) said that he could run when he was 13-years-old if he could handle it. So I made a restrictor plate to put on the car and brought him over here several times to practice.

‘‘He could run it wide open all the way around the race track with that restrictor plate, and I'd say he ran about 1,000 laps by himself.

"After a while I got to where I'd take it off and let him run without it and I'd get out there too and irritate the devil out of him, and he finally got to where he could handle it.''

At this point in Shull's racing career he says he's more interested in passing along his knowledge to his grandson than worrying about his own finishing spots.

Aside from his decades of Late Model racing experience, Shull also competed part-time in the NASCAR Busch Series and its forerunner, the Late Model Sportsman Division in the 1970s and 1980s - sticking mainly to the short tracks.

Blevins said he expects to profit from his grandfather's experience.

‘‘I know if I just do what he tells me I'll be all right,'' Blevins said.

Shull and Blevins have set their expectations high. They want Blevins to go all the way to the top in racing, and Shull believes his grandson's early start will give him a big advantage.

‘‘He's too young to have any fear in him, so right now he's just going for it,'' Shull said. ‘‘When you get to my age you get to where you don't want to take chances, but he's at the age where he has absolutely no fear. But, he's also smart and patient, and he has good judgment and that's something I noticed about him at a very young age.

‘‘I probably would have put him in the car when he was 10-years-old but we had to wait until his feet could reach the pedals.''

That doesn't mean Shull has quit trying to win races himself. He's already been to victory lane twice this year in Galaxy Kingsport Speedway's Limited Sportsman division, which he runs every Friday before taking the track with Blevins at LRP on Saturdays.

The plan for the future is to get Blevins noticed so he can find a good sponsor who will help him buy the horsepower needed to move up to the next level in racing. Blevins will have a chance to be noticed tonight at GKS when he competes in the invitation only "Future Stars of Racing" event with several other talented young Late Model racers from the region.                                                  

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