FUZI: Pitside Chatter
GAYLORD, Mich. — Some drivers love to race. Others live to race. And a select few actually make racing history. Brett the “Hoosier Rocket” Mann is one of those few. For more than 25 years his signature No. 19 sprint car has been at the front of the pack.
Although Mann has had much success and many opportunities, he always comes back to his roots with the Michigan-based Sprints on Dirt 360 sprint car series where he is a two-time series champion (2008 and 2009) and sits fifth on the series all-time win list.
Mann’s choice to run with the group that’s schedule consists of about 25 races per year was an easy one, “I’ve raced all over the country and with all kinds of groups and SOD is as good as any group I’ve ever run with,” proclaimed the Goshen, Ind. Driver. “It has just always been a really good core group of guys. The officials and drivers always make you feel welcome when you come to an event and whenever you need parts or help with anything, everybody is always willing to pitch in and help you get going. This series has always kind of been home and it is always good to be home.”
Mann has won on everything from dirt to asphalt, in winged 360s to USAC non-winged 410 sprinters, having amassed more than 80 feature wins since first strapping into the cockpit of a sprint car in 1986. As a child, Mann stated that he listened to his father, Jim, complain about driver after driver in the family owned No.19 machine and so when he turned of age he figured he might as well give it a try. From that point in time at South Bend (Ind.) Speedway, he has never stepped away; making racing not only a passion and pastime, but a career as well.
Mann owns and operates Rocket Headers of Goshen, Ind. The company specializes in building sprint car headers. Since 1992, Mann has also been an active tire tester for Hoosier Racing Tire, testing 10-20 times throughout the year at speedways like Oakshade Raceway in Ohio.
“It’s a cool job and a lot of fun going out midweek and burning up tires,” Mann said.
Brett and his wife of 16 years, Kelli, are also parents of four children — Jake (14), Jett (8) and Cooper and Piper (both 6), so Brett’s non-racing job is running what he calls ‘Rocket Daycare’ where according to Brett they are considered, “No. 1 in fun, but also No. 1 in hospital visits.”
There is no doubt that the humble driver who has enviable achievements is also not one to take himself too seriously.
“Every time we go out to race, we just have a good time,” Mann said. “I’m in the later point of my career now, so I am enjoying the moment more so to speak than I did when I was a kid. Back then I was mad when I didn’t win every night. Now, I want to win just as bad, but I let the bad nights roll off my back a little more because this won’t last forever and I need to enjoy it while I can.”
Mann is definitely enjoying the moment, but hewill never forget the opportunity he had to drive Bob Weikert’s famed Weikert Livestock No.29 in Pennsylvania, a ride that came as a surprise.
“He called me one night and asked if I wanted to drive his car,” Mann explained. “To just get a call like that from someone so well respected in sprint car racing and who was one of the most revered car owners in Pennsylvania with a team that had so much history was pretty exciting.”
In 2002, Mann proved that although a Hoosier, he was perfectly suited racing against the Pennsylvania Posse when he picked up a feature win at Susquehanna Speedway during Pennsylvania Speedweek in the Premier Motorsports No.21s.
Since the start of the 2013 season, Mann has raced for Tracy Rice and as he said with his trademark grin, “We have just been having fun and it feels just as good winning now as it did when I was 16. My biggest win is always my last win and I just really appreciate Tracy, Hoosier Tire and Lane Automotive because they have supported me and allowed me to have the success I have had.”
There is no doubt that Mann will continue to carve out a place Midwestern sprint car racing history for years to come and with his superb driving skills, winning personality and a great relationship with his supporters it is no wonder he is a fan favorite.
“I always love meeting and talking to the fans and I want everyone to come down after the races,” he said. “I truly appreciate people coming out to the track because without them I wouldn’t be out here racing.”