There’s a lot of great stories in the World of Outlaws, but no one fought so successfully back into their dream like Daryn Pittman.
Not many guys would keep pursuing their dreams after 10 years of competing in that said dream, then dropping out of it for four years, and competing at it again once more (and winning the championship for it no less).
That’s just what Daryn Pittman did. Pittman has truly lived the story arc of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Much like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, hell, the sports movie Rudy. Countless stories of triumph among blinding obstacles has been the greatest stories told since stories began.
Pittman like all those great stories had a “call to adventure” to start it off.
“From the time I was about 13-14 years old I started dreaming and working towards trying to make a living driving a sprint car with the hopes of making it to the World of Outlaws,” Pittman began. “I was racing micros at the time and the next affordable step was to move into 360 sprint cars. I knew after that I was gonna need help financially or get hired by someone else to continue on.”
As with everyone who starts racing, you need mentors, guides, people to help you along the way. It is a sport based almost entirely on community supporting a single person’s mission. For Pittman, it began like many racers. “My parents were obviously my first aide and who got me into racing. They have always been my biggest supporters and worked really hard to take me as far as they could.”
It’s typically parents that start a race driver’s journey. Through financial and moral support. Getting them into a situation to grow and foster their desire. Beyond that, it’s the people we initially meet at the track. The guys we look up to in the older classes, or the factory drivers for chassis companies.
For Pittman, those early “mentors were Pete Frazier and Steve Carbone,” he shared. “I always loved hanging out and talking racing with both of them. I admired them for their accomplishments and really valued their advice.”
To get to the next level and step into your dream of racing with the World of Outlaws, Pittman needed to cross the “threshold” and his initial help came once more from his parents.
“We had run several World of Outlaw races in our family car in ’98 but my first big break to race for a living and with the World of Outlaws was from Joe Ray Blevins. I filled in for Lance [Blevins] for about 6 weeks in the summer of ’98 and then finished up the last several races of the year in that car as well. While driving for him it opened up the door for me to get hired to drive for Gil Sonner in the Casey’s General Store 47 full time in ’99. I didn’t run the Gumout series till 2001 which was back in the family 3 car.”
With the success of winning the Gumout Series in 2001, Pittman was destined to full-time World of Outlaws racing, he did just that, and it culminated to perhaps one of the best rides in World of Outlaws racing history.
Australian’s Titan Garage who had sponsored and supported Pittman’s endeavors racing in Australia decided they wanted to go World of Outlaws racing in the United States. It was well publicized how much money they were spending to get here – a huge brand new shop, cars, hauler, they came with a big vision, and Pittman was the centerpiece to this new “expansion team” to the World of Outlaws in 2005. All his efforts, all his support, culminated to this moment.
“The Titan Racing Team was a huge break for me and a really exciting opportunity,” Pittman began when I asked him about this ‘pinnacle era’ at the time in his career. “It was really the first team that we had what we needed to be competitive night in and night out. While we did have a good amount of success in our four year run, our expectations still weren’t met. I think the biggest thing looking back was I was maybe too involved in every aspect of that team. Since then I have learned that just focusing on driving and allowing the people you hire to do their job is really important. I love the setup part of racing a lot [and I] was probably way too involved in every decision being made as well as trying to drive. While I feel I can setup my own car and be competitive, it’s still a distraction and can take away from what I should be focusing on.”
As Pittman eluded, his efforts along with Titan Garage didn’t pan out exactly as it was planned, and what seemed like a storybook launching pad to a continued career in the World of Outlaws came to a screeching halt.
“I was let go from Titan Racing two weeks before the season started in Volusia in ’09. There were no World of Outlaws rides available and no offers. Within a few days I had organized to go to Florida in Pete Postupacks #25 which was based out of Pennsylvania. My goal was just to get in a competitive car and go racing to stay visible ’til something back on the road came available.”
And so the fall from grace as a World of Outlaw regular began for Pittman, and he “didn’t realize it would take four years [to make it back] …and really began to question if [he] ever would.”
A former World of Outlaws regular from Oklahoma that’s now a Pennsylvania Posse driver essentially overnight is about as outsider as you can get. For Daryn Pittman in 2009 his career wasn’t the only thing that drastically changed, his entire living situation did.
“Taylor (Pittman’s eldest daughter) was born in March of 2009 which was my first season in Pennsylvania,” Pittman reflected. “It was difficult to make ends meet and with the new responsibilities of being a dad I was definitely questioning if I was being irresponsible by continuing to race… There were several times I contemplated quitting and moving back to Oklahoma to work for my dad” (Pittman’s family owned a salvage yard in Tulsa until a couple years ago when his father retired).
“The most difficult year,” Pittman shared, “was 2010 when I drove for Jesse Keen. That was a bad ass team that lacked nothing and we were awful. When you are in a car that people know has everything it needs to be successful and isn’t, its not good for the stock of the driver. Leaving there and going to drive for Mike Heffner was a big gamble and one that probably saved my career to be honest.”
The Heffner ride for Daryn Pittman certainly saved his career. But how? What was the turning point for Pittman as the first couple years in Pennsylvania he seemed to drop like a rock from the national spotlight? It appears it simply changed because he let go of what he held so tight all those years.
“I remember the day that I quit the Keen car as a day I knew I had to do something!” Pittman responded. “I knew I had to do something different and was very unsure if I would get any other opportunities. I had accepted the fact that if nothing came up my racing career could be over and I was OK with that.”
Pittman released his dream and went into a mode of enjoying racing for racing… to take the business out of it and the constant stress of trying to get back to the World of Outlaws.
“I had no idea that leaving a World of Outlaw caliber team with Keen and going to Heffner’s 28ft trailer with minimal equipment was gonna be my saving grace, but it was! For some reason we just clicked! I knew the first night I drove his car that it was the right move. We had a great two and a half years together and won a lot of races together. I really enjoyed driving for him and was really proud of what we accomplished together.”
As Pittman proved himself in Pennsylvania being competitive steadily for the last two and a half years of his stay there, he settled into the possibility of again looking back to the World of Outlaws.
“I heard a rumor that Joey [Saldana] was being let go at the end of the season and this was a month or two before the season ended,” Pittman began. “I sent a text to Kasey [Kahne] a couple days later asking if it was true and asked if I was in consideration for the ride at all. He responded that they were definitely making a driver change and I was on the short list of possibilities. He called me a couple days later, and in our first phone conversation offered me the ride.”
How did Daryn Pittman respond to the opportunity? Well, by winning the first race of the 2013 World of Outlaw season, and eventually winning the championship that same year. How’s that for comeback stories?
“Winning the first World of Outlaw race of the season was definitely one of the more gratifying wins I have ever had! But truthfully after that I can’t say I ever thought much more about it. I never viewed my time in PA as a negative. It just wasn’t where my heart was and where I really wanted to be. I never felt I was owed anything I just knew I would take full advantage of my next World of Outlaw ride if I could get one. Once with KKR [Kasey Kahne Racing] I just focused on doing my job the best that I could! My car was so fast I was just always reminding myself not to panic no matter what happened cause our car was good enough to save us. 2013 was absolutely a dream season on several different levels.”
So far this year in 2018, Pittman continues to drive for Kasey Kahne, and has won 3 of the last 7 races going into this weekend’s #LetsRaceTwo at Eldora Speedway.
“We have definitely had a really good past couple weeks! Each year brings on its own set of new challenges. I still love racing and the challenges that go with trying to be successful! There is no feeling like winning and that’s what keeps me hungry! Once you have tasted success you want to do it again! I think about my time in PA quite often but never as a motivation factor. It’s part of who I am and part of my journey to where I am today,” Pittman concluded.