By Cody Heacox
Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to this week’s Bowman Gray Q&A! I had the opportunity and privilege to catch up with a buddy of mine, recently retired driver Derrick “Fried” Rice.
Going into the season Derrick looked at becoming a 3-peat Champion for the Street Stock division after winning the previous two until he suddenly retired just a few races in to the racing season. It all started for him at the age of 6, when his father bought him a go-kart and he went on to race in go karts then to champ buggies on dirt. Over the course of his career he picked up 3 NC King of the Clay Championships, Tri-State championship (NC, GA, SC), Virginia State championship, Maxxis National Championship and Champ Kart Challenge winner.
In all that he was able to easily collect 300 wins. Not to mention he had a stellar career at Bowman Gray with 5 wins and 2 championships in just 4 full seasons there. While I must say, even with all those accomplishments, I could understand why he decided to retire. Derrick still comes to the track on occasions but says he does not miss the racing side of things. He is currently a student at Winston-Salem State University.
Q: First thing how much did they pay you to retire? Is it anywhere close to the amount that they’re paying Carl Edwards?
A: Shoot naw, I wish. That’s Bowman Gray for ya, you’re not going to get paid, and you make way less money than you put into. You spend thousands to make hundreds it just doesn’t add up.
Q: Do you think you will ever race at the Madhouse, or any other track again?
A: I’ll never sat my butt into a race seat over there again there unless I come out making money in the deal.
Q: What got you into racing?
A: My dad was racing when I was born so when I was old enough to go with him he’d load me up and I’d go with him. He ran go-karts in Asheboro at Coalridge Speedway then when I turned 6 he got me a go-kart and then we both did it for a little while. After that he stopped racing & wanted to focus solely on me racing. So we started branching out more, then I became a factory pilot for Andy Murray & Eddie Mishue once that happen we were gone every weekend and traveling a lot.
One year, myself and Matt Bowling who was my teammate at the time (that’s how we became friends) we raced 49 weekends out of the year. We did that for a couple of years and they tell you where to go race & you race. When I turned 19, my parents split up…so we had to take a year off of racing.
Then I met Derek Stoltz and his brother Jeremy who was a factory pilot with Andy, so I actually knew Derek and Jeremy before the stadium. Andy was like “if you wanna get in a racecar I think Derek & Jeremy would love to have you.” We gave them a call and they said they were interested if we got a car then they would help us and use their resources/crews, we would be their Street Stock driver. Went to Bowman Gray Stadium, been there ever since, now we have 2 championships in 4 full seasons. They definitely know their stuff. Derek’s doing an awesome job in Limited right now, they’ve definitely best in the business as far as I’m concerned.
Q: So if he (Derek Stoltz) needs back up, are you going to help him win the championship?
A: Lord no, Derek doesn’t need any kind of back up, that boy can do whatever he needs to do on his own and do it 10x better than having a car just ride around for him could ever think of doing. He’s a different breed when it comes to his race car, he just gets it. He’s the best at it.
Q: Of all of your competitors you got to race against, who did you enjoy racing against most?
A: David Sumner, hands down I was fortunate enough to race against him for the first 2 years of career, back when it was him, John McNeal, Billy Gregg, John Holleman, all those guys. They were all great people to race against I loved racing with every single one of them. But there was something about David, if you got behind him you learned something every time or if he was behind you, you learned something from him being behind him. I mean every time you got around David it was like a freaking class lesson.
Q: What was your most memorable win?
A: Probably my father’s day win. That was in 2015, I think that was our second win of the year. We won 3 that year. It was probably that one just because “it’s father’s day” and my dad’s definitely done the most for me in my racing & he has been the most influential person definitely when it came to my racing. He’s always had my back, so to win at Bowman Gray Stadium before we won the championship. So to win at Bowman Gray, win for him probably sticks out the most I really enjoyed that. Probably the best gift I could have given him. Actually I’ve won on all the major holidays (Father’s Day & Mother’s Day) except my birthday week.
Q: What is the real reason for the sudden retirement? How long did it take for you to decide “it’s time to hang up the helmet?”
A: About halfway through last year, my dad and I started getting burnt out on the whole racing deal, that place is a different monster. We had already accomplished the year before everything we wanted to accomplish. Halfway through last year we had a 46 points lead, we weren’t going out to win races and have fun we were going out to conserve the car & try to help our points lead, limit any bleeding or gain just anything we were just riding around. Then when you spend all week stressing just to ride around half throttle and not having fun doing what you love to do. Dad had lost his interest and I lost my interest in it. He had been doing it before me, I had been doing it for 20 years so we said that if we won the championship last year, that we would run the first couple races this year just to see if we could find any kind of spare. Any reason to want to keep racing and after the 50 lapper I looked at him and asked “if he was having fun”? He said nope, and I also said I’m not having fun either so I don’t see any reason to keep doing this. There wasn’t anything else left to do we had won everything in that class except for the 50 lapper and we weren’t planning to move up to any other division because of funding. I just didn’t see a reason to keep wasting our time and not enjoying life to go over there and just ride around. That place is one big stress pit.
So it was easy for me, on account of health, I would rather have my family longer than I would a racecar. Even on nights when we won, everyone would be uptight, stressed, and nervous throughout the win. The whole race they couldn’t even enjoy the win. So if you’re not enjoying winning or anything like that it’s pretty bad sign you’re not going to get anywhere with it. The people who understand my decision are the ones whose opinions matter the most, I’ve been called me a quitter, chicken and scared. Quitting is when you do something and don’t have any success with it. We’ve been racing since I was 5, I’ve won races and championships in everything I’ve sat my butt in. It’s not quitting its legit retiring because of 20 years of doing the same thing. Derek and Jeremy both were one of the first people to reach out to me and say “that it was okay to take a break” they knew what that place will do to you.
Q: When you look back what will you remember most, the two titles or all the wins?
A: I really don’t know because when I look back all I see is all the hate that I have with retirement, being called a quitter, chicken and scared. I didn’t start the season off with a win like the past few years. So I really don’t know what I will remember the most, with everybody running their mouths like that, it makes you wonder was it even worth winning two championships. Am I happy we won? Yes, So I guess if I had to say I’d say the fact that racing over there I was able to get two bricks with my name on it at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Nobody can take that away. That and being able to spend time with my dad and the Stoltz’s all the time, I gained another family. And I would never want to do anything to jeopardize them; I’d never accept getting paid off to wreck Derek or anything like that. Those guys are all family to me, and I’d never go against family.
Q: How would you rate the performance of the Street Stock division this season?
A: Wreckfest, but that’s nothing new it’s like that about every year. I can remember the year I won the title; I was battling with Brian Wall for the championship. I would draw 16th or 17th and he’d draw 2nd or 3rd and I would have to race my way up there to battle with him. That’s not going to happen because 10 cars come to draw that are competitive while there’s a 20% chance they’re going to be around each other.
Q: Lol so I just got to ask, whose the better race car driver you or Primetime(Derek Stoltz)?
A: Ha! Probably Derek all day! I can’t deny it, it’s definitely him. He helped make winning these championships a lot easier just by how he talked to me on the radio. It helped a lot because we all as a team were on the same page. Like me and him really understand each other very well so that was great, but it was basically everything he told me I did I didn’t hesitate it. It was like he was driving the car the whole time. He understands that track and knows what you have to do, it just made me look better.
Q: Last question, as a fan and as a friend I have to ask one last time, are you 100% for sure absolutely positive you are done with racing?
If somebody wants me to come over there and race their stuff and I make money in it and I don’t think its trash equipment, then yeah I will probably come over there and do it again but one of the things I was just building up was the fact that we’re having $20,000 race cars and just using them up like their demolition derby cars and those things aren’t meant for that, its stupid. There’s really no other way to put it. It’s just so much money to spend on something to have it torn all to pieces or have somebody be upset with you and has a second car out there to try to tear you up. I mean I aint ever seen anything like it. We were very fortunate that we did not tear as much as we ever did, we only really tore up a lot a couple of times in my career there but still you spend all week working on something that shouldn’t even have to be working on. So yeah, unless I get a paycheck yes, I plan to travel and enjoy life.
I hope everyone enjoy their week away from the track as it will be the O’Reilly Auto Parts 100 presented by The Triad’s 105.7 Man Up (100-lap Modified race); $2 Ladies’ Night; double-point awards in all divisions.