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Learning on a fast track
Tyler racing car close
Tyler Fields, a 16-year-old student at South Effingham High School, takes the turn at OSP in the 440 Beginner Division. - photo by Photo by Rick Lott

Gentlemen, start your engines. Tyler Fields, a 15-year-old from Rincon, does just that every Friday evening at the Oglethorpe Speedway Park as he competes in the 440 Beginner Division races.

Every Friday, Fields takes his 1995 Dodge Neon and heads out to the track to sharpen his skills and try his luck. And it seems to run in the family as cousins Clint and Amber Sills also can be found racing at the speedway.

Even though his father, Robert Fields Jr., hasn’t raced since Tyler was born, Tyler said that, “My dad used to take me out to the track when I was young, every Friday just about, when we lived in Savannah.”  

He said that all the noise and excitement (and especially the wrecks) were great fun and he just got hooked on it.  

Fields races a ’95 Dodge Neon that he bought with the roll cage already installed, and set to work to create a racing machine. Fields took out all the seats, rebuilt the heads in the engine, put on a new bumper and new fenders and did a lot of bodywork on the car to get it up to racing speed. In fact, the only parts left that are original to the car are a door and the trunk, Fields said.

But soon after buying the car, trouble set in.

“I took my car when I got it — I bought it from one of my friends over the summer and I ran it out here on the property some to get used to it and it caught on fire,” Fields said. “After that, I replaced the battery and all and I blew a head gasket, so I had to take it in and Mr. (Jimmy) Morris out there (the South Effingham High School shop teacher), he’s like, ‘bring it in and we’ll work on it.’ So we ended up working on it for about four or five weeks out there, getting it ready for racing.”

It’s no surprise then that Morris has become young Fields’ mentor in the racing world.

“Yeah, Jimmy taught me a lot — he knows a lot about racing. He actually was track champion in 2005 (at the Oglethorpe Speedway).” 

Fields also thinks a lot of racing legend, Dale Earnhardt.

“I always used to watch him a lot when I was little and he won a lot,” he said.

To keep his car on the track, Fields does work for his grandparents on their rental properties. He also did some construction work at Simplicity Barber Styling, which just happens to be one of his car’s sponsors.

For now, Fields said he’s just having fun with it.

“I wasn’t really thinking about a career in racing. I’m actually trying to get into criminal justice,” he said. “I’m just doing it for fun right now, but if I get into it and work my way up, I’ll see what I can do then.”

Fields is often reminded now of something his father said to him — “It’s a lot of fun. It’s not in your blood ‘til you’re on the track for the first time. You can’t sit in the stands and watch it after that.” 

And that’s why you’ll find him on the racetrack every Friday night.