Memphis, TN — Team Photo — Brandon Hanks is looking forward to running with the World of Outlaws in 2022. The hotshoe from the Memphis, TN area picked up a win in 2021 running with the Midwest Open Wheel Racing Association (MOWA) in what was a comeback year of sorts for him. Over the winter, he and his family decided to race a limited schedule of World of Outlaws and All-Star Circuit of Champions races in 2022, concentrating on the mid-south and midwest regions. We caught up with the highly personable racer who recently added “Daddy” to his resume.
You jumped back into the world of sprint car racing in 2021 with a run at the MOWA 410 Sprint Car Championship and found out you could bring rain to a track you weren’t even at yet…despite your extraterrestrial powers in meteorology, how would you describe your season looking back?
Looking back in 2021 I have to say that I am proud. It is frustrating when a broken part ends your championship run especially leading the points all year but there is nothing that we can do about that. It’s just part of racing. Referring to the rain comment, yes, I am amazed that Mother Nature tends to follow me wherever I want to go racing. I apologize to everyone I compete with and to the race fans!
Talk about the win you had last year and talk about some of the competition you were racing against in that series?
Winning in the 410 just proved to myself that I can do what I knew I could do all along. I don’t paint myself to be the best because I know all of my flaws, but with that win came the confidence that I’d done this before and that I can do it again. It was even more special to have my wife there for it because she had not witnessed a race win in person till that point! She was 5 months pregnant at the time and had to run from the back stretch all the way to the front just for pictures. I felt bad for her! As far as the competition goes what I was really impressed with was how the guys in this series raced. It is a tough group of guys to race and race hard with but show respect for each other and each other’s equipment. It was definitely a tough group to be up against with guys like Neinhouser, Parker Price, Neuman, Daum and several others but they are what make it fun and when you can win against those guys especially in their territory it means something to me.
Despite the crazy weather challenges, the ’21 season seemed to reignite the spark in you and showed you that you could still win in a sprint car. What were some of the challenges you faced and what did you enjoy most about being back out there?
The thing I definitely enjoy the most is what I enjoy every week and that’s being at the track and competing. Even on what maybe is a frustrating weekend at the track it is still time well spent as a family. We’re off doing what we love to do, and I can never get enough of it. The ride home on Sundays are the worst for me because the truth is I don’t want to go back home to work at a regular job. I want to go to the next track and work on our cars and just get better and better, but it is not in the cards for us yet. I wouldn’t say the spark ever went away it’s always been in me and my family to just want to go out and win races and get better every week. I think I speak for all drivers when I say it is very easy to get the wind taken out of your sails when you do have things not going your way. We had our fair share of parts failures last year and it cost us a championship for sure but to me it didn’t define our season. We had some really great speed and I gained confidence with that speed and regained comfort and that is what I take from it into this year.
Take us back to the beginning of your career for a moment – your family were farmers when you were very young – how did you discover racing and was there a single moment that lit the fuse for you to actually get into the go-kart you started in?
Wow I will keep this as short as I can because I could write a entire chapter about that. I’ve always known racing as far back as I can remember. I really can’t picture the very first time I found out about it because I was so little. My dad and his parents and brothers were all Big E (Dale Earnhardt) fans and would go to NASCAR races sometimes more than two or three times a year and watch them every Sunday on TV. I became this huge Bobby Labonte fan because my favorite color was green. It didn’t get any greener and cooler than that Interstate Battery car! I remember that dad took me to my first NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona in July of ‘04 and it was raining and nasty for hours leading up to the start which ended up being delayed quite a while. Of course, being young I just wanted to go because nothing was happening, and I was being impatient. But dad of course did his best to entertain me. Then finally they started the cars and I remember thinking wow that was loud but music to my ears. Sure enough, when they came by after taking the green all that waiting in the cold rain was suddenly not even remotely in my mind. All I wanted was to do what they did. All those years of TV didn’t do it justice like seeing it in person. It made me love it that much more. I didn’t know anything about sprint cars, go karts, or anything at the time. I didn’t know about how a Tony Stewart or a Bobby Labonte or Kasey Kahne or Jeff Gordon got to where they were. I just knew it was on TV and I loved it. I didn’t have any friends that were into it in school, and I didn’t know anyone inside the sport anywhere. All I knew was what came on TV on the weekend. Funny enough, in 2005 my parents were selling their house, and who should buy it but the Bridges family. They raced go karts locally at Atoka close to home. My dad was a row crop farmer for years up until 2017. At the end of ‘05 we were on one of our farms picking cotton on Sadler School Road, which just so happened to be the same road the track was on. My grandad told my dad to run me over there and have us watch some racing and enjoy the rest of our day. It took less than 24 hours, and we had a go-kart in our garage!
You’re 26, married and just recently became a father to the next generation Hanks racer. Yet, your determination to persevere in your goal of making it to the top of the sprint car world seems stronger than ever. Talk about that and talk about how being a dad now changes your perspective about racing, if at all…
Yes, I do believe it is stronger than ever. Maybe it isn’t weird at all to the other drivers who became parents as well but, in a way, having my wife Kaiden and my son Spencer in my life now has almost given me that extra motivation to want to succeed not just for myself anymore but for them. Not just them but my parents as well. Now that I am a parent, I can only imagine how proud I would be if it were my kid doing this and giving it everything he had and then succeeding at a high level. They have all sacrificed time and money that could’ve been spent on a beach somewhere or a camper or any other easy life. But they all have chosen to push me in their own ways to see this through and that is why I am more motivated. Nothing is guaranteed and I know that, and they know that too. But my dad tells me all the time that all the money and all the time he’d never take back because we are close because of racing together like we have for so long and he’s right. It has been worth every blood, sweat, tear, and dollar.
You’ve planned a schedule of various World of Outlaws starts in 2022 with your family-owned team. What do you think it will take for you to be able to be competitive in that series, which everyone recognizes as the top level of dirt track 410 sprint car racing?
Yes, the plan is to hit World of Outlaw events and some All-Star races when they come down to our region of the country in 2022. How many we can hit is still kind of unknown at this point. Going back to an earlier question I feel good about how we left things off this year with the speed we were really beginning to find but racing with the World of Outlaws or the All Stars will be a true test to tell us just how close or far off in time we are. I do feel good about it now but until we get there unload and make laps, we won’t truly know. But we are taking some necessary steps with our cars over the off season to try and get all we can out of them.
What is one thing that your fans may not know about Brandon Hanks that might be fun to share?
You know, it is funny how social media has kind of taken over our lives and I will see people posting all these cool things they do all the time. I think to myself that I don’t do anything fun or worth sharing half of the time unless it had to do with racing, going out to eat with family or watching Yellowstone with my wife and son, which is the kick we are on right now! If I have to give an answer it is that recently I went to play Top Golf in Nashville with some friends of mine and I ended up really loving it. I would definitely be interested in playing and getting better at the game but really other than that I’m pretty much an open book.
Talk about everyone who helps you make your racing happen.
First, I thank God every day for all he has done for me. I believe that everything has a purpose. Whether or not his purpose is to mold me into what I can only hope is a professional career in racing or just being a good husband and father to my wife and son then I am good with that. My wife has definitely been amazing throughout the whole process these last couple of years, helping me grow as a person which then leads to who I am in a car. I need to thank my mom and my dad for everything they do for me on and off the track for the last 15 years. It is nothing short of incredible and in no way possible a feeling I could ever explain. My sister Kym and Brad Bowden and the Bowden family deserve a huge thank you for their help with my racing locally. Brad gives me much needed pep talks before our races and he’s just a great friend. Tucker Wallace did some videography work at the beginning of last year for us which ended up being amazing and a ton of fun to do. I cannot thank Jerry and Steven Russell enough for building an amazing race car and one that makes me feel safe every time I climb in. Bobby Craft has given me awesome advice when dad and I just couldn’t seem to figure out things at times and he would always give us a helping hand when he would be at the track with us. Johnathon Polluck came on board to help us out at the track late last year, gave us the speed and turned us the way we needed to go to being competitive everywhere we go. That ended up giving me the most confidence I’d ever had in myself behind the wheel of a car. I wish I could mention everyone but to all of my family and friends who support me and the race team I could not thank you enough over the last 15 years to make this what it is. It has been a pleasure. I cannot wait to start 2022. We’re hoping to start in April. We’re still waiting on our engine to come back and we’ll be ready to get after it!