From race fan to “fan-tastic”
OHSWEKEN — Alex Schuts, owner of Insta-Insulation of Scotland, has one of the most important jobs in the auto-racing industry. Until two years ago the “longtime NASCAR fan” as he refers to himself, was a race-team sponsor. To race competitively at almost any level, you need those sponsors to help pick up the tab on the cost of owning and operating a competitive car.
But sponsorship wasn’t enough to satisfy his adrenaline habit, so in 2012, he bought a car and became the proud owner of the Insta-insulation racing team.
“I sponsored Karl Sault a few years ago,” Schuts recalls. “That led to us asking Karl if he’d like to drive a Thunderstock at Ohsweken Speedway. I’ll own the car, do the sponsorships and you fix it and drive it. He said yes.”
It was more fun, but still not quite enough hands on involvement for Schuts. So he decided to get behind the wheel and try enjoying the sport from the driver’s seat.
“We are fortunate to have Miska Trailers, of Hamilton, to come in and sponsor us. They have been a fantastic sponsor, as have Great Lakes Brewery and Middleport Mechanical. They have been stellar supporters of our team.”
One car wasn’t enough for him either. Schuts now has three cars, which Insta-Insulation owns, with himself, driving a mini-stock, #81, Carl Sault behind the wheel of the #81 Firebird, and Brad Herron, piloting his #12 Crate Sprint. And he is having a ball. Last racing season, he finished 2nd in points in his rookie year as a driver.
“I also won my first enduro-race (100 laps) last year after starting 41st, so that really got me going as a driver,” he says. “I’ve never done hard drugs before, but racing is what I call my cocaine. The sensation is incredible and addictive, especially when you’re passing or sliding into the turns. The adrenaline rush is just amazing.”
But it isn’t just the speed-rush; for Schuts it’s the entire culture of the racing fraternity which he is now a part of.
“I like the comradery between drivers and crews in the pits,” he says. “Once the race is over, it’s all done and we go and have a couple of pints together, and it’s a lot of fun.”
To the Schuts, Friday night at Ohsweken Speedway is more than race night – it’s family night, as he shares his passion with his 12-year-old son, Lofton, his wife and daughter. “With us, it’s a family thing,” he says. “Lofton does a lot of stuff for the team. The guys in my crew call him the crew manager. We house two cars at our shop and another elsewhere, but Lofton is always tinkering with the cars when they are in the shop. Alex also is very appreciative of the help he receives on an ongoing basis from his crew members and friends. It’s a great family atmosphere here at Ohsweken Speedway, and it is affordable for the fans. I think Glenn Styres provides an excellent stage to enjoy yourself, to have fun and create that sense of comradery.”
Lofton is already exercising the gene he inherited from his father and his grandfather.
“Lofton started racing go-carts 3 years ago, and races every week,” says his proud dad. “He won last week in Hamilton. It’s a lot of fun watching him run and he is pretty good.”
When Schuts is not on the track or building and fixing racecars, he is organizing and dispatching Insta-Insulations’ 50 employees to go out and do installations from Sarnia to Scarborough.
“We do everything from spray foam to blown insulation for attics and walls, under slab insulation (under floor), and panel insulation. I like talking about the business because that’s a big part of how the racing team was started and it’s what makes it possible.”
It is early in the season at Ohsweken, and the ministock has posted a 2nd, 11th, 21st, 1st and another 2nd finish.
“I had a breakdown and bought and raced a new car last week from one of last year’s competitors to use until the main car gets fixed,” says Schuts. “We’ll probably run two cars once in a while.”
Proof that, for a true racing fan, the appetite is insatiable.