By Polly Keary, Editor
It's been a very long road, but racecar driver Richard Harriman of Monroe has finally arrived at a piece of road he's always wanted to drive; a speedway in Iowa where, on Aug. 3, he will drive 250 laps in his NASCAR Nationwide debut.
Driving in a NASCAR Nationwide event is one step away from the highest division NASCAR has, that of the Sprint Cup Series, and a good performance will put Harriman close to achieving a dream he's held since childhood.
Harriman acquired his love of things that go fast when he was a boy of 7, when he used to race go karts in the horse arena at the Evergreen State Fairground.
"We had a go kart we built in the driveway," he said. "I ended up having a friend who raced in Monroe, and we went one time, and I liked it."
Harriman's racing career advanced as he got older, and by the time he was 16, he was racing street stock and late model cars at the Evergreen Speedway. And soon after that, he started racing sprint cars at other tracks, traveling around the Pacific Northwest with his father.
"We would tour in the summer around Oregon and Washington and Idaho," said Harriman, 25. "It became what me and my dad did every weekend."
The young driver did well as a go kart racer, finishing on the podium 80 times out of 93 races and winning seven championships. As a sprint car driver, he went unbeaten in rain races, was named Rookie of the Year in two separate categories, and won three championships.
In 2007 he had a particularly good year racing WESCO sprint cars. He was the 2007 Series Champion, Rookie of the Year, Dirt Track Champion and the Pavement Champion, as well.
Racing was his life, so in 2008, Harriman moved away from his Maltby area home to Charlotte, N.C., where he became a mechanic on a Nationwide team.
NASCAR is a very large racing organization, and it sanctions and governs more than 1,500 racing events each year. Its three largest racing series are the Camping Truck World Series, the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series.
Most NASCAR teams are located in the Charlotte area, and Harriman started out doing mechanical work for a Nationwide racing team there before becoming a tire specialist, deciding which tires to use at which times during a long race and making sure that the tires are changed correctly each time.
In 2009, Harriman broke into the top three levels of NASCAR racing; he drove in his first truck series race. Then he moved over to ARCA racing, considered one step below Nationwide racing, driving a car in the 2010 and 2011 series and winding up placing 19th in the standings at the end of the 2011 season.
Last year was a bit of a building year for him, as he took most the year off to work. But this year, he got a break.
"I finally got some sponsorship money and found a team to make a deal with," he said.
That will put him on the Nationwide track as a driver for the first time in his career, racing in the U.S. Cellular 250, a 250-lap race around the 7/8-mile track at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
The race will air on ESPN2 Aug. 3 at 5 p.m. PCT. Harriman will be in car number #23, one of 40 competitors.
All he has to do to advance his career is finish the race and not wreck, he said.
"The main goal is to run the whole race," he said. "NASCAR has an approval process. If I finish the race and don't wreck, they give me the next step up. That's one of the main goals, to get approved."
He'd really like to finish in the top 20-25.
"Anything better than that will be a really good run," he said.
And if he proves himself at the Nationwide level, his ultimate dream will be within reach.
"Ultimately I want to end up in the Sprint Cup series," he said. "That's the top division. Nationwide is number two, so I'm getting there."