Guest Instructor - Danny Waters, Jr.
Like each of ThisIsBracketRacing.com’s 2009 guest instructors, Danny Waters, Jr. is a second generation drag racer who essentially “grew up” at the race track. Danny has said that there was never any doubt that he’d be involved in racing, as it was a way of life for as long as he can remember.
Danny Jr., who was born in 1976, spent much of his youth touring local and regional racing facilities with his father, Danny Waters, Sr. Danny Sr. is still a fixture in sportsman racing today; he competes occasionally in Stock Eliminator and local bracket events, and is an IHRA tech official, attending the majority of major IHRA events. In the 1980’s and early ‘90’s, however, Danny Sr. was a standout bracket competitor, routinely dominating competition at the smaller tracks near their Kinston, NC home. During that time period, the younger Waters was constantly at his father’s side watching the races, helping out on the cars as he got older, and eagerly consuming any bits of racing knowledge he could acquire.
“Every weekend consisted of pretty much the same old routine; go with my dad Friday night to New Bern and race, Saturday night to Coastal Plains, and Sunday to Kinston to finish off the normal weekend of racing action. My dad loved and still loves this sport more than any one person I know. Even as a little boy, he’d still tell me the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of our humbling sport. To me, there was nothing else more important than racing. I never went fishing or to the coast a lot, never played much sports nor went camping, nothing really other than racing.” - Danny Waters, Jr.
Waters still has some fond memories of his father’s success during the time period, citing a day that the elder Waters won all three classes of competition at New Bern Drag Strip, and another weekend in which he swept their weekly tour: winning Friday at New Bern, Saturday at Coastal Plains Dragway, and Sunday at their home track Kinston Dragway. In 1991, Waters, Sr. chased the IHRA national points series in the Hot Rod category (deep-staging a Camaro that was not equipped with a transbrake), and notched a pair of national event victories en route to a 5th place national finish.
Needless to say, as a student of the sport who spent countless days and hours at the race track, Danny Waters, Jr. was chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel of a competition vehicle himself. At just ten years of age, Waters made his first run down Kinston Dragway’s 1/8th mile in a 4-door 1963 Chevy II equipped with a V6 and power glide.
Waters never ran the Chevy II in competition. As he grew into his teenage years, it was rare that he got the opportunity to take the wheel himself. After the 1991 season, in which his father had amassed considerable success on the IHRA tour, the family purchased a Duster in which Danny Jr. would cut his racing teeth.
After a few months in the Duster, Danny fell into the opportunity to drive a ‘76 Vega Station Wagon for family friend Wayne Buck. It was in this machine that the younger Waters got his first taste of racing success, claiming his first victory at Kinston Dragway, and going on to a handful of additional wins and late round appearances.
“Back then, I was quite capable of being mid .00 on the tree most every single run. The problem set in at the finish line. I’d never turn my head to see where my opponent was. I lost several rounds and races in this fashion. I’ll never forget this one weekend as long as I live; Saturday night bracket race at Kinston and in my 3 time shots, the Vega Wagon spits out a string of good, close number like 7.17, 7.17 and 7.16.
My dad comes and asks ‘So, what do you think we should dial on?’
I say ,‘7.16 or maybe 7.15. What do you think?’
He says, ‘Not even close! Tonight is the first night you start to learn how to drive the finish line! We’re putting you on a 7.26!’
That was one of the worst feelings I’d ever had, but knowing what I know now, I’d never go back and change it! This went on for at least one solid month of racing and getting smacked around by other racers. It didn’t mater if I was running a 7.90 car or a 4.90 car, the .10 dial up was in affect until I learned how to turn my head and drive the stripe. No question this made me a better racer.”
From there, Danny found his way into the drivers seat of a ‘23 T Roadster. In that machine, he would miss the Kinston Dragway Track Championship by a single round in 1995, settling for a second place finish. In 1996, in the same roadster, he made his IHRA debut with a Quick Rod victory at Carolina Dragway in Jackson, SC. He followed the circuit for the remainder of the ‘96 season, taking runner-up hardware at the Empire Nationals, and scoring a 9th place national finish in the Quick Rod category. At the time, Danny was just 19 years of age.
Following the 1996 campaign, the Waters’ decided it was time to get back into a doorcar, and they purchased the ‘69 Camaro that most of us still think of when we hear the name, Danny Waters, Jr., from local racer and friend Glen Autry. Waters took quickly to the machine, scoring his first national event title in 1997. Late that season, he drove that Camaro and a dragster belonging to the Cummings family to a double-up victory in Hot Rod and Quick Rod at the season closing IHRA World Finals in Darlington, SC. That win, along with a solid season run in the Camaro carried Danny to a third place finish in the IHRA Hot Rod national points standings.
With a year under his belt in the Hot Rod category and the now familiar Camaro, Waters set out on an utterly dominating 1998 campaign. He won another pair of IHRA National events in Hot Rod, and added a trio of divisional triumphs in the class, going on to win his first IHRA World Championship. As if that weren’t enough, he added a string of big dollar bracket crowns, taking his annual winnings to nearly six figures.
As a result of his stellar ‘98 campaign and his family’s constant work as an ambassador of the sport, Waters was able to sign a sponsorship agreement with Stanback Headache Powders in 1999, a relationship that lasted through the 2003 season. During his tenure with Stanback, Waters drove his venerable Camaro to several more national and divisional victories, and top ten finishes in the Hot Rod category. He won the Division 9 Hot Rod Championship in 2002. That same season, he also purchased a dragster and promptly took runner-up honors in the first Moser Axle Mania Shootout.
When Stanback was sold out in 2003 and their partnership came to an end, Waters did not have the means to compete at the same level on his own. It was then that he teamed with Gilmer Hinshaw, driving for the Kresto Hand Cleaners team in the Quick Rod category. That relationship continued thru the 2004 season, and netted the duo a number of event victories and top points finishes.
At the beginning of 2005, Waters purchased a dragster from Hinshaw and set out again with his own program. He enjoyed another stellar season in the IHRA ranks, driving the machine to a national event triumph and a pair of divisional wins on his way to a fourth place national finish in the Quick Rod category. At season’s end, he sold that machine and purchased a 4-link Dragster from the Cummings team.
“I loved the car, but was kept to a limited IHRA schedule in 2006 due to not having enough money to race a full season. In late 2006, I received a call from the great people at Moser Engineering, as they had interests in backing me in my efforts to run the IHRA tour in 2007. We struck a deal, and man has it been great since then! They all are great to work with. They are all wonderful people and we have become great friends. I couldn’t ask for a better partnership. Just to see the Moser logo on my car makes me feel great. It is so hard as a sportsman driver to get a major sponsor, and my family and I are blessed to have them participate.”
In 2007, his first season flying the Moser Engineering colors, Waters reached the pinnacle of sportsman competition for the second time in his career, claiming the IHRA Quick Rod World Championship. He stepped into a new American Race Cars dragster to start the 2008 season, and continued his mastery of the 8.90 category, scoring a national event and pro-am victory on his way to yet another top ten national finish. In August, Waters emerged triumphant in his sponsor’s Moser Axle Mania event held at the IHRA Northern Nationals in Martin, MI. There, he bested a 32-car field of IHRA’s top sportsman competitors to earn a $22,500 windfall.
“I feel like I’m one of (the Moser) chariots out here. It meant a lot for me to be able to win that for them. Rob Moser, Tim Irwin, Jeff Anderson…everyone at Moser. I couldn’t ask for a better family to work with. The whole company is special. We cook together, we go out together, talk to each other. It just feels so good to work so closely with a group of people. You can just be yourself with them and race, that’s a great feeling. What more could you want from a sponsor? In addition to the money, the winner of that shootout gets a 40 splined, star flanged, gun drilled axle trophy! You gotta see this thing, it is the coolest one I’ve got. Moser has joined us once again for the 2009 season, and we hope to work together for many years to come.”
On a personal note, Danny married his high school sweetheart Lindsay in October of 2006, although that marriage didn’t come about as typically as it sounds. Lindsay and her family had moved to Georgia in the early ‘90’s, and their relationship ended though they never lost touch. After a few long phone conversations in 2005, she decided to journey back to North Carolina and give the relationship another shot. The rest, as they say, is history. The couple gave birth to their baby boy, Crayden Andrew Waters on December 31, 2007.
“Lindsay decided to come back to North Carolina and see how things might go between the two of us. Man am I glad she did that! It almost felt like she had never left. She was my best friend then, and still remains so today. Crayden is now a little over 1 year old and if he chooses to, will be the next generation of Waters’ to try and turn on a win light! I love my family so much. They all are my biggest fans and supporters. My mother Connie, father Danny Sr., sister Traci, bro-in-law Shawn, niece Keelin, nephew Gage, wonderful wife Lindsay and handsome son Crayden are my crew and I am a better person and racer because of them.”
The staff at ThisIsBracketRacing.com is proud to have Danny Waters, Jr. aboard as a guest instructor. His knowledge of the sport, vast personal experience, and incredible personality will undoubtedly be an asset to the website and it’s members.