OWASSO, Okla. – Daryn Pittman was ready to reveal the next chapter of his life on Jan. 11 during the opening day of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla.
However, things went for an unexpected turn.
Two days before Pittman was set to announce a business venture in the motorsports industry, after closing a long run as a driver with the World of Outlaws, everything went by the wayside.
That planned venture fell through, and now, the 42-year-old is reevaluating his options for 2021 and beyond.
That includes the possibility of more racing, with a potential to run between 50 and 70 races this season. That is all tentative, though, until the 2013 World of Outlaws champion pieces together a definitive schedule.
Pittman hasn’t had much time to recover from the business fallout. In a way, he’s still in processing mode, as he scrambles to assemble some kind of plan for this season.
“It caught us off guard,” Pittman said of his business plans falling through. “We didn’t get much of a chance to repair or try to fix it. … I thought it was a done deal and it just didn’t turn out to be that way. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a part of life and things go on.”
Where does Pittman go from here?
He does have races planned with longtime friend Jason Meyers, starting March 4 when the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series heads to The Dirt Track at Las Vegas.
The duo also plans to race the World of Outlaws swing in California, which spans six races from March 20 to April 3, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.
“Hopefully that stays on the schedule,” Pittman said. “You just never know these days.”
Pittman’s biggest project this year might develop outside the race car, as he’ll work alongside Brenham Crouch and help the 15-year-old micro star find his way in sprint car racing.
This will happen under the direction of Leighton Crouch, Brenham’s dad, and Pittman will have a hand in Crouch’s racing operation beginning Feb. 11 with the King of the 360s at East Bay Raceway Park in Florida.
Crouch also plans to run the full USAC National Midget Series schedule for Keith Kunz’s powerhouse stable, opening the door for Pittman to run a good number of races in the Crouchs’ sprint car.
“I’m going to see where that leads,” Pittman said. “There’s some potential for that to be full-time, and me to run the car some, if that’s the direction we continue to go. Obviously the main focus will be helping Brenham and helping him learn some things about sprint cars, teaching him the best I can. It’s something I’m really interested in.”
Pittman isn’t stranded with no direction in the wake of the business collapse.
Opportunities have flocked to Pittman as the word has gotten out. He is, after all, an 86-time winner with the World of Outlaws, ninth on the all-time list.
What Pittman’s future comes down to is the people involved and building fruitful relationships. That’s what makes his involvement with Crouch and their race operation attractive.
It doesn’t mean the quality of equipment takes a complete backseat when Pittman weighs his racing options. It just means Pittman is more selective of his company these days.
“I do still love racing, but I’m more worried about the people involved with each team more so than the equipment,” Pittman said. “If I’m going to go drive, I want to be with a team that’s going to go and be competitive.”
Pittman is optimistic about his fledgling deal with the Crouchs. It is just as exciting as it is refreshing for the veteran racer who is trying to find his place after a two-decade, full-time career with the World of Outlaws.
When Pittman said he has enough leeway to run something along the lines of a full-time schedule, he didn’t mean full-time with a touring series.
What he alluded to is somewhere between 50-70 races and some kind of opportunity in a sprint car nearly every weekend.
His farewell tour with the World of Outlaws last year was not influenced by the business venture that recently faded away. Pittman simply wanted to retire from the grind of being contractually on the road.
“It wasn’t going to change my decision to step out of the seat full-time,” Pittman said. “Even though this fell through, this doesn’t change my mindset whatsoever. This business opportunity was not any direct relation to wanting to get out full-time. It probably became available more because I decided to get out. My focus hasn’t changed.”
Life on the road, with a touring series, is too demanding for Pittman at this stage in his life. He’s long wanted to fully support his family. Handpicking his schedule is appealing, too.
“We’re trying to set up our life outside of racing full-time,” Pittman said. “When you’re racing full time, you don’t have time to do anything else.”
Last year, Pittman concluded his World of Outlaws career seventh in points, with one win in 54 races. A bulk of those races were in the Roth Motorsports No. 83, until the two mutually parted and Pittman rejoined Mike Heffner’s Pennsylvania-based operation for the finish.
It seemed to make sense that Pittman would return to Heffner Racing in some capacity this year. Then, as his business venture grew more likely, Heffner looked elsewhere, tapping veteran Tim Shaffer as Pittman’s replacement.
Pittman wished that opportunity had remained open, but life moved along. Either way, opportunity in some way, shape, or form awaits him.
Right now, that includes World of Outlaws races on the West Coast with Meyers and helping the Crouchs run their race operation.
“That interests me quite a bit,” said Pittman, alluding to working with the Crouchs and running races with them. “We’ll see where that goes. There’s definitely a few cars out there that have good crew chiefs available that don’t just run full-time [with a touring series].
“If that doesn’t work, we’ll continue searching.”