MICRODS TO MODIFIEDS: Drivers Talk Lessons Learned in Early Stepping Stones to dirt Modified Careers

There’s no one path to Super DIRT Week.

Some drivers started in go-karts. Some in Micro Sprints. Some straight to Modifieds.

In the northeast, many found their humble beginnings in Microds and Quarter Midgets, such as Modified drivers Corey Barker, Andrew Ferguson and Dylan Zacharias.

All three began their racing careers with the Syracuse Microd Club – which will be part of the inaugural Super DIRT Week Quarter Midget & Microd Mania in the infield of Oswego Speedway on Tuesday, Oct. 3. From the Microds to the Modifieds, each praised the life sessions they took with them.

“You learn discipline,” said Barker, a third-generation racer. “Also, humbleness. You get humbled very quickly. You learn defeat. You learn victory. I think the Microds were good about teaching me about discipline and hitting my marks on the track, being able to run the same line over and over. And just general respect on the track for your racers too.”

After five years in a Microd, Barker made the move to the Sportsman division in 2013 and then 358 Modifieds in 2021. He qualified for the DIRTcar Sportsman Chevrolet Performance 75 in both attempts and made his first DIRTcar 358 Modified Salute to the Troops 150 last year.

Each was as special as the last. Along with living 10 miles from the speedway, his grandfather, John Barker Sr., was a car owner at Oswego Speedway for several years, and his father, John Barker Jr. ran a Supermodified at Oswego for three years.

“I can’t even describe what it was like to qualify for my first Super DIRT Week,” Corey Barker said. “When we went there in the Sportsman, to actually make the big dance, it immediately… all I could think about was I wish my grandfather was there. To have a third generation find success at Oswego, it meant a lot to me. It meant a lot more to me than other things I’ve done in my racing career.”

He credits his successful climb from division to division to his dad and the lessons learned with the Microds.

“Luckily for us, with my dad having 35 years of dirt Modified racing and the five years of Microd racing, teaching me consistency, how to hit my marks and things like that, we found success right out of the gate,” Barker said. “We won our first dirt Sportsman race and won four in our first year. Right out of the gate, having the Microd experience helped pave the way for success right out of the gate in the dirt world.”

Zacharias echoed his sentiment, stating his Microd experience helped put him ahead of other drivers in the development process.

Dylan Zacharias Microd racing
Dylan Zacharias celebrates his Microd win

“First we made the jump to Micro Sprints, and I felt like I was more prepared than the other kids in my age bracket,” he said. “I was around 12 years old at the time. A lot of those kids, that was the first thing they raced. Then, when I went to Sportsman, I felt like I was ahead of the curve. Looking back, I definitely have to thank the Microds for it.”

While he won’t be racing his own Modified at Super DIRT Week this year, Zacharias will help crew for Peter Britten and Rich Scagliotta throughout the week. It’s a role he also credited the Microds for helping him be prepared for.

Along with on track lessons, he said there were several life lessons he picked in his earlier years. To be competitive, he learned the values of hard work and the importance of making connections with those who can help you.

For Ferguson, he said his parents used it as an incentive for school. If he kept up his grades, he could keep racing. If he kept out of trouble, he could keep racing. Now, he’s a Big Block Modified driver, racing against the heroes of the sport he grew up watching.

However, an injury has kept him out of his car for most of the year and will force him to miss Super DIRT Week – an event he went to every year with his father since he was 5 years old. Instead, he’ll be watching with his son as he prepares him for his own potential future racing career.

Looking at the sport from the other side now, Ferguson said his advice for his son and anyone else starting out is to remember to have fun.

“Not a lot of us continued on with racing after Microds,” he said. “I think that’s always going to be the case. Some families do it as just to have something to do with their kids and give them something to do… There’re always different kids, they love throwing the football with their friends and whatnot. And as you got older, there were the kids that were all about working on their car and trying to get better. A lot of the times, those are the ones that end up moving on.

“If it is something you really want to do, it is important to learn it and be involved… If it’s something you want to do and you’re younger, you have to put in the time and put in the work. You have to remember to have fun too, which is sometimes the hardest part to separate the two. But it is important.”

Fans will get to see the next generation of Super DIRT Week contenders during the Quarter Midget and Microd Mania at Super DIRT Week 51 on Tuesday, Oct. 3 – free for all spectators. It will also be streamed live on DIRTVision for free.

Then, the super stars of the sport will be on track at Oswego Speedway Wednesday through Sunday, Oct. 4-8, leading to the illustrious Billy Whittaker Cars 200. For the full event schedule, CLICK HERE.

Tickets for Super DIRT Week 51 are available HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every lap of Super DIRT Week live on DIRTVision.

Andrew Ferguson at Oswego Speedway
Andrew Ferguson pilots his #34 Big Block Modified around Oswego Speedway (Quentin Young photo)