|Zane, Dillon, Warren and Ryan Dexter|
|49, 23, 19 and 15|
|Central City, Neb.|
|Spec Miata, Performance Touring B|
|Mazda Motorsports, Toyo Tires|
The Dexter family from Central City, Neb., is a fixture at Central Region races.
Zane Dexter laughs when recalling how little they knew the first time he went racing with his son in Spec Miata.
Hoping for some help from fellow racers at the Sports Car Club of America event — before NASA had a Central Region — Dexter said instead they got the cold shoulder.
“We didn’t know anything, so we had a really big learning curve to go through,” Dexter said, “and they weren’t going to help us.”
Contrast that with this past year where the Dexter family could be found running as many as three Miatas at a NASA event and freely sharing their setup knowledge with anyone who asks.
“If you break down and don’t have a spare, people are always willing to help you out and even repair your car,” said Dexter’s 23-year-old son, Dillon. “At the end of the day, it’s not about the trophy. It’s about the racing experience.”
Zane Dexter was a latecomer to amateur racing. He started at age 40 when a road course was built in Hastings, Neb., about an hour from his home in Central City.
“Out here in Nebraska, there is a lot of dirt-track racing. I was more interested in road racing,” said Zane, who started doing some opening lapping events in a Porsche 911. “As soon as I took a few laps, I got the bug and it quickly progressed on from there.”
A couple of years later, Dexter’s sons, Warren and Dillon, began racing 125cc shifter karts and a family activity was born. Both sons had success in karting and as they got older, their father believed that racing Spec Miata was the logical progression.
“I firmly believe it is the best place to learn,” Zane said. “You’re driving in close proximity to other cars and the cars are pretty evenly matched. It teaches you how to drive.”
Neither son missed a beat moving into more competitive racing. Warren won the Spec Miata class for the region his rookie season, edging out his older brother Dillon.
“It’s a whole different ballgame when you get thrown into a comparatively big racecar or race against adults,” said Warren, 19, who is pursuing a mechanical engineering degree and runs track and field at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. “On the confidence side, it helped a lot just being able to really feel what the machine is doing.”
Over the past couple of seasons, Warren still gets the best of his older brother on the track, while Dad finishes in the middle of the pack “and blames it on his reflexes,” Dillon jokes.
“It kills me inside to say this, but when it comes to throwing down a quick lap time, Warren could beat us by a couple tenths,” Dillon said. “Warren’s real skill set is racing in traffic. He’s a little more aggressive and he can cut through lapped traffic so much more proficiently than my Dad or I can.”
Getting the Dexter family together for a race weekend is an art in scheduling.
Dillon is preparing for his boards in clinical lab science, while Warren is taking classes and competing as a Division II athlete. Their younger brother, Ryan, will be going for his comp license in April. Jessica, the eldest of the Dexter children, has participated in HPDE programs but doesn’t race.
Despite the busy schedules, the family agrees on five weekends to race and the sons try to get back frequently to Central City to prep the cars before each race.
“The boys are really good about doing almost all of the car work,” Zane said. “I do some of it. I do more of the check writing and they do most of the mechanical stuff.”
The family hauls the three cars on a transporter to the race site, setting up a small compound for the race weekend. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and their mom, Kathy, will occasionally come along to watch the family compete.
“Kathy tolerates the racing very, very well. I’m very fortunate,” Zane said about his wife of 26 years. “She puts up with it because we spend a lot of time racing, talking about racing, watching racing on television.”
NASA racer Ben Anderson paddocked with Zane and Warren at the 2015 Western Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Anderson provided Warren with some coaching, encouraging the teenager to study video and analyze the data after every race.
Anderson was impressed with Warren’s driving and mechanical skills, but also with the Dexter family.
“They truly make it a family event,” Anderson said. “I even sensed that when we were in the paddock. We were at a higher-pressure national championship event … and their place was very relaxed.”
While Warren and Dillon say they cherish racing against their father, for Dillon his fondest memories of racing is the drive home.
“It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything,” Dillon said. “On the ride back home we get to talk about the race from each other’s perspective and review the data and onboard cameras. We really get to learn about each other and how we race.”
Zane is hoping to get his youngest son, Ryan, into Spec Miata this year. Zane is in the process of building a NPO1 car with Matt Rivard, the NASA Central Regional Director, but will primarily race in Performance Touring this season.
Zane knows that getting the family together for race weekends will get more difficult in the coming years as the kids enter the workforce full time. Zane said it has taught the kids important life lessons.
“This whole racing thing, all the work and the setup, it’s taught them responsibility, but they also gained the ability to do problem solving. They gained mechanical understanding rather than just sitting in front of a computer,” Zane said. “They are out there doing stuff and learning and really making their minds work mechanically. That’s something they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives regardless if they race or not.”