BRIDGEPORT, NY – Racing can bring both joy and sadness. But it’s not always about winning or losing. The sport can also act of a way of healing for a family under distress.
Jeramy Doerr, 37, lost his 18-month old son Dylan on Tuesday, November 11, when he drowned in an apparent accident at a Day Care Center near his home in Millville, N.J.
Doerr, an Outlaw Stock racer, was in his glory just a month earlier when he won his fourth feature event of the season at N.J.’s Bridgeport Speedway. Despite his effort, he fell eight points short of picking up the track championship.
On Friday, with a heavy heart, Doerr and his team returned to Bridgeport for the season finale weekend. After Tuesday’s tragic event, Doerr was not sure if he would race or not.
“Up until a day ago I had no desire to go racing,” said Doerr after putting on a stellar performance in the feature event coming from the scratch starting position to finish second.
“My guys that helped came to the shop on Thursday and we were just putzing around,” said Doerr. “They told me ‘you know you don’t want to sit home’, and I didn’t. The more we thought about it, I knew this was the place for me to be.”
Like most of us in racing, Doerr’s love for the sport has been passed down to him by other family members. His grandfather, Henry Doerr was a successful asphalt Sportsman racer competing at New Jersey tracks such as the Atlantic City, Vineland and Wall Stadium. Henry, who didn’t enjoy the mess of racing on dirt, did compete twice at Bridgeport and according to his grandson, he won both times.
“I grew up around racing,” said Doerr. “This is where I belong tonight.”
Jeramy Doerr went to the races to watch his grandfather compete. He fell in love with the sport and took up driving himself. He then passed his love of the sport along to his five year old son JD. While Dylan was very young, he too had become a fan.
“He loved being here,” said Jeramy of son Dylan.
“He loved racing, he loved being around the race cars. He loved playing with his little cars. It made sense to be here tonight. The way I see it, this is my family.”
Emotions were high. A win would have been deserving, but his drive to second was one not to be forgetten. Dylan’s mom, Shanan Lea, was there as he exited the car behind the track’s grandstand after the race.
“To start 28th and finish second is something,” said Doerr.
“I drove my butt off. I really wanted to win.”
Friday didn’t start well for Doerr at Bridgeport. After winning the feature the first week in October, the team went over the Street Stock that they had built over the winter for this past weekend’s event.
“We won the last race and the car was pretty good,” said Doerr. “We had been having some trouble with the motor overheating so we messed with the timing to see if we could get the temperature down. We went out in the heat race tonight and the motor was breaking up on us so I pulled off. It’s a good motor and I couldn’t afford to hurt it.”
The team went to work back in the pit area, but despite their efforts they couldn’t find the problem.
“We changed a lot of stuff,” said Doerr, “then took the car out on the asphalt road. The last thing we changed was the spark plugs, they were only a week old, but that was it.”
Doerr was added to the back of the 20-lap feature field. When the green flag fell, the car proved to be right and he was on a mission.
“We went out there in the feature in a green car, but it was good from the beginning,” said Doerr.
“It was just meant to be. The car was on the money.” With top runner Ron Frees starting up front, Doerr had his work cut out for him. It wasn’t until the final laps that he made his way to the second position.
“I did a little rubbing on the way through,” said Doerr.
“I didn’t make many friends, but I don’t usually run dirty. I wanted this win so bad. I just ran out of time, but second is still a good day.”
Those cheering for Doerr to win would have liked to have seen the yellow flag wave after he had moved into second spot, but it didn’t. Frees held a big lead and he held it to take the win.
“The car started to tighten up at the end,” said Doerr.
“I don’t think a yellow would have helped me too much. Ronnie (Frees) is smooth and consistent. He’s got a lot of experience, but it would have been cool to see if I got a chance to line up along side of him.”
Friday’s racing event acted as a stress reliever for Doerr, his team and his racing family. Yes, they were under pressure early in the night when the car didn’t want to run properly, but once on the race track under speed, his mind was able to rest and the horrifying memories of what had happened days earlier were put aside at least for a brief time.
Doerr said his son went to a small local Day Care run by a very reputable lady that they were recommended to by friends. The lady watches around six children at her home. He said the police told him they believed the children were playing on a screened in porch in the back of the house. When the lady went inside to get something for one of the children, Dylan is believed to have gone outside. He was found shortly afterwards in a small fish pond. The incident was covered by local television.
“We don’t know what happened exactly,” said Doerr.
“A lot of what happened doesn’t make sense, I’ve never been in that backyard so I don’t know. In my heart, in my mind, it was just a mistake but unfortunately it cost me my son.”
Friends have organized “A Go Fund Me” for Dylan Doerr to help raise funds for mounting bills. You can google the fund in Dylan’s name. For a donation you’ll receive a t-shirt with his photo on it.
It’s another example of the “racing family” coming together as one to help in a time of need.