PHOTO BY JOHN A. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY
Wyatt Alexander, 16, smiles at the Wiscasset Speedway. He races a Pro Stock Chevy SS. PHOTO BY JOHN A. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Racing is a family affair for the Alexanders



ELLSWORTH — Most might not expect 16-year-old Wyatt Alexander to feel nervous before taking his driver’s license test.
After all, the Ellsworth High School senior has been driving competitively since he was 4, starting with go-karts and working his way up to the Pro Stock Chevy SS he races today.

But in November, Wyatt felt the same pressure all teenagers experience before the exam — if not more.

“I’m the kid who’s expected to pass it no problem,” Wyatt says. “I was super nervous I would do something silly and mess it up. That would have been embarrassing.”

Wyatt didn’t mess up. He is well experienced in managing stress behind the wheel, and he hopes to make a career out of it someday.

PHOTO BY JOHN A. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY
Brett Alexander (left) and his son, Wyatt, sit next to each other at the Wiscasset Speedway. PHOTO BY JOHN A. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Wyatt, an Ellsworth native, has grown up around cars. His grandfather, Bob Alexander, founded K&B Automotive in 1992 and built its garage on the Surry Road in 1999 — the same year Wyatt was born. Wyatt’s father and Bob’s son, Brett Alexander, eventually took over the business, where all three generations of Alexanders now work.

The trio also runs a race team together, and they compete every other weekend. Wyatt drives, Bob is the crew chief and Brett is the crew.

“My dad and my grandfather have taught me the ropes,” Wyatt says. “We treat racing like a business.”

Wyatt’s trophies sparkle on display near the entrance of the shop. “Those are just a few of them,” says Brett from behind the counter.

A plaque on the window sill reads Wiscasset Speedway “2015 Rookie of the Year” — an honor for racers who excel in their initial year in a new division. Last season was Wyatt’s first in the Pro Stock class, which he says is considered the top level before entering the NASCAR ranks. He competes in races across the country.

Wyatt’s interest in cars dates back to when he was a toddler. He started out racing go-karts at Thundering Valley in St. Albans from 2004 to 2012.

Bob recalls the days when Wyatt would regularly slam his foot on the gas and spin out.

“He was pretty terrible when he started out,” Bob says.

“Yup,” Wyatt confirms.

That didn’t last. Wyatt won his first World Karting Association (WKA) series in 2009. Three years later, he won a WKA national championship — his most cherished award from his karting career.

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A young Wyatt Alexander poses next to the Legends car he used to race. FILE PHOTO

At age 12, Wyatt started racing in the Amsoil NELCAR Legends car series. He made history as the youngest in Maine to ever race Legends cars, which are vehicles powered by motorcycle engines and modeled after 1930s Coupes and Sedans.

Wyatt notched the Legend Cars Maine State Young Lion title in 2014 before making his debut in Pro Stocks. In 2015, he became the youngest to take the checkered flag at the Boss Hogg 100 championship at the Wiscasset Speedway.

“Most of the guys I’m racing against have been doing it longer than I’ve been alive,” Wyatt says.

“But he has earned the respect of the older drivers,” Bob adds.

Cars are not the only thing that runs through the Alexander family — racing does, too. Bob raced cars for 22 years. His 100-plus wins earned him a spot in the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2013.

Bob entered the racing scene in the early 1970s while crewing for a friend at Spud Speedway in Aroostook County.

“He actually let me drive one time,” Bob says, “and I ended up wrecking his car.”

Bob wasn’t deterred from the sport. He bought his own car and trailer and became hooked on “the adrenaline rush of winning.” Like Wyatt, he won “Rookie of the Year.”

“Wyatt inherited those traits,” Bob says. “He has better control and a better feel for the car than I ever did.”

Bob’s son and Wyatt’s dad, Brett, was also a racer for a brief stint, but he preferred the mechanical side of cars.

Bob and Brett are not the only family members heavily involved in Wyatt’s racing.

“For us, it’s a family deal,” Bob says. “We’ll do everything in our power to support him.”

The family regularly loads into the trailer and joins Wyatt on tour across the country. His little sister Quinn has been attending his races since she was two weeks old.

Bob says Quinn, who just turned 3 on June 28, is Wyatt’s biggest fan. She even has her own headset in which she speaks to her brother. “Race safe, Bubby,” she’ll tell him.

But Bob is quick to note that racing is more than just a hobby for the Alexanders.

“We’re intense,” Bob says. “We go to the race track planning to win that day.”

Driving is only part of the sport. Bob and Wyatt estimate that the family spends 40 hours every week working on the car, which has a Howe chassis.

PHOTO BY JOHN A. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY
Bob Alexander gives a thumbs-up at the Wiscasset Speedway. He works as his grandson Wyatt’s crew chief. PHOTO BY JOHN A. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Bob says full-time crew chiefs and members as well as car builders make between $60,000 and $80,000 a year. Teams who employ such labor are often fronting an annual bill costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We could not race without this resource,” Bob says of the shop, K&B Auto. “We’re fortunate enough that I’m retired, so I can do that.”

“He slaves for free, basically,” Wyatt adds.

“I do it because I love to do it,” Bob says. He laughs. “But I wouldn’t do it for anybody else.”

Between racing and working full time, the Alexanders spend a lot of time together.

“Which is obviously awesome,” Wyatt says. “We butt heads from time to time, but I wouldn’t change it.”

When it comes to tweaking the car, the team collaborates on every decision. The lighter the vehicle, the faster it goes. They say keeping up with new developments in car dynamics is a perpetual task.

“Halfway through the season, people will try new things,” Wyatt says. “If it’s working, everyone does that. Next season, everybody is doing something different.”

Wyatt says 60 to 70 percent of the sport depends on the car and crew.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it takes to get the car on the race track every week,” Wyatt says, “and all the work my grandfather puts in.”

Outside of his family, Wyatt says he encounters people who just “don’t get it.” He often hears, “It’s not even a sport. You just turn left.” But the flak doesn’t seem to bother Wyatt.

“I get that all the time,” Wyatt says. “I don’t push it on people. It’s my own thing.”

Wyatt can take the heat — literally. While racing, he wears a two-layer Nomex suit as well as a helmet and fireproof shoes and gloves. He says the temperature inside the car can reach 130 degrees.

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Wyatt Alexander, 16, races a Pro Stock Chevy SS (No. 96) at the Wiscasset Speedway. PHOTO BY JOHN A. MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Wyatt also regularly fields the question, “Have you ever crashed?”

“It’s like if you’ve ridden a bike for a long period of time and fallen down,” he says. “Yeah, I’ve definitely had my fair share of hard hits. But we put all our money into safety equipment first.”

Wyatt has made up to $4,000 from a single race, but he says the prize money doesn’t come close to offsetting the car maintenance and travel costs. He relies heavily on sponsorships — 80 percent of which come from local businesses.

“They say racing will make you a millionaire if you started out as a billionaire,” Wyatt says. “We’re not in it for the money.”

Wyatt sells T-shirts on his website, and he even signs autographs. He already has fans, though he’s too modest to call them that.

“They’re fans of the sport who happen to like me,” he says.

When Wyatt was 14, he earned the affection of a little boy whose name is also Wyatt — the perfect icebreaker for the star-struck child.

Wyatt gave a hat to the boy who, since then, has regularly attended Wyatt’s races at Speedway 95 in Hermon.

“Maintaining those relationships is key,” Bob says. “Kids who just want to come up and see the car or sit in the car or get an autograph — it means so much to them.”

Bob knows this firsthand. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, he says a 50-year-old woman from Presque Isle told him she was his biggest fan when she was 8.

“She said, ‘When I was a little girl, you went out of your way to sign my T-shirt,’” Bob says. “I had no clue.”

Bob says hearing that was a career highlight.

Wyatt doesn’t hesitate when asked who his idols are.

“My grandfather and my dad,” he answers.

Wyatt has inherited many of Bob’s fans, and his grandpa’s legacy has become a source of pride.

Wyatt is also competing against racers he used to follow as a child, such as Johnny Clark of Farmingdale — a six-time Pro All Stars Series North champion.

“I look around, and I’m like, ‘Holy smokes,’” Wyatt says. “Even if I don’t beat them, just racing with them and being one of those drivers is cool.”

But Wyatt can beat them. A few weeks ago, he took first in a race in front of Kelly Moore — the driver with the all-time most wins in the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series.

Wyatt says he would like to drive professionally, but he’s realistic about the financial costs of making it into NASCAR.

“If I get the opportunity? Absolutely,” Wyatt says. “We do what we can, but we need the sponsors to do this.”

Regardless, Wyatt says he plans to stay in the automotive industry one way or another. An AP honors student in math and science, he’s interested in engineering or perhaps taking over the family business someday.

“I grew up here, rolling around in the dirt,’ Wyatt says of the shop. “I don’t really know anything else.”

For more information about Wyatt, visit wyattalexander.com.

Taylor Vortherms

Taylor Vortherms

Sports Editor at The Ellsworth American
Taylor Vortherms covers sports in Hancock County. The St. Louis, Missouri native recently graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism and joined The Ellsworth American in 2013.

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