Luck has been defined as skill meeting preparation, but at the end of the day it’s usually all about timing. Such was the case for Scheuring Speed Sport’s Elliot Burns.
A trained millwright, Burns grew up like many kids in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula tinkering in the garage with buddies, hot-rodding whatever type of toy was in season and occasionally lining up in a field or on a frozen lake to determine who’s creation was fastest.
Life as a professional racer or mechanic was never really part of the plan until fate came calling in the fall of 2008. The voice on the other end was Jim Carey, a U.P. timber baron who had utilized Burns’ mechanical services with his logging equipment. When his son Ryan was tapped to race the Semi-Pro class for the Scheuring team, Carey leaned on Burns to help recruit a mechanic for his son.
At the time, Burns’ life was not exactly at a high point and given the prospect of a nine to five career maintaining logging equipment or leaving what little obligations he had to hit the road with a race team, Burns threw his own hat into the ring. It was exactly what Carey was hoping to hear and he was soon packing his toolbox for Aurora, Minnesota.
The Carey’s run in snocross was short lived and Burns was back home again during the winter of 2009-10, but after getting the call to join the team as a fabricator the following summer, Burns re-enlisted and has been a crucial part of the effort ever since.
About the same time as all of this was happening, a friend asked Burns to tag along with short-course truck racer Chad Hoard to lend a hand at a TORC series event in Texas. Once again, his abilities with a wrench and as a fabricator landed him a job offer which, coincidentally, happened to fall at the exact time when the snocross team was on summer hiatus.
Over the next couple of years, Burns would learn from some of very best in their field, working along side and living with legendary snowmobile racer and tuner Steve Thorsen, as well as absorbing the years of knowledge Hoard had collected making his way up the ranks on the buggy and truck scene.
Along the way his teams have won multiple main events and been involved in title chases, all of which could be considered career accomplishments. But for Burns, there was always a desire to be the guy running the throttle.
Fast forward to the early spring of 2017. Snocross was coming to an end, Hoard was without a title sponsor that would allow him to field a full truck effort and a dramatic rule change that reduced the elite division of pro snocross to a stock-based class meant Burns’ would have a significantly lighter work load. Not to mention he was about to become a father for the first time.
This meant one of two things; consider going back to that stable but unsatisfying job as a millwright, or take the chance on putting his own racing effort together in TORC’s burgeoning Pro Mod UTV class.
When Burns mentioned his dilemma to Scheuring, the boss didn’t tell him what to do but rather asked what he really wanted to do. When the answer was to go UTV racing, Scheuring told him to come up with some numbers and he would see if they could make it work as a team.
“That guy is unreal,” said Burns. He called me a week later and said I think we can work this out. Can-Am is on board and the Air Force wants to get behind it. There’s no way I could have imagined I would be driving for a team with these big names on the side.”
With the wheels in motion, the first obstacle appeared quicker than a 90 mph flyaway jump. The opening race of the season and the baby were both due on the same weekend. Ever the optimist, Scheuring asked if they could have the baby a few days early and still make the race. Burns thought it might be an option but when he ran it by his girlfriend, the conversation came to a screeching halt.
As it turned out the car was not ready at that point anyway so Burns watched the race on his phone and spent the next few days at the hospital until 10pm and then would work until four or five in the morning finishing the car.
The team finally unloaded for the first time at ERX Motor Park in Elk River where Burns was thrown to a pack of 25 wolves and found himself six seconds off the pace after the opening round of qualifying. He then proceeded to make up a couple of seconds each time he went on the track, ultimately making the main event with a 14th place start and running as high as seventh late in the race before blowing a boost tube off and limping home in 10th.
“The first time I hit the track at ERX and I came back in I knew it wasn’t great but I had no idea I was six seconds off the pace. I sat in the car and just said to myself what are you doing here. You’re that far off and it’s not just gonna happen in the next 20 minutes. I definitely had doubts. Did I do the right thing? Should I just have stayed on the wrench side?”
At the following round in Crandon, Wisconsin, the team just missed the podium with a fourth place finish, garnering the respect of many in the TORC paddock. The next day Burns ended up on his head after contact with another competitor, completing the emotional roller coaster ride that is so often a part of the racing game.
The expectations are now much higher but it’s just another step in the journey for the team. Both driver and team owner are happy with the rapid progression and there is already talk of a new car that Burns figures he could build almost 100 pounds lighter.
“We jumped into the Pro Mod class because we wanted to race the Can-Am X3. It’s a turbo car and I didn’t want to be handcuffed by the rules. It was pretty cool we had a brand new car and I was able to just start cutting it apart and building it the way we wanted. We do it with snowmobiles, or at least we used to do it with snowmobiles, but you take for granted that you get to do whatever you want with it. I really feel like I have something to offer to these cars. The next one will be better and the one after that will be better again.”