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Eric Shenberger: The artist behind the race cars

Eric Shenberger is an artist. He is a creator, but not in the usual sense of the word. Shenberger builds race cars and to most he is just that, a car builder, but his creations to most racers in the community are things of beauty.

To Shenberger, building cars is a passion, but maybe art is pushing it.

“I am not sure it would be called art,” he said.

As you approach Shenberger’s property the evidence he likes building and repairing cars is strewn around his large shop behind his house. Right outside the shop there were several racers of various classes one had to dodge just to get into the shop and once in there that is where you find Shenberger when he is not working his day job.

During the day he is a welder and equipment operator for Wulfenstein Construction. After that is over, it’s all about racing.

Shenberger got started building race cars as a teenager at the early age of 17. He is now 45.

As a teen his first love was not a girl, but off-road racing. That’s when he learned to weld and to piece together tube steel for cars.

“I then started putting cars together right out of high school,” Shenberger said. “I would just meet people who built buggies. I would go to their houses and just help people out with their cars.”

He became that guy. The guy that would seek out information and soak it up like a sponge, a hangeron.

He said he learned by getting with a team or getting with someone and just learning. “When I was younger I was so eager to learn that to the older guys I was probably a pain in the ass,” Shenberger said. “I would go hang out at the shop and would just be all over them asking questions.”

To this day things have not changed. He said he is always learning.

To find the knowledge when he was younger he would hang out with off-road racers.

“I loved the sport of off-road racing so much I would seek it out,” he said. “I would ride my bike out to Sloan, Nevada from Las Vegas and just to check out the start of the Frontier 500.”

His younger years were spent racing off-road. Races like the Terribles’ 250 and the Vegas to Reno. Shenberger did as many off-road races as he could. He raced either dirt bikes, quads or buggies.

“My first year I raced Vegas to Reno. I raced a bike and we came in first as the first amateur four-stroke bike and finished in the mid-thirties overall,” Shenberger said proudly.

When asked whether he likes racing or building more he really couldn’t say.

“I love it all,” he said. “I still drive. I did the last five races in a Sports Modified car. I also raced Super Stocks for two seasons.”

When really pressed, he does admit he now only races when he wants to vent.

“I will get back on the track just to feel the car and to motivate myself to keep building,” he said. The way he explained it sounded like he used racing as therapy.

He started talking about the new Mini Dwarf class cars at the Pahrump Valley Speedway. Shenberger is one of three builders of the class in town. At the moment he is building two of them.

The cars have a 6.5 horsepower engine, a motor that looks like it was taken off a lawnmower. He is not sure how fast the cars can go. He did get to test drive one of the cars around his five-acre lot, but the car has no speedometer on it.

This class is for kids ages 5-13. His own son, Bradyn, who is 13, will be racing in his newly constructed car this Saturday.

The Mini Dwarf takes over two weeks to build. Parts and material he said could run a family $1,800 to $2,000.

“The cars have all the latest safety features. They have a five-point harness just like an adult driver,” Eric said. “Everything is like a regular car with the exception of the chain. These cars have chains versus a transmission.”

The cars are modeled after the classes built in California.

Eric said he is excited about the class.

“We have tried to get these going here and the interest was not there until this year,” he said. “It really has taken off.”

To Eric, building these cars are not hard for him, challenging — maybe and definitely time-consuming. It can take up to 45 days to build one from the ground up. Costs vary depending on what you want but if you go on the cheap side one will run you around $24,000.

Which class is his favorite? Again he avoided a direct answer.

“I like the Modified racers, which are lighter,” Eric said. “You drive the Super Stocks, it’s like a big boat. It’s like you are floating around the track. They were also fun. The Modifieds are finicky and if you don’t get the setup right it’s going to drive you.”

When asked which was his favorite to build of course he didn’t give the direct answer there either.

“I like working with Super Stocks because they are easy to work on,” he said. “Mini Stocks are harder because there is no room and the Modifieds are easy to work on too.”

To understand Eric though, one just needs to talk to him about the cars he builds.

When it comes to working on bodies or engines, he says he likes to work on them all.

“I like to change up,” he said. “I like to work on different things just to break up the monotony. For example, when I get frustrated with working with bodies, I will just do something else.”

This maybe the key to really unlocking Eric. He really does like it all. He just can’t get enough of racing whether it’s in the car or working the car.

A good example of this passion is the way he talks about his Super Stock. This is the car his daughter, Tristan Wedmore, 18 years old now drives. It sat on a trailer already to go for Saturday. The seat was well worn. He demonstrated how the steering wheel came out. Eric then talked about the cart like it was a lost love.

“It has a quick connect steering wheel so that the driver could get in and out with ease. Look at this stick shift. In this case, we have here a Saginaw three-speed transmission. The closest lever, has a low and a high. The furthest lever is just reverse only,” and he went on and on.

Shenberger now is passing the torch to his kids. Tristan is ready and also loves the sport.

“My dad got me into racing,” Tristan said. “I started watching him and then drove it once and I liked it.”

She stood proudly next to her car which has a large pink 182 for a number. When asked why 182, she said she likes the band “Blink 182.”

She loves the racing but she won’t be found anytime soon turning a wrench.

“I probably will not learn to help him fix the cars. I am still learning to turn the vehicle on the track. It takes some time to learn that,” she said.

His son is more like dad. He likes to race and will also join his sister on the track this season in the Mini Dwarf class. Bradyn said he got into racing through his father.

“When they came out with the Mini Dwarf class I told my dad that I wanted to drive one,” he said. “We built one together. I like helping him putting things together.”

For now, Eric is enjoying passing on his legacy to his kids.

“I love to watch the kids go. When my daughter learns to go faster, I love that. I am excited for my son who is just learning,” he said.

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