The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 12, 2013

Shawn Wood's Inside Track column: Car owners stay with Walker

Daily Item

---- — When the news broke that Tyler Walker was arrested after being involved in a high-speed police chase through several states on Jan. 30, car owner Charlie Sorokach, was bummed out,

"I thought it was a lot worse that what he told me what it was and I figured that I was losing my 410 driver for the year," Sorokach said.

A Minersville resident and life-long coal miner, Sorokach said that what the fans see at the track is a different Tyler Walker than he sees at his race shop.

"Tyler is very family oriented," he said. "He treats my wife Dawn and I with the utmost respect along with the crew. On nights that we were unloading the car at the shop, he's contacting his family, letting them know how the night went."

Sorokach has been around the racing scene since 1982.

He raced street stocks at Big Diamond Speedway and Penn National Speedway before moving to the Super Sportsman class in 1992. He raced in the class until 2003. His best Super Sportsman finish was second at Silver Spring Speedway.

This is the 10th year for the Sorokaches as owners of a 410 sprint car.

"My wife didn't want me driving anymore, so we decided to venture off into the 410 class," he said as to how he got his start as a 410 owner.

Over the past decade, the list of drivers who have raced for the Sorokaches includes Richie Hartman, Alan Cole, Chad Kemenah, Justin Henderson, Curt Stroup, Jessica Zemken and Walker.

"You can't put many girls in the car and do what she can do with it," Sorokach said of Zemken.

He's been helping Zemken out at the track this season and she is expected to drive a few shows for them this year.

Sorokach said their biggest wins came over the past two years during the Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek in 2011 (Henderson) and last year (Walker).

"We've watched Tyler race before and we watched him in the Apple car, he's a very talented driver." Sorokach added. "Our other drive had up and left last year and when Tyler found out, he called me and left a message that said: 'Hey Charlie, it's Tyler Walker. You know what I am calling for, give me a call back.'"

The Hermoso Beach, Calif., racer rose to promise in the late 1990s.

He was the 1996 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year; the 1997 All-Star Circuit of Champions Rookie of the Year; the 2002 World of Outlaws Gumout Series Champion and was the most improved driver in 2004 in the United States Auto Club Silver Crown Series.

Walker raced in both the Nationwide and Camping World Trucks Series in NASCAR. In 2007, he failed a drug test while racing in the truck series.

News of Walker's return to sprint car racing ran the gamut of emotions from fans on both Twitter and Facebook.

"I will do anything I can to help Tyler out," Sorokach added. "It just seems like he's in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fans would rather throw his career and life away. What kind of car owner would I be if I did not help out the guy? A lot of owners would have fired him on the spot. I told Tyler, you don't have to worry, you are not fired over this, you are still my driver as long as you can come in here and run."

One of Walker's biggest wins came in 2011 at Eldora Speedway in the King's Royal after Sammy Swindell blew a tire coming to the checkered flag.

"We don't have a schedule as of yet as I am waiting on Tyler to get one to me," Sorokach said as to when the team plans to be at the tracks. "I am hoping the (coal) industry turns around. When the industry is going good, you can make a lot of money, but the 410 will eat it right up. I would like to be out there every week racing, but, financially, we just can't do it right now."

Charlie and Dawn Sorokach are sticking by their driver in some tough times. No part of the country has known more tougher times than those in the coal region. Tyler Walker is lucky to have people like Charlie and Dawn in his corner and for his sake, let's hope they can help smooth out the road he travels so that he can get back to being a winning sprint car driver with a class-act team.