Like many racers, Arlington, Texas native Anton Hernandez knows about making sacrifices.
“After high school, I bought a truck for $500 and drove out to Indiana with my gear bag to go racing. I’ve slept on couches, in basements, even my truck. It is a struggle leaving your friends and family, but I want to race for a living,” he noted.
A winner in everything he has driven, and a champion in several, the 21-year-old recently added the 2019 IMCA Excaliber Graphics Indiana Racesaver Sprints title to his resume.
A first-generation racer, Hernandez’s start came in 2005 at the age of seven, when his father David took him to some drag bike races looking for something they could do together on weekends.
Insurance regulations kept Anton off of the drag bikes, so racing go-karts was another option. A welding inspector by trade, David built a kart from scratch for his son.
The youngster went on to claim 13 of the 25 races he ran that year, earning the championship as well as Rookie of the Year accolades in the track’s entry level division.
“That first go-kart my dad built, he just winged it and made a car and it worked pretty well!”
During his 10 years racing go-karts, Hernandez earned over 100 feature wins and six championships at three different tracks. Those six championships also included Rookie of the Year accolades.
Former USAC and CORA midget racer Rick Bailey has played a major role in Anton’s career. In 2011, on the advice of his son, who had raced BMX bikes with Hernandez, Bailey went to evaluate the go-kart driver for his micro-sprint mentoring program.
That night, not knowing Bailey was watching, Hernandez won from the back of both his heat races, and then the feature, lapping the field up to third place.
Bailey was not only impressed by what Hernandez displayed on the track, but also what he observed in the pits.
Bailey has unique criteria when looking for prospective drivers: what kind of a rig they show up with.
“I’ve always picked out the guy, dad and son, working out of a little trailer or out of the back of their pick-up truck. And sure enough, when I walked up and watched Anton, that’s exactly what was going on. He was working out of the back of a pickup truck; they didn’t even have a trailer.”
Indeed, money was tight.
“Every penny we had went to us trying to make the races,” admitted Hernandez. “My dad only had two pairs of pants and they eventually would get holes in them because he would rather put money into the race car.”
DOB: – February 10, 1998
HOMETOWN: – Arlington, Texas
SERIES: – USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series,
– Midwest Sprint Car Series, 25-30 local shows
SPONSORS: – Baldwin Brothers Racing, LLC Fox Paving Custom
– Commodities Transport PXP Racewear
– Duck Investments Velocita-USA
Bailey went with another driver with similar talent for his program that next season and encouraged Anton to gain a grasp of the mechanics involved in making a race car fast.
As promised, he contacted Anton in 2013 to join his program full time. Between running for his father, Bailey, and other car owners, Hernandez won over 30 micro features.
It was no longer just a hobby; racing was becoming a career.
In 2015, Anton secured a midget ride with former ASCS sprint car driver Roger Oakes to run the POWRi Lucas Oil West Midget Series. Oakes had seen Anton race micros and was interested in putting him in a midget.
Both driver and car owner were new to midget racing, and with Bailey in their corner, they quickly became acclimated to the cars. When the curtain closed on the season, the results were typical Anton Hernandez: Rookie of the Year and another championship.
Anton also has bragging rights as the winner of a Golden Driller with his 2017 Tulsa Shootout win in the 1200cc mini-sprint division. The victory came driving as a teammate to Hoosiers Andy and Scott Bradley.
The brothers also run in the IMCA Indiana Racesaver 305 Sprint Series and Andy was able to hook Anton up with car owner Tom Smith for a ride in 2018.
His first season in the series resulted in six wins, a fourth-place finish in the point standings, and another opportunity to run for Smith.
He followed-up in 2019 with 12 top-five finishes, including four wins. An October fifth-place finish at Kokomo’s season finale enabled him to clinch the title, bringing his career championship total to eight.
A month later, driving again for Roger Oakes, but this time in a non-winged 360 sprinter, Anton swept both nights of the POWRi-sanctioned inaugural Turkey Bowl at New Mexico’s Vada Speedway Park.
Hernandez is on a roll. His phone keeps ringing and his future looks bright. In November it was announced that he will team up with former USAC champion car owner Ken Baldwin to make a run for the 2020 AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year title.
Chances are good he’ll do it. History does repeat itself.