Nevada City native Happy Ferree making mark at Colorado speedway
Special to The Union
On first glance at the Snap-On Tools Pro Truck drivers roster, one could get the idea the name Happy Ferree would be one contrived for show. But that’s certainly not the case – that’s this young driver’s real name.
Ferree, who moved to Windsor three seasons ago, has quickly become a fan favorite among many at Colorado National Speedway in Erie. The 24-year old driver, who is originally from Nevada City, sits No. 2 in points in the Pro Trucks at CNS behind leader Chris Muhler, 195-182.
Ferree, middle name Lee, had a solid opportunity to move even closer in points during last Saturday’s action at the Speedway, but had to settle for sixth in the Main Event, won by Bear Lynch. Yet with five events left on the season’s schedule that ends Sept. 25, he has an excellent opportunity to pull out the championship. Overall, through six of the seven events he has participated in, he has two wins, a second, third, fourth and sixth.
Now, about that name.
“That is my official name on the birth certificate, given to me by mom (Patty) who didn’t think she was going to be able to conceive,” said Ferree, who won Saturday’s Trophy Dash at CNS. “Mom and dad (Dennis) were so happy about it that it became my name. Yes, some people do think it’s a bit strange.”
That might be, but with a name like Happy it does draw attention. Yet the talent of Ferree is also drawing a lot of attention, not only at CNS, but nationally. From Sept. 13-16 he will be at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina to take part in the prestigious Richard Petty Drivers Search.
The search for drivers, though, is officially over. Only 12 drivers from more than 150-plus applicants are selected to take part in this four-day, multiple task driver’s education event.
The participants will use a multiple module format, with each module designed to test a specific skill or set of skills. The scoring is points based, with a defined number of points awarded in each module. The driver who receives the highest overall score is named ‘Top Driver’ and recognized as the event’s winner.
“It’s always exciting to get accepted for something that is the next level forward,” said Ferree, who began his driving career in motorcycles at the age of 10. “I’m just going there level-headed and hope to come out on top. Right now it is in God’s hands as to what He has for me. I’m just honored to be a part of this team and with all the things that are happening.
“The sky is the limit for me,” said Ferree, who was the 500cc Intermediate Division fifth-place finisher in 1998 and named class Rookie of the Year in California. “With racing I want to climb as high as I can. I want to know that I tried my hardest for my dad, who passed away when I was 16. It is not about the money, it is not about the fame. I just want to know that I can compete with the best of the best. And I want to be the best I can be myself and grow.”
Ferree began racing in the Box Stock/Briggs and Straton Division of the Outlaw go-Karts 1995 and placed 9th in the championship standings. He moved to the 125cc division in 1996 and was the Rookie of the Year with an 8th-place finish. In 1997 his was fifth in the 125cc division.
Ferree, who has Guilty.com and Pacific Framing Contractors as his major sponsors, began racing cars in 2000 in the MMCA Asphalt Modified Touring Division in California. He ran a partial season in 2001 then dropped out with the death of his father. He returned to racing in 2003 and was the High Points Modified Champion at All American Speedway in Roseville, California. He then dropped out again and didn’t race until 2008, coming to Colorado.
“I’m excited and honored to be a part of that top 12 at Richard Petty and to be accepted into something like that off the stats and a phone interview,” said Ferree, whose Pro Truck already sports a big No. 1 on its side. “This is pretty big for me. I’m excited about going there and giving it my best. More importantly, having the chance to learn about things I haven’t had a chance yet and learning from instructors that I’ve never had. Whether or not I come up on top I will leave there a better driver.”
Car owner Steve Johnson and crew chief Don Shank feel their young driver has certainly matured over the past two seasons. Ferree crewed for Johnson for a season-and-a-half until Johnson gave him a four-lap test in a Pro Truck on a test day. Right after that, Johnson was ready to put his young driver on the ovals.
“I believe in Hap,” Johnson said. “We are going to North Carolina and we’re going to win it. It’s a big jump up, but we think we are there. NASCAR needs a Happy Ferree. there is a Kyle Busch and others out there doing their thing and I think Happy can be the next super star. I don’t think there is a drawback to Happy, I think he has the full package.
“We brought him out here for a change of atmosphere and a change of pace,” Johnson said. “We kind of found he was stuck in Modesto and he needed some more exposure. At the end of the day, this has been a good transformation for Happy and we are looking for the best opportunity we can find for him.”
And, there has been little doubt the move by Ferree to Colorado has been a benefit for him and yet, another learning experience. And that has set well with CNS track manager Scott Backman and the track photographer Joe Starr.
“Happy is a heck of a race car driver and has been kind of wild,” Backman said. “I think Steve and his whole team have calmed him down. He is kind of a different racer this year. The kid has an extreme amount of talent and if he can just keep his emotions in check, he’s got it. When the races started in the past, he would try and make something happen. He has matured a lot and has a different attitude this year. One, we all like.”
Said Starr, “There is going to be some contact out there and when he wins some people blame him for all the problems. It doesn’t mean they are all his problems, but right now it is his turn in the barrel. He has a lot of fans out here, just look at the Happy Flag up in the corner of turn one where his family and friends are all at. He has all the talent to go to the next levels.”
Shank is more than pleased with the level Ferree has attained over the past season.
“He has matured a great deal,” Shank said. “He was aggressive, perhaps a bit to much, but he has garnered a level head about himself. He does have a wealth of talent and can certainly go far in racing.”
Ferree had high praise for all the members of his team and credits them with his success.
“Again, I’m just honored to be a part of this team and with the things that are going on right now,” Ferree said. “I’m having a great season. When I went back to California I took a really long look at myself and figured out there are things I need to change. So I have changed my mindset to come out here and do some points racing and do it right.”
And the change of mindset could lead to multiple championships in the future.
Scott Stocker is a contributing writer for MetroNorth Newspapers in Colorado.
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