Racing unites ‘gaggle of Umbergers’
Six members of family enjoy competing against one another
Racecar drivers are often referred to as gear heads.
They spend all their free time tinkering with their hobby, even when there are household chores that need addressed.
This tradition goes so far back in the Umberger family, racing and tinkering with cars is second nature.
Sherman and Dale Umberger grew up watching their dad work at an automotive repair shop weekdays and race cars on weekends.
Now, they work in the automotive parts field and race on weekends.
Their boys are grown and race cars on weekends and it won’t be too long before their grandchildren are racing.
“All of us are gear heads and car people since we were born,” said Dale’s son, Brandon. “We’ve been gear heads our whole life. It’s been instilled in us since we were born. That’s all we’ve ever known.”
On most weekends, six members of the Umberger family race at Western Colorado Dragway. Another is usually there helping in the pits. A couple more race occasionally.
There are so many of them racing, it’s hard not to notice.
“We went to Boise last year,” Sherman’s son, Trent, said. ‘They were floored how many of us come out to race. At that time, there were nine of us there as a group.”
The group included Trent’s uncle, Wayne, and his cousin, Josh.
“When we went to Boise last year, the announcer goes, ‘Here comes Brandon Umberger. Here comes Dale Umberger. Here comes Sherman Umberger. How many Umbergers (are) there up here?!’” Dale said. “There was … 10 of us? ‘We’ve got a gaggle of Umbergers!’ It was real hilarious.”
The “gaggle of Umbergers” will likely be noticed this weekend in one of the biggest drag races in the West at the NHRA Summit Racing Series Division 7 finals in Las Vegas, Nev.
Dale and Brandon have been to a Summit Racing Series division final race before, but it is the first time Sherman, Trent and Steven are going.
Steven, 26, said he probably wouldn’t go to Las Vegas if not for his family.
“I’d have to say no,” Steven said. “I’m the type of person I have one element. If I’m out of my element, I don’t feel comfortable.”
Racing has become rehabilitation for Steven, who flirted with breaking the law in his early 20s, and got a woman pregnant. That’s when he realized he needed to change his ways.
“If I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” Steven said.
“I’d rather spend money than go out there and get in trouble. I work and race. That’s what I do. It keeps me out of trouble and gives me something to do. I’ve been around it all my life, so I might as well.”
Steven is driving his dad’s former car, a 1985 Monte Carlo, while he’s building a 1963 Nova for next year.
They all drive Chevrolets and wouldn’t drive anything else, although Steven tinkered with Hondas and owns a Ford.
“I have a Ford and that’s my daily driver,” Steven said. “It gets me from point A to point B. I’m trying to sell it. I was into Hondas and they thought something was wrong with me.”
Sherman had to give up drag racing two years ago when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
“Everybody out here (at the dragway) has given great support,” Sherman said. “I got down to 90 pounds. My work (Bookcliff Auto Parts) held my job. They gave me a good life.”
He received treatment and returned to the race track last year and won his first race at the track in his first race back. His cancer is in remission.
“That’s a blessing from above,” Steven said. “It was definitely a rough time. After seeing him go through that and go back down the track again brought tears to my eyes.”
Sherman is known for his 1968 Camaro, which is painted black, with the Batman logo on the doors. He hands out Batman stickers to people of all ages occasionally at races.
“I’ve always been a Batman fan,” Sherman said. “Everybody liked it in Idaho. The announcer would say, ‘Here comes the Batman car.’”
Sherman and Dale race in the Pro ET class with their cousin, Gary Umberger.
Although they all admit to helping each other out with an extra part when needed, it gets competitive when they approach the starting line.
“It’s family and fun even though we’re as competitive as hell,” Dale said. “We’re still family and we help each other. That’s the whole object. We share a lot of stuff. We have big food parties when we go out of town.”
Dale relished racing Brandon in his old 1977 Chevette until Brandon won the Pro ET track championship and moved up to the Super Pro class.
“Racing Brandon, it’s like, ‘This old man is going to whip your (butt),’” Dale said. “It doesn’t happen … usually.”
Now, Brandon races against his cousin, Trent and his 1967 Camaro, in the Super Pro class.
Brandon bought and built a 1934 Roadster to race this year, but sold it in August after he found out his wife was pregnant with their second girl.
“I’m trying to be an adult about it,” Brandon said. “I don’t need two race cars.”
Trent is getting the better of Brandon this year and leads the points series at the track.
“Here as a family we butt heads and fight,” Trent said. “When we go out there (Las Vegas), we go as a team to kick some butt.
“We’re definitely all competitive in that nature.”
Trent has a 5-year-old son, who is always at the track and wants to start racing junior dragsters next year.
“This is what brings us all together,” Steven said. “We have fits and arguments like any family, but this here brings us all together.”