Shootout Plays Starring Role in Racer's Acting Career
Many young racers participating in Lowe's Motor Speedway's Summer Shootout Series are honing their driving skills with dreams of becoming stars in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
Dean Lyons, on the other hand, is competing in the Summer Shootout's Fractured Prune Legends Car Masters division with hopes of becoming a star in the commercials shown during the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series telecasts.
Lyons, 49, of Boone, N.C., has numerous skills and multiple occupations, but recently began acting, and is using his auto racing skills to stand out from his fellow thespians.
"There aren't a whole lot of actors who can both act and drive," Lyons said. "I have a little more to offer than other actors because I can diversify. I can do the on-camera stuff and I can also do the driving."
Lyons started acting in local ads and recently appeared in NASCAR-related commercials for Pizza Hut and Toyota. He also had a small role in the 2006 racing movie "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."
"One of my relatives is an actor and he told me that I have the look that production companies like to use in NASCAR-style commercials," Lyons explained. "I went to some acting workshops, got an agent and started getting some gigs. A few commercials led to more commercials, and then I got into a few movies."
Lyons' driving ability helped him land a part in Toyota's NASCAR-themed commercial that featured Darrell and Michael Waltrip racing parade floats.
"A stunt driver in the area suggested I start out as a precision driver and that is how I got the Toyota commercial," Lyons said. "I was driving one of the pickup trucks as the stunt drivers weaved in and out of us. We had to move at a very precise speed while pulling parade floats. It was really cool."
Lyons has been pleasantly surprised by what he's already been able to achieve during his brief acting career.
"I didn't know much about acting, I just decided to go for it," he said. "It was one of those things where I thought I would give it a try and see what happened and it has turned out better than I ever thought."
In addition to racing and acting, Lyons works as the ski patrol director at Sugar Mountain Resort in Banner Elk, N.C., during the winter and operates a landscaping business during the summer. He has also been a semi-professional cyclist for more than 25 years.
"When I quit motocross, I needed something to satisfy my need for speed so I got a bicycle and after my first race I was hooked," Lyons said.
"I figured I would race bicycles until I could afford a race car and finally, after 1,400 bicycle races, I was able to purchase a Legends Car."
Lyons still competes in nearly 45 cycling races a year. He also serves as an official for USA Cycling-sanctioned events and has started coaching young cyclists.
"There is so much I can carry over from racing bicycles to car racing; and from car racing to bicycle racing," Lyons explained. "I love them both. I enjoy that thrill of overcoming something, overcoming fears and anxieties."
Lyons attended Lowe's Motor Speedway's Summer Shootout Series for several years as a spectator before competing in the 10-race series.
"I was coming to help a friend who raced and I kept saying that one day I would get into a Legends Car. So last year, I rented a car for the first six races and then I bought my car," Lyons said. "I picked up a sponsor a couple of weeks ago, Sledgehammer Charlie's Smokehouse & Grill, so he's helping me and he wants to help me next season too."
Once the Summer Shootout concludes, Lyons plans to focus on securing additional acting roles.
"I'd really like to get more principal roles in commercials and especially more driving roles. I wouldn't mind getting into stunt driving either," Lyons said. "In a lot of ways, acting is just like racing. Once they fire the gun or wave the flag, you have to get out there and go for it."
The 14th annual Summer Shootout concludes Tuesday night, Aug. 7. Admission is just $7 for adults. Children 6-12 are admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free. Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m.