Wheels are not just part of the family business, they are a way of life for the Wheeler family.
Wheel-A-Way Trailer Sales Inc. at 3113 S. Ridgewood Ave. in Edgewater sells and services a full line of boat, dump, enclosed and utility trailers. They have a full parts department, employ 10 people and, of course, they sell trailer tires. The Wheeler family also has four generations of racers.
Matt Wheeler’s dad and business partner, Denny Wheeler, started racing at age 16 in 1960 with a Ford flathead coupe, and was the International Super Modified champion in 1983. Matt started racing in 1997 when he was about 25 years old and currently races Florida modified (open wheeled modified). His son Maxwell, now 10, was only 7 years old when he started racing quarter midgets. The fourth generation? Well that was Denny’s dad, Judd Wheeler, and he raced a different kind of horsepower. He raced harness horses.
Denny and his wife, Judey, owned motorcycle businesses in New Hampshire and New York. They were also Goodyear Tire dealers. Their son, Matt, worked in the business, and then opened Wheel-A-Way Trailer Sales in Florida in partnership with his father in November 2002. Judey is the bookkeeper and also the biggest fan at their races. Well, maybe the second biggest fan. Matt’s 6-year-old daughter Molly is titled “PR,” or public relations, for the racing Wheelers as she travels the pits. She also has started training to race quarter midgets. Matt’s sister, Alison, cheers them on at races.
Matt’s dad, Denny, now acts as crew chief. He also takes care of the Wheeler’s “toy shop,” also known as the shop in Edgewater where they work on their race cars. They had to separate it from Wheel-A-Way Trailer Sales as that business grew.
Wheel-A-Way started out two and a half miles north of the current location in a 2000-square-foot building. Now the growing business is in a 7000-square-foot building. The Wheeler family hails from the Northeast, where their name was pronounced “Wheela.” That explains the business name, Wheel-A-Way. But there is a second explanation. A business friend always said, “There’s a right way, a wrong way and a wheel a way.”
The family has raced at the New Smyrna Beach race track’s “Little Smyrna” infield track inside the bigger track, at Spacecoast Speedway on the outskirts of Palm Bay, and at Daytona International Speedway at the U.S. Auto Racing Club National Quarter Midget Race in 2020. That race didn’t happen in 2021 due to the pandemic, but will hopefully be back next year.
Maxwell’s quarter midget goes about 60 mph. (There are restrictors in the cars to control top speeds, depending on age and experience). Matt’s cars travel at speeds up to 160 mph.
Matt’s wife, Nancy, is treasurer of the New Smyrna Beach Quarter Midget Club that her son competes in. Nancy worked in the family business until Covid-19 kept her at their New Smyrna Beach home schooling the two children. Matt said his wife initially had reservations about signing Maxwell up, but is now a big fan, though “it took a few years.”
Matt has earned four track championships, one at New Smyrna Beach, one at Orlando Speed World, one at Evans Mills Speedway in upstate New York and one at NORA, a traveling series based out of upstate New York. His race car always has two passengers – Matt and a life size ET, who has been in the car with him since 1997.
“I typically wreck if ET isn’t in the car with me,” Matt laughs. His dad watched the ET movie, and told him, “Look ET made them miss that wreck.” So he bought ET for Matt and the rest is history.
There have been some wrecks, and some injuries. Denny suffered broken bones “before equipment got better and safer” he said. Matt hasn’t been injured. “I’ve been lucky,” he said.
Denny has ended up on his roof during a race, and so has Maxwell. “It missed a generation,” Matt joked. He has not ended up upside down in his car – yet.
Matt said he grew up at race tracks. “If you’re a competitive person, it’s great,” he said. “Man and machine against other men and machines.”
He added that racing has actually slowed him down on the highways “I don’t need to go fast there,” he said. Just on the racetrack.