Racing for a rush
Stock car racing. It just gets into your blood. And, it is hard to give it up.
Why would anyone want to? That is the question that Randy Winter poses to anyone who questions his hobby.
Winter is one of a group of Faribault County residents who pour a lot of time and money into their sport of choice – racing cars.
Winter is the ‘grand daddy’ of the group.
The Winnebago resident has been racing stock cars every summer for the past 30 years. One year after graduating from high school.
“My wife even painted a slogan on the back of my car,” Winter points out. It reads “30 years – Winter Racing Team – 1981-2011- Too Dumb To Quit.”
His wife owns her own business in Winnebago – Laura Winter Photography. She is the self-proclaimed single member of the Randy Winter pit crew.
Plus, she takes a lot of pictures of the races.
The couple each has another job. Randy works as a welder in Mankato, while Laura is employed as a graphic designer in Estherville, Iowa.
“That’s right,” Laura admits. “In the morning, Randy heads north and I head south. It is a lot of driving.”
But, not so much driving that they aren’t willing to travel with a stock car on a trailer every weekend of the summer season.
On Thursday, Aug. 4, for instance, they were in Jackson for the races there. The next night, Friday, they were in Fairmont racing. Then, Saturday, they loaded up and headed back to Jackson.
“It was the county fair there in Jackson, and I always enjoy racing there,” Randy says.
He is not the only Winnebago resident who enjoys racing. In the slot in the pits next to Winter are two cars belonging to Doug Jenkins and his daughter Mackenzie.
That’s right, girls like to race fast cars, too.
The now 21-year-old Mackenzie has been racing for seven years – since she was in seventh grade.
“I started with the Hornet class, and raced them for six years,” Jenkins says. “This is my first year with the Hobby Stock class.”
Hornets are pretty much beginner cars, the senior Jenkins explains. The cars are all front-wheel drive with four-cylinder engines.
“It is a good way to learn how to get around the track without a lot of speed,” Jenkins says.
Mackenzie says now that she has graduated to the ‘big time’ she is really enjoying the thrill of the increased speed.
Each class of stock car indicates an increase in engine size, horsepower, suspension and tire size. Besides the Hornet and Hobby Stock there is Sport Modified and A-Modified.
Doug Jenkins has been relegated to pit crew status for a few weeks, due to back surgery.
But, that doesn’t mean that his car is on the disabled list as well.
Car No. 1 is still flying around the track, but with a new man at the steering wheel – someone more used to speeding around Faribault County in a squad car.
Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Scott Adams is enjoying some track time.
“Doug knew I used to race and he agreed to let me race in his car for six weeks while he recovers from his back surgery,” Adams says. “And, I am enjoying every minute of it.”
Adams is no stranger to the track and racing.
For seven years, from 2000 to 2006, he had a ‘cruiser’ besides his sheriff’s cruiser.
“A cruiser is a 4-door stock car run by two men,” Adams explains. “One guy steers and the other guy runs the gas.”
For the first year, fellow officer Todd Duit was Adams ‘gas-man.’ For the next six years it was Dan Rickert.
“It was a lot of fun,” both Adams and Rickert say. But then, the cruiser class was eliminated from the circuit, due to lack of numbers of cars.
“I still have the racing bug,” Adams says. “I’m just happy that Doug is giving me this chance to compete again.”
Adams admits he is not being overly aggressive on the track because he is driving a ‘loaner.’
“I sure don’t want to wreck Doug’s car,” he laughs. As far as the financials go, Adams pays his own way into the race. But if he wins any prize money, it goes to Jenkins.
“I won a little last week, when I took seventh place,” Adams says. “Doug got my winnings, but I doubt it even paid the fuel cost.”
There is yet another Winnebago resident out trying to make a name for himself in the stock car racing world.
Right across the lane in the pits from Winter and Jenkins is Winnebagoan Dustin “Squid” Wannarka.
Wells also has a driver on the stock car circuit.
Ned “Nedder” Kalis is just 21 years old, but he is a seasoned veteran when it comes to driving fast.
After all, he has been racing for the past 10 years.
“I started with go-karts when I?was about 11,” he says. “Then I raced in the Hornet class at Fairmont.”
He drove the Hornets for half a season in 2003, then won the Hornet championship in the 2004 season.
“I jumped right into stock cars after that, in 2005,” he says. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
That isn’t all he does, of course. Kalis is a full time college student at South Dakota State University in Brookings. He is a senior agronomy student.
With college classes starting soon, Kalis will be driving home from Brookings every weekend so he can continue to race.
Then in September, he has to take off a week of school in order to head to Boone, Iowa, for the Super Nationals.
Kalis has been winning a lot of races, including three out of four in the past two weeks.
“The one I didn’t win, I was third,” he adds.
Kalis has a large contingent of family, friends and sponsors who follow his racing and wear Kalis racing T-shirts.
His dad, two brothers, nephew, cousin and uncle all help out with the car and the pit crew chores.
“I don’t know why, I just love it,” Kalis says. “I really enjoy it.”
The others agree, saying they can’t imagine not doing it.
“Yeah, it is an adrenaline rush,” says substitute driver and deputy sheriff Scott Adams. “Racing just gets into your blood and it’s hard to give it up.”