Vipul Telang/Photo Editor
The Avion Newspaper headed out to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to cover Late Models, Thunderstocks, Mini Stocks, and Hobby Stocks. Volusia Speedway Park is a half-mile dirt track built in 1968, and is home to some of the largest dirt track racing in the nation. The track also hosted the NASCAR Busch Series from 1989 to 1992, earning the title “the fastest half-mile in the world.”
The Avion Newspaper interviewed Michael Ridgeway, who is the owner of Ridgeway Racing and built the team’s Mini-Stock car. He drives the No. 27 car part-time along with his son.
The Avion Newspaper: How fast does the race car go?
Michael Ridgeway: Well, the car has 4 cylinders but they have racing springs, shocks, and other parts. They have special tires that only have four lug nuts. The regulations allow you to do anything you want with the motor. When the cars reach top speed, they go about 90 to 100 mph.
Q: Where all have you raced?
MR: I did race at New Smyrna Speedway a long time ago back, but I’ve mostly raced dirt tracks. I’ve been racing since 1970.
Q: What’s your favorite moment of your racing career?
MR: I’m going to have to think about that for a minute.
Q: How do you plan for a race weekend?
MR: The car will stay on trailer tomorrow [Sunday]. We start working on our car on Monday. I’ve got a checklist made up that I use every week. Starting Monday night, we take the car to the garage and check all of the nuts and bolts. We inspect everything and make notes of the parts, such as bad or loose/wearing parts. We make note of anything we see that needs to be done we replace.
If we see a shock hanging, we aren’t going to repair it. We get a new one. That’s the price to pay if you want to be competitive. Our shop is based in Deland, so we’re lucky. Most of the drivers are all over Central Florida, so they have a long drive to and from some tracks. For example, that team [over there] is based in Tampa.
Q: What’s the cost of racing?
MR: Starting with the fuel cell alone…that’s racing fuel and that’s ten dollars per gallon. A full tank will run you eighty dollars. To get into the pit lane and infield is another thirty dollars. The tires that we use are $135 a piece. To stay competitive, our car gets new tires once a month but some teams don’t have that kind of money. They buy new tires at the start of the season and hope that they last. Like I said, spending this kind of money is important to be competitive. So, in total, I’d guess it costs about $200 to $300 for a weekend at the track. Most importantly, it’s not going to feed a family for doing this type of racing. In this series, the first-place prize is only $175, making this more of a hobby than anything else. It’s definitely not a way to earn a living. My son, in his first year of high school, came up to me and asked me, “Dad, can you build me a racecar?” Believe it or not, I spent almost three hours talking him out of it. It’s a very expensive hobby to get into, and he was only working part-time because he was in high school. To put it another way, [these cars] are like having kids. You have to babysit them constantly.
Q: Did you think of your favorite racing memory?
MR: I’ve always been big with children. Our team used to take cars around high schools and ask students if this is what they want. I always tell them to stay in school and complete their education. It’s important to focus on math and science. It’s so gratifying to see kids that you’re getting through to them. My favorite moment was when we used to show up at elementary school and all of the kids realize that there’s a racecar in front of them.
They think I’m as famous as Richard Petty or Chase Elliott- I always hear, “can I get your autograph?” We had postcards with both cars, and we would sign them and hand them out to the kids. I’ve always had big heart for kids. Racing is one of those things that once it gets in your blood, it can’t get out of it. I was 16 when I started racing, and I’m 64 now. My son was 17 when he started and now he’s 40. What’s great is that my son and I are in the same division so you’ll see us out on the track at the same time.
The Avion Newspaper wishes the best for Michael Ridgeway and the Ridgeway Racing team as they close out the 2017 racing season and their endeavours in the offseason.