For more than 30 years, Chuck Gafrarar raced karts, earning multiple championships in the World Karting Association and the International Kart Federation.
But when he realized the future that his 6-year-old son, Caleb, had in the sport, the Concord resident suddenly changed his focus.
“I’ve gone into retirement,” said Chuck Gafrarar, who once competed in NASCAR’s Goody’s Dash Series. “I’m now giving him 110 percent at the track rather than worrying about me.”
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Two events that made Chuck realize his young son’s potential occurred at two different tracks. One came at Kershaw, S.C., when he earned the pole for his first national event. The other came during a practice session at GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville.
“We are out there running and all of a sudden it started raining,” Chuck recalled. “I went back out because I wanted to figure out why I finished where I did in a race there when it was raining. I wanted to try something different. Caleb said he wanted to go out, too. I told him I didn’t want to mount up tires. He said, ‘Dad, sometimes you have to do more.’ I looked at him, shook my head and said, ‘OK. I’m going to mount your rain tires and you can go out there, get soaking wet and spin out in the mud.’ ”
Caleb, however, didn’t spin in the mud; instead, he ended up surprising his father. He was faster on the wet track than the dry one. His lap time on the dry track was 1 minute and 27 seconds. In the rain, he cut his time by two seconds.
“The fact he went faster in the rain than he did in the dry showed me something,” Chuck said. “It showed some talent.”
Last month, in the rain, Caleb earned his first national victory in the WKA Manufacturers Cup – IAME USA Nationals at GoPro Motorplex. He defeated 15 competitors in the 5- to 8-year-old category, and the energetic boy readily admits he was “excited” when he received the checkered flag. He then asked his father if he got the big trophy as he came across the scales following the event.
In Caleb’s rookie WKA season, he sits second in the Mazda/Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup national standings, five points behind leader Adam Brickley as they head to Dousman, Wis., for the May 28-30 event. The Concord First Assembly Academy student also is second in the national WKA RLV Gold Cup Series Kid Kart standings, 40 points behind Owen Lloyd.
Caleb, who will participate in the May 23 autograph session at Circle K & Kangaroo Speed Street in Charlotte from 4:30-5:30 p.m., traveled to Kershaw for his first national event last year at age 5.
“He sat on the pole against 12 other kids from all over the country. That was the moment when I saw that my helmet was going on the shelf,” said Chuck, who operates Chuck G Fabrication in Concord. “I was like, the torch is being passed. It was kind of cool because I had been traveling the Pro Tour the past couple of years and the family didn’t get to go.”
That’s not the case now; however, as Caleb’s twice-a-month events allow the family to travel together. Karting for Caleb’s age group also is a family sport, and his mother, Jacqueline, notes that makes it enjoyable.
“We know the moms and the dads. We all get along, and we all hang out together at the track,” explained Jacqueline, who is the general manager of JHE Productions’ nonprofit division. “The kids play. When Caleb is in that go-kart, he is focused on attempting to win the race, but when he gets out of that go-kart, he is a 6-year-old boy playing with his friends that he just competed against.”
Chuck directed his son toward kart racing at age 4 due to his experience in that form of motorsports. He also noted it was important in racing to have fun and for him, the fun came from karting.
“Right now he is learning racecraft – how to run a race,” Chuck said. “I’m teaching him to be a clean driver, make great passes. When we go to test, I usually take a kart out and ride with him. We work on different stuff. He follows me, and I will follow him. It’s kind of cool teaching him what to do.”
Short-Track Racing Part of 600 Week
Concord’s two short tracks will host events May 22, the Friday there is no on-track activity at Charlotte Motor Speedway during Coca-Cola 600 week. For dirt track fans, The Dirt Track at Charlotte has scheduled the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Circle-K NOS Energy Outlaw Showdown. Spectator gates open at 4 p.m. with SECA late model hot laps starting at 6 p.m. Heat races begin at 7:30 p.m.
For those interested in modified and late model racing, the half-mile Concord Speedway is reopening for the PASS South Super Late Model Touring Series and the KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series. Practice begins at 1 p.m. with qualifying at 5 p.m. Racing begins at 7 p.m. On tap are 125-lap races for the super late models and modifieds, a 50-lap event for the pro late models, and a 40-lap street stock feature. Mooresville’s Zane Smith leads the PASS South Super Late Model standings, while Kodie Conner of Kannapolis is atop the PASS South Pro Late Model points. Jason Myers of Walnut Cove, N.C., leads the modified standings.
OWM at East Lincoln Speedway
East Lincoln Speedway officials have scheduled open wheel modified events two consecutive weekends this month. The 602 OWMs are slated to be at the short dirt track on May 23 with the UMP OWMs on May 30. When the 602 OWMs were at the track May 2, Greyson Stevens of Statesville emerged the victor. The UMP OWM race scheduled for April 18 at East Lincoln was rained out.
Kenny Wallace Opens Dirt Racing Experience
Concord resident, veteran driver and TV analyst Kenny Wallace’s dirt racing experience has been named the official driving experience of the World of Outlaws and DIRTcar Racing. Wallace has raced on dirt for more than 10 years and won the 2012 DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Summer Nationals. The driving experience will use several different dirt cars, including Sprints, late models, Northeast modifieds and UMP modifieds. The Kenny Wallace Driving Experience cars will be on display at selected World of Outlaws Sprint Car and Late Model series, and Super DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Series events. For more information, go to www.dirtracewithkenny.com.
Mooresville’s JR Motorsports Victorious at Hickory
JR Motorsports late model driver William Byron emerged victorious in the recent CARS Super Late Model Tour race at Hickory Motor Speedway. After starting fourth, the Charlotte native needed only 21 laps in the 125-lap event to take the lead from pole winner Stephen Leicht of Asheville. Byron was never seriously challenged for the top spot as the race went green for the final 92 laps. Byron’s JR Motorsports teammate and defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott finished second. Rounding out the top five, respectively, were Concord’s Kyle Grissom, Mooresville’s Cole Timm and Concord’s Preston Peltier.
Moody Takes Point Lead To Raleigh
Hunter Moody of Landis takes a five point standings lead over Salisbury’s Jantzen Stirewalt into the May 23 Allison Legacy Series race at Wake County Speedway. In the season’s first three races, Moody has collected two victories and Stirewalt one.
Deb Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Deb? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.