Rhodes to Success

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“Racing is a selfish sport,” Marco Andretti once quipped. In the last turn, on the last lap, Andretti had just robbed another competitor of a podium finish. He made no apologies…and no truer words were ever spoken.

Conversely, Brad Rhodes may well be the most unselfish racer I’ve ever met. He hosted foster children in his home for over a decade. Today he manages a house occupied by mentally and physically challenged adults. He finds the work rewarding…and oh yeah, did I mention that he is the 2014 Northwest Wingless Tour (NWWT) champion? The path Rhodes took to get to this point in his life was an interesting one…

He was born in North Carolina into a family of loggers. “Dad was my inspiration,” Rhodes says. “He wasn’t a racer but he was a driver.” In his early twenties, the senior Rhodes had nearly been killed in a logging accident. He walked with a profound limp but loved to drive fast. “He was a wild man on the road,” Brad insists. “That was his racing.” Early on, the family pulled up stakes and relocated to Eugene, Oregon where extended family had already settled. Rhodes learned how to drive piloting his father’s hot-rodded truck on their rural property. He even attended the races at Riverside Speedway in Cottage Grove a couple times as a boy. Though he enjoyed the spectacle, he wasn’t smitten…then. Instead it was dirt bikes that captured his fancy.

For about ten years (early nineties to 2003) Rhodes and a buddy hauled their Honda CR500’s back and forth from Eugene to the dunes. A decade of playing in the sand certainly taught him some seat-of-the-pants vehicle control. It was fun but it wasn’t racing.

Then financial hard times struck. Rhodes had trained to be a brick layer but he didn’t have the back for it. He’d switched to electrical about the time the bottom fell out. A contact back in Tennessee suggested that prospects for work might be better back there. Rhodes sold his Honda, his house, everything and moved his young family southeast. It turned out to be a huge mistake. His union training was frowned upon in a non-union market and Rhodes struggled to make ends meet. He supported his family for almost a year on $10 an hour!

A death in the Rhodes family brought him back to the northwest for the services. At that time, Brad took a hard look at what another sibling was doing which was being a foster care provider. Having been foster parents, it didn’t seem like that big of a stretch. Being the compassionate people that they are, it was a relatively easy decision for Brad and his wife to make. They returned to Oregon to pursue their new careers and the rest, as they say, is history.

Once Rhodes and his family were resettled and their financial needs were met, he began to think again in terms of recreation. He’d had a blast with his dirt bike but this time he thought he might like to try his hand at racing. On line he discovered a shop in Portland that rent race cars by the event. Rhodes was thinking a Modified or a Late Model (stock car) but it turned out that the rentals were for road racing vehicles only. Since he had no interest in racing on pavement, that might have been the end of the story but it turned out that the shop owned a Sprint Car as well. The owner of the business suggested that if Rhodes purchased his own Sprinter, they could assist him with that. One trip to Grays Harbor for a NWWT event and Rhodes was convinced.

He purchased an older car that had seen action in another non-wing club. Predictably, when Rhodes prepared to make his Sprint Car debut at Cottage Grove, the old sled refused to fire. His fortunes improved however as the season progressed. Mostly thanks to crew member Chris Petersen (a former champion himself) Rhodes learned how set up, drive, and maintain a Sprint Car. When the final checkered flag fell on 2011, Rhodes stood fifth in overall points. Better yet, he had garnered Rookie of the Year honors.

His stats continued to improve the following season and he finished one position better in points. In 2013 however, Rhodes over extended himself financially and was forced to drop off the tour. In 2014 he was back with a vengeance. By now he had a newer, more competitive chassis, a racing engine assembled by Jeff Rabourn and Petersen solidly in his corner. He had even procured some much needed sponsorship from Pro Tow and Beaverton Automotive. Rhodes commit to the entire series which took the racers to Sunset Speedway in Banks, OR and Coos Bay, as well as Grays Harbor and Cottage Grove. When the dust had settled he had no wins but two podium finishes. That coupled with a perfect attendance record enabled Rhodes to amass the points necessary to clinch the title.

Will he defend that title? “I didn’t set out to win this one,” he laughs. At mid-season he was prepared to let Petersen take over the car for one race but that event rained out. That one night’s point loss probably would have been a game changer. Either way, it doesn’t seem to matter much to the forty five year old. It’s more about the process…it’s more about the road.

World of Speed Jr Dragster Specialty Awards Driver of the Year Alisha Miller

World of Speed Jr Dragster Specialty Awards Driver of the Year Alisha Miller

Fantastic stories and laughs were had all around at the 37th Annual Woodburn Dragstrip Awards Dinner at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville. Specialty awards and championship trophies were handed out, with every person in attendance having a grand time.

In racing news, Nicholas Shepherd was honored with the Kershaw Knives Driver of the Year award, finishing fourth in the Sunoco Series Pro category as well as winning the Division 6 Race of Champions Pro Championship, representing the division in Pomona at the World Finals. RFC Chaplain’s Dave Cookman and Al Lyda were rewarded as Persons of the Year for their dedication and joy brought to everyone they meet.  Duane Merritt and Joe Adams were both awarded with the Pico Wiring Crew Member of the Year award, for their excellent work in tuning driver’s Julie Adams and Traci DePeel to a 1st and 5th place finish in the Super Pro category. Kacee Pitts earned the Most Improved Driver award for finishing with a Championship in the Wilson’s Napa High School as Powderpuff category, as well as a 4th place finish in her first year competing in the Sunoco Race Fuels ET Series Sportsman category.  Duane Stoner was crowned as Employee of the Year, Quality Concrete was awarded as Sponsor of the Year, Stephanie gross won the $1000 drawing from A-1 Performance Trans and Converters, Devon Hilton, Cliff Mansfield, and Kacee Pitts tied with the most Perfect Lights (5), sharing the award for $600 in product from NW Wholesale/Hilton Racing, the suppliers of Goodyear/Hoosier/Mickey Thompson Racing Tires.

Alisha Miller was congratulated to the highest degree in the Jr Dragster category, earning World of Speed Jr Dragster Driver of the Year honors, thanks to her 6 event wins (in 10 races), Jr Thunder Championship, and Division 6 Summit ET Finals Jr Thunder Championship. Chad Rice was the recipient of the Person of the Year Award, for his excellence in helping new drivers in the Race Cars for Kids program, as well as all other contestants. Ryan Bese concluded an excellent first year of competing in the Jr program with the Rookie of the Year honor, and Rilynn Saucy earned Most Improved Driver after going from 7th to 2nd in the Jr Storm category. Jr racers collectively voted World of Speed as Sponsor of the Year, and Kacee Pitts, Alisha Miller, and Ryan Bese earned overall #1 Qualifier awards.

We wish to thank everybody for the spectacular 2014 racing season, and hope that everyone enjoys their off season. There are only 104 days until racing season starts again!!!

2014 Season Champions

SUNOCO RACE FUELS ET SERIES
Super Pro: Julie Adams
Pro: Steve Stuart
Sportsman: Jerry Durant Jr
Motorcycle: Don DePeel
WILSON’S NAPA
High School: Kacee Pitts
 
WORLD OF SPEED JR DRAG RACING SERIES
Jr Lightning: Taylor Toftemark
Jr Thunder: Alisha Miller
Jr Storm: Ramon Vincent
 
SPORT COMPACT CHALLENGE
Sport Compact Pro: Bernd Arndt
Sport Compact Sportsman: Hoppy Hopkins
 
NOSTALGIA HOT ROD SERIES
Top Gas: Mike Miller
Hot Rod I: Rick Sales Sr
Street Machine I: Dave Bronec
Hot Rod II: Garry Heinrich
Street Machine II: Tony Bombara
Stick Shift: Dick Arnold
Inline/Flathead: CJ Stoakes
SPECIALTY SERIES
Dragster/Roadster: Steve Marcus
Super Shifter: John Masterman
Volkswagen: Devon Hilton
Pickup: Jerry Durant Jr
Olympic Iron Works Harley: John Plaster
Powderpuff: Kacee Pitts
Hole in the Hood: Jay Phillips
 
FALL ET & JR SERIES
Electronics: Bill/Tony McNeal
Transbrake: Dave Bronec
Foot Brake: Jerry Durant Jr
Jr Lightning: Kyler Pitts
Jr Thunder: Trevin Walberg
 
Specialty Awards
Kershaw Knives Driver of the Year: Nicholas Shepherd
Person of the Year: Dave Cookman & Al Lyda
Pico Wiring Crew Member of the Year: Duane Merritt & Joe Adams
Most Improved Driver: Kacee Pitts
Sponsor of the Year: Quality Concrete
Employee of the Year: Duane Stoner

A-1 Performance Trans and Converters Package for the Points Winner: Stephanie Gross

NW Wholesale/Hilton Racing Perfect Light Club Most .000’s Award: 5 Perfect Lights: Devon Hilton, Cliff Mansfield, Kacee Pitts
 
World of Speed Jr Dragster Specialty Awards
Driver of the Year: Alisha Miller
Person of the Year: Chad Rice
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Bese
Most Improved Driver: Rilynn Saucy
Sponsor of the Year: World of Speed
Most #1 Qualifiers, Lightning: Kacee Pitts
Most #1 Qualifiers, Thunder: Alisha Miller
Most #1 Qualifiers, Storm: Ryan Bese

5th Annual DOWNTOWN HISTORIC OREGON CITY CRUISE-IN

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September 13th 2014, turned out to be perfect weather wise for the Downtown Cruise-in.  The good weather no doubt contributed to the better than ever turn out, more car than any year previously.  The quality of cars was really good too.  
Several clubs showed up in mass this year and represented the Ford Mustang very well.  A whole side street of Mustangs from 1964 ½ to nearly new were spit shined and gleaming in the sun.  There was a parking lot nearly full of Nomads.

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There were Rat Rods, Street Rods, Customs, Street Machines, Cruisers, Old and new Race cars, Camaros, Corvettes, Rusty Relics, Completely Restored cars, cars under construction, Hot Rods and Late Model examples that will one day likely be collector cars themselves.

The Cruise came off almost without a hitch.  The Club, Trick ‘n Racy Cars, and the Downtown merchant association, Main Street Oregon City, had everything under control from start to finish.  The trophies/awards, were donated by local businesses and individuals, with some of them being handmade, which made them quite unique.  

The 6th Annual Cruise next year is scheduled for September 12th 2015.  Again it will be a one day cruise starting at 10:00am and ending at 4:00pm.  Put it on your calendar and come visit Historic Downtown Oregon City.

All for the love of STREET RODS & CUSTOM CARS

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Steve Kaiser didn’t play much football, basketball or baseball back in the 1940s and 50s when he was growing up. Didn’t play a musical instrument in the school band or take a class in auto shop, as Jefferson High School didn’t offer a car building program back then. He did excel in the creative arts. Thanks to his understanding of how shapes, colors and artistic form create a true work of art, and we at R&R publication are proud to bring you Mr. Steve Kaiser’s four works’ of artistic automotive wonder.

Steve was happily married for over forty years. The proud father of two fantastic kids and three grandchildren. He lost his wife Vicki to illness a few years back. He  was a dedicated employee at Boeing Air-Craft for over twenty two years and at age seventy two is enjoying his retirement. Steve has also been very active in the Toys-for-Tots program here in the Portland area. Just a few weeks ago he made a super delivery of a whole truck load of bikes  and safety helmets for kids of all ages.

Steve would like to recognize and thank the following individuals who over the past thirty plus years have played a role in the designing and building of  his four custom built creations: Russ Meeks, Richard Pruitt, Lonnie Gilbertson, Mitch Kim, Jim Sanders, The Crew at Paolo Engine Service, Lenny Roeger and Steve’s #1 good buddy Larry Wilson who worked on every car.

Mr. Kaiser, we at Roddin’ & Racin’ want to thank you for sharing your fantastic world-class artistic creations with us and our thousands of readers in the northwest. “ALL for the Love of Hot Rods and Custom Cars.”

WHAT’S IT?

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Last month we published a couple pictures of a car that as today December 19th is still unidentified.  Yes, we are still waiting for someone who knows about that car to email us, or call us and share their knowledge. However, we must not stand in the way of progress and with that in mind we have another picture of a “What’s It.”  I’ve seen something like this one before but I’m not sure what it is, who made it etc. etc.  The body is aluminum, the engine is a four cylinder Crosley we think.  The workmanship very good and it appears it’s complete.

It’s an odd looking car and it’s quite small.  Any ideas?  If you know something about this car and would like to share your knowledge please send us an email at roddinracinnw@gmail.com. Or you can give me Ed Gilbert a call at 503-522-5050.  I would like to publish the answers to “What’s it” in a coming issue of R & R NW.

If you have or know of a candidate for this type of column please respond with that info as well.  Thank you.  Ed.

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VETERANS PARADE and the MISSING IN AMERICA PROJECT

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The recent Veterans Parade was well attended with several custom cars and street rods from the Pharaohs Street Rods in the parade. The local Missing In America Project representative Bob Collison was on hand with his 1926 Ford Model T Coupe, handing out information on the MIAP program in the Hollywood district of Portland. The Pharaohs Street Rodders Car Club is one of the top fundraising groups in Oregon supporting the MIAP and the Lines for Life Veterans Programs.

The mission of the MIAP is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. And to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes.

For more information on the MIAP local programs please see their web page at www.miap.us.

MY CAR

MY Car

It was crazy hot for mid-October on the Monterey peninsula. It was dry and dusty, I was covered with grit from head to toe yet in my glory. I was a ten year old kid, one of 42,000 plus on hand to witness New Zealander Bruce McLaren destroy his competitors at Laguna Seca.

His car was the iconic M6A, a swoopy, papaya colored sports racer with a booming small block Chevy engine. This win was particularly satisfying for me as my older brother had chosen the previous year’s winner, Jim Hall to win in his high winged Chaparral. On this day however, the tall Texan was fighting over heating problems and finished a full lap behind (sorry Scotty). Tenacious George Follmer was third in a Lola driving for Roger Penske.

A year later (1968) the weatherman conjured up something completely different…rain. McLaren was back with a new, less curvaceous M8A and stuck it on the pole. “My Car” was back too, now in Penske’s Sunoco livery with capable Mark Donohue up. Atop the velocity stacks was a gaping air box and the whole package was finished in royal blue with yellow pin striping. It was pretty and fast, fast enough to claim fifth starting position on the grid. In a downpour however, Donohue struggled on slick tires, eventually finishing eighth. McLaren himself couldn’t do much better, ultimately claiming fifth. I didn’t see my car again for 28 years.

My hunch is that Penske sold the M6A to sometimes professional driver Jerry Hansen before the ’68 season concluded. If I’m right, the car probably languished as a club racer for several years after that. Hansen was one of SCCA’s most accomplished drivers and won 27 national titles but walked the thin line between being an amateur and a pro (possibly because he had a regular job and couldn’t follow the entire series). After that…who knows? My car fell off my radar until the Can-Am Reunion held in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin in July of 1996.
By then vintage racing was the rage and the M6A had been restored to its original configuration. Harry Mathews was the owner/driver and made a respectable showing, especially when you consider the evolution of the division. The year after McLaren had won his first championship, most competitors jumped to bigger displacement engines (Since there were no rules restricting this, why wouldn’t you?). Consequently, even Team McLaren’s power plants went from 359 to 427 cubic inches in one year. By the demise of the original Can-Am series in 1974, there were fire belching, twin turbo charged, monster engines in competition, some producing in excess of 1,000 horsepower!

There were over sixty cars in competition at Elkhart Lake and of the small blocks, Mathews was among the five fastest. He qualified 24th overall and held his own in the race, on a course with a long straightaway where horsepower mattered.

Also in attendance that weekend was another vintage racer named Richard Griot. When Griot inquired as to whether or not the iconic McLaren was for sale, he was told “No, I don’t think I will ever sell it”. Turns out Griot had patience and kept after Mathews, making regular calls.  In the years that followed Griot continued to grow his car care products business and in 2008, when it looked like the world was coming to an end, Mathews finally said over a routine phone call by Griot, “Fly on out and bring your checkbook”.  Griot was on a plane the very next day and the deal was done.  

Today the McLaren is the centerpiece of Griot’s personal race car collection housed at corporate headquarters in Tacoma, WA. In the same way you would never admit to having a favorite child, Griot won’t admit that the M6A is his favorite race car…but his fondness for the yellow orange missle is evident.
“Actually, it’s my car,” I told him when we met at his open house last weekend. And then I proceeded to relate my story of claiming the car as my own some 47 years ago. Griot was amused by the tale and took it in the spirit in which it was intended.
“Okay,” he smiled raising his eyebrows, “But I get to drive it!”

NORTHWEST HOUSE OF HARDTOPS

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Mark Young has been selling cars, specifically, special interest cars for more than 30 years here in Portland.  A couple years back I was driving by his store at 11834 SE Stark when I saw some cars coming out of a transport.  One was a beautiful 61 Bubble Top 409 Chevrolet and I just had to stop for a closer look.  Turns out Mark was getting back from Barrett Jackson.  My recollection of the details on that day’s events are fuzzy, but the point is Mark sells cars and buys cars at Barrett Jackson.  

Barrett Jackson’s Auction Company has turned Phoenix, more specifically Scottsdale, into a January destination for the car nuts of the world.  I don’t know which Auction Company started it for sure but Barrett Jackson is arguably the best known and the biggest.  Not to be left out though, now there are many collector car auctions happening in Phoenix in January.  Russo & Steele, Bonhams, Gooding & Co., Silver Auctions, RM Auctions and of course, Barrett Jackson.

Mark will be at this years’ Barrett Jackson Auction with 15 cars for sale as follows:

     WEDNESDAY – starts at Lot #300                                         
        # 375                1964 Gasser Nova
        # 468                1968 Camaro Convertible
        # 469                1969 Corvette Convertible
 
     THURSDAY – starts at Lot #600                                            
        # 755                1955 Ford Crown Victoria
        # 778                1968 427 Camaro
        # 848                1970 Chevelle Convertible
 
     FRIDAY – starts at Lot #900                                                  
        #1020               1956 Corvette
        #1023               1961 Austin Healey
        #1070               1970 LS6 Chevelle
 
     SATURDAY – starts at Lot #1200                                           
        #1288               1968 Hemi GTX
        #5015               1970 Hemi Challenger *
        #5024               1970 Hemi Cuda *
        #5062               1969 GTO Judge Convertible *
        #5063               1969 Yenko Camaro *
        #5051.1             1963 Bunkie Corvette *

     * These 5 cars “5000 series numbers” are Salon cars

They sell some high end cars at Barrett Jacksons Auctions and Marks cars fit right in.  If you aren’t going to Arizona in January you can watch all the action on Velocity TV.  Check it out.

BILLET PROOF HOT ROD ERUPTION DRAGS

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If you’ve never been to a Billet Proof event you have missed out on of “The Worlds Least Important Car Shows.” No kidding, that’s what they are billed as. And the Hot Rod Eruption Drags at Riverdale Raceway in Toutle Washington can best be described as what I’ve heard said many times. “It’s a Hoot!”

The drag strip is an outlaw strip, devoid of Jersey Barriers, walls, catch-fences or other gear to protect spectators from the speeding cars. Tech inspections are basic and safety requires a helmet in an open car. All the racing is heads-up on the 1/8th mile and though there is a return road, its dirt, so the cars that have raced wait at the end of the track and after a sufficient crowd forms, they all line up and parade lap back up the track to the starting line while the racers in the staging lanes wait. It’s gotta be what it was like in the beginning of drag racing.

It’s a run-what-ya-brung kind of format and I think there were some grudge matches going on out there, and if not this year, there will likely be some next year. At least one where I heard a fellow saying, “I got beat by a Volkswagen!” He was driving a Ford with a V-8. That has grudge match written all over it, don’t you think. This year was my first and the place was packed. Everything about the day is primitive at best but it was also a lot of fun. Real racecars were in attendance along with some very old school creations that frankly looked a little scary. But everything went well and I saw a lot of smiling faces. That should tell you that there was a lot of fun happening too.

The Billet Proof Hot Rod Eruption Drags appears to be an annual event so it you start now you could just about have your “Race Car” ready for next Augusts Drags at Toutle’s Riverdale Raceway.

R&G Machining Update

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I visited R & G Machining the other day to get an update on their machine shops capabilities.  It’s amazing, they can do almost any kind of machine work for engines that you might need, or they have a large stock of rebuilt parts and engines on hand.     

R & G Machining is a full service machine shop.  They can turn crankshafts, regrind camshafts, bore engines, align bore, hone, balance, do head work to include resurfacing, valve grinding, install new seats and guides, flow bench test heads, weld blocks and heads and they work on both Gas and Diesel engines, all in house.

R & G Machining also has exchange cranks, rods, cams, heads, short blocks and long blocks in stock for same day service.  And they have a full parts supply as well.  Visit their web site at www.grumpysperformancecenter.com or visit them at 27716 S. Hwy 213, Mulino, OR. or give them at call at 503-829-6038.