Jay Lemmons took good luck wishes from his 2-year-old son, Dimitri, before taking his borrowed 1997 Chevrolet Camaro Batmobile onto the Douglas County Speedway racetrack on Saturday for his first time racing.
Just a few hours before the race, his mother-in-law, Kathy Watson, and her sister, Rita Johnson, were fitting him into the car, stuffing blankets and pillows around the seat to make sure he would be safe.
“I’ve always loved cars,” Lemmons said. “I’ve built street cars before. Hopefully, this will get me on the track more.”
Watson raced in the ‘80s and her father, Roy Harvey, 89, has been racing for almost 50 years. In 2013, he flipped over the concrete barricade at the end of the track where a wall of tires now sits and landed upside-down.
“We were out here always,” Watson said. “I can’t imagine what else would be in his blood but racing, that’s what my husband said.”
Both women are on the Pacific Racing Association board which holds the Chili Cook-off Enduro 200 race.
“It’s great family fun,” Johnson said. “This event is unique because the spectators watch from the pit.”
This was only the second year of the event, but 22 racecars registered. Only three people entered the chili competition, however.
Clouds hung overhead for the whole race, but it didn’t rain until the winner was announced. Five sections of the track were kept wet to even the playing field.
“It’s generally too wet this time of year, but this race runs rain or shine,” Johnson said. “This is the first event of the year. It’s just a good fun race to get everybody together. It’s a race family fun day.”
Johnson said the association starts planning the race in November and it kicks off the rest of the racing season.
The race is a no contact, 200 lap, 75-mile endurance race where any pit stops cost the individual drivers time. Before the race started, the drivers met to answer questions about the race’s rules. Each driver then drew a number to determine their starting position.
At the end of the pit area was a 1989 Toyota Corolla hatchback painted a patchwork of bright colors with “Putt-Putt” written on the side.
“So they don’t expect much,” driver April Hillyard said.
She had her six children paint the car and brought them out to the track on Saturday to see her race.
“It’s kind of a family event,” she said. “I grew up watching it.”
On the first lap, “Putt-putt” overheated and had to be pushed off the track. Hillyard’s daughters hurried over from the other end of the track to watch Hillyard’s husband, Zane Hillyard, and some friends get the car ready to get back on the track.
April Hillyard got back on within a matter of minutes and caught up to sixth place before the race was over.
“I didn’t wreck, that was my goal,” Hillyard said. “Let’s do it again.”
Lemmons was not as lucky as Hillyard. His aunt-in-law said the radiator blew out about halfway through and he couldn’t start back up.
Racer Mike Batman won the race, followed in second by Bob Vancil. Jimmy Smith finished third ahead of Mike Kennerly and Brian Lane. Valatie West won the chili cook-off.