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Racers refine their cars just to crash them
Figure 8 races will be held this Sunday at the rodeo grounds.
By Miller N. Resor and Jackie Borowski, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: July 25, 2012
The first step to entering Sunday’s Figure 8 races at the Teton County Fair is finding a car.
Racers begin looking as soon as their last car is crumpled and still covered in the dirt of last year’s race.
They search car websites and Craigslist. They leave sticky notes on beat-up cars on the street. Michael Wold, the 2009 champion who this year is driving the Cowboy Coffee Co. car, has in the past leased a car from an auto junkyard.
Cars must be front-wheel drive, 4-cylinder automobiles with a maximum 104-inch wheel base. No turbos, pickups or 4x4s are allowed.
All rigs must have seat belts and securely fastening driver-side doors.
Jake Vosika, who will be racing the Teton Rental and Asymbol Imaging car, said, “Because I go to school at the University of Wyoming, if I see a car for $300, I’m gonna stop and look at it. It’s going to save me money in the long run. So I’ll start right after my car gets crashed.”
He ended up finding a ’91 Ford Escort to enter in this year’s race.
To get a car ready to take a pounding, all glass, mirrors and taillights must be removed. Antifreeze and all other additives must be purged. Then a driver’s window net must be installed, and the driver’s door must be painted orange or green to help avoid direct hits from other cars.
After that, it’s, “Gentlemen, start your engines ...”
Of course, drivers are looking to win and look good doing it. Some invest in tires, belts and paint jobs. Others cut the muffler off just to make the car “sound a little better,” Vosika said.
This year, Mike Parillo at Asymbol Imaging is doing the Teton Rental paint job. Vosika, entering his third Figure 8, has decorated his past cars as an American flag and with a Husqvarna theme.
Driving in the Figure 8s is the way Vosika, who grew up in Jackson, stays involved in the Teton County Fair.
“I was always there since I had 4-H cows and stuff,” he said. “It’s like an excuse to get road rage and drive around with the biggest smile on your face. There’s no way to really explain it. It’s fun. You go out there, you bash into people, you get bashed around, and you get to go fast.”
Wold grew up racing his friend’s Ford Mustang on South Dakota’s back roads.
“I probably got away with a few things at a young age that made me a pretty good driver,” he said.
Watching the Figure 8s after moving to Jackson, he told himself, “I could do that.”
Two years later, he won the race.
“It’s 51 percent skill, 49 percent luck,” he said. “I’m not really a road-rager, but it is a chance to be a totally aggressive driver.”
Wold found a Volkswagen Jetta to race this year. It’s a good car, so he didn’t have to do much except add an external starter to replace the faulty ignition.
To offset his costs, he is putting a large Cowboy Coffee sticker on the hood and Wilson Hardware stickers on each side. His final sponsor, Teton Drive Sign, gets a sticker on the trunk.
He also added some big speakers in the back, because he likes loud music along with the roar of the engine.
“I just like to keep the crowd happy and put on a good show,” Wold said.
Logan Carter was not so lucky. Carter is entering a ’93 Mazda Protege he drove in a Figure 8 race in Driggs, Idaho. The Mazda survived that bashing, but he had to repair a CV joint and later find a way to start the car without the ignition after his key broke off inside. He spent two days welding the CV joint back together, rerouting the ignition and removing the steering wheel lock.
The race, which has become the most popular event at the fair, is set on a track in the shape of a figure 8. Sunday night, the winning racer will be the first to complete 15 laps in the preliminary heat and 20 laps in the final. Each heat has six cars, and three racers advance from each heat. Up to 33 cars are expected to enter the event.
Rules governing the race are so loose that mayhem, not micromanagement, is the goal. Racers can be disqualified for hitting another racer’s driver side door, going in reverse or leaking gas. But that’s about it.
“I feel like I’m on the LA interstate, but I can bash people,” Vosika said. “It’s fun. And who cares if their car gets wrecked or my car gets wrecked? We’re all out there to have a good time.”