Driver of the Week

Driver of the Week: Cory Gilmore

Two race cars speeding around the corner of a dirt race track.
Cory Gilmore racing at Chowchilla Speedway.

Cory Gilmore

Just one year ago, if I had asked Cory Gilmore what he thought about racing, he may have shyed away and may not answered me at all. Today when I asked Cory Gilmore what he thought about racing, he confidently told me, just about everything. Young Cory Gilmore, our other 16-year-old hobby stock rookie, and “driver of the week” has gained a great deal of confidence since he started driving a race car. His mother shared that he has always been kind of quiet and kind of shy but now that he is behind the wheel of his 1972 Camaro displaying the #20G, he is gaining a new identity. 

Cory’s Story 

Cory started racing hobby stock for the first time at the beginning of the racing season. He is not quite as high in points as he would like to be, but that is mostly due to a major breakdown in the car. This caused him to miss the first 5 races which really set him back in points. Cory has already taken 1st in a heat race competing against several experienced drivers who are much older than him. What Cory likes most about driving is that it is really fun and exciting. Isn’t everything fun when your sixteen? His friends help him get motivated to race each week by challenging him at home on video games, like the Outlaw Sprints and other racing games. Cory started driving at a very young age. He drove go-karts when he was 5 out at the airport where there was lots of room. He didn’t drive again until he was 13 1/2. He drove go-karts at Altimont in a division called Briggs Jr. II. Where he won a main event.He has over 20 trophies to show for all of his many accomplishments.

Family Atmosphere

His Dad motivated him and encouraged him to drive at Chowchilla Speedway. His Dad used to drive street stock in Merced several years back. To watch his Dad at the track is also very entertaining. He tries hard not to look too concerned but it is hard to disguise, when your son is out on the track being pushed and shoved around by other drivers. Racing is rubbing, and rubbing is racing. Cory feels that he has had his share of experiencing the meaning of that. Between his inexperience, and the inexperience of others, things are bound to happen. One such incident happened a couple of weeks ago. Cory had won his heat race and was feeling very confident towards winning the main event. After the green flag, Cory’s car got loose down the back straightaway. As it turned in, his car went sideways. Two other cars pushed his car all the way to the end of the straightaway and into turn 3 sending him almost over the hill. Cory’s racing was done for the night. It was discouraging to him, since the night started out so well in the heat race. The reason I share this is because Cory felt the need to share a happy ending to this story. One of the drivers who he had tangled with was #3 Jay Connelly. Jay made several attempts to apologize to both Cory and his Dad. To me that was a very kind gesture on his part. Even though it was just racing, Jay felt it was important for them to know that nothing was done intentionally. I see this kind of integrity in the drivers at Chowchilla more than any other track I’ve been to. Cory and his Dad were grateful to know that there were other drivers out there considerate enough to take the time to acknowledge their concern for one another. The following week when Cory went to pay his entry fee, he was blown away by the fact that another driver had already paid his entry fee for him. Later that night he found out that the driver who paid it was none other than Jay Connelly. One of the best things that Cory said he liked about Chowchilla was all the people and the other drivers. This is just an example of the many kind gestures we see exchanged between drivers at Chowchilla Speedway. It is these kinds of courtesies shared between drivers that keep them coming back to race every week.

Bright Future

Cory is 16, and he is a sophomore at Golden Valley High School. With school finished for the year, Cory has lots of time to work on his car,a long with his Dad, Mark Romero, and Billy Waite. Cory says sometimes they work on the car 7 days a week, and that’s not an exaggeration. You can find these guys also in the pits each Friday making sure everything comes together for Cory. Cory’s big goal for this year at the moment is to win a hobby stock main event. Cory concentrates mostly on avoiding wrecks, and on driving clean.Besides his dad as a mentor, Cory also claims Jimmy Brewer as a role model…that’s 2 out of 2. Jimmy, you must be doing something well. It must be great having these young kids look up to you. Jimmy advised him to drive smooth & clean, and not to drive over his head. Cory also likes driving for the fans. He feels they are very important to the drivers. He would really like to see an increase in the car counts, especially in street stock. I think the main reason Cory drives for the fans is because he has a huge fan club that really motivates him. His biggest one I think would be his Mom. Sitting next to her you can find both sets of his grandparents. That is quite a fan club you have already established Cory, good job! Cory would like to thank his sponsors!

Next week, we are updating our pricing table. If you’re planning on attending, then make sure to give it a look! Sorry for the late notice.

Driver of the Week: Garrett Steitz

A blue race car speeds around Chowchilla Speedway.
Garrett Steitz speeding around during his first race at Chowchilla Speedway!

Garrett Steitz

How do you motivate a 16 y/o kid into becoming a race car driver? For Garrett Steitz, it was simple. On his 16th birthday, his parents gave him a race car! Last year on November 3rd, George and Michelle presented Garrett with a race car. Instead of blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, he was blowing his way around Chowchilla Speedway in his “new” 1970 Camaro. Coincidentally, that same day, his dad was sponsoring the “Dirt Track Shoot Out” which is held every year in Chowchilla. It certainly sounds like” Sweet 16″ to me, and to other car enthusiasts. Garrett was very inexperienced as he entered the track. After all, he had never driven a race car in his entire life. The track was filled with many-experienced hobby stock drivers in which he had to compete with. Garrett was determined to at least finish the race if nothing else. He not only finished, but he came somewhere within the top 12. Not bad for a first time driver, it must be in “the blood”.

Family Business

George Steitz proudly watched his son cross the finish line. After all, George had raced for over 18 years, so he brought Garrett to the track since he was a baby. They say that racing is in “the blood”, and I am starting to believe it. In the 70’s and 80’s, George drove in the sportsman division and also drove asphalt in Madera. George also owned a car detailing business in Los Angeles for many years. Although he sold the company, they are operating under new management. If you are searching for Los Angeles Car Detailing, then check out their website! George proudly displayed the #7 on his cars, of which he has now handed down to Garrett. I’d say it’s a “lucky 7” he inherited as this young rookie has already won a main event this year. As of last week, he stood 6th in points. That’s 6th out of over 20 drivers. That however is not even what I consider the highlight of his new career. He put all fear aside, and two weeks ago he entered into the figure 8 division to race the deadly X I call it. This division scares even the most seasoned drivers we have. The car count for the figure 8 this particular week was more than 12. I wasn’t quite sure if George and Garrett both had lost their minds. I’m just a fan, but from my side of the fence, this division is just pure insanity. Garrett claimed however that he wasn’t scared at all and that he had a lot of fun that night. When I asked if he’d do it again he said no. Only because his car’s oil pan was badly affected by all of the right turns he had to make. He claims that it is not worth ruining his car over. After speaking with Garrett and watching him race each week I tend to think that statement will prove to be untrue. He is a natural driver & if he continues at this age, by 20 he should have that X mastered. 

Race Preperation

Garrett says he never tinkered much with cars, but now that he has one he’s learning a lot and plays a big role in preparing his car for each race. His dad George, his Mom Michelle, his sister Sarren, good friend Dale Cox and cousin Bobby Borba, also help him to get his car ready to race each week. His friend Dustin Meadows especially does a lot of work for him and, come race night, all that hard work pays off. 

Professional Racing

His dad, Dale, Dustin, and Bobby also are his main pit crew. They are always watching Garrett closely, taking care of his car, giving advice, encouraging him and providing him with the signals he needs from the sidelines. He knows that without them, racing is impossible. A good pit crew is vital to any race car driver, and Garrett will be the first to agree with that. Besides his dad being his inspiration and mentor, he also holds hobby stock points leader #8T8 Jimmy Brewer at the top of his list as far as role models. Jimmy has been a good friend, a great encourager and has given Garrett many pointers. Most importantly, they have told him to concentrate on just finishing the race and to drive clean. Jimmy who was our first driver of the week, 2 weeks ago, is a very good role model when it comes to clean driving, that’s why I gave him the nickname “Mr. Clean.” His 17-year-old daughter Valerie is a rookie who drives for the Ladies Hobby Stock division & is very close friends with Garrett. She also has been a big support to him at the track. When Garrett’s not in a race car you can find him working on the car, hanging out with his friends, snowboarding, or in school. Garrett still has 2 years of high school to complete at Los Banos High. It is amazing how competitive these kids are at such a young age. 

Main Event

Garrett says that as far as racing goes, the only fear he really has is hurting someone else. He is nervous before the race, but once the green flag drops, it all goes away. There is no time for fear; it is all about driving. Garrett is easy to identify on the track, he races in a red 1970 Camaro with a huge #7 on the side. When it comes to strategy, Garrett’s concentration is mostly on avoiding the wrecks and driving clean, which isn’t always easy for a rookie. Learning to control a race car takes a lot of perseverance, a lot of patience, and a lot of stamina. His best night was when he won the main event. His goal for the season is to be rookie of the year. He loves driving in Chowchilla because he says the people there are great, including Tom and Cindy Sagmiller – the promoters. Garrett claims he drives mostly for the fans. He would like to see a ride along for the fans with their favorite driver. They are very important to him and therefore would like to see more happening for them in the stands. The most exciting thing about racing, Garrett says, is the 20-lap main event adrenaline rush. Garrett says, “It doesn’t get any better than that”. His fans enjoy him just as much as he enjoys the fans. Which includes his Mom, sister, Aunt Lee Borba, friend Kim Hogan, his pit crew, Dad and Valerie. He would like to give many thanks to his sponsors especially Mobile Car Detailing, Steitz Towing, Lima Customs, Condell Radiator, Promotor Sports, and HTW. Congratulations Garrett. Good luck on your rookie of the year and I cant hardly wait to see what you get for your 17th birthday.