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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.