I Have a Question – July, 2014
Here is a question for you. “What did you do for fun as a kid?” For me, let me just say, I did not play soccer. Of course, soccer had not become the popular sport that it now is when I was in school. However, when I was introduced to that sport in college, I just could not master the art of directing the ball into the goal without using my hands. I was more of a throw and catch kind of guy. Little league baseball was my favorite. I was an infielder, playing second base. I was never a star at this game, but I do remember the one time I hit a triple. I was as surprised as my coach and my team mates. I did enjoy basketball as well. But being younger than all of my classmates, (age 12 as a high school freshman, 16 as a senior) I really had difficulty competing with guys who had two years of physical maturity advantage over me. But, I was able to master the skill of shooting a free throw. As a college freshman, I competed against the best in school, making 48 out of 50 attempts and emerged as champion in the yearly free throw contest.
One of the disadvantages of most youth sports activities is that only a few athletes will continue participation into adulthood, at least as far as organized competition is concerned. Only a small percentage of athletes will have the opportunity to compete after college. I realize that “city league” or “parks and recreation programs” may provide access for adults to participate, but few will be able to excel beyond the age of 40. Yes, some dedicated individuals will choose to compete in a senior division, in which all competitors must be beyond a specific designated age. Or in the case of Special Olympics, all competitors, both youth and adult, can train and compete because of certain identified disabilities.
Such is not true in the sport of drag racing. Many of you will remember Doc Lavinder. Doc was a regular weekly racer at Woodburn Dragstrip. Doc was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 2. As he grew, he was told he would never drive. However, his goal was to become a drag racer. He made his debut in 1980 with his 1935 Nash, appropriately named “The Severly Disabled Chicken Coupe.” Though confined to a wheel chair for mobility, Doc used hand controls to drive and was very competitive with his Mopar-powered Nash. You can read more of his history by doing a google search of “The Amazing Doc Lavinder.”
Age is not a limitation in drag racing as it is in many of the previously mentioned sports. Last week Kacee Pitts, at the age of 16, kicked butt and took names in the Sportsman class at Woodburn showing all of those older, more experienced drivers that she is a force to be reckoned with. Travis Hilton and Casey DePeel are two more names that come to my mind when thinking of young drivers who have shown their expertise among their more experienced peers. However, I would expect that those drivers in their 50’s, 60’s, or even 70’s will not go down without a fight.
I started this article by asking, “What did you do for fun as a kid?” Some will be involved in organized sports such as soccer or baseball. Others will have opportunity to compete in a sport that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. Last week approximately 30 young drivers were competing at Woodburn Dragstrip. I would like to acknowledge their accomplishments and hope they will still be competing fifty years from now.
Elvon Kauffman has been drag racing since 1975. He has been a NHRA Northwest Division Bracket Champion twice – first in 1978 when he defeated fellow Woodburn racer, Joe DiFillipi at Seattle International Raceway and secondly, in 1980 when he again defeated a Woodburn racer, Ron Burch at Woodburn Dragstrip. He was the first and only World Champion in Heavy Bracket, winning with his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner 4-speed at the now defunct Ontario Motor Speedway in October, 1980. Elvon’s variety of life experiences become the basis for the stories he shares in Straight Talk, a monthly column produced by Woodburn Dragstrip.