A different kind of horsepower story

You never know what the latest news will be from the Keesling corner of the world; we’ve bought a “haunted” house, fixed it up, tore down a huge barn and used the wood to fix it up some more, and showed the resulting mess to some people, more than once… to name a few. Mostly the stuff focused on the furred and feathered creatures in our lives, along with the farm and home we all inhabit. But this time it’s different. This time the story is about the mechanical kind of horsepower; about 800 of them, to be exact.

My husband’s childhood revolved around the sport of sprint car racing; his dad was a crew member for his cousin Gary Grissom, and he has fond memories of those weekends at the track, right down to the late night rides home where he and his brother Jim slept, using a squishy race car tire as a pillow.

Gary Grissom at Eldora Speedway in Ohio – 1973

It’s always been a dream of his to be involved with racing again, and this year he made that happen. As I’ve reported before (see “I got this, really. How hard can it be?”) when he makes things happen, he does it in a BIG way. I have no clue about how any of this works, so I’ve been sitting back in awe, taking it all in – as he procured not one, but two cars. Then all the accoutrements to keep the cars fed, healthy and shod. And more stuff to do the same for the driver. And then – on to recruit a crew of folks to shoe, feed, groom, exercise and doctor the car as needed.

Rob’s lifelong connections to the sprint car community facilitated the assembly of a crew and driver who are on the order of George Morris and Willie Shoemaker. Crew chief Tray House (left) has been affiliated with racing his whole life, first as a successful driver and now as a mechanic. Also shown, crew member Kyle Pollock (back) and Travis Welpott (right), driver of #18 car

He and his crewmen pulled the race car equivalent of walking a colicky horse all night – for nights on end – in preparation for their first race. Which turned out to be not some sort of a practice show; instead they headed straight for the racing equivalent to Rolex. Anderson Speedway’s Little 500 is a 500 lap race that’s been running since 1949. It’s considered to be second only to the Indianapolis 500 in racing significance.

Asking for help with funding has never been his thing, so our own affiliated businesses’ logos ended up covering the bulk of the sponsor ad space on the car. Bill Miller photo

A single request for some sort of arrangement to feed the crew, however, turned out better than we ever expected. Gene’s Rootbeer and Hot Dogs in Anderson, Indiana has been in business since 1964, and they’ve supported the racing community the whole time. Now, you might wonder what could be special about hot dogs and root beer. Turns out quite a lot. I’m not a hot dog connoisseur by any stretch, but these are the real deal. If someone had told me I’d be happily gobbling up hot dogs for the better part of a week, I would have thought them nuts. But that’s what we all did. They’re just that good.

Gene’s makes their own toppings; fancy and yummy options like kraut, cheese, slaw, and of course their signature Spanish Hot Dog. The hot dogs are a special tasty blend of beef and pork, manufactured by a company that specializes only in hot dogs (who knew?) They concoct and bottle their own branded root beer on site, in a tiny building that looks the same as it did 50+ years ago. The business has been in the same entrepreneurial family since it opened; in December, the root beer stand becomes a source for Christmas trees for the community; selling trees grown on that same family’s farm.

Race day came and the expertise of the crew chief/mechanic became apparent. The car was reeeaallly fast. Driver Shane Cottle had all he needed (and more) to navigate and pass anywhere on the track (which is, BTW, has been described as the equivalent to racing jet fighters in a gym). They qualified mid field in the pack of 33 cars. That many cars, going 100+ mph on a tiny track is dicey – and wrecks happen. A lot. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to our 95 car. He’d slowed during a caution and another driver, who apparently did not slow, hit and drove the car into the wall, ending the night for us. But not before he’d advanced several spots in just 30 laps. It’s fun to consider the possibilities had he been allowed to continue on that trajectory. However, it was not to be.

Turning competitive lap times during qualifying – note front wheels off the ground – David Sink photo

So – the guys have regrouped. The broken car is back home in the shop with the affected parts being repaired or replaced. They’ll get those all reinstalled and go back to adjusting for speed and control; and the car will once again be ready to race. Stay tuned…

I couldn’t much muster a happy face as I steered the broken car back into the shop. The right front wheel is not supposed to be pointing that way; the high tech shocks are the equivalent to a Hermès saddle and are an integral part of what makes the car grippy, and thus, fast. Both are ruined, as well as the front axle, tie rod, drag link etc. Like falling off is part of riding, wrecks are part of racing.

Wanna read more?

Is this all I do? Post pictures and stories about life here on the farm? Nope! HoofPrints.com is my “real” job.

You can read more posts about horses here

For more fun on the farm, go here

Adventures in remodeling are here

Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here

Laughable housekeeping advice is here


  1. Wow Gina! Your family gets into some cool stuff. Good luck with the cars. I look forward to hearing more news after the car gets fixed!

    Liked by 1 person

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