Vic Larson stood near his car and smiled.
He stood next to his race car that acts as his second love. Acts as his affair. His heartache. His grief. His joy. His misery. His obsession.
He smiled while standing next to his Modified-A and, with a beer in hand, soaked it in as he pondered his newly-won Emo Speedway Modified Champion title.
“It’s a good feeling. The best feeling that there is,” Larson said Saturday night at the Emo Speedway. “We had a successful year, didn’t break too much stuff, and it’s perfect.”
Larson, a repeat points champion at the speedway, has been in this position before, but has had rotten luck in these kinds of nights where much is at stake.
“I’m nervous. Always nervous. You can say that you have it wrapped up but anything can happen,” reasoned Larson, who mathematically had his class nailed down even before he raced—and whose closest competition, Jamie Davis, wasn’t able to race because of prior commitments.
“Last year we broke our starter drive,” he recalled.
“What else was there?” he added. “One time, the MSD-box got moisture in it from the pressure washer, and I started the car up to load it on the trailer and the water sloshed around, and there went the ignition system.”
This year was no exception, but at least it was less horrendous. After finishing first in his heat Saturday night, a mechanical problem in the feature race caused him to be driving with literally one tire.
But he still managed to place sixth—and leave no question in anyone’s mind as to whom the MOD-A champion was.
“It would’ve been nice to win tonight and clean sweep it, but that’s all right,” said Larson. “This is what it comes down to and it’s all worth it at the end.
“There weren’t very many cars, but there [is] still lots of competition here, and we had a great season,” he added. “And Rick [Larson] just busted his butt for us.”
Although there’s more racing still ahead at the Emo Speedway this year, Saturday’s races were the last to be counted in the points standings—with three other champs also being crowned that night.
Anthony Visser won the MOD-B class, claiming the title in his first year in the field after racing seven years in the Street Stock division.
“I’m really pleased,” said Visser. “I’ve got a new car that hardly has any dents in it, so it’s been really good.
“These cars are a 100 times different than a Street car,” he noted. “You can make all kinds of adjustments with these, so it was a real learning experience to see what the car could do.”
Visser hopes to compete in the WISSOTA 100 race later this fall at the Cedar Lake Speedway. An open event which sees more than 100 cars entered in each class, it is considered one of North America’s top races.
Claiming the season championship has added a new dimension to Visser’s continuing obsession with racing, and he would like to see how far he could go in the sport that offers the “ultimate rush.”
“I’d like to get as far as I could. I’d drop everything to go racing,” enthused Visser, who would like to race in the MOD-A class next year but, because of cost, most likely will stick to MOD-B again.
“It’s about the speed,” he stressed. “Being right on the edge and being right beside a guy that’s right on the edge. Going into the corners side-by-side, bumping wheels, and putting rubber on the other car.
“That’s what it’s all about to me.”
John Hettinga, who returned to racing this summer after taking six years off, captured the Street Stock class. And though he was happy about winning the season crown, he prefers the feeling of winning every weekend instead.
“The season championship means a lot, but I like winning every night,” he remarked. “The season championship is good because it means you were a consistent racer, but the most exciting thing is winning the features.
“Last year, Ron [Westover] won the championship, but never won a feature all year,” noted Hettinga, a mechanic for almost 30 years. “So it’s always a debate—do you want the podium or do you want the points?
“But it’s great to win the championship, and it’s nothing to laugh at or make little of,” he added.
Hettinga has been operating his own business, Hettinga Mechanical, for a few years and always has been drawn to the sport. But while he was away from racing for six years, after competing for six-straight, he stepped back into the mix without complication.
“I’m a mechanic by trade and I think about things mechanically. I’m one of those guys that when I’m riding up in an elevator, I’m wondering how it’s working,” laughed Hettinga, who admitted he thinks about racing “way too much” and has turned his once hobby into a now healthy obsession.
Finally, Ken Perry Sr. edged out his son, Ken Jr., to claim the Mini-Sprint class.
Due to his past successes over 11 seasons, it wasn’t a surprise to most that Perry defended his title. But he said the victory was less enjoyable than pervious ones due to the circumstances revolving around the Mini-Sprint field.
“The season was great, but we could’ve done better with more cars,” he said. “It’s disheartening to come here week after week after week and not see enough cars here, and know that they’re around.
“The competition was my son all year and if he hadn’t missed a week, it would’ve been a lot closer than it was tonight,” he added.
But Perry, who is a promoter for the Borderland Racing Association, said the overall season was a success, adding things will continue to improve. He just hopes people will get their butts off the couches and into the grandstands at the Emo Speedway.
“I think the competition is second-to-none. I think that track preparation is second-to-none,” he stressed. “We’re steadily improving the facility and looking for better ways to do things.
“And it’s just a fun place to come to.”
At the end of night, the smell of ethanol and methanol (the fuel used in the MOD-A and MOD-B cars) was evident in the air.
And as most of the drivers chatted about the night’s racing with family and friends, Larson, who had a smile stretched farther than the autobahn, was at a loss for words for the first time.
“I really can’t put this into words, so I think I’ll have a few beers,” he remarked.
Vic Larson stood near his car and smiled.