by John Unrein
Former Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Scott Hamilton is noted for saying, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Austin Charles, Grain Valley resident and points leader for the Sport B Mod class at Valley Speedway heading into competition on August 8th, has a zeal for racing and family. His ability to read lips is equally as impressive as is the way he negotiates turns on a dirt track. If you didn’t already know, you might not be able to figure out initially that Charles is deaf.
“I have been racing since 2013. Spending time with family and the relationships built in the pits is the best part of racing for me,” Charles said.
“I was born deaf. When I get in my car, I have one advantage over others. I can feel the car. Other drivers can hear cars behind them. I am not able to do that. However, I am tune with the drive train extremely well. That combined with my eyesight helps me plot a good course on the racetrack.”
There are notable differences racing on a dirt track compared to the asphalt ovals fans see in NASCAR. Racing on a hard surface typically means going to the outside of a turn so the driver can use that momentum and angle back to an inside route out of the turn. Pavement on asphalt courses grips tighter which means drivers must go slower at times and steer more when heading into a turn. That tends to be the opposite in modified dirt track racing.
Shaving the corner, as it’s known in dirt track racing, is all about timing. Drivers must be aware of how hard they are going to throw their car into the corner. The driver’s speed during a dirt track turn determines how much the tires will skid, allowing negotiating the throttle correctly to come out in a direct line along the straight away.
Charles is not shy about sharing his sense of humor in the biggest differences between dirt and pavement track racing. He’s also candid about the strategy he uses to be successful.
“Pavement will get you to the dirt track,” Charles said with a chuckle, showing his preference for racing on soil.
“Dirt racing is all about strategy, especially when it comes to turning. How much throttle you are going to give to the car when you throw it in the corner (turning hard and making the car skid along the dirt so that you don’t have to apply the brake and slow down) is all about timing.”
“The straighter you can get your car in the corner, the faster you are going to come out of it. Because if you go in low and then turn, you have to slow way down and turn harder.”
Austin is the third generation in the Charles family to adore racing. His grandfather, Tom Charles was an accomplished racer, as is his father Dan Charles. Second place in the Sport B Mod class at Valley Speedway just happens to belong to Dan Charles.
The middle Charles is noticeably proud of his son and his abilities as a racer. Talk to him long enough about Austin, and he will pull up pictures of his son as a toddler in a pedal go cart racer. He does not cut him a break on the track though. The value of competing to win has been successfully learned and passed down through the Charles lineage.
“Valley Speedway is where my parents met. It’s a short track here and I love short tracks. This place is challenging with great competition,” Austin Charles said.
Crystal Johnson is Austin’s mother and a graduate of Grain Valley High School. Johnson still has nerves at the start of every race that turns to joy as she watches her son compete.
“I enjoy watching him. He’s got natural ability when it comes to racing. I’m still nervous. Especially, during the first few laps of races. It’s fun to watch him learn how to set the car up and get better at his craft over time,” Johnson said.
One thing the Charles family and Valley Speedway track announcer Greg Clemons are willing to do as ambassadors for racing is educating the public on the importance of point racing. It’s hard for drivers to hide who they are as people and their work ethic when it comes to point racing. They must show up to work and be consistent in every aspect of how they compete to earn points.
Drivers may earn points by finishing races, place earned at the end of a race, and passing cars during a race. A racing season, just like a race itself is about how long drivers can endure preparing their car successfully, avoiding crashes, and improving their skills as a racer through endless concentration.
“Point racing means you show up to the same track weekly. It is also about consistency in finishing. I mean, I’ve seen my grandpa win a points championship without any feature wins. He would consistently finish in the top five at the end of each race. He built up his point this way,” Austin Charles said.
“Grandpa also respected his car and didn’t tear it up on the track. You tear up your car and have to make long repairs, you’re not going to be on the track the next week.”
Clemons agreed, “Points racing is important. Some racers are points racers, and some of them could care less. Some are more interested in a win any given evening.”
“Drivers like Gene Claxton, Jeremy Curless, and the Charles family are in it for points. The lineup each night is determined by points with the number drawn. Points competition is a somewhat complicated thing that may not always be easy to understand as spectator, but it makes the contest on the track much better.”
“It motivates the drivers and keeps them coming back here to Valley Speedway each week. It’s similar to NASCAR except we do not have the ‘chase’ at the end of the year. Points racing is more of a marathon than a Super Bowl. Sometimes a driver has one more than one championship at more than one track during a year. In 2020, that’s a unique situation though.”
Here are the results from racing at Valley Speedway on August 8th.
8/8/2020 at Valley Speedway
A Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 81X-Dan Charles; 2. 0-Chase Galvin; 3. 81A-Austin Charles; 4. 73M-Charles McCartney; 5. 21T-David Towers; 6. 13M-Kraig Maple; 7. 55-Ryan Medeiros; 8. 81-Jesse Johnson; 9. 02-Donald Johnston; 10. (DNF) 29-Bobby Cochran; 11. (DNF) 23-Danny Thompson; 12. (DNF) 42-Gene Claxton; 13. (DNF) 11-John Murray; 14. (DQ) 22-Steve McDowell
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 23-Danny Thompson; 2. 0-Chase Galvin; 3. 42-Gene Claxton; 4. 55-Ryan Medeiros; 5. 81-Jesse Johnson; 6. 02-Donald Johnston; 7. 11-John Murray
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 81X-Dan Charles; 2. 81A-Austin Charles; 3. 22-Steve McDowell; 4. 73M-Charles McCartney; 5. 21T-David Towers; 6. 13M-Kraig Maple; 7. 29-Bobby Cochran
A Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 74-Justin Asher; 2. 28-Shawn Burns; 3. 86-Doug Brisbin; 4. 42-Dalton Krysa; 5. 33-Jeremy Curless; 6. 59-Alex Crawford; 7. 666-John Snyder; 8. R23-Austen Raybourn; 9. 81-Jeff Jackson; 10. 18R-Billy Roberts; 11. 75-Rayce Martin; 12. 97-Ashlyn Piburn; 13. (DNF) 66-Keith Bowman; 14. (DNF) 1M-Mike Ryun; 15. (DNF) 64-Jason Smith; 16. (DNS) 14P-Josh Paul
Heat 1 (6 Laps): 1. 33-Jeremy Curless; 2. 75-Rayce Martin; 3. 28-Shawn Burns; 4. 42-Dalton Krysa; 5. 81-Jeff Jackson; 6. 59-Alex Crawford; 7. 97-Ashlyn Piburn; 8. 66-Keith Bowman
Heat 2 (6 Laps): 1. 74-Justin Asher; 2. 86-Doug Brisbin; 3. 666-John Snyder; 4. 1M-Mike Ryun; 5. R23-Austen Raybourn; 6. 18R-Billy Roberts; 7. 64-Jason Smith; 8. (DNF) 14P-Josh Paul
A Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 14-Bobby Ohrenberg; 2. 10-David Schrills
Heat 1 (6 Laps): 1. 14-Bobby Ohrenberg; 2. 10-David Schrills
A Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 121-Eric Schmidt; 2. 11-Gene McCaulley; 3. 5-Nick Deoliveira; 4. 10B-Jeremy Byfield; 5. (DNF) 2R-Robert Chase; 6. (DNF) 2C-Cody Munkers; 7. (DNF) 14-Mikel Solberg; 8. (DNF) 8-Matthew Phillips; 9. (DNS) 1-Jason McCaulley
Heat 1 (6 Laps): 1. 121-Eric Schmidt; 2. 2C-Cody Munkers; 3. 11-Gene McCaulley; 4. 14-Mikel Solberg; 5. 8-Matthew Phillips; 6. 2R-Robert Chase; 7. 5-Nick Deoliveira; 8. 1-Jason McCaulley; 9. (DNS) 10B-Jeremy Byfield
Valley Powri Outlaw Sprints
A Feature 1 (25 Laps): 1. 12-Wesley Smith; 2. 77-Jack Wagner; 3. ST1-Lane Stone; 4. 37-Brian Beebe; 5. 63-Trey Burke; 6. 65-Chris Parkinson; 7. 73-Samuel Wagner; 8. 69-Zach Sanders; 9. 9-Casey Baker; 10. 15E-Dakota Earls; 11. 41-Brad Wyatt; 12. 88-Chad Tye; 13. 23-Brent Fasse; 14. 82-Christie Thomason; 15. 85C-Casey Lewallen; 16. (DNF) 14M-Michael Moore; 17. (DNF) 12X-Andy Helm; 18. (DNF) 28-Kory Schudy
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 65-Chris Parkinson; 2. 77-Jack Wagner; 3. 63-Trey Burke; 4. 15E-Dakota Earls; 5. 41-Brad Wyatt; 6. 82-Christie Thomason
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 28-Kory Schudy; 2. 12-Wesley Smith; 3. 9-Casey Baker; 4. ST1-Lane Stone; 5. 85C-Casey Lewallen; 6. 23-Brent Fasse
Heat 3 (8 Laps): 1. 14M-Michael Moore; 2. 37-Brian Beebe; 3. 69-Zach Sanders; 4. 73-Samuel Wagner; 5. 88-Chad Tye; 6. 12X-Andy Helm
ATV Open Amateur
A Feature 1 (6 Laps): 1. 2-Danny Pliler; 2. 9115-Chris Shelton; 3. 23-Zach Kilber; 4. 18-Brandon Taber
Heat 1 (5 Laps): 1. 2-Danny Pliler; 2. 9115-Chris Shelton; 3. 23-Zach Kilber; 4. 18-Brandon Taber