Teenager Ridenour gets hooked on sprint car racing
Lake Odessa — Less than a month ago, Chase Ridenour was on a pitching mound representing Perry High.
Last week, he was living his dream.
No, it wasn't on the baseball diamond. It was racing around in a sprint car during a World of Outlaws event at I-96 Speedway.
It was Ridenour's first race, and it came against 20-time series champion Steve Kinser, six-time series champ Donny Schatz and the rest of the field who compete in about 90 races a year, multiple times a week.
And to think, Ridenour, 16, only got his driver's license a couple of months ago.
"I'd love to do this for a living," Ridenour said before competing in a 10-car Last Chance Showdown, where the top six cars advanced to the 24-car field 35-lap feature race.
Ridenour advanced, and finished 17th.
"When you run with these guys it feels pretty good, especially knowing what your budget is and how it goes up against theirs and you're racing once a week and they're going two or three times a week," said, Ridenour, who hopes his driving will get the attention of one of the premier teams in the next couple years, which will give his dreams a boost.
In last year's sprints event, which comes to I-96 once a year, Ridenour finished second behind Dustin Daggett. That's not bad considering Daggett finished second to Tony Stewart in the World of Outlaws race.
So, how did Ridenour get the itch for driving sprint cars?
His father, Rick, who used to drive when he was younger. Now, Rick Ridenour owns an auto body repair shop in Perry and is a part of his son's crew.
"He's done well, and I really believe he can compete with these guys, he just needs more seat time and the chance to hook up with one of these teams (financially)," Rick Ridenour said. "He's won at every level ... but eventually he's going to need help financially."
Christopher Bell, 20, is where Ridenour hopes to be — competing in the World of Outlaws full-time. He's also had a chance to run in Camping World Truck series.
"This is the third year I've been running full-time in World of Outlaws," said Bell, from Norman, Okla. "I've run more than 200 races over the last two years. I'm happy with whatever opportunity comes my way. I'm living my dream."
Bell's Truck series event ended with a fifth place in Iowa driving for Kyle Busch.
Kinser, 61, is an Outlaws legend, winning 46 features in 1987.
"I've basically run sprint cars my whole life," said Kinser, who also has competed in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. "I grew up around sprint cars, had a passion for them. I've been trying to quit, but it's been hard to do."
Kinser's son, Kraig Kinser, also competes in the Outlaws, winning the series' prestigious event, the Knoxville Nationals in 2005.
"It seems like once one family member catches the bug, everyone else in the family does too," said Kraig Kinser, 30. "My grandpa started racing, then Dad got into it. ... I've been driving against my Dad now for 12 years."
... Brad Sweet won the 35-lap feature, earning the $10,000 first-place prize and snapping Schatz's five-race winning streak.