When the green flag drops, mild-mannered Colfax resident Colby Wiesz lets the dirt fly.
Wiesz, who works during the week as an equipment mechanic for Placer County, can be found racing his sprint car on weekends at the Placerville Speedway.
Inspired by his father, the Colfax resident began racing as soon as he was old enough to drive.
“Colby has a good reputation of running a clean race,” said Jenny Wiesz, his wife of 11 years. “He is not out there to retaliate against other drivers. One of the things mentioned in the winner’s circle is his good sportsmanship.”
Jenny said she started watching Colby race when she was 14, and was on his pit crew until the couple had children.
“Now I am on the home pit crew,” she said. “I clean his uniform, help to wash out the car and restock the trailer.”
Nor does Colby Wiesz underestimate his wife’s role on the team.
“It means a lot to have her support. It really is a family event. You may only run one night a week, but sometimes you have to spend three to four nights on maintenance,” said the 1994 Colfax High graduate, who races in nearly 50 events each season.
“We support each other,” Jenny Wiesz added. “When the boys have soccer games, we all go and cheer them on. When Colby races, we cheer him on.”
Wiesz says he is following in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad, Gary Wiesz, was racing in 1976 and I helped out as part of his pit crew. I have been around cars my whole life,” Wiesz explained, adding he worked at the Napa Auto Parts store while he was in high school.
Now his father is a member of his son”s pit crew, while his mother, Bonnie, heads up the cheering section in the stands.
Wiesz’s racing career took off in 2006 when he was asked by Bullet Racing Team owner John Taylor to take his place at the Placerville Speedway.
“He had retired from racing and called to ask if I would drive for him. Up to that point I had just driven the family car,” said Wiesz.
The partnership turned out to be successful one with 13 races ending in the top five finishes. In 2008, Wiesz claimed his fourth championship title.
The highlight of his racing career, however, would have to be last fall’s victory at the Chico finals.
“The leader spun out after 28 laps. You have to concentrate and run your own race,”Wiesz said. “We race on a dirt track. It is always changing so you don’t have a lot of time to make adjustments.”
With 800 horsepower engines and power-to-weight ratio, the small sprint cars have the power of Indy Racers, Wiesz said.
Tracks range from one-quarter mile to one-half mile in length. And yet, the 24 to 30 laps per race can be unnerving, especially when driving at speeds up to 135 miles per hour.
“I feel safer being strapped into the sprint car than I do driving across town,” he said. “Riders are now required to wear a harness that stabilizes their spine as well as straps to keep the driver’s arms inside the open cockpit..”
When the dust clears and the cars are parked, youngsters will scan the dirt track for the tear off sections from the racer’s helmet.
“Sometimes kids will have me sign the tear off and want their picture taken with the car. It’s kind of cool,”said Wiesz, who believes in being a positive role model. “I want to be someone who is worth looking up to.”