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Auto Racing: Q-and-A with Jack Kalwasinski

Jack Kalwasinski | Kim Kemperman~For Sun-Times Media

Jack Kalwasinski | Kim Kemperman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 6, 2013 6:26AM



Kalwasinski, 39, of Dyer, Ind., is in his 14th season as a race car driver. He drives in the late-model class at Illiana Speedway, and won the limited late-model title at Illiana in 2006. He is an operations specialist at BP Refinery in Whiting.

Describe winning a championship in 2006.

It felt like everything fell into place leading up to it. The accomplishment felt great. Everybody had a good time and the fun factor was there. But once the banquet ended, we were back at it preparing for the next season.

What about racing turned you on to it?

Back in the day, my dad (Stan) took me to Illiana, Santa Fe and Raceway a lot. What turned me on to it was watching those guys drive those cars and battle, and get out and talk to the fans. They were characters. The personalities were exciting, and I said I wanted to be like those guys.

Who were those guys?

Dave Weltmeyer, Frank Gawlinski, Bobby Dotter. I liked them all, but those three guys were the ones I followed pretty closely.

What was the toughest part about moving up from go-karts into the Mid-Ams?

The reaction time and the understanding of racing already was kind of etched in me. I drove go-karts that went over 100 miles an hour. The difference was understanding where the right front corner of the car was, because I couldn’t see it anymore. In a go-kart I could see it.

What’s the best moment you can remember in racing?

Winning my first late-model feature in 2008, in a top class, that was a cool moment. That and winning my first feature period in Mid-Am. Those two stand out.

You get to choose five drivers in racing history to take on in a trophy dash. Who are they?

Dick Trickle, A.J. Foyt, let’s throw in Parnelli Jones, Bob Pronger and Frank Gawlinski. I’ve never raced against Frank Gawlinski, let’s put him in there.

Was it always racing, or could you have been a 20-game winner as a pitcher?

Hah, I played basketball until eighth grade, and I’ve been 5-11 since seventh grade. I always thought I was going to be a good basketball player, but by the time high school came around all of the kids I used to be taller than passed me, and I wasn’t quick enough to be a point guard anymore.

Is Kyle Petty right that Danica Patrick isn’t a race car driver?

She can drive. I was there at the Daytona 500 this year. To run in the top 10 all day, you’ve got to be a racer. It just doesn’t come naturally. If you weren’t a racer those guys would have blown right by you and you’d be 23rd.

As told to Tony Baranek



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