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Auto Racing: Q-and-A with Matt Baikie

IllianSpeedway pure stocks competitor Matt Baikie is constructiequipment mechanic U.S. Army Reserve. | Supplied photo

Illiana Speedway pure stocks competitor Matt Baikie is a construction equipment mechanic in the U.S. Army Reserve. | Supplied photo

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Updated: September 9, 2014 6:27AM



Baikie, 24, of Homewood, has raced in the pure stocks and turbo stox divisions at Illiana Speedway since 2006. He has won four pure stocks heats and two features this season, the most of any driver in the class. He works full-time as a mechanic for Swift Transportation trucking company, and is a construction equipment mechanic in the U.S. Army Reserve.

What inspired you to become a race car driver?

My family used to have a cottage in Northwest Indiana and we used to go past the race track on Saturdays. I always remembered that, and when I got older I started looking at their website and found out about the pure stocks division. I went to school with (pure stocks champion) Tim Cronin’s daughters, so that kind of pushed things in the right direction also.

Do you remember your first win?

Yeah, it wasn’t even my car. Neal Kerner had a car and he had a different job where he couldn’t get Saturdays off. They were trying to sell the car and wanted to have it out there with a for sale sign. So they let me drive it. The second or third night we brought it out I ended up winning the feature.

When was the seed planted for you joining the Army Reserve?

It was something I always kind of wanted to do. In 2011, I was working for a heating and air conditioning company and it wasn’t going anywhere, and I was at the point where I wanted to do something that would get me somewhere in my life. I sat down with my stepmom and started talking about possibly joining the Army. The next day I went to the recruiter, and in less than a month my date for basic training was set.

Where was your basic training?

Fort Benning, Georgia. It’s got a reputation of being the hardest basic training (site), the only male-only basic training the Army still has. We had our moments, but it really wasn’t too difficult. I actually enjoyed it.

What kind of work do you do with the Army Reserve?

My unit is horizontal construction. The operators in our unit build roads and parking lots, and I turn wrenches. Pretty much when something goes down, they want us (the mechanics) to fix it. I work on humvees and semi trucks, too.

Being away so often, it’s a good thing you aren’t in a points race.

That’s why I sold my turbo stock. The turbo stock was fun, but going away one weekend a month I wasn’t able to compete for a top 10 spot in points. I figured, if I’m not going to be able to race competitively for points I could race competitively with (the pure stocks) for no points and spend a fraction of the money.

How much fun is the pure stocks division?

I like it a lot. I like that they got rid of the points for it. They’re trying to kill off a lot of the guys who were big points racers, the ones who spent a lot of money on their cars. This year by far has been the most competitive year. It seems to be an even playing field.

As a kid growing up watching NASCAR, who was your favorite driver?

I always liked Dale Earnhardt Jr. But I actually don’t follow it much anymore. The Chase thing kind of messed things up (for me). I’d like to see them go to shorter races. That’d be cool.

Do you ever see yourself in a late-model?

I think if I could do it my way, if I got out of the Army and raced a full year for points, I’d probably do it in turbo stox. I think it would be fun to drive a late-model, but I probably wouldn’t want to own one. If you wreck it and you don’t have the funding, you’re pretty much done for the year.

As told to Tony Baranek



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