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A family on the go, go, go

Happiness is auto racing for the Mooney family of West Linn

by: SUBMITTED PHOTOS - The racing Mooneys of West Linn are, from left, father Rick, mother Kelly, son Zach and daughter Alexis.

Wheels, powerful motors, speed, excitement, glamour. These are big attractions for people who love auto racing.

And don’t forget the clothes. Auto drivers definitely wear the coolest clothes in sports.

Put them all together, and you have the Mooney family of West Linn — dad Rick, mom Kelly, son Zach and daughter Alexis. They are very happy because of go-karts, vintage cars and a wonderful future. Family gatherings at race tracks are very glad occasions.

Like the recent one at SyKart Indoor Racing Center in Tigard. Zach, 16, and Alexis, 13, were spiffed out in their racing uniforms. Not only were they coming off an exhilarating practice but they were there to support their friend, teenage go-kart wizard Luke Selliken, who was the object of a Portland media blitz that day because he was going to the Rotax Max Challenge in New Orleans, the Super Bowl of go-kart racing.

“It’s a very big deal,” Kelly Mooney said. “Luke has the potential to be the first American to win it. And the USA has never even won a silver or bronze before.”

The 15-year-old Selliken is already a natural for the media, exuding confidence, class and charisma. He has also just signed on to coach Zach and Alexis, and the Mooneys could not be happier.

“We’re letting their passion drive their lives,” Rick said. “We have a couple of very hungry drivers here.”

“This is an awesome thing to share,” Kelly said. “We all share a passion.”

The passion of the Mooney family for auto racing has grown and grown, just like the momentum for a driver approaching a finish line. It all started with Rick’s late father, Dick, who drove cars back East in the 1960s and was a partner and friend of Janet Guthrie, the first woman to ever compete in both the Indianapolis and Daytona 500s. After a lull in racing, Dick Mooney came back in the ’90s to race vintage cars, and he managed to inspire his entire family with his love of auto racing.

But he didn’t love the sport any more than his wife, Pam, who is still going strong as a coach for her grandchildren.

“Pam is a piece of work,” Kelly said. “She’s been a huge fan her whole life. She has so much energy and passion for the sport.”

When Dick passed away in 2007, Rick took over his vintage car racing team, and Kelly immediately became his number one fan. Unlike the rest of her family, she does not get behind the wheel, but she is a professional photographer, and she is recording their deeds for posterity and family albums. Kelly was destined to be a racing wife and mother.

“I was raised in Indianapolis (of course, the home of the Indy 500),” Kelly said. “When I was 7 years old, I dressed as Janet Guthrie for Halloween. When I met Rick, I was thrilled.”

The next generation of Mooneys wasted no time in following in mom, dad and his grandparents’ footsteps. At 6 months old, Zach was dressed in a tiny race driver’s suit. Kelly still has a photo of him in the outfit. At age 5, Zach announced his intention to become a race car driver.

“My grandfather was the coolest guy,” Zach said. “When I worked with him on the Pratt & Whitney engine, it was a real learning experience. Ever since then I’ve wanted to drive vintage cars.”

The Mooney family seemed full up with race drivers. But there was one more to come — Alexis.

“She seemed intrigued,” Rick said. “She would help with the tires and replace them. But we didn’t know she wanted to race.”

Actually, little Alex, was brimming with auto ambition. She was especially intrigued by her dad’s vintage car, which had his name on it.

Alexis said, “I thought to myself, ‘The next name on that car is going to be mine.’ “

It took Rick about 5 seconds to jump on the bandwagon of his daughter’s auto racing career. He immediately went on Craigslist, and two weeks later, a truck delivering her go-kart drove up to the Mooney home.

The shortage of female participants (only one of 23 Rotax Max finalists was a female) was no barrier to Alex’s driving dreams.

“I thought there would be more girls competing,” she said, “but I still wanted to drive. Nothing really stopped me.”

The Mooney kids are now intensely preparing for their racing future despite their very busy lives. Zach formerly played on the West Linn football team and is now a wrestler full time. Because of this, Alexis has actually had more time driving her go-kart than Zach. Still, he says, “My life is racing,” and his goal is to be a professional racer, maybe in NASCAR.

Alexis “really, really” likes her dad’s car and candidly states her goal of taking it away from him (Rick just smiles).

Outside of her go-kart, the pace of school is a bit too slow for Alexis, but she “really, really” likes art. She often ties it in with her love of go-kart racing.

“When she has down time between races, Alex brings out the art supplies,” Kelly said. “She would make little clay replicas of cars and give them away as gifts.”

The motto of the Mooneys seems to be: “The family that drives together thrives together.”

“I love it,” Kelly said. “What I love most is that my kids found something they love to do.”



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