Rob Lindsey has been around race tracks and golf courses most of his life
Golf is a slow-paced sport, so when Summerfield golf pro Rob Lindsey feels a need for speed, he turns to his other passion - Sprint car racing.
In February 2011, the Summerfield Civic Association hired Lindsey, who came with a solid background in the golf business: He has a Class A membership in the Professional Golfers Association of America, has worked for and managed several golf clubs in Oregon and Washington, and he managed the Golfsmith store in the Nyberg Woods shopping center.
But when Summerfield golfers got to know him, they learned about his racing career.
Lindsey is a third-generation member of his family to participate in open-wheel racing. "The car that I currently drive is called a Sprint Car," he explained. "I run them with and without wings. The unique part about them is they don't have fenders, which are commonly referred to as open-wheel racing.
"My grandfather participated six times a week in Indiana in the '40s, and my uncle followed in his footsteps in the early 70s. Since my dad got married young, he didn't start his racing career until the early 2000s."
Following in his family's footsteps, Lindsey got involved in racing at a young age.
"I grew up working on my uncle's car and worked as a crew member," said Lindsey, who got his own race car in 2001. "It was a Midget - a smaller version of the Sprint car with a four-cylinder engine," he said. "A couple of years ago, I bought the full-sized Sprint car, which has a 360-cubic-inch Chevy engine in it.
"Most motors are in the 700-plus horsepower range. On a quarter-mile track, you might go 80 to 90 mph, and on a half-mile track, you might get up to 140 mph. The cars don't have starters, so they have to be push-started."
Races are held on oval dirt tracks that are one-quarter to one-half mile around, with the fans usually clustered at the front and back stretches, according to Lindsey.
The annual season runs April through September with bigger events scheduled at the end of June and early July, and on average Lindsey races two weekends a month.
The past two years, he raced with the Northwest Wingless Tour, which is basically Oregon-based although it includes Washington, and in 2013, Lindsey won the championship.
Race tracks are few and far between, with the closest one to the Portland area in Banks off Highway 26. "It's the smallest track," Lindsey said. "The next closest track is Lebanon."
One popular event is "Speedweek," in which drivers compete at five different tracks over a seven-day period throughout Northern California and Oregon.
"This year it starts in Yreka and moves on to Medford, Coos Bay, Lebanon and Cottage Grove," Lindsey said. "The great thing about it is we get quite a following traveling with us for that week. You will see not only families camping out but many Northwest fans making the week-long trip."
This year Lindsey is switching from the Northwest Wingless Tour to the American Sprint Car Series, where he will compete for a championship with the Northwest ASCS. "This is definitely a higher level of racing" he said. "To compete with these guys you have to be on your game every night."
Lindsey pointed out that Sprint cars cost between $35,000 and $45,000.
"A typical night might pay $1,500 to win so even if you were to win every race, it would be hard to break even," Lindsey said. "Even if you don't wreck it, there are the costs of towing it to races, the tires, the fuel," he said.
"A typical main event might be 30 to 35 laps, and with these cars if you come into the pits for any reason during the race, you're pretty much out for that race. Due to the nature of open-wheel racing, these cars can get upside down pretty easy. These cars don't have fenders and if wheels touch, one car can get thrown over the other.
"I have every safety device known to man - a five-point harness, a helmet, a fire suit and fire underwear. Most crashes look worse than they really are."
Lindsey's kids are growing up: Son Chad is now 14, and daughter Paige is 8.
"My son comes with me and has been part of the crew the last couple of years, since most tracks have started promoting families at the race tracks," he said. "It used to be that you had to be 18 years old to get in the pits.
"Paige came into the pits last year. When Paige comes, my wife Andrea also comes."
On a typical race weekend, Lindsey gets to the track around 2 p.m. The cars are pushed off around 5 p.m. to get heat in the engines and "work the track in." According to Lindsey, since these are dirt tracks, facilities will till up the dirt and dump quite a bit of water on the top in order for the surface to be ready for racing.
"Racing usually starts around 6 p.m.," he said.
Cars start two to a row, with roughly 20 cars starting the main event. "Your position is determined by your qualification time," Lindsey said. "Your fastest lap determines your position throughout the night.
"Most race nights begin with the fastest four qualifiers competing in a four-lap trophy dash. From there, they will run eight-lap heat races and a main event of 35-40 laps. There are usually three to five different classes racing on any given night. The races are over between 10 and 11 p.m."
When asked if he has a lot of trophies, Lindsey answered in the affirmative.
He is looking forward to this season, and he credits his partner, Rich Gentes, with helping him achieve his successful record on the track. They formed a racing team called R & R Motorsports (for Rob and Rich).
"I used to watch him as a kid when I was growing up in California," Lindsey said. "In 2008 we learned we lived about a mile apart, and it wasn't long after before we joined forces. He is co-owner of the car and is my crew chief.
"Rich also has a vintage Sprint car and still races it from time to time. On many occasions he has asked me to run his vintage car because he has been asked to run another car. We've had a lot of fun doing this, and it usually produces quite a battle on the track."
A question that has to be asked is how the very-tall Lindsey fits into the cockpit of a Sprint car?
"I'm probably the tallest person at the races," he said. "But fortunately we built the car to fit me, so it's not that big of a problem."
And will there be a fourth generation of Lindseys racing cars?
"Today kids can start racing sprint cars at 14 or 15, but usually you won't see anyone doing this unless they've had experience in smaller cars," Lindsey said. "My son wants to do it, but my wife is pretty sure that will never be allowed."
Lindsey added, "This is obviously a hobby. It is totally different from my golf job. There are not too many places where you see a golf pro who is a race car driver. I am having the best time ever doing both.
"Summerfield residents have come to watch me race and support me. A couple of times a year, I will organize a golf-and-race weekend where we combine playing golf and racing."