My first race -- Jimmy Vasser

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Quarter-midgets, Baylands,1972

My first race was a quarter-midget event at a track called Baylands in Sunnyvale, California back in 1972. I was just six at the time, but I was already interested in cars because my dad restores and sells them: in fact, he and I now share a dealership in Napa. That’s what funded my racing in the early days. I don’t remember where I finished but I wasn’t too good first time out. What I do remember is that I had been given this helmet that was way too big for me — even now!  

Anyway, I got hooked and won the national quarter-midget championship a couple of years later and did it again in ’75 and ’78. Then I jacked in racing altogether while I was in school and got into it again around ’82. But it wasn’t until eight years later, when I won the Toyota Atlantic series, that l ever felt I’d get into Champ Cars.

…and my last race

Well, it was nothing special but Cristiano (da Matta) and I qualified eighth and ninth and finished sixth and seventh. It was good to get both PKV cars in the points but we put too much downforce on, which hurt our straightline speed. The thing you need to do is put less downforce on than you’re comfortable with: when the track rubbers in you have the grip you need but you’re still fast in a straight line. But it’s only the team’s second year so we’re still learning. —  DM

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