It sounds like you are exposed to racing when you are quite young.
Ron: Yes. We would race anything we could get our hands on. We rode motorcycles growing up as a kid. We raced go-carts; everything was a competition for us. Whether we had big wheels or hot wheels we were always trying to beat each other.
Are you faster than Jon?
Ron: Usually, I think I’m just a little bit smarter (laughter)!
Who was or is the most influential person in your life?
Ron: It was my dad for sure. He was pretty good at letting us experiment. Anything we bought we would take apart and find out how it worked. That definitely helped my learning curve later on when I was a crewmember on the alcohol cars up until I got a shot at driving. I think his influence as I was growing up really helped me.
As far back as I can remember we would go to the March meet every year in Bakersfield. Or we would go to Irwindale or up to Fremont racing. Usually we had a family trip every year to the March meet to the fuel and gas championships. So I pretty much grew up going there every year with my dad. If he wasn’t driving he was helping other drivers.
I think his influence in getting me into drag racing was huge. He would always teach us how things worked. My dad was very quick witted and had a great sense of humor. He taught a lot of people different aspects of the sport of drag racing. He would mix in humor while teaching someone the physics of why and how a race car left the starting line. He would try to get very intellectually deep, even if he wasn’t that intellectual, he would try to cover for it. He was really good at simplifying everything.
People always took their cars to him when I was growing up. Whether it was a fast streetcar or race car. Anyone within a three-hour radius of our home would come by to get their car to run better. Whether it was setting up a progressive linkage on 62’s or working on a flathead Ford. These are the things he learned how to do as he was growing up in Avenal California. He had a genuine talent at simplifying complicated things and making them easy to understand. He had a reputation of making cars go faster without spending a lot of money to do it.
I think his experience carried over to me when I decided I wanted to try to do this for a living. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I knew I was going to have to take the hard route and learn how to work on the cars before I would get my shot at driving them. You only get one shot at the big time. I didn’t have sponsors or wealthy parents so my route was to come up from the bottom learning everything mechanically about the cars. When I did get that shot driving a car I think I had an advantage over most of the other guys because I understood the mechanics of the car. I could interpret sounds and feelings of the car because I had so much experience working on them. It definitely helped me a lot for sure.
Your dad sounds like a wise person who had common sense, knowledge and could put ideas and concepts together in terms that most people could understand.
Ron: I run into people all the time that crackup when they remember working with my dad. More than anything he taught me that you didn’t need big dollars to beat somebody in a race. He would teach people how to be the best that they could be racing whatever they had. He worked on the Can Am car for a while and. He had away of knowing how to get his cars to be as fast as the other guys without having the high dollar parts.
As kids we always prided ourselves in doing the same. We would roll into go-kart races in this old trailer that used to be owned by a gardener. We put a couple of two by fours on the top and would load our go-carts on them. We pulled a trailer with a beat up old station wagon. We would roll into the raceway and there would be guys with enclosed trailers and really nice rigs and we would smoke their asses. It was such a great feeling because we would drive out of there with all these trophies stuffed in our trailer with our two beat up go carts that we worked on and painted ourselves. Our go-carts didn’t have any new parts on them and we figured out a way to beat them. That is the way my dad was when he raced whether on the street or at the racetrack.
If you talk to anybody he’s been around or that he’s helped and they will tell you the same thing. It was exciting leave a track beating a big budget car like a new Corvette with an old 55 Chevy that weighed twice as much. That’s a really good feeling to have when you’re racing.