For two Washington State racers, Sunday morning was just like any other race day morning. Until it wasn’t. It was normal until their phones rang around 7:30 a.m. PT.
“There’s been a fire at the race track. You need to get down here.”
A whole race car. Gone. Two pit carts. Gone. Two tire carts. Gone. How the fire started remains unknown at this point. But the end result is obvious. It’s all gone.
“I’m still a little numb to it,” said Larry Lasmanis. “I’m trying not to think about it, actually. I’m not sure what I’m going to do now. I’m not sure if I’m going to take a break, if I’m going to do it anymore, or if I’m going to rebuild, or if I’m going to buy another car. I just don’t know yet.”
Lasmanis’ No. 5 Late Model was completely destroyed in the early morning fire at Wenatchee Valley Super Oval in Washington. All that’s left of his race car is a charred shell of something that now just barely resembles a motor vehicle. The pit cart that Lasmanis was borrowing from a friend is also gone. Fellow Late Model racer Glenn Knutson’s pit cart, tire cart, fuel cart, scales, gauges, chargers, shocks, springs, tools and notes were also lost.
“I just kind of saw my season going to an end,” Knutson said. “We just got that pit cart and we’d slowly been building up over the years all of those tools. Just to hear that all your tools are gone doesn’t feel pretty good.”
Luckily for Knutson, a neighbor of the track saw the flames and called the fire department in time for them to put out the blaze before it reached his car.
According to Jeremy Anders, the Marketing and PR Director for WVSO, track officials received the first call about the fire near 5 a.m. Anders said that the fire occured in the pit area of the race track, which is a gated-off area, and that nobody was at the facility at the time. Anders said that the fire department believes the fire started in the dashboard of Lasmanis’ car, but they’re unsure what caused it.
“They didn’t really tell me what had happened,” Lasmanis said about the initial phone call. “They just said there was a fire at the track and that was all I knew. So I rushed down there and I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. It was pretty surreal. And through the whole deal the worst part is not knowing exactly how it happened. We have no idea how the fire started. It doesn’t make any sense at all. We’d feel a lot better about it wrecking the car. At least then there would be a reason to what happened.”
Lasmanis said his initial reaction was to scream and curse and almost cry. His young daughter did cry. But now two days later, Lasmanis is just numb.
“I think I just need a little bit of time right now,” he said. “I’m just total numb to it right now and can’t think about it. It’s so disheartening because you put so much effort into what you do. And for me, I’m just starting out. I just bought this car last year and ran 10 races last year. This was my second race this year. The first race this year I won my first race and we were starting to have a lot of fun with the car. We’d worked our butts off on the car all winter long. It’s pretty sad.”
With Knutson’s car being spared by the flames, he was able to race on Sunday even though he had no tools or pit cart or anything. The 100-lap Late Model main event was run as two 50-lap races with Knutson finishing third in the first race and sixth in the second race. To add to everything else Knutson dealt with on Sunday, a hole was punctured in the radiator and he lost the clutch in his car during the second race.
But, he was able to race. And he was able to race due in large part to the rest of the racers in the Wenatchee Valley pit area.
“All of the crews pitched in and donated us parts,” Knutson said. “They all just wanted to see us out there. We really wanted to win this race here this weekend. I really wanted to win at Wenatchee. Everyone just kind of rallied for us to get out there. Numerous people offered pit carts.”
In addition to those efforts, the track passed a hat around the track on Sunday and raised close to $900, which was split between the two racers. There’s also now a GoFundMe page where people can donate to try to help out in any small way. Both drivers said they’re grateful for the support they’re receiving from the racing community.
“To see how the racing community is just one big family, it’s a great feeling to see everyone has everyone’s back,” said Knutson. “No matter where you’re from or who you are, at the end of the day everyone supports each other.”
As of now, Lasmanis is unsure what his next step will be or even how to start thinking about what that next step could be.
Knutson said he plans to continue racing the rest of the season with his Super Late Model program, even though he has to replenish his tool supply and all of his notes are lost.
But Knutson isn’t mad at anyone or anything. He too is just confused on how it happened, but he said he’s trying not to think about what caused it, and he’s definitely not blaming anyone or anything.
“It’s just something that happened. It was no one’s fault. It was just a freak deal. Just something crazy happened.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: WVSO GoFundMe