If you see a bright pink car on the race track this summer, chances are it belongs to Chris Weinkauf. The Wisconsin driver is set to tackle the 2018 season with his updated VanDerGeest racing look, and he’s certain to draw attention for his driving skills and his flamboyant race car.
“First off, my wife loves the color pink,” Weinkauf told Speed51.com. “It started out a few years ago when she was walking yearly in the 60-mile cancer walks. We would put pink on the car in honor of her walks and all the people fighting cancer. Then I added some more pink cause she liked it so much. It has kind of snowballed from there. This year, once again, Wendi said we should put more pink on the car. She thinks the brighter and more colorful the car, the better. Our car wrapper Kyle Osimitz from Auto Skins was totally on board with her, so I told him to run with it. The wrap design this year has been all Kyle and his creativity. The fans love it, my wife loves it and what’s the old saying, ‘happy wife, happy life.’”
The new look on his race car also comes with a new attitude for the Merrill, WI driver.
“I want to take a more relaxed approach and see where it takes us,” Weinkauf stated. “We are going to race select ARCA Midwest Tour Races and have added the Triple Crown at Madison International Speedway this year. I personally like racing for Gregg, Angie and their family; they are such genuine short track lovers.”
Although Weinkauf may take a more relaxed approach to the 2018 season, that does not mean his goals have changed. He has hopes to compete for the Triple Crown title at Madison International Speedway and earn his first Midwest Tour win since 2014.
Weinkauf will begin his season this Sunday with the Joe Shear Classic at Madison.
“The biggest goals for the season would be to win the Triple Crown title, that’s where we are going to concentrate on a title. If you ask my good buddy Brad JJ Mueller, I only win short schedule series titles,” Weinkauf joked. “What would make the whole season a success would be being competitive wherever we go and more wins, if we could sneak in a victory at one of the big ones I would probably retire… just kidding. When you race against the caliber of guys, whether in the ARCA Midwest Tour or shorter specials like the Triple Crown, the field is tough. I believe that the best racers around are from the Midwest.”
This season marks Weinkauf’s eighth in the VanDerGeest Racing stable, and he is quick to credit owner Jay VanDerGeest and his family with allowing him to continue his career. That includes previously competing full-time in the ARCA Midwest Tour and picking up two wins in the Wisconsin Challenge Series last year on his way to winning the title.
“VanDerGeest Racing has let me accomplish a lot since I have been with them. Without the support of Jay, Kristin and Levon, we would not have been able to race ARCA or win the WCS Series last year. Their support and dedication to racing is huge,” Weinkauf said. “They understand the hard work it takes and the sacrifice to make a race team successful.”
To say that Weinkauf and the VanDerGeest’s are like a family is an understatement. Weinkauf is joined at VanDerGeest racing by his brother, Jason, and on any given night it’s likely you will see all the families, kids and dogs included, hanging out at the shop. However, over the past eight years the look at VanDerGeest racing has evolved and Weinkauf has watched Jay’s son, Levon, start his racing career and now enter the Midwest Truck Series full-time.
Weinkauf has always supported Levon’s racing and will continue to do so this year.
“This season is going to be very busy again for us at VanDerGeest Racing. Jay’s son Levon is going to be running the full Midwest Truck Series and the team will be helping him make the big step to the larger tracks,” Weinkauf said. “It is not always easy to have a team with three Super Late Models and a Truck, but it is like a family. You have your ups and downs, but in the end, you are still a family and you figure it out and make it work.”
With countless laps turned, race wins and track championships, Weinkauf’s desire to race still stems from true love of the sport as he enters his 28th year. In the end, it makes all the hours worked and sacrifices worth it.
“It is a cliché to say it’s in your blood, but it has to be,” he said. “The thought of not doing it or quitting is not an option for me. It’s a passion for short track racing I guess. How else would you explain spending countless hours in the shop and traveling most weekends all summer long? I guess some would call it crazy but ask any racer out there. They maybe could explain it better than me but probably most would be the same and say it’s just what we do. It is who we are. We are race car drivers. I am sure someday I will hang up the steering wheel but as of right now I do not foresee that happening for a long time.”
Weinkauf’s first race of the season will come on Saturday, May 6 at Madison International Speedway with the ARCA Midwest Tour for the Joe Shear Classic. Race fans unable to make it to Madison, WI for that race will be able to watch a live pay-per-view video stream on Speed51.com.
-By Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @JWimm22
-Photo credit: Kevin Ramsell