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McKinley takes shot with sports cars

Fri., June 8, 2012

While many of the region’s best Late Model drivers were taking part in last weekend’s Snokist 100 at Spokane County Raceway, past Inland Northwest Super Stock Association rookie of the year and local favorite Greg McKinley was embarking on a new adventure right next door at the facility’s road course.

The Spokane Valley native has left the world of left turns for road racing in a vintage Fiat Spider 850. The Sovren Racing Club event marked his second race in the series.

With all of his Late Model equipment in the hands of other race teams, McKinley has begun to focus on a road racing endeavor that is for fun more than the thrill of competition, he said.

“Racing road courses has been tons of fun. I do enjoy the big courses,” McKinley said. “You don’t have the close competition, the rubbing of fenders and the bumping you do in Late Models. Road racing takes a lot of skill, shift points, braking points, corner entry and exit. Both types of racing have some similarities. The corner entry speed and braking has to be correct in both, for example. When you have to shift and deal with hills and a lot of weight transfer, that makes it (road racing) more difficult (then running an oval).”

McKinley got his start in racing at a much later age than most of his Late Model competitors and enjoyed the time spent competing against the best drivers in the Northwest. One of his finest moments was leading eventual winner Gary Lewis for the first half of an Idaho 200, only to have a mechanical failure just as the second half got under way cut his day short.

Working with family to get the Fiat Spider to the track is one part of McKinley’s new racing program that is going to provide lasting memories.

“My dad, Bryant, owns the race car,” McKinley said. “He would be racing it if he wasn’t blind, so he is my only pit guy. My dad has raced a lot of his life from Go Karts and Auto Cross to oval tracks until losing his site in his mid-30s. He still loves the race day, the sounds, and the smells and to know his car is competing.”

The McKinleys compete in the Sovren Racing Club, which features several classes and skill levels. Unlike Late Model racing, in which any skill level is on the track at the same time, racing in the Sovren organization allows drivers to move up as they improve their lap times and results.

“The Sovren Racing Club is a great organization and has been in existence since 1986,” McKinley said. “It’s a nonprofit organization in the Pacific Northwest. They race three groups: prewar (1941), Vintage (1941-61) and Historic (1962-72). You will see car like Corvettes, Mustangs, BMWs, Porsche, open-wheel V8s and four-cylinders, but your car has to meet a lot of the factory specs in order to compete.

“I get to race with many different types of race cars, different engine sizes, different weights, it is difficult to get close competition on a 2-mile course, but we manage to have a good time.”

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