A learners permit may be required to drive on public roads, but at Twin City Raceway, all that’s required is guts and a need for speed.
Take 14-year-old Mady Stichal. The Nikiski driver isn’t old enough to pilot a street car alone, but 2018 marks her first year behind the wheel of the family’s No. 95 Chevy El Camino race car, which has been painted up to mirror the Lightning McQueen character from the racing movie “Cars.”
“I got my permit now,” explained Stichal after Saturday’s action. “I like going fast on my quad, and I just started learning (cars) last year.”
Stichal and fellow female racer Gracie Bass teamed up over the Fourth of July holiday weekend to put on a victory show for the fans at Twin City Raceway. Bass won a 10-lap heat race in the A-Stock division at the three-eighths-mile dirt track with Stichal playing defense behind her.
Bass, who at age 16 is attempting to earn her driver license, started on pole in the race and was able to fend off the field when Stichal played blocker to the cars behind them.
“We teamed up to win that one,” Bass said.
In Saturday’s races, Stichal and Bass were also joined by fellow female racer Bridgette Attleson, driver of the No. 5 car, to form a trio of racers to run with the boys. The three ladies didn’t produce any wins, as the victory honors went to Sean Endsley in the No. 1/2 Chevy Monte Carlo. Endsley swept all three events in the A-Stock category.
Stichal said her father, Ray, used to be a flagger at Twin City, which gave her an inside track to racing at the dirt oval.
Although they are teammates, Stichal and Bass didn’t race like teammates Saturday night. In the first heat race, Stichal made a move to pass Bass going into Turn 1 and the two collided.
“The next thing I know, here comes Mady flying over my car,” Bass recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go for a ride.’”
Stichal door-slammed Bass in the middle of the turn, rubbing paint as she wrestled with the car, which then bounced high into the air when her rear tire came into contact with the front tire of Bass.
The collision left Stichal with a flat tire, which came loose and detached completely to send the No. 95 spinning around on three wheels and the tire bounding down the backstretch.
“I tried taking it low and she came in, and my rear end came around,” Stichal explained. “I thought I was saving it but I ended up spinning. I didn’t want to hit anyone.”
The wreck left Stichal done for the night and Bass with misaligned steering. Bass was able to continue.
Endsley’s night went much smoother on the race track, but things weren’t all rosy in the pits. Between heat races in the A-Stock division, the No. 1/2 car required repairs after the water pump belt came off, but the Fraction Racing members’ quick work helped Endsley get back out on track to sweep the competition.
“It was a pain in the butt to work with tonight,” Endsley said.
Endsley currently leads the A-Stock point standings, and said a lack of a track championship on his resume is something he would like to change.
“That’s my goal,” he said.
The action behind and around Endsley was packed. Endsley’s Fraction Racing teammate, Damian LaMountain of Wasilla, put on a show for the fans with a thrilling duel for second place with Chris Endsley, Sean’s father. The two racers slid around the dirt throughout the feature event, even splitting a lapped car down the backstretch in three-wide action.
In the end, the elder Endsley ended up taking second over LaMountain.
LaMountain has 20 years racing in Alaska, 10 at Twin City, and said races like Saturday night are what he longs for.
“It’s invigorating, man,” LaMountain said. “Racing like that is hard, but it’ll make you come back for more.”
In the Sprint category, the No. 84 of Jimmie Hale battled fiercely with the No. 4 of Dave Hughes throughout the heats, pulling off a clean sweep.
Brent Roumagoux enjoyed a successful night in the Legends class, sweeping all three races in his Mark Martin-inspired No. 6 machine, but had serious competition from the No. 44 of Ty Torkelson and the No. 55 of David Kusmider.
Torkelson was racing in honor of his fallen brother, Mark Torkelson, who passed away in his sleep last October at 62. Ty Torkelson ran a design in his brother’s memory on the rear of his car, complete with a gear logo and interlocking hands.
“The wrench means perfection,” Torkelson explained. “He was very technical, he knew the ins and outs of everything, and the hands means he was united to help.”
Torkelson said his brother was an avid snowmachiner, and claimed a big victory in the 1989 Iron Dog race.
Saturday at Twin City, Ty finished second in the first heat and crashed in the second, but returned to take third in the Legends feature, and thanked his competitors for helping repair the car after the heat 2 crash.
“Lonnie (Detteer) got sideways into Turn 4, and Brent clipped him,” Torkelson described. “He got into the back of him and sent him up the track into me.”