June 29, 2016

Partly sunny

For the McCalls, racing isn’t a job — it’s about family

ELYRIA — Racing is more about family than winning or making money to Steve McCall.

“We’re a close family, and in today’s society, families don’t stick together or do things together,” McCall, 58, head of McCall Racing, said Sunday during a promotion at Midway Mall for Lorain County Speedway’s upcoming season. “It’s just fun and (for) keeping the kids out of trouble.”

The McCall family is in its third generation of racing. George McCall, McCall’s father, was a quarter-midget racer, and Steve McCall’s son — they are known as “Big Steve” and “Little Steve” — was the Pure Stock division champion at LCS last year and the 2009 rookie of the year in the Charger Division.

The elder McCall raced for five years beginning in 1977 after going that year to look at a 1968 Mercury Monterey a friend planned to buy. He said the friend couldn’t afford to buy it after his motorcycle was stolen, but McCall was sold.

“I sat in it and fell in love with it,” he said.

McCall never won any races, but he fell in love with racing and the speedway. After he stopped driving, he started building cars and also officiated at the track for a couple of years in the 1980s.

“I’m just the checkbook now,” he said of his role in the family business, which includes brothers Andy and Pat McCall. Pat has two sons who race, and Andrew’s son is starting soon.

After he stopped racing, Steve and Pat McCall built modified jeeps that pushed cars that stalled on the raceway. They rebuilt the Pontiac Grand Am that was the younger Steve McCall’s first race car before rebuilding the 350-horsepower, 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass that was on display Sunday at the mall.

“These guys are so amazing with these cars,” said the younger McCall, 35. “I’m not very real mechanically inclined, but I can drive the tar out of one.”

Despite going winless, the elder McCall, a tractor-trailer driver, said he passed on to his son the need to see a few cars ahead to avoid crashing. The younger McCall said he also learned patience from his father.

“If somebody runs into you, whether it be incidental or on purpose, just use your head. Don’t go out and retaliate,” he said. “You’ve got to keep it on the track so you can get your points for the evening.”

McCall said racing — which reaches speeds of up to 90 mph at the 3⁄8-mile LCS paved oval, looks a lot easier than it is. McCall wrecked in 2010, flipping five times at a race in Conneaut, but he was ready to go the next week.

“You always hope it doesn’t happen, but it can’t be in your mind,” he said. “If it is in your mind, it’s more likely to happen.”

The elder McCall said racing has been a money loser for him as a car owner, despite the occasional prize money from wins, but he is grateful to the team’s local sponsors — such as Butchko Electric, Jones Auto Body and The Powerhouse Gym — who, he said, make racing possible. He said he loves the look in children’s eyes when the cars are on display in promotional visits to businesses, libraries, schools or at the track.

This season the younger McCall will be doing less racing to spend time with his young children. His father said he told his son he could always race but could never get back the time with his children when they’re young.

The elder McCall advises those interested in getting into racing to start small and work their way up, be prepared for long hours working on cars and do not expect to make money.

McCall said he plans to stay involved in racing “as long as I can walk.”

This season, the family will be racing in the faster and more lucrative Ohio Stock division.

“Last year was our 35th anniversary, and to be doing it for so long has got to say something about what we do.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

About Evan Goodenow