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Father-Daughter Entry One of a Kind

August 18, 1994|SHAV GLICK

Father and son racing against one another has become commonplace--the Pettys, Unsers, Andrettis, etc.--but how about a father and daughter in the same race?

Wally Pankratz, 48, a veteran U.S. Auto Club competitor from Orange, and his daughter, Randi, 23, a three-quarter midget racer from Cayucos, are both entered in a USAC western regional midget race Saturday night at Ventura Raceway.

It will be Randi's first full midget race after having competed in quarter-midgets from age 9 until she was 16 and three-quarter midgets since then. She will be in the midget owned and usually driven by her father. He will be in one owned by Ron Weeks of Bellflower.

"If she beats me, she's fired," Pankratz said. "Of course, I've given her an 80-pound weight advantage."

Randi, 5 feet 2 and 105 pounds, was an all-league point guard for Anaheim Canyon High before giving up basketball to concentrate on a racing career.

"It is terrible enough to get beat one-on-one (in basketball) by your 13-year-old daughter," said Pankratz, a former Fullerton JC and Idaho State football player.

Sleepy Tripp, a two-time national and seven-time regional midget champion from Costa Mesa, observed Randi in a TQ race and told her father, "She always looks like she's in command of her car."

Dick Jordan, USAC communications director, said he believed it would be the first father-daughter competition in the organization's history.

The elder Pankratz, a second-generation driver who did not become a racer until he was 27 because of his mother's objections, has been competing on the USAC midget, super modified and Silver Crown dirt car series this year. He won a midget main event at Bakersfield Speedway in Oildale and was fast qualifier in a super modified race at Provo, Utah, last week.

Before driving at Ventura on Saturday night, Pankratz will be in a Silver Crown race at Springfield, Ill., that afternoon. Then he will take a private plane with fellow racers Billy Boat, Robbie Flock and Tony Stewart to Oxnard, where a helicopter will be waiting to take them to Ventura--hopefully in time for the first heat.

Even though Wally was a late starter, racing has been a way of life in the Pankratz family.

His father, Bob, was a popular driver during the midget racing heyday of the '40s at Gilmore Stadium. He suffered a serious head injury in a 1948 accident and turned to building cars for drivers such as Troy Ruttman, Jimmy Davies and Eddie Sachs.

His uncle, Wally, won the first California Roadster Assn. main event at Carrell Speedway in Gardena in 1946.

"I was only 3 when my dad got hurt and my mother didn't want me to race," Pankratz said. "I was too involved later with football anyway, so I didn't mind.

"When I was 27, I decided I wanted to try racing. I talked a friend into telling another race-driver friend, Porky Rachwitz, that I had raced once. Porky believed him and gave me a tryout in his midget at the old Whiteman Stadium in Pacoima. I did OK, so he entered me in a race in Barstow. Then I drove at Saugus Speedway and the throttle stuck and I flipped five or six times. The car was destroyed and no one would give me a ride for about a year.

"Looking back, I can't imagine how lucky I was. That was the last year the cars ran without cages. Not many guys flipped like that without a cage and survived."

Pankratz estimates he has won "about 100 main events" in all types of racing.

Randi started racing when a neighbor had a quarter-midget that he didn't want to drive, so he told Randi she could try it. She drove it well enough to win a number of races at Pomona and finish third in the nationals in Colorado. One of her rivals was Kara Hendrick, who was killed in a USAC midget racing accident in 1991 at Cajon Speedway in El Cajon.

When she was 16 and no longer eligible for quarter-midgets, Randi was hired by Kara Hendrick's brother, Danny, who had been paralyzed from the waist down from a racing accident, to drive his TQ midget racer.

In three seasons of limited racing, Randi has six top-five finishes. Last fall, she went to Paris and beat the top French female driver in a TQ match race.


The Rahal-Hogan racing team will no longer use the Honda V-8 engine in the 1995 PPG Indy Car World Series, ending a two-year association.

The engine failed to yield an Indy car victory. Bobby Rahal finished second in Toronto and sixth in Detroit and Mike Groff finished sixth in Phoenix with it.

"Although we have made good progress (with the engine), we have not achieved the results we anticipated," co-owner Carl Hogan said in a statement. "We have complete confidence that, given a reasonable amount of time, Honda will develop a competitive engine."

Motor Racing Notes

STOCK CARS--After a trip to Indianapolis where no one but Mike Chase qualified for the Brickyard 400, the Winston West drivers return to California on Saturday for the Winston 200 at Cajon Speedway in El Cajon. The 200-lap main event will spotlight Ron Hornaday Jr., John Krebs and Chase, the series points leader.

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