Dec. 30, 2013

The Daytona Beach News Journal

Chuck Gafrarar exchanged vows with wife, Jacqueline, in North Carolina in early 2002, and they spent the first few days of their “honeymoon” inside Daytona International Speedway.

Chuck was a rookie in the Goody’s Dash Series for compact cars, and nothing was going to stop him from making that Daytona start.

“We got up to fifth place and with a few laps to go, I decided I was going to pull out by myself and didn’t have a drafting partner and finished 12th,” Gafrarar said.

“Still, it was my rookie season and we went on to win Rookie of the Year, which was great.”

The Gafrarars returned to the Speedway this week, but Chuck was working on a go-kart and Jacqueline was at his side with several layers of clothing to fight off Tuesday’s bitter north wind.

They were in town to watch the next generation mount a charge at the Speedway, their 6-year-old son Caleb, who put on a show in the Kid Kart final.

The class is for children 6 to 8 years old, and run a box motor that is 51cc in size. The top speed of the machines is about 40 mph.

The 12-lap Kid Kart race over the Speedway’s half-mile sprint course saw Caleb start 10th and work his way into the lead before settling for second place.

“That was awesome,” Chuck Gafrarar said after the epic battle. “It has my heart racing more than ever.”

All Caleb could say after the asphalt battle was, “That was fun!”

The elder Gafrarar got out of stock car racing a few short years after his Daytona debut and jumped into go-kart racing. He said he won three World Karting Association races at Daytona during his career. All were on the 3.56-mile road course.

Now it is time for Caleb to carry the family steering wheel.

“He’s taken over the reins,” Chuck said. “This is just his first year. The very first national he was in, he raced against strong drivers from all over the country.

“He went out and sat on the pole, then paced the field to the green flag. I said, ‘I’m done. This is so cool.’”

“This is in his blood, just like it’s in his daddy’s blood,” Jacqueline said. “He’s definitely a racer, and I’m very proud of him.

“When I see him racing, I feel a lot of pride but also a lot of nervousness. I get very nervous.”

The Gafrarars call Concord, North Carolina, home. Chuck, 44, owns a fabrication shop and Jacqueline, 41, works for a production company that handles many pre-race ceremonies before NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events.

“Caleb is doing stuff now that I did when I was 14, 15, 16 years old,” Chuck said. “He is such a good wheel. It’s like watching a mini-me out there.”

“He listens to what his dad tells him,” Jacqueline said. “The first time I saw him in a kart, I thought it was his dad racing. I think he is a real natural.”