Thursday, 18 July 2024

Local Kiwanis president races in endurance road race




WILLOWS – Over the past weekend, Eric Wheaton, president of the local Kiwanis Club of Lakeport, drove in a fog-shortened endurance road race at Thunderhill Park Raceway, just west of Willows.

A 25-hour endurance race sponsored by the United States Air Force and sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) was shortened to an 18-hour endurance race due to the infamous Sacramento Valley ground fog.

The race started with nearly 70 cars on the track when the green flag fell on Saturday, Dec. 6, at 11 a.m., and a majority were still running at race end on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. after 18 hours.

Wheaton was at the wheel during his second stint in the car Saturday evening when they suspended the race at 7 p.m. for fog.

He reported he couldn’t see more than about 10 feet in front of the car, having to use the little reflectors on the edge of the track just to find his way around the three-mile course.

Finally, the visibility was too limited to safely race so the cars were parked on the track (no maintenance allowed please), and they waited for the fog to lift. It finally lifted about 4:30 Sunday morning and the race resumed at 5 a.m. again with Wheaton at the wheel of their No. 33 Mazda Miata.

He shared the car with his son David and another driver Saturday and then on Sunday, father and son drove the remaining 10 hours of the total 18 hours of racing spelling each other throughout the day.

They started 22nd in class, 59th overall and finished nine in class and 35th overall. And at the finish of the race, the No. 33 car drove up onto the trailer under its own power, demonstrating a racer’s definition of a successful race weekend.

Eric and David Wheaton are both volunteer driving instructors with NASA and were the only father-son driving team during this endurance road race. They’ve been sharing rides on race tracks such as Thunderhill Racepark at Willows, Infineon Raceway at Sonoma, Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey and Buttonwillow Raceway in Buttonwillow near Bakersfield for over a decade.

They’ve shared a Sunbeam Tiger, vintage Mustangs and Subarus on the track and raced a Spec Miata racecar in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and NASA events.

They started their track time together over 10 years ago when David was a teenager. They raced their first endurance race (a three-hour race at Infineon Raceway in the fall of 2006) and this endurance race completes their 2008 season.

The Wheatons are looking forward to instructing track novices together during the start up of the 2009 NASA road course season at Infineon Raceway in February.

Eric is retired (and a member of Kiwanis for nearly 18 years) and David is an instructor for the Russell Racing School at Infineon Raceway.

Eric and his wife Penny moved to Lake County in 2006 and Eric joined the Lakeport Kiwanis. He was installed as the President of the Lakeport Kiwanis this September.



Eric Wheaton in his racing suit. Courtesy photo.



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