Three generations of stock-car enthusiasts became four this year when young Treysen Mitchell rolled onto the oval track for the first time.
Seventy-six-year-old Bob Mitchell watched from the stands as his eight-year-old great-grandson sped around the track in his bright red 78 Bandolero (miniature stock car), with the Red Rabbit Racing logo printed proudly on the side. It’s tradition for this family to travel down south every year to race, and they did so again for memorial day weekend at the Montana Raceway Park.
“To be coming (at it) eight-years-old, jumping in a race car, it’s got to be unnerving,” said his grandfather Rick.
“If he goes out there and finishes the race, he’s gonna have the proudest little grandpa you ever did believe.”
Despite the nerves, and the intense Montana heat, Treysen finished the race. He didn’t place in the top three, but was welcomed back with high-fives and hugs nonetheless.
Rick believes it’s possible for his grandson to make it in the big leagues.
“If he’s got any of the ability that his dad has, he’ll be alright,” said Rick.
Red Rabbit Racing is a family-owned commitment. Bob and Anita Mitchell help support the crew through their business, Mitchell Excavating. Rick and Jeri are the parents of Cliff Mitchell, the father of Treysen. Also in the crew is Rick’s sister Kelly and brother-in-law Terry White, with their son Colby. They have been in the pits for over ten years.
Rick and Jeri’s daughter, Lacey, isn’t as involved in the racing, but helps manage the business while the family is south of the border. Cliff acknowledges this is a huge help.
Treyson’s mother Sara was also present that weekend to see her son race for the first time.
“It’s a family ordeal,” said Rick. “We all go.”
Jeri takes on the role of pit chief, managing where everyone goes, what they eat and where they stay. Cliff has been in his fathers pit crew since he was 13, and started racing at the age of 14.
It all started back when Rick and his father Bob came to Fernie in 1969. Rick started racing ten years later, after putting together a car from scraps. He raced for three years without winning anything, but kept at it.
“When you’re in that seat, we race probably 70 miles an hour top speed, and you’re side by side and you’ve got six cars right behind and right beside you, you can feel them bumping against you, it’s just awesome. It’s the coolest thing in the world,” said Rick.
Rick’s love for racing started long before rolling onto the track. Within the first year of having his drivers license at the age of 16, it was revoked after receiving too many speeding tickets.
“That’s when I smartened up and went to the race track,” he said. “That’s such a great lesson that so many kids around need to learn.”
“You keep the kids off the streets, you keep them out of all that other (stuff), and just get them out on the track.”
Rick’s first race was in Cranbrook, back when the old track was in use. Then, Rick put concrete in the drivers side so the extra weight would allow the car to keep traction around fast corners. Things have progressed from that. He’s seen safety progress exponentially as the sport has grown. In his years, he’s raced many cars, rolled a few, and made many. His biggest accomplishment was winning the 2008 IMCA Stock Car Championship.
During the summer, the Mitchell family competes nearly every weekend. Wherever they are, the schedule remains the same. Starting with warm up laps, any adjustments are made to the cars. Next comes the qualifying laps, and if placed in the top four, the racer competes in the six-lap trophy dash. The cars are not all made the same. The fastest car will start at the back, and try to pass everyone on the quarter-mile long track. The main event is next, and riders usually compete for a $150 cash prize.
This year, racing his 66 Hobby Stock, Rick powered through to a strong third place finish in his heat, earning him a spot in the trophy dash where he claimed the top spot. Later that day, Rick went on to place third in the main event. Colby, racing his 29 Bandolero, finished fourth in his heat, second in the trophy dash and fourth in the main event.
On June 3, Red Rabbit Racing returned to the track. Rick took third in his heat, and second in the main event. Cliff took to the track this time in his 78 Hobby Stock, winning the trophy dash as well after finishing second in the heat race. He later placed third in the main event.
The family returned again on June 10 but were rained out. Later on June 17, young Treysen finished second in the trophy dash, fourth in his heat and seventh in the main event. Colby took fours across the board.
On June 24, Colby returned to the speedway with a vengeance and claimed first in his trophy dash, second in his heat and fourth in the main event.
Racing is a passion that courses through the veins of the Mitchell family, and come July 8, they will hit the track yet again at the Montana Raceway Park.