In the spotlight this week is west coast bracket racer Jeff LaSalle. The Cloverdale, CA racer has been racing his Coronet since 1988. It’s his first and only race car. Racing 20-30 weekends a year, Jeff spends most of his time at the racetrack.
Because of that, Jeff met his girlfriend, Stephanie, at the racetrack. Since they both come from racing families, they now race with their families all along the west coast bracket scene.
We learned more about Jeff in the following Q&A session.
How did you get introduced to the sport?
I first got introduced to the sport through my dad, with my earliest memories of him racing his Vega at Spokane Raceway Park.
Which class or classes do you compete in? Where do you normally race?
I mainly compete in bottom bulb competition, sometimes double-dipping with super pro off the bottom. We race at Sonoma, about an hour away, and Sacramento, which is two and a half hours away, most often. Also Las Vegas, Fontana, and Redding for bracket finals and big bucks races.
Tell us about your current race car.
My current race car is really the one I’ve been in my whole racing career. It’s a 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T. It’s a low mileage, well kept original paint car. It’s red with black interior and has a 440 engine. My Dad actually gave this car to me the day I turned 16 (I’m still shocked 28 years later).
It had no motor so from ages 18 to 23 I spent all my time and money building a motor, putting in a cage, and installing mini tubs it to get it ready for racing.
Please list your major racing accomplishments.
I’ve Won 10 Pro ET track championships between Sacramento and Sonoma. I won the 2007 bracket finals and was runner up at the 2011 and 2014 bracket finals, I’ve won some $4K and $5K races and a $10K this year, all in Pro ET.
What’s on your bucket list, future goals, what do you hope to achieve?
A bucket list item for me would be to race a fast dragster. Ever since I got my license at 18 and ran 8.20 in my dad’s dragster I’ve always wanted to get back in one and try it again because it was so fun.
What is your favorite race car, and why?
My favorite race car has to be the Coronet because I know every inch of it and we’ve been through so many highs and lows over the last 21 years together. I’m really proud that I was able to take my dad’s old car and compete and win on some pretty big stages.
Tell us what you do for a living?
I’m a cabinet maker and have been at the same shop for 25 years here in Northern California. We’ve always worked four 10-hour days so I have the option of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off which really helps out with racing and life in general.
How do you support your racing, side hustle, sponsor, partner, etc.?
I don’t have any sponsors, I pretty much rely on income from work and race winnings to keep my race program going. My racing has pretty much paid for itself over the years, and sometimes more. Most due to keeping my overhead low by using a half ton pickup and open trailer that’s all paid for.
Who do you hate to see in the other lane, and why?
I always hate to see my girlfriend Stephanie in the other lane because it’s a lose-lose situation. And she usually puts me on the trailer.
What’s the hardest part of drag racing?
For the longest time the hardest part about racing for me was brushing off losses and always remaining positive. I would let a loss stick with me too long and I didn’t know to have a short memory on the bad and long memory on the good. I’ve worked on that and it is not an issue anymore. But it took a long time.
What’s your most embarrassing moment in a race car?
Most embarrassing? Probably losing a motor a long time ago at Sears point and not pulling over at all. I just drove right up the middle of the track to screw it up for everybody LOL. Oh and I did run out of gas going down the track one time too, that’s pretty embarrassing.
What are you saying to yourself just before you stage the car?
I’ve gone through so many different sayings in my head right before a run over the years, whatever it took to get me confident. But lately it’s just been finding a way to not think about anything and just have a blank mind ready to react. Actually I will tell myself whether I’m dialed hard or whatever I’m holding just so I don’t forget.
What do you enjoy the most at the racetrack?
The best thing about the racetrack is that you’re able to show up and get away from normal life for a few days and share a passion with all your friends. Winner’s Circle photos rank right up there to. When all the preparation and execution come together and you’re the last one standing, that’s pretty special.
Are you superstitious? If so, what are they?
I used to be superstitious but after racing for so long those silly things kind of went away.
Do you love to win or hate to lose?
I used to hate to lose, but it’s turned into more of a love to win now. To me that’s much more of a positive approach. To be in this sport for the long haul you really need to learn how to lose and take the lessons from it.
Which are you better at the starting line or the finish line?
I like to keep my lights grouped tightly but I don’t shoot for .00’s very much off the bottom until I feel I might need it. So I’m probably better at the finish line. Lots of people cut good lights, but having a good car and being able to drive the finish line well is kind of an art that takes time.
What motivates you to continue racing?
The motivation to continue racing comes very easily. It’s in my blood and nothing compares to the excitement and the constant challenge.
If money were no object, what would your racing operation look like? Car, trailer, class, race schedule, etc.
I’d like to have a nice motorhome and stacker trailer filled with a fast dragster that I could run top dragster, brackets, and super comp with. We’d have a top Sportsman type Nova for Stephanie to drive since she loves door cars and likes to go fast.
How often do you use a practice tree?
I usually break out my practice tree about a week before a race, and make about 30 hits per day on it. I try not to use it on race day and just let the preparation and instinct take over.
What is your daily driver?
My daily driver is a 1969 Dodge Dart 318 Western sport special. It’s green with black interior and is super simple and reliable but will be getting a slightly built 360 Magnum and 9″ rear shortly. I love driving it, it’s like stepping back in time.
Favorite movie or TV show?
I don’t watch much TV but I do find the Untitled Action Bronson show on Vice to be pretty entertaining. It’s a cooking show with a ‘twist’.
Favorite music, artist?
I’m a pretty big music head and like pretty much anything before about the year 2000. But my favorite is early Hard Rock / Heavy Metal. Sabbath, Motorhead, Rainbow, Dio, Priest all get me fired up.
Where do you spend the most time on the internet?
For the last few months I’ve been spending most of my time on the internet trying to learn everything I can about the motor I’m building for my Dart. The Mopar Magnum small block, which I knew nothing about until recently. I’ve built and raced big block Chrysler’s and know them pretty well, but knew nothing about the small blocks.
What is your favorite sport? Favorite team?
My favorite sport is football, Chicago Bears. I started watching football at 10 in 1985 and there was something about the ’85 team that hooked me and I’ve been a fan ever since. It’s kind of weird I know, being originally from Ohio, and if any of my family back there reads this I’m sorry, but I still got love for the Browns!
Besides racing, what do you do in your free time?
I live about an hour and a half north of San Francisco in Sonoma County and I love what the area has to offer. I like to hang out at the beach, go hiking, play golf, check out different wineries, and there’s a ton of excellent restaurants within an hour’s drive here too.
What are you really good at?
I think I’m really good at having the discipline to get some form of exercise in right after I wake up and before I go to work. It energizes me and sets a positive tone for the day.
Name one thing most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I’m decent at golf. I played a ton when I was younger but don’t get out much anymore. I played the other week for the first time in a year and stunk it up but still shot 87.
Would you rather hang out with a crowd or have a quiet evening at home?
I’ve been so busy lately with work, home improvements, and fixing a broken race car that a quiet night at home sounds really good!
What’s your favorite thing to eat? Individual item, meal, or restaurant?
I like to eat Italian food the most. Veal parm, lasagne, raviolis, meatballs, garlic bread. But give me a nice crispy thin crust sausage pizza and a glass of Sonoma County red and I’m in heaven.
Who would you like to thank, who helps you the most?
I have to thank my mom and dad for letting me use their garage to build the car when I was coming up. My dad specifically has been a big help in many areas over the years.
Also my girlfriend Stephanie for her support. Her dad Dennis who builds my transmissions and is always there to lend a hand. Cameron at CanAm Machine in Rohnert Park. And Jenny and Anthony for coming out and supporting too.
Thanks to Jeff LaSalle for his participation in the DragChamp racer spotlight. If you enjoyed this article, make sure to share it with your friends.
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