Feature Article, Stock Cars, Washington — July 17, 2014 at 4:47 pm

CJ Hawley (Issue 107)


IT-107 CJ Hawley Pro-4 Alliance-1

By Steve Heeb

Clyde Fought Sr. passed on a legacy of racing that has lasted through the generations. In 1992, Clyde had several sprint cars brought up from Nevada and spread among his sons and grandsons to race in Ephrata.

“He was at the heart of the family’s racing,” Tricia Hawley says of her grandfather’s passion for the sport.

In addition to Clyde’s own racing that would ultimately see him inducted into Ephrata Raceway Park’s Hall of Fame, the other sprint cars went to his sons Clyde Jr., John, Tim and Dale, his son-in-law Mark, nephew Donny Kudrna and grandson John “J.P.” Hawley, all of whom competed at Ephrata.

J.P. later took up racing stock cars in the 1990s, but eventually stepped out of his driver role when his son CJ turned 4.

“He saw some kids doing a flag ceremony,” CJ says of his dad’s initial discovery of the quartermidget program. “He got interested and put me in a quartermidget when I was 4.”

“J.P. gave up racing the Northwest Tour so that CJ could race,” Tricia explains. “We had to wait a year to officially race, but JP would take him to the airport to practice even before he could join the Junior Novice quartermidget ranks.”

Tricia says there was no doubt that son CJ would follow into racing as his great-grandfather had done so many years earlier.

“That little kid just enjoyed being at the track,” she says of her son’s experience watching his dad race that started when he was only three weeks old. “He would line up his toy cars in the stands and hold his own little events.”

When he was 5, CJ’s toy car races had become quartermidget competition in the Junior Novice division, where he raced for three seasons.

Success followed when the 8-year-old advanced to the Junior Honda division and had racked up three back-to-back-to-back championships by age 10.

At 11, CJ started into the Regional series and won four of the six major events in the Northwest, never finishing out of the top-5.

“It was a lot of fun doing the Regional series,” Tricia smiles.

At 14, the Hawleys decided it was time for CJ to move to a full bodied car and set their sights on the Northwest Pro-4 Alliance program.

“I worried he wasn’t ready at 14,” Tricia recalls of her initial caution. “But I knew he’s got it in him and he would be OK. I’ve been around enough to know this is a safe sport. I feel more comfortable with him in a car than on a snowboard.”

She says he has had more accidents snowboarding at his favorite slopes at White Pass and Schweitzer than he ever had on a race track.

CJ notes that the winter activity has helped mold a philosophy for racing and life.

“I was watching the Winter Olympics and was inspired by a paraplegic skier who said: ‘You can’t die unless you are living,’” he says.

With that in mind, CJ hoped that the competitive spirit that brought success in the quartermidgets would continue in the Pro-4s.

“The biggest challenge has been going from a front-runner in the smaller divisions and not being able to get as much done and perform the way I know I can,” CJ says.

He says the Hawley’s keep a small team, made up of his parents, his uncle Jon and CJ’s girlfriend Harley, but notes that fellow racers from the Rumsey and Thompson families have been a great help.

“They were open and wanted to help,” CJ says. “It’s a great group of people.”

“Rick and Steve Thompson have really taken CJ under their wing,” Tricia agrees. “And their dad Dave does all the engine work.”

She says Dave helped work out some motor issues that plagued the team during the early seasons.

“The car started with a Honda motor that didn’t work,” she recalls. “We drove that two years before we finally gave it up and got the Ford.”

“The Ford 2300cc four cylinder is a whole different game,” CJ says of the new powerplant bolted in the Lahorgue chassis. “This is a mechanic’s race and there are so many ways to make adjustments to the car.”

CJ says he stays pretty aggressive but at the same time drives smart and tries not wreck the equipment.

“I’m very competitive and that is a good thing in this sport,” he explains. “But I take care of the stuff. We only bought the car we could afford because we’d rather be at the track than not.”

On a limited budget, CJ says he has paid for his racing the last two years in part from the money he earns working at Hush and Hush Fertilizers in Toppenish.

He also credits sponsorship support from Red Line Automotive, Valley Pipe, Northwest Restoration and the family’s Fought Farms.

CJ’s racing already has taken the team to Monroe, Wenatchee, Spokane, Roseburg, Post Falls and Yakima, and he’ll add Hermiston to the list soon.

“I like Evergreen Speedway,” he says of the 5/8-mile track in Monroe. “The track is fast and I like the history. Racing on the big track is more about the set-up.”

Another favorite venue is Wenatchee Valley’s Super Oval.

“It’s fast, too,” he says. “I like that high-bank fast quarter mile.”

Regardless of the venue, CJ likes getting the chance to meet up with his racing friends including Kayla Pittman, Alex Peck and Max Schroeder.

“We grew up racing our entire lives together,” he says of his fellow quartermidget racers that are now together again in the Pro-4 series. “We were the trouble makers. That was our favorite time. We still race together a couple times a year and it’s still fun, but I miss spending the whole weekend together.”

“I always liked having CJ in a race with me,” Max Schroeder says of the group’s time in the quartermidgets. “He always raced me clean and was someone I could follow to the front because that’s where I knew he was always going.”

Alex Peck also recalls times when he and CJ raced.

“We both were successful and enjoyed racing with each other,” Alex says. “CJ was a clean, competitive and respectable driver who often ran up front. We have a lot of good memories on the race track and even more off the race track as buddies hanging out together.”

Alex says CJ was the first of their quartermidget friends to move into the Pro-4 Alliance group.

“He opened the door giving quartermidget drivers like myself, Kayla Pittman, Max Schroeder and Gracin Raz, a nice transition into a full size race car,” Alex says “I haven’t been able to race with CJ a whole lot in the Pro4s due to some very unfortunate bad luck with their program, but he is the same competitive driver who is motivated to do well. He has a strong racing desire and works very hard so he can do what he loves. I’m proud to call him my friend.”

“It’s always great to see CJ at the track,” Max agrees. “As we move up through the racing ranks, it’s good to be around a guy like CJ to talk racing and be on the track with.”

When he’s not reuniting with his childhood friends on race weekends, CJ spends some time visiting the children at the Kadlec Center for Pediatrics in Richland, Wash.

“I visit the kids at Kadlec and help with booths to raise money,” CJ says.

“He’s hoping to raise some money at the Hermiston race and it goes to a good cause,” Tricia says of her son’s involvement with the Kadlec and Wishing Star programs. “He has a big heart. He’s always felt it’s neat to pay it forward and use his talents to support kids.”

CJ is helping the foundation organize a special family movie night for the kids around Christmas time.

He also plans to work more with the G1ve a Buck Foundation next season.

“A cousin of his almost died of cancer,” Tricia explains. “He’ll be raising money for cancer research.”

The non-profit organization established by his cousin Gail Lopez grants money to childhood cancer research and related charities across the United States with the concept that if everyone made even a simple one-dollar donation, much of the needed research could be funded.

That doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice, even for a small-budget racing program with sights set on a Late Model in the near future.

“I hope to get a chance to race a K&N car,” CJ says.

He advises new racers to be cautious when they start out.

“Only race what you can afford,” he says. “You need to be able to afford being competitive so pick the highest class that you can still afford.”

In the meantime, CJ and his cousin Michael Fought, who still races Clyde’s original car, are carrying on a family racing tradition that spans back to his great-grandfather’s sprint car experience at Ephrata – a tradition that has expanded to yet another generation as CJ’s cousins Gavin and Karson Yager take up quartermidgets.

“This is what I enjoy doing,” he says.

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