Drag Racing, Feature Article, Washington — November 26, 2011 at 4:47 pm

David Wakefield (issue 100)



By Steve Heeb

David Wakefield has been watching racing since 1991 with family friends Howard Johnson and his son Mark.

“I’ve known Mark since we played t-ball together,” David recalls. “When Mark turned 16 Howard got back into racing. Being a best friend I helped out however I could.”

David eventually bought a blue ’71 Chevelle from Howard and began sportsman drag racing in 1994.

“I bought it stock,” David says. “We’ve been building it over the years.”

David would compete in the Street brackets for a few seasons before taking a while off to prepare the car for competition in the Pro and Super Pro ranks.

“We added a roll cage and tubbed it,” he says. “And the whole front end, doors and trunk are fiberglass to lighten it up. It weighs just under 3,000 pounds with me in it.”

The stock 350 was swapped out in favor of a small block 385-cid motor prepared by veteran Dale Green. The set-up includes a Turbo 400 transmission and air shifter pushing about 590 horsepower back to the 32×14.5×15-inch Hoosier slicks.

“He’s a good racer,” Dale says of David. “He’s done well and come a long way.”

“This has been a fun project all along,” says father Dave Wakefield of his son’s Chevelle racer. “He works hard on it. He uses my garage but it is all his money.”

Dave says the whole family can be found on race days at the dragstrip watching David compete.

“It’s a fun time for all of us to get together,” Dave says.

“Pacific Raceways is my home track,” David says. “I like things here. The facility is nice and I know a lot of the people here.”

He also is no stranger at Bremerton Raceway.

“Bremerton is more relaxed,” he says of the way the Handler’s group runs the race program there. “The promoters, Barb and Gordon Howell, are awesome people.”

His typical weekend used to consist of Pacific Raceways on Saturdays and Bremerton on Sundays. Now the family also makes the occasional trip south to Woodburn Dragstrip or north to Mission Raceway Park as David runs Super Pro on weekends as well as Super Street at Divisional and National events.

Regardless of which Northwest venue he is competing at, David appreciates how consistent the homebuilt Chevelle has been.

“I had helped other people work on their cars but this is the first one I had built,” David says. “But it’s a race car, so I am always working on it. It’s been a slow, expensive sport.”

The sport had an exciting development for David in August of 2009 when an episode of Pinks! All Out was filmed at Pacific Raceways.

“That whole weekend was great,” Dave says of his son’s opportunity to be in the Pinks! event. “He was just on that day. He cut good lights – actually they were good arm drops.”

“They pick the best 32-car clump of the closest times,” David explains of the selection process for the special heads-up event.

A field of 464 drivers arrived at Pacific Raceways with hopes of being part of the 32-car show, one of whom was friend Dallas Glenn.

“When we were testing on Friday we ran several times and always ran real close times,” Dallas says of he and David’s times. “I said ‘I’ll bet it’s us in the finals Saturday.’”

But first they had to make the show.

Dave recalls the tension Saturday afternoon for about two hours before the list of contestants was revealed.

“It was like listening for lottery numbers,” Dave laughs.

The announcement was that the group of 32 cars that would be in the show were in the 10.41 to 10.42-second range, including both Dallas and David.

After each round during the event host Rich Christensen would personally present the winners with $1,000.

When David won his semifinals matchup he stopped so Rich could congratulate him on making the finals in front of the crowds and the Speed Channel cameras.

Trouble struck when David’s Chevelle refused to fire up after the interview.

“When the starter wouldn’t turn over I thought ‘Here we go again, just our luck’,” Dave says of his son’s predicament. “He told me he was going to keep cranking it until it started or broke.”

Luckily the Chevelle did roar to life before he was scratched from the competition.

As Dallas had jokingly predicted, it did turn out he and David were the pair who would face off in the finals.

“I was up against Dallas who was driving his Corvette,” David says of going into the rapid-fire best two of three matches, the show’s format for determining the winner.

David won the first round against Dallas.

“We had bent the wheelie bars so used some wrenches like splints on it,” Dallas says. “That folded in the final and the rear end pushed the body sideways.”

“After David had the first one out of the way we thought race two was the one we really had to win,” Dave recalls.

David picked up the second race as well and was the overall winner for the Pinks! All Out show to claim $12,000 and a loaded tool box.

“They say the box and the tools are worth $8000,” David says of the new equipment he won. “The money all went back into the car. I bought a new throttle stop.”

A year later, Bruce Hyatt insisted that David borrow his truck and trailer to haul the Chevelle down to Phoenix to catch up with the Pinks! All Out crew in November 2010 and take a shot at being one of the show’s only two-time winners.

“I had retired earlier in the year so me and my wife Jeri were already traveling in our motorhome,” Dave says. “David hauled the Chevelle down and met us in Phoenix. That was one of those great once-in-a-lifetime trips”

Dave and Jeri celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary while their son tried to be part of a second Pinks! episode.

“The car slowed down because of the altitude,” David says. “It killed my car.”

Firebird Int’l Raceway sits 1,243 feet above sea level, dramatically different than the 150 feet conditions David normally experiences at Pacific Raceways.

He did not make the show, but did collect his winnings from the earlier event.

As long as they were traveling through the Southwest, the Wakefields dropped in to celebrate Thanksgiving at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I went some rounds in the Turkey Bash,” David smiles. “That was funner than hell. Being in Vegas and all was a cool experience.”

He appreciates the differences at each of the tracks he’s competed at and really liked the Las Vegas event.

“It’s very well run,” David explains of the crew at LVMS. “From announcer Alan Rhinehart to the guy running the show.”

After the pleasant experience at LVMS, David may travel to some other big tracks.

“I would like to try Charlotte or Topeka,” David considers. “I’ve heard they are just awesome too.”

Wherever he is racing, David credits sponsors Shinn Mechanical and Jem Contractors, who helped provide the fuel for the Phoenix trip.

“Bruce Hyatt has helped me a lot,” David adds. “He does my transmission and I use his trailer.”

David also thanks Rob Delaney.

“He helps me out with whatever I need to do,” David explains.

As far as family support, David says he can’t thank his parents Dave and Jeri enough and, sister Daenette also has been helping out a lot.

“I’m very proud of him,” Daenette says of her brother. “He’s got me hooked.”

David says he originally got hooked on racing through Mark and Howard Johnson.

“They’ve always been a good influence and showed me how to race,” David says. “Howard’s advice was to not overthink racing and to quit second-guessing myself.”

In turn, David encourages others to just have fun, because that is the point of racing.

“Make sure you are a good sport,” David explains. “Even if I lose I go over and shake the other driver’s hand. That is something Howard taught me.”

“He is a really nice guy,” Dallas says of his friend. “He’s really funny. He likes to sneak up behind people in the golf cart and then honk the horn.”

Dallas also says David is very competitive.

David says his personal best is a 10.24-sec. pass at 134 mph and he has had his share of wins, though that one race in 2009 stands out..

“Winning the Pinks! All Out event was a big boost for him,” Dale Green says.

Dave certainly has enjoyed watching his son get recognized at the races with the occasional: ‘Aren’t you the guy who won Pinks?’

“As a parent you are always proud of your kids,” Dave says. “But especially knowing how hard he has worked.”

“You know, I won the Goodguys race this year in the Comp Eliminator class,” David says with a grin. “But it always comes back to winning Pinks!”

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