Feature Article, Stock Cars, Washington — April 23, 2014 at 4:47 pm

John Boyatt (Issue 105)


IT-105 John Boyatt (Air Force Late Model)

By Steve Heeb

Rusty Boyatt’s racing career took him far.

How far? More than 5000 miles span the gap between the Northwest dragstrips he would run in the 1970s and ’80s, to the dirt tracks in Germany where he raced stock cars while serving in the US Army.

Rusty’s son John Boyatt recalls his father competing at Pacific Raceways and Bremerton.

“By the time I was 10, I was at a race every weekend,” John says. “I started racing Hobby Stocks at Spanaway Speedway in 1997, just as I was graduating from Spanaway Lake High School.”

John earned money to race by cleaning the neighbor’s horse stall and selling the speakers out of his car.

“The first 283-cid motor came out of a farm truck,” John recalls. “The engine was all green so we nicknamed it Kermit.”

Kermit proved its worth as John piloted the metallic blue No. 77 Nova to victory lane in the trophy dash, heat race and feature on his first night.

The metallic blue paint was inspired by US Air Force veteran Doc Watson, a theme that would return for Boyatt in the future.

After the Hobby Stocks, John ran Street Stocks for two seasons and then moved into the Fig-8 ranks.

“My mom did not like that,” he says of his brief stint braving Spanaway’s X. “She told my dad she didn’t care what he built me, just get me out of the Figure 8s.”

“I hated the Figure 8s,” mother Bobbi growls.

In Sportsman, John never finished less than third in points at Spanaway.

“Spanaway was driver finesse, not all about chassis,” John says. “I did well there.”

In John’s first race in a fiberglass car at Spanaway, he got some advice from fellow racer Kevin Carver.

“He pulled me aside and told me to just drive my car,” John recalls. “He told me the biggest thing I needed to do was slow down and keep the car in its own lane.”

The advice paid off right away as John qualified second for the final.

“My dad didn’t want me starting up front because I didn’t have a rear-view mirror,” John laughs. “I went out and took the mirror out of his truck and duct taped it into my car.”

The finish was a drag race to the line between John and Kevin.

“The crowd was on their feet as Kevin beat me by about three inches,” John says. “After the race Kevin told me: ‘Now I’m really worried about you.’”

John ran the No. 4 Monte Carlo there until the historic 1/4-mile track closed its doors in 2002, when he continued competing at South Sound Speedway.

“South Sound was bigger and the racing cost more,” he says of the 3/8-mile track in Tenino.

Moving to Late Models, John traveled to other Northwest venues.

“Port Angeles was a blast,” he grins. “You couldn’t set up for that place. Every lane was a different bump.”

“It was a physically exciting track,” Rusty agrees.

“We decided the Late Model cars needed a series they could call home,” John says.

In 2007, John helped found the Limited Late Models Racing Series, which would hit the road for events at Port Angeles, Wenatchee, Spokane, Yakima, Hermiston and Roseburg.

“We also did Open Comp races like the Pepsi 100 and Coors Light Shootout at Port Angeles,” John says of the traveling group. “We were completely undefeated in the Late Models at Port Angeles.”

John recalls a bit of excitement during a 100-lap shootout against Troy Eaton.

“I lost the brakes at lap 75,” John explains. “Before that the shifter had broken loose so I steered with my legs while I quickly tied the housing into the car to keep it from dropping out the bottom and ending my night.”

Rusty also recalls that race, competing with his son and Troy.

“We went three wide with Troy high and John low around a lapped car,” Rusty says. “It was tough to stay there.”

“Every corner Troy was right there,” John continues. “After the race I was so exhausted that dad had to pull me out of the car.”

The group also competed at Columbia Motor Speedway in Hermiston, Ore.

“Hermiston is a rough little track,” John says.

“The asphalt was really bad there,” Rusty agrees. “The rocks stick up so it’s like driving on ball bearings.

John notched the first two LLMRS championships in 2007 and 2008.

“Those were our two best years,” John says of the 2007 and 2008 campaigns.

After securing the 2008 title, John sold the No. 10 Monte Carlo, but his Late Models cars have been the No. 10 ever since.

“The most improvement has come in the Super Late Models,” John reflects on the various divisions he has raced. “I learned finesse and patience. If you overdrive a Super Late Model, you’re not coming back.”

Like Kevin Carver in John’s Spanaway days, racers that helped him fine-tune his skills along the way include Mike Bennett, Kelly Tanner, Naima Lang, “Pappy” Welsch and Jason Frasier.

“Jason will help us with just about anything,” John says.

Lance Wells, Brian Fulkerson, Kyle Kammerzell and Ron Vasser make up John’s crew.

“During the week I drive truck so it is their work that gets the car ready each week,” John says.

Each week, John logs about 2500 miles in the Boyatt Trucking ‘99 Kenworth T-2000 as he hauls all over Washington state.

“I’m lucky to be home two days a week,” John says. “About the only time I see the family is out at the race track.”

Johns says his favorite track is the 5/8-mile oval at Evergreen Speedway, but has had plenty adventures traveling to other venues.

He says the Tidrick family has been very helpful, especially on one trip to Yakima Speedway.

“We tore the car up the night before the 2009 Apple Cup and Brad opened his shop to us,” John explains. “When he left for the night he just said: ‘I’ll see you tomorrow at the track – use whatever you need.’ He left us there and we worked through the night to get the car ready.”

“We were there when they opened up for business the next day,” Rusty adds. “After all that work John was running mid-pack on lap 3 of the the Apple Cup and was forced off the track at mid-turn where he slid and collided with a dirt berm ending our weekend and destroying the car.”

The Tidricks also came to Rusty’s aid when he and Bobbi had a flat tire on their Goldwing motorcycle on the highway just outside Yakima.

“I called Brad to see if he could give us a hand,” Rusty explains. “He was racing at Kalispell but he called his shop and sent someone to help me. The Tidrick Transmission people are a class act.”

Going into the 2013 season, John was approached with an interesting sponsorship deal that was special to his family history.

“The package was put together as a US Air Force tribute,” John says.

The air theme runs strong John’s family: father-in-law Alex Chrivnez is retired US Air Force; one grandfather, Capt. Chuck Guynn, flew F-86 Sabers in Korea; and the other grandfather, John, was in Air Crash Rescue in the Service.

“After I wrecked the old car in the Fall Classic I got a call about the Air Force deal and the crew rushed into action,” John says. “In only four weeks they tore apart the old car, brought in the new chassis and made it work while I was out on the road.”

In that short span, John’s crew prepared the car in time for its debut at Evergreen Speedway’s Galloway 150.

“You either live it and breathe it, or you don’t do it,” John says of the team’s commitment.

The motor in John’s car was built by Cope Brothers and all the fittings, hoses and brakelines are from Tacoma-based TimCo Inc.

“Hi-Tech Collision keeps the car looking good,” John says of the Spanaway shop.

He also credits sponsorship support from Northwest Door in Frederickson and Red Robin of Monroe.

“They help keep us from being hungry when we show the car there,” he laughs.

John says he makes his car available for many promotions – from the race track and Everett Aquasox games, to local restaurants and schools.

“Whatever the Air Force wants it for,” he says. “I do about one big event a month during the season.”

Of course, the events John most looks forward are on Saturday nights at the race track.

“I have to thank Evergreen Speedway,” John says. “Without them we wouldn’t have NASCAR up here.”

John says he appreciates running with a sanctioned body like the Whelen NASCAR Series.

“The structure they bring is just bar-none professional,” he says. “They know what they are doing.”

Ultimately, John has his sights set on joining the fleet of NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

“Those guys were his heroes when he was little,” Rusty says of taking his son to Evergreen Speedway when the big teams were in the Northwest.

“All I need to do is find the money,” John says. “I will go as far as my luck and pocketbook will take me.”

John’s seat time in the truck doesn’t directly translate to improved driving at the track.

“There’s nothing you can do in a daily job that can prepare you enough to do better in a car,” John says. “Most drivers are physically worn out after a race.”

In fact, John is confident the opposite is quite true, that his racing has benefitted his time on the road in the truck.

While going over Snoqualmie Pass in a snowstorm a car in front of John spun out of control.

“He came alongside doing two complete 360s,” John says of the out-of-control driver. “I didn’t panic and just let the guy spin out without over-reacting. I stayed calm and just kept driving.”

He’s sure that racing has helped him stay calm in emergency situations like this.

“To do this sport correctly you also have to have a special mechanical awareness,” he says.

That came in handy when quickly diagnosed a loose panhard bar during the Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway.

“John did not know for sure what was wrong from inside the car, but when he came in he was able to direct the crew’s attention to the track bar,” Rusty says. “It was found that an adjustable bracket on the end of the bar was missing a part and would not hold position. This makes the car un-drivable. The parts truck on site had the part we needed and it was replaced before the start of the race.”

The Boyatt team struggled through the 2013 campaign.

“We did not run as well as we would have liked all season but after all we built the car in only four weeks and did not have much time to work on it in 2013,” Rusty says.

He is hopeful that the last winter’s check, change and repair to the car’s suspension will make it handle better, noting that they spent more time on the front geometry than it took to build the car in the first place.

John returns to the NASCAR Whelen series again this year, and also will attempt to run the Miller 200 at South Sound and Montana 200 in Kalspell if their schedule and budget will allow.

Whatever events they get to, there will be no lack of team effort.

“With hard work and dedication you can set a dream and reach it,” John says.

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