Village News Reporter
Barona Speedway’s season concluded Oct. 29, and Fallbrook driver Jeff Gearhart finished fifth in that night’s Pure Stocks main event and took eighth place in the season point standings.
“I was hoping for better, especially the last race of the season,” Gearhart said. “I was hoping to get a win in my rookie season.”
Gearhart won a heat race during his first year of racing but not a main event. His best main event finish was a third-place result July 23.
Heat races at Barona Speedway are eight laps. Gearhart began his Oct. 29 heat on the outside of the second row and finished third.
“I was OK with third in the heat. I was just trying to get a feel for the car since it had been a month since we raced,” he said.
Gearhart was also third in his Oct. 1 heat but finished 13th in that night’s main event. The Pure Stocks were on the Barona Speedway schedule for Oct. 15, but rain canceled that night’s races.
The Oct. 29 Pure Stocks main event was 20 laps on Barona’s quarter-mile dirt oval. Gearhart started on the inside of the third row and his finishing position matched his fifth starting position.
Polo Zetina was Gearhart’s crew chief this year and was the sole crew member assisting Oct. 29.
Barona Speedway had a Trunk or Treat activity Oct. 29 where the drivers handed out candy. Gearhart also brought his racecar to an Oct. 31 Trunk or Treat in Fallbrook at Servant Church and was joined by Sport Modified driver Jake Triska, who lives in El Cajon.
During the season Santee driver Rick Chavez accumulated 457 Pure Stocks finishing position points to win the 2022 track championship. Lucas Bond of Imperial Beach had the seventh-place total of 346 points. Gearhart had 341 points. The ninth-place driver, Greg Perry of San Diego, had 292 points.
The Pure Stocks had 12 Barona races in 2022 including two in which Gearhart did not compete.
“There was a potential 80 points that I could have gotten that I did not get,” he said. “Next year I plan on running every single race.”
Next year Gearhart will also incorporate the lessons he learned during his rookie season.
“I learned that I’ve never raced before in my life,” he said.
The 41-year-old Gearhart was raised in Valley Center and moved to Fallbrook three years ago. Although he attended Cajon Speedway races during his childhood he didn’t begin competition as a driver until this year after he discovered a 1999 Ford Crown Victoria for sale. Gearhart’s stepfather, Brian Griffin, raced at Cajon Speedway in the 1990s although Cajon Speedway was an asphalt track so Griffin’s driving experience didn’t necessarily translate to a dirt surface.
“I had to learn everything from scratch,” Gearhart said.
That included taking corners, braking, driving in traffic, and passing.
“There are just things that you learn with seat time, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot of that stuff this year,” Gearhart said.
The Pure Stocks are called Factory Stocks at Perris Auto Speedway, and Gearhart made his racing debut March 19 at Perris and finished sixth in the main event. In Gearhart’s first Barona Speedway race April 2, he was sixth in his heat race and eighth in the feature. Six of Gearhart’s Barona Speedway main event finishes were in the top five.
The highlights of his rookie season also included all three of Gearhart’s children watching him race. Misty is currently 16, Keira is 11 and Gavin is six.
This year Gearhart was sponsored by Dependable Alarm, El Cajon Ford, Griffin Designs, Guy Smith Welding, Ingrained Woodworking, Ken Krauss Trucking and Sam’s Alignment. He is hoping for more sponsor interest during the 2023 season.
The off-season activities for Gearhart also include rebuilding the Crown Victoria.
“Now we’re going to start taking the car apart and rebuilding the motor and doing stuff different,” he said.
The Crown Victoria had previously been raced, and the motor had two seasons prior to this year.
“I ran it hard all year,” Gearhart said.
With three seasons on the motor Gearhart deemed that it should be rebuilt.
“I’m hoping that’s going to give me the little edge I need,” he said. “I’m hoping that with the improvements I do with the car this off-season that next year I’ll be a legit competitor for the win every single race.”