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Car Show: Ryan and Andy Partridge with Steve Latina

Ryan and Andy Partridge with Steve Latina

Irwindale, California
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Photos by: Roger Rohrdanz

Ryan and Andy Partridge are the sons of John Partridge and the grandsons of Bernie and PJ Partridge. Ryan is currently racing in the Race Truck series at Irwindale Speedway, in Irwindale, California and Andy is his crew chief. Steve Latina is the owner of the race truck and main sponsor. Every time I met John Partridge out at the oval race track or as an announcer at the drag strip in the Irwindale parking lot, he would joyfully boast about his two sons who were racing together. John and Grandpa Bernie were very proud of Ryan and Andy. Bernie and PJ Partridge was a formidable pair in drag racing. Bernie was a Division 7 Director for my father in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) during its formative years. Bernie later became a Vice President of the NHRA and oversaw foreign racing programs for the group. Grandfather Bernie was also a colorful announcer and fan favorite and gave Don Garlits his famous nickname of “Big Daddy,” which is often shortened to just “Big.” Bernie and PJ had four sons; Bernie Jr, John, Gary and Jim. I was there at Irwindale when the race track held John’s Celebration of Life upon his passing and the stands were full of friends and relatives to say their goodbyes.

I spoke to Andy Partridge while his brother was out qualifying for that evening’s main event in the Irwindale Speedway Race Truck series. It was the final race of the season and points were very important for everyone. “I’m the crew chief,” Andy told me, “and the others on the crew are Brice Coleman, Lindsay Gilbert, Larry Bedley, Dennis Belloso, and owner Steve Latina. Ryan has raced since he was four and a half when our dad got him into quartermidget racing.” Grandfather Bernie raised his family out in the Mojave Desert when he worked for a defense contractor, but then moved to Rancho Cucamonga where the family now resides. Grandfather Bernie, father John and Uncle Gary have passed away, but Uncles Jim and Bernie Jr and grandmother PJ are big fans and supporters of Ryan and Andy. “Ryan likes to race, but I prefer working on the car,” Andy added. “Steve Latina has been a long-time friend, sponsor and supporter. We’ve raced in the Super Truck and Late Model series for three years and this year in the Race Truck series. We’re not sure about next year but we would like to go up in class to a higher series if we can find the sponsorship,” Andy continued.

Sponsorship is a critical issue; that even the best drivers struggle with finding enough money to continue racing, even if they are well known and win championships. The major sponsors for Ryan’s team are Loan Mark Racing, Goldenwesttrailers.com, and PPL Motorsports (owned by Steve Latina). They have raced at Kern County Raceway, Irwindale Speedway, Madera, Las Vegas, Lake Havasu, Roseville and Blythe, but they like Irwindale best, because it is close to home. “We race on asphalt,” said Andy, “We’re not quite set up right for dirt racing.” Andy introduced me to Lindsay Gilbert, Ryan’s girlfriend, and a very committed crewmember too. “I support Ryan in his racing career. I’ve known him for the last six and a half years and we’re focused on racing right now. We’re still young and growing up,” said Lindsay with a smile. A crewman for another team came by to borrow a spring for his car and Lindsay added, “Ryan likes helping other racers. He has a lot of friends in racing and fans too. He’s got about a 1000 fans that follow him on Facebook and Twitter. His sites are Ryanpartridgeracing.com and Flyinryan48 on Twitter,” Lindsay said. She smiled as I tried to understand what twittering and facebooking meant to an old school writer.

Steve Latina owns both the race truck and the late model race car. Ryan is in the eighth spot in the Race Truck series, but far out in front in first place in the Late Model series. Steve is a friendly and open person who is willing to tell you just where he stands on issues. But he is also a long-time supporter and friend of the Partridge family and sees great potential for Ryan in motorsports racing. His company is called PPL Motorsports. “That stands for Pacific Power and Light and I rent equipment to the movie industry all over the country. It’s a tough business. I began driving my own cars, but was introduced to Ryan and I let him drive. The first race in my car he won and I relinquished the driving to him and became just an owner and have enjoyed it much more that way. It’s much more fun for me this way,” Latina told me. “Ryan has a tremendous amount of talent and ability. He combines that with physical and emotional strength, but like all racers, we need to find that sponsorship money to be successful.

My wife and I are in this for Ryan, to see just how far he can go. We have been discussing the K&N or Camping World Truck Series for next year, but everything in this sport depends on sponsorship,” Latina added. “In the old days,” Latina reminisced, “you could find drag and oval track racing every Saturday night and there was racing on other nights and at other places as well. Spectators had no trouble viewing all the racing that they wanted, but today it is a struggle to fill the stands and there are few race tracks around. The same thing is true for Kern County Raceway up north; they struggle to get two-thirds of that beautiful new facility filled. We just barely broke even the year that we won the Truck championship. If we do go up to a higher category of racing then it will depend on sponsorship, but we are behind. Sponsors are already filling their calendars and funding for 2015 and racers have to work two years ahead in getting contracts with sponsors,” Latina concluded. Ryan finished eighth in points in the Race Truck series at Irwindale for the 2013 season, but in first place in the Late Model series with popular local driver Toni McCray coming in second.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]

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