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Car Show: Rip Michels and Toni McCray

Rip Michels and Toni McCray

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

Two of the most personable and fan favorite race car drivers in the Super Late Model class at Irwindale Speedway faced each other in the Main Event to determine who would drive away with the Points Championship. Entering the race Toni McCray, the daughter of Rick McCray, was trailing Rip Michels by twenty points, 326 to 346 and would need a bit of luck to pull off the victory. Rip ended the speculation once and for all as he won the Main event and the Championship. Toni drove hard and came in third, but she was so far ahead in points for the year that she had second place sewed up before the race began. Toni also came in second to Ryan Partridge in the Late Model class at Irwindale. Two strong performances for Toni to use toward next year’s racing season.

Steve Boldroff is Rip Michels’ crew chief and he spoke to me while Rip was out on the track qualifying for the Main event. “Rip currently lives in San Fernando and has been racing for 25 years, the last 12 years in the Super Late Model division. He is the owner and driver of his super late model car and I’ve been on his crew for eight years. This is our local track,” Boldroff told me. That night Rip would go on to win the Irwindale Speedway Super Late Model points championship. “Rip also won the 2006 South West Tour Championship title. Our crew consists of Michael Sprague, Glen Davis, Shawn Dickens, Chris Lazalde and myself,” added Boldroff. I spoke to Laurie Michels, Rip’s wife who told me, “Sponsorship is very vital to our efforts. Rip didn’t race the last three years because of it and even though we won this year’s championship, our future for next year depends on our sponsors. This year we had Idevaffiliate, JBRL Racing, Hot Rod Hobbies, Pick Your Part, Ron’s Rear Ends and Apache Rentals.”

Rip came hurriedly back into the pits while his crew worked feverishly on the car. Born in 1965, Rip began racing in 1988 at the rather old age of 23. Rip Michels has an outgoing, jovial personality and teases everyone on his crew. He’s also very positive about his place in the sport and well liked by his fans and the other racers. I asked him what he pays his crew and every man stopped and guffawed. Rip responded to their jests with humor of his own. In this sport at this level everyone races and crews for the joy of racing, but there is always the dream of making it on the big NASCAR stock car racing circuit. Rip grew up with skate boarding and surfing as his hobbies. His dad, Tommy Michels raced stock cars at Saugus Speedway in the 1960’s. “I really don’t know about next year as it depends on our sponsors,” Rip intoned and then he was up and moving about. Race car drivers never seem to sit still, there is always too much to do on and off the track.

Toni McCray also races in the Super Late Model division at Irwindale Speedway. She is from Highland, California and has been racing for 15 years. One of her crew members was Clay Wooster, who owns the Late Model car that Toni drives, though she owns her own Super Late Model car. “Toni’s father was Rick McCray who raced in the Winston West stock car division. Her brother is Ryan McCray who is a tire carrier on Carl Edwards NASCAR racing team. Another brother is Ricky McCray who was also a driver in the Super Late Models division. Those on her crew are crew chief R. J. Johnson, Josh Ferguson, Lindsay White, Gary Martinez, Loren Hill and myself. She is definitely coming back next year,” said Wooster. Toni’s sponsors include Lucas Oil, Far West Meats and K&N Filters. Prior to the race the drivers park their cars on the track and invite their friends and fans to come and talk to them, take photographs and get autographs. Toni was one of the fan favorites, especially among young girls who crowded around and asked for photos with her. McCray is a personable young lady who is at ease with crowds and in stressful situations. She has the entire package as a driver and a person who can inspire loyalty in her fans and sponsors. On this night she finished third in the Main event, but her future looks bright with promise.

Gone Racin’ is at [email protected]

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