For most, driving is a mundane day-to-day necessity. For Senior Airman Christopher Olson, 355th Component Maintenance Squadron fuel systems journeyman, driving for him is a much more thrilling endeavor. Granted, he’s trying to win races while doing it.
Olson races dirt track cars. Although he didn’t begin racing until the age of 14, Olson’s introduction to the world of dirt racing began at a young age.
“My grandfather use to race when I was just a baby,” Olson said. “When I was less than one month old, my parents would take me to the tracks when he raced.”
Olson’s grandfather was not only the one who got him interested in racing, he was also his mentor. He recalls times back home spending lots of hours in front of the television.
“I used to watch videos of my grandfather’s races over and over again,” Olson said. “It would drive my parents crazy. But watching videos helps you learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Years later, when Olson was old enough, he began to race in his hometown. It was at a little quarter-mile dirt track on the beach of Ventura, Calif.
“I started out racing junior midget cars,” Olson said. “They’re pretty much go-carts with a roll cage. While I was racing these, my grandfather was racing dwarf cars, which use a 1,000cc motorcycle engine inside the car. When I turned 16, and he retired, I was able to race those.”
Olson raced his grandfather’s dwarf car for five years before moving on to race mod lite car. Mod lite cars also use 1000cc motorcycle engines and according to Olson, on a one fifth-mile track they can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour. He raced mod lite cars for two years before he decided to join the Air Force.
Racing was put on hold. Tires, safety harnesses, and oval tracks were replaced with marching drills, uniforms, and early morning physical training.
After being stationed at D-M, Olson discovered that Tucson had a dirt racing track of its own.
“I started to look at cars I could afford on Craigslist and I found a 1978 Toyota Corolla that I turned into a dirt car,” Olson said. “Since then, I’ve recently upgraded to a 1991 Subaru. You can find these cars for around $1,000 and they’re all ready to race. These cars are called hornets. They’re stock, four cylinder cars.”
For Olson, the draw of the hobby comes from the excitement of racing.
“I really love the competitiveness of racing,” Olson said. “I’m usually a laid back person until I get in that car, then I’m someone completely different. It’s very exciting. I’ve broken my wrist before because of a crash and didn’t feel it until the next day from the adrenaline.”
His father-in-law and wife share in the excitement as they often come out to see him as he races. Olson says that even though deployments and change of duty stations are always a possibility, they wouldn’t end his love of the track.
“I’ll always be racing,” Olson said. “I’m about to have a daughter next month and I’ve already thought about her getting a car and bringing her out to the racetrack. She’ll be like a little Danica Patrick.”