FOR BEGLER'S PERFORMANCE IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR

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Take a stroll through the Quick-16 pits at Route 66 Raceway and you will see many elaborate teams with crews and computers to help set-up the race cars for every weather and track condition. You will also find the pits of the Begler?s Performance Firebird and the crew that works on their 1992 Pontiac Firebird. The Begler?s are unique in the Quick-16 Pits, they are a family that comes out to have fun and be together. Don?t get them wrong, they want to win as much as anybody else in the pits, but the main goal is to be together and have fun. Tom Begler has been racing since 1980 and has been participating at Route 66 Raceway since it opened in 1998. The Wilmington, Illinois resident is on his fifth car since he began racing. He is currently driving a 1992 Pontiac Firebird. A lot of hard work and time has been put into his car. Tom and his crew built the chassis under the Firebird body from the ground-up. ?The chassis came to us in a box, it was separate bars we had to put together. I chose the 1992 Pontiac Firebird body because of the side spoilers, this is the only year they used this type of body molding,? said Begler. ?It helps to separate us from everybody else.? In 1998 at his first race at Route 66 Raceway he had a little mishap that also separated him from the rest of the field. Tom finished his first pass in time runs in 9.02 at 147 mph. But, unfortunately he was backwards on his roof as he tripped the final light on the track. ?We have video of the pass at home, you can hear the adults with concern in their voices and you can hear the kids laughing and saying he?s on his roof? that?s cool!? Tom was not injured and they were able to save the Firebird to race another day. The Begler?s Performance team consists of Chuck Begler, brother and crew chief. CJ Begler, Tom?s 15 year-old Nephew, who Tom said proudly, ?does the second most with this car just behind Chuck, CJ works very hard on this team.? Rounding out the main part of the crew is Ken Ewenson whose main responsibility is help build and maintain the motor and line-up Tom on the starting line. Last but certainty not least is 8-year-old nephew Jason. We first saw Jason as he rounded a row of trailers between the track and the pits on his scooter with Tom. ?Jason is a scout for us, he lets us know what the other cars are doing on the track,? explained Tom. Jason has been involved in racing for five-years, yes he began his racing career at the age of three. It is everybody?s job to help keep the moral of the team high no matter what the race result might be. ?This is a blast for us, we don?t have as much money as the other teams, but we have a lot of fun!? We come out to Route 66 Raceway and have a blast. We don?t put pressure on our team, this is a family affair and we just have fun.? Three very important members of the team were missing on Saturday, May 18. Tom?s wife Ellen and their two children, Samantha, 15 and Damien, 7 had to attend the graduation of a nephew. ?Damien was upset he was not able to attend the first Quick 16 this season, but he understands we will have many more at Route 66 Raceway this year.? Unfortunately, Damien, Ellen and Samantha missed the best day Tom and the Begler?s Performance team have ever experienced at Route 66 Raceway. Tom qualified tenth after the first round, but did some minor damage to the car when the radiator cap blew off. The repairs took longer than they anticipated and the team missed round two of qualifying. With only a couple of practice runs on the cold afternoon and unexpected repair work completed, the team took the line in the first round against Pete Maddaleni and his 1981 Chevy. Tom won the first round and it was on to round two. In the next round he was paired against the 1991 Dodge of Mike Kokenes and won again. By luck of the draw Tom had a bye for the semi-finals and was automatically entered into the finals. ?This team is great,? Tom exclaimed after his second round win. ?These guys got me out there for round one after the problems we had in qualifying, I?d be mowing my lawn right now if it was not for these guys. I owe all of our success to the team!? Seven-year old Jason added, ?I knew we were gonna win, I saw a big smile on his (Tom?s) face after he won. This is the best day I?ve ever had at the track!? In the finals Tom was pitted against the Dodge Dakota of Harold Lucas. Unfortunately for Tom, the Begler?s Performance team did not win, but it was a total success for the small team with a big heart. ?I need to change my top accomplishments in life to include today, this has been a dream come true,? said the runner-up after his first ever finals run. In addition the racing the team likes to give back to the Wilmington community by hosting the local Cub Scouts for an annual outing. At the last Quick-16 event of the year they bring the entire Cub Scout Troop 455 out for a day of racing, eating and fun. The Begler?s supply each child with lunch and drinks during the day and every Cub Scout is able to have their photo taken in the Begler?s Performance Firebird during the day. ?We had 42 kids in and out of the car in an hour, we almost missed our qualifying run, but we made it and the kids had a great time, said Begler. Tom will inform the rest of the Quick-16 participants know about the special Cub Scout day and will take the scouts to other pits for photos and to talk with the other drivers. ?The other drivers are great, they take the time to talk with the scouts, let them put on their helmets and take pictures. Not only is our pit a family, but I consider the entire Quick-16 pits a part of my family.? So if you happen to stroll through the pits at Route 66 Raceway during a Quick-16 event, be sure to stop by the Begler?s Performance pits and say hello to Tom, the family and the Cub Scouts and give him a congratulations for his ?dream day? while your there.
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