County man heading to Ohio for SCCA championship race

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:53

SPARTA - To Kristian Skavnes, car racing is as natural as hitting a baseball was to Roy Hobbs. Indeed, you might even say Skavnes is something of a natural himself. There's a reason for that. "I've been racing since I was 18," said Skavnes, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Norway before he was born. "My father was a race-car driver, but he's not racing anymore. So I kind of grew up around it." The 40-year-old Lake Mohawk resident will be competing in a Touring 2 Division class of racers on Sept. 24 at the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Valvoline Runoff in Mansfield, Ohio, and is considered by some racing magazine editors to be a favorite there. The affable father of three works for his family-owned Reinertsen Motors on Route 53 in Denville, and as someone who competes in a northeastern region that includes New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, he likes being part of the SCCA, as well as the Inner City Youth Racing (ICY Racing) Team, a federally-registered, non-profit squad that is owned by recovering drug abuser and race car driver Dave Rosenblum. "It's also important to know that this team is trying to help kids stay off drugs," Skavnes emphasized. "And I'm just proud to be part of that team, also." At the SCCA event, Skavnes will be part of a three-man driving team that also includes Rosenblum. Skavnes won the Gratton, Mich. National on the weekend of Aug. 13-14, thus securing the Northeast Division championship for ICY/Phoenix racing in the Touring 2 Division. He then received an invitation to compete in the SCCA event, racing for Subaru. He will face racers from companies such as Cadillac, Nissan, Dodge and even Porsche in a field he calls "the best of the best" from across the country. Ten years ago, Skavnes won an International Motor Sports Association championship for a factory Honda team, 12 years after having won his first divisional championship in October 1983 at Pocono International Speedway. Skavnes has hit some walls on the race course, but he has never had an accident while driving a passenger car. He credits his race training for that. "It teaches you how to look ahead, around you at what's going on," explained Skavnes, who said his 16-year-old son will also attend a racing school, whether or not he becomes a racer himself. "A lot of people today don't see what's going on around them because they're busy talking on their cell phones, putting on their makeup and eating. "I've got to be honest with you," Skavnes added. "I've been more nervous driving to work on Route 80 in the morning than I've been on a raceway. There's some stupid, stupid things going on out there." Skavnes' two daughters, aged 9 and 8, fully support his racing, as does his wife, Katy, who also shows horses "all over" New York, New Jersey and Ohio. That makes for a family that is very transportation-oriented, no? "Pretty much, I'd say so," Skavnes laughed. "We don't sit still, that's for sure." Skavnes, who often reaches speeds of close to 150 m.p.h. while racing, also warned that racing is meant for the raceway, not the roads. "My advice to everybody is to get their kid into a racing school, at least to learn to respect a car and its speed," he said. "With the safety cages and the harness, I haven't got hurt that much (in racing). But you learn to see what can happen when a car hits a wall at 100 miles an hour. You learn to respect that. "It's glorified to race on the streets now," he added. "You need to keep it on the race track." Asked the best thing about racing, Skavnes replied: "Just the smell of being at a racetrack," Skavnes replied. "It's like being at a baseball game. It's the smell. It just lights you up. It just gets in your blood. "It's probably the most wonderful thing I've ever done, other than getting married and having kids. I've been able to meet some pretty interesting people. It gives you an opportunity to meet people you wouldn't otherwise run into. I've raced against Rob Walton, who owns Wall-Mart. There's a lot of powerful people involved in racing."