As N.Y. Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez recently proved, sometimes reaching a milestone—even for something that often looks effortless—can be one of the most difficult things to achieve.
It took Rodriguez 12 games and 47 at-bats to go from career home run No. 599 to 600, and Ron Westover can sympathize.
After recording his 99th feature win in the Street Stocks division at the Emo Speedway back on June 26, the Devlin resident battled for nearly a month to notch No. 100, which came on July 24.
“I never thought it would come,” Westover admitted. “Especially at the 99th. It took so long to get to 100.
“It’s pretty neat,” he added. “It’s something that I thought I would never get to, and I just feel pretty fortunate to be able to do it.”
Westover, however, was right on track after getting the monkey off of his back—holding off the competition the following week for win No. 101.
Currently leading the Street Stocks standings by 42 points over Richard Visser of Emo, Westover is looking for his first title in that division since 2007.
Westover, in his 18th season at the Emo oval, credited his longevity to taking things easy and not trying to force too much.
“I was always told by the older guys [that] all you have to do is just be patient and you’ll be there at the end,” he recalled.
“You’ve got to finish before you can finish first.
“I’ve just always followed that,” he remarked. “When I’m in the staging area, I always go out in the mindset [that] I just want to keep up, don’t want to spin out.
“I want to put the car in the trailer at the end of the night, and it’s been working out good for me.”
Westover noted the advice really started to turn his fortunes around as he started to be more competitive in his races when taking the tips to heart.
“You’ve got to go slower to go faster,” he stressed. “The slower it feels like you’re going, the reality is the faster you’re going.
“It’s kind of like those things where you’re speeding on the highway and you get to the train first. The guy that you passed is right there with you.”
The pointers even have come from outside the area. Westover has competed in events down in Minnesota, where high-calibre drivers were more than willing to provide him with some helpful hints.
“I started doing a little bit of travelling down to Hibbing, Mn. and Greenbush, Mn.,” he noted. “To keep up with those guys, you really had to pay attention.
“I was running good up front here, but I went down there and I was getting lapped.
“I really noticed that in the Street Stock class, it was just a really good bunch of guys that were willing to lend a hand and some knowledge,” he lauded.
“The racing community, as a whole, they were just so good,” Westover continued. I had guys who didn’t even know me come over and were giving me a hand.
“It really showed because that’s when I really started having success in the Street Stocks.”
Westover kicked off his career at the Emo Speedway in 1992, starting off in the Thunder Stocks division. He moved to the Street Stocks in 1996 when the Thunder Stocks division no longer was offered.
He remembered that Thunder Stocks was a good way to get involved in the sport because it was comprised of him and about a dozen fellow teens, so all the drivers were able to learn together.
“Starting out wasn’t bad, just because we were a bunch of teenage kids in that Thunder Stock class that they just started that year for us,” he said.
“There were about maybe 12 of us, so we’re all on the same learning curve and we all progressed together,” Westover explained.
“That was back when racing was really fun,” he enthused. “We didn’t know anything and it was just fun.
“More or less, you just got a car off the street, put a cage in it, and went racing.”
Westover said his first car cost about $250 and he was able to win some features with it that summer, though adding the divisions offered now require a higher financial commitment, making it more difficult for young racers to join up.
Westover later tried his hand at the Super Stocks beginning in 1997, but the division posed a stiff challenge for him as the competition was a bit tougher than the other classes.
“That was an eye-opener,” he admitted. “That’s where guys really spent a lot of money, [it was] very competitive, and really wanting to win bad.
“I just don’t think I belonged in that class.
“I like the class where we’re just a bunch of guys out here having fun, and that’s what Street Stocks are all about,” he reasoned.
Westover, however, did branch out into modified cars, and often raced in two divisions from 2003 through last year.
This season, his kids have started to follow in his footsteps, racing go-karts, and maintenance on those vehicles must go alongside Westover #15 car.
“People told me when I had two cars: ‘If you’re dumb enough to do it, it’s worth it,’” he remembered.
“The racing is a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of fun.”
While Westover’s success is seen on the track, much of the work comes in the garage leading up to each week. He estimates putting in 15-20 hours per week, with two-three hours each weeknight and then much of Saturday spent preparing.
“You’ve got to have your car running well, not necessarily the most horsepower,” he remarked.
“Just make sure it runs well to [the] finish.
“You want to make sure every nut and bolt is tight because if they shake loose, sometimes that causes you not to finish,” Westover noted.
“We just try to keep things clean, and I think that’s part of our success.
“We have a pretty good finishing rate. I don’t have very many DNFs.”
Westover said he’s in the garage every night of the week, and that he enjoys “working on it [the car] just as much as I do racing it.”
He also credited his fellow racers at Emo for providing clean, healthy competition.
“Pretty much everyone here is just a big family,” he said. “It’s been 18 years, I guess, so it’s like being in a small school.
“I haven’t damaged the car for a long time,” he noted. “I chalk that up to racing with a bunch of good, clean guys in the Street Stock class.
“They’re just some of the best guys to race with.”
Westover, meanwhile, also said he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon, with his eyes already on the next marker.
“Hopefully, we get to 200 before the next 18 years,” he remarked.