Latest News

Home » Oval Track News Blog » Ramona High student is racing obsessed, but focused on the right finish line

Ramona High student is racing obsessed, but focused on the right finish line

Garrett Pekelder
Ramona High School student Garrett Pekelder, 15, with his Pure Stock race car.
(Courtesy of Pekelder family)

By HARRY KATCHER

Some families are football families, some are soccer, and some are baseball and basketball, but not the Pekelder family — they live and breathe racing.

“My dad’s been racing practically his whole life,” said Garrett Pekelder, 15. “He started back in 1988 at Cajon Speedway. He’s raced Super Stock, Street Stock, Bomber and Modified.”

Garrett, a 10th-grader at Ramona High School, is now following in his father’s footsteps — or more accurately, in his tracks.

“I’ve been racing Pure Stock for about three years now,” said Garrett. “I feel like I was born into the sport. All my life I’ve watched racing with my dad. I wanted to race for a while, but it’s really expensive. I race Pure Stock — where all of the parts are stock, no modifications.”

Garrett has his eye on moving up to Street Stock, where the cars have more powerful engines. But for now, he’s fine where he is.

“I do all of the work on my car,” said Garrett. “And I get a lot of help from my team — mostly friends from school.”

And as far as school is concerned, Garrett’s father, Jim Pekelder, is strict in his policy of ‘school first.’ Jim told Garrett from the get-go that his grades cannot — and will not — suffer because of racing. He insists on Garrett getting all Cs or higher.

“That’s the challenge,” said Jim. “There are challenges that student athletes face. I want to make sure Garrett can balance his school work and his hobby.”

“Sometimes racing gets in the way of my school work,” said Garrett. “But my dad has made it clear what I have to do to keep racing. I missed the last race of the season because of my grades. School is my top priority. It’s much easier to race in the summer when school’s out.”

In addition to the rigors of his assignments, Garrett also acknowledges the physical toll racing takes on him.

“It’s a very physical sport,” said Garrett. “And because I mostly race during the summer months it gets really hot. I wear a fire suit, fireproof gloves and boots and my helmet, of course. Combine all of that with giving it all you got during a race — it’s exhausting!”

After school and on weekends when he’s not racing, Garrett is active in the Boy Scouts.

“I’m a Life Scout — one rank below Eagle Scout — in Troop 130 here in Ramona. I’m hoping to achieve my Eagle Scout ranking this year, though I still have some merit badges to earn. Plus, my dad won’t let me get my driver’s license until after I become an Eagle Scout.”

Garrett understands racing is currently just a hobby. And though he admits to not knowing exactly what he wants to do with his life, he is thinking about becoming a military mechanic and earn his GI Bill so he can go to a technical school to learn auto mechanics. Then maybe he’ll start his own racing business.

For the immediate future, Garrett is hoping to be able to race at tracks other than the local Barona Speedway.

“I’ve only raced about five races because of schoolwork coming first,” said Garrett. “But I get better with every race. I want to try CocoPah in Yuma, Ariz., and the Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California.”

For now, while school’s in session, Garrett is content on enjoying time with his dad watching NASCAR.

“We follow pretty much everything racing,” said Garrett. “Jimmy Johnson is our hometown hero. I wanted to be him when I was little.”

So far, Garrett is following his dream. Now all he needs is a driver’s license!

By HARRY KATCHER |Ramona Sentinel| APRIL 22, 20209 AM