When most people think of a Chevy Cavalier, they probably think of a nice, quiet and peaceful drive.
But when Colton Sullivan uses one to race in the Hornet division at Twin Cities Raceway Park on Saturdays, it’s as if thunder rolls around the track.
Sullivan uses the same Cavalier to make sharp left turns, spraying dirt on the people in the stands, going upward of 70 to 80 mph on the quarter-mile dirt track.
It’s those types of cars that make up the Hornet division at Twin Cities in North Vernon, building basic cars into potential racing machines.
While Hornet racing may have the biggest turnout every week due to its affordability, adding items to the car to improve it for race day has its costs.
“Anything you add to a car is going to cost a little more than you hope,” Sullivan said. “Hornets are probably going to be the one that most of the people will start out at because it is the most affordable one.
“With all the things required for a Hornet, most notably safety equipment for you and the car, it gets expensive,” he said.
Safety comes first
While some people build their own car, Sullivan said some get their cars from local junkyards.
“For a good car, you’re looking at $3,000 to $4,000,” Sullivan said. “Some cars you can just grab from a junkyard for close to $200 to $500, but just the same, the basic parts will cost more than the car itself to get it running good.”
Most dirt track cars are required to have a roll cage, which costs nearly $300 to $500. Tires may cost $100 to $200 per wheel, while a race seat ranges from $50 to $200.
“Safety is the most important thing,” Sullivan said. “It may be frustrating seeing the price of the equipment, but it’s meant to save your life.”
‘Fun, but expensive’
Todd Cain, 44, who has raced Hornets for five years, got his Saturn for $200 and put upward of $600 worth of repairs and improvements to it.
“It’s a fun but expensive sport to do,” Cain said. “I got lucky getting my car for the price I got it, but when you have to add seats, safety equipment and better wheels, it can be an investment.”
Higher divisions, such as the Pure Stock division, have drivers paying around $20,000 for a car.
“The Hornets have the steadiest turnout,” Sullivan said. “It’s a bigger turnout because it’s more affordable. Not everyone can get a Pure Stock car, so they rely on starting small at first.”
“When you see some cars that you can tell have a lot of money in them, it makes the competition just a little better,” Cain said.
Hornets race every week to try and claim a $200 prize for winning.
Sullivan, who has won five of the past seven races and is the current points leader, said the money goes straight to the car, which can about cost $3,000 per season to maintain.
“I always expect to go out there hoping my car runs well,” Sullivan said. “You will have your good days and bad days. There will always be times where something unexpected will happen that will take you out of contention.”
For people getting started with Hornet racing, Cain said to start small.
“You shouldn’t go out there immediately thinking you are going to win every race,” Cain said. “It’s a fun, competitive environment to be in, and you gain a lot of friends out of it.”
“Figure out how much you want to invest in a car, and have fun with what you get.” he said.
Sullivan added that being dedicated to maintaining your car to its peak performance is a must.
“You have to love to do this,” Sullivan said. “You get to race a car you pretty much customized yourself and show it off to everyone by racing every week. That’s what keeps me going.”