Local dwarf car driver Camden Robustelli would not be denied on April 27.
The North Medford freshman put together the performance of a lifetime at Santa Maria Speedway that day, leading the Western States Dwarf Car Association nationals A main from start to finish en route to the biggest victory of his young career.
It's the start of a smooth transition from go-kart racing to dwarf for the 15-year-old, who picked up his new ride from D&R Chassis last summer. He gave it a run several times during the final stretch of last season's Southern Oregon Speedway schedule and is fully committed to the class now.
The decision to go with dwarf racing was based on the class size in White City, Robustelli says.
"It was more competitive," he says.
Robustelli opened this season with a minor wreck at Yreka, Calif., on April 19 before heading south to Santa Maria for the California Dwarf Car Racing Association event with his father Jason and grandfather Jim. He led several laps but spun out the night before the featured race, putting him in the back of the fast dash the next day. Robustelli defied the order and got a major confidence boost by capturing second.
"It felt good," he recalls. "I felt like I had a winning car."
Robustelli was ready to roll in the main — he started on the outside front row and led from beginning to end.
The California race is part of a three-event series that visits Southern Oregon Speedway on Aug. 8. The series also includes a stop in Marysville Sept. 26.
The race in White City will be a big one, Robustelli says.
"A lot of my family didn't get to go to the race since it was a 10-hour drive, so it will be nice for them to see me," he says.
Drivers who looked twice Robustelli's age paid him compliments at Santa Maria Speedway afterward.
"A lot of people were amazed that I was only 15," Robustelli says.
The trip to Santa Maria was a journey into the unknown, Robustelli says, but everything worked out.
"I think I made fewer mistakes than the other competitors, which helped me run faster laps," he says. "It was a pretty tough track. It had some big bumps and dips. It was pretty challenging."
As a go-kart racer, Robustelli won Northwest and Gold Cup titles and claimed victories in Cottage Grove, Albany and Lebanon.
Away from the race track, Robustelli played safety in football and is a first baseman and pitcher on the freshman team at North.
"It's tough," he says of the balance. "Doing the sports and racing on weekends and homework is tough, but it's fun."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt