Points title no longer a priority for Jim Walker
Seven-time champion cuts back on schedule
With seven points titles and 125 main event victories in 15 years of racing, Jim Walker, Jr., is to Rogue Valley stock car racing what Jeff Gordon is to the Winston Cup.
Walker knows the look of a checkered flag the way a computer guru knows megabytes.
But for the first time since he got behind the wheel of a race car in the early 1980s, Walker is not chasing a points title.
I finally got burned out a little bit, Walker admits. I didn't think that would ever happen, but after all those hours of working on my race car -- week after week after week -- it finally did.
Walker made his first appearance of the season at the Southern Oregon Speedway last Saturday on his 34th birthday. To no one's surprise, he immediately challenged for the lead in the pro stock division's main event.
He wound up fourth, respectable for a driver on his first night out, but unacceptable for a man of Walker's stature.
Some of the guys came up and said, `Hey, nice going,' but I wasn't at all satisfied, Walker says. Anyone who has won a lot of races knows what I'm talking about.
Instead of fine-tuning his engine and tinkering with the suspension on his car, Walker spent the early part of the spring putting in a new yard, installing a sprinkler system and painting his home.
He also committed to spending more time with his wife, Valerie and daughters Katie, 4, and Rachel, 2. The couple is expecting another child in September.
The priorities have changed, Walker says. I just can't rationalize going out to the shop (to work on the car) all week and not spend time with my family.
Walker purposely missed the first month at the Southern Oregon Speedway to ensure he wouldn't be in contention for his eighth points title. He has also finished second in points five times and third once.
Walker has, however, raced a few times at Yreka and won pro stock main events on June 4 and June 11. He has also served as a pitman for his brother, Tony, who is leading the points race at Yreka.
It's been a more relaxing atmosphere, Jim Walker says. I plan to race in (White City) the rest of the summer, but if I miss a week here or there I'm not going to fret over it.
The pressure is off.
Saturday's races will feature limited sprint cars, a $100 bounty on modified points leader Dan Estremado and a special event labeled Go till you blow.
In the latter event, cars will race around the one-third mile oval without oil or water. The car that sputters, spits and coughs its way to the greatest distance will earn its driver $150.
Promoter John Skinner got the idea at a promoter's convention he attended in Reno earlier this year.
We think we're going to get nine or 10 cars, Skinner says, and one of them is going to make it seven or eight laps.
This event has been tried back east and the crowd loves it.
The sprint cars are limited in the sense that they must run 360-cubic-inch engines and have either a carburetor or a small fuel injecting system.
Estremado, meanwhile, will be gunning for his fifth modified main event victory of the spring. Skinner is offering an extra $100 on top of the regular $500 purse for any driver who can beat the season points leader.
Kurt Slamma, one of the top pro stock drivers at the White City track until he sold his car this year, will be one of the hot shoes chasing Estremado. Slamma will pilot the No. 86 car owned by Skinner.
During a practice session Wednesday, Slamma ran just a shade slower than Estremado.