By July 22, 2014 Read More →

InterView – GoKart Winning History

InterView By Chris Murphy

I love racing. Bicycle, foot, car, swim, anything. I love our car racing history, and I used to race bicyles and present bicycle racing in downtown Modesto back in the 80s and Modesto is a great place to race. We have some amazing local racers in many sports and there are miles and miles of great stories. Two of these really connected with me and our classic heritage. One I discovered by accident during my American Graffiti research and the other lives next door.

My little cul-de-sac is racing central. My neighbor Mike Beeler (of Beeler Industries) races stock cars, sprint cars and GoKarts. We have RF mini car races in the street and there is usually a super high-tech GoKart in the garage with some sort of new speed aid being installed. Mike’s father Bill Beeler, piloted the fastest GoKart in the world in 1963 (now on display at Talladega Museum) and his son Hans is growing up feeling the need for speed.

Tony Ramirez had a cool Modesto childhood. As the son of our most famous carhop, Geri Ramirez at Burge’s Drive-In. Tony had a ring-side seat to the most interesting part of Americana and saw all aspects of our car culture. Tony had racing in his blood and felt the need for speed and became a champion racer.

Bill Beeler and Tony Ramirez were there the beginning, racing super hotrod GoKarts, so fast that one was outlawed. It all started in 1955 with Duffy Livignstone who invented the racing cart in Azuza and the first racing track was built in1957. This is when our local Beeler and Ramirez families were racing. Tony won the State Championship in 1960 and both Bill and Tony competed at the National Championships in Azuza in 1960.

Today, Tony lives in Jamestown and is enjoying his life with his family and Mike Beeler’s son Hans has the racing gene and is already a champion driver at the age of 16 and Bill Beeler is watching at the racetrack. There are many more people our area that have racing GoKart stories, please let me know about your stories and share your pics and we will continue to tell this story and feature more people in ModestoView and our other history projects. Send your into to me at chrism@modestoview.com

Tony Ramirez ModestoView: When did you first start racing and what was your GoKart like? Tony Ramirez: I started in about 1958. It was exciting and had large turn outs by participants and spectators.

MV: Who did you race against and what was your most exciting victory? TR: I raced with and competed against all the greats of my day. My most exciting race was the year I won the State Title but it was a race leading up to that in San Jose. The first heat race I broke a chain and came in last. Mind you there was about 75 karts in that class. In the second heat I started last and by time I got to the end of the straightaway, I passed about 40 karts. By the end of that heat I was in second place. The 3rd heat I won. I was sitting in the Pit Area and a fella came up and handed my father a check for a large some of money for my engines, but dad turned him down. It was the year of the Nationals and I had qualified by winning the State Championship.

MV: What did kart racing mean to you as a kid and later as an adult? TR: This is easy, I had a fun and have great memories of my parents .

MV: Does it amaze you to see the new technology in the new SuperKarts? TR: Not really. Speed is Speed. I feel we went just as fast. I know that I went 75 to 100 MPH and maybe more depending which course and what type of race. They do have better technology and parts but I like the old days .

MV: What advice would you give a young racer thinking about the sport? TR: Make sure your parents can afford it, my dad bought 2 new karts with engines for $250.00

MV: What was your favorite racing moment? TR: When I was first approached by my first manufacturer to represent their company. If noticed one of the pictures I sent you was of me and my father. I was wearing a Fox Racing Team vest. The same Fox Logos that you see today on hats and clothing. Same company.

Racing is in the Beeler family blood. Bill Beeler raced against Tony Ramirez back in the early 60s and today, Mike Beeler is a regular feature on the local racing scene, dicing it with his fellow “type of racing” at the Stockton 99, and raced just about every kind of vehicle. Beeler Industries produces high tech nut and food processing equipment as will as donating the beautiful Car Hop MAMA Awards each year. Technology and racing blood go hand in hand at the Beeler house.

Mike Beeler ModestoView: Was racing part of your life as you were growing up? Mike Beeler: Yes we were always competing on something, slot cars, roller skates, bicycles, skate boards. Then my brother crashed our minibike into a tree and knocked himself out cold. That was the end of that. The only way to race something after that was to buy it myself. First a minibike, then dirt bikes, three wheelers, and four wheelers. We raced on makeshift tracks down on the river and canal banks. There were places you just needed to know where they were. Then we started with four of us from Escalon, Dan Tillema, Marty Adrian, Kurt Poulis and we bought sprint karts in spring of 1980. We played on the local tracks for a summer. That got the itch going and I’ve run successfully on speedway dirt Karts, sprint karts, modified midgets, mini sprints, shifter karts, modifieds, and now late model stock cars.

MV: What was your earliest racing memory? MB: My early memories include Cris Econamacki on wide world of sports and he was calling the Daytona 500 and Talladega superspeedway races. Pop had 52 or 52 kart trophies in a case over the B&W TV. That always sparked my interest. He was done with karting when I was two so I don’t remember watching much. My brother raced two seasons at the 99 speedway in 75 I think, I was almost 15 then and one Saturday night he asked if I wanted to hot lap it, I jumped in and went for it, that’s something you don’t forget! I didn’t crash it so he could race that night.

MV: What lessons on racing and business did you get from your dad? MB: Dad always said there is no money in racing. He was right. I raced him once at Camelot park, he’s a different guy with a helmet on. Two good lessons.

MV: How important is racing to your family and community lifestyle? MB: Racing has provided my family many good times spent together. Karting especially had us all there traveling on weekends going to races. Time together is your greatest gift.

MV: Do you think kart racing is getting more popular today than before? MB: The karting scene has been growing on the larger venue’s like the GP coming to Modesto, karting was all the rage in the early sixties, not sure that level can be matched today or in the future. I wish it would, i am all for it.

MV: What does it cost to build and operated a race caliber cart? MB: When we raced shifter karts in 2000-2003 we could get a good chassis and motor for about $7500.00 and race a weekend with fuel and tires some food and a bed for $450 to $500 bucks. We ran a low buck operation out of the back of a pick up and spent about $12 grand for the season. I am sure we will be looking at teams with a tire budget larger than that when the Modesto GP comes to town.

MV: How far do you want to take your involvement in racing? MB: I am about at the pinnacle of my career with the late models. I will try to get on larger scale tracks for the enjoyment and to say I did it. I hope to be able to support Hans with some lower levels like I did and hope we get to race a season or two together somewhere. I guess that depends on his grades and attitude.

MV: Any thanks you want to give out to people on your team? MB: I like to thank Mike Kuykendal for building me fast kart motors and great expansion chambers and for providing great advise and motivation. To skip along to current I have to thank Mike David, “David’s Racing products” for giving us a great car and team to win the All American 100 at Roseville in June and have us in the points lead in the Pacific Challenge Series. Thanks Mike David!

Hans Beeler Following in Mike’s footsteps is 16 year-old Hans. Having watched Hans grow up, he is cool and quiet and that shows up in his approach to racing: consistent, clean and very focused. Hans is just hitting his racing stride, but the racing blood is there and he is proving to be a champion.

ModestoView: When did you know that you wanted to start racing? Hans: I knew I wanted to start racing when I sat down in a go kart, right after that I knew

MV: Do you find racing to be more mental or more physical? HB: Definitely mental, being super consistent is a lot harder than the effects on your body.

MV: What lessons does racing teach you for your everyday life? HB: Whatever you do, just be consistent.

MV: Do you want to go further in racing and follow in your dads’ footsteps or even beyond? HB: I would like to go beyond what my dad had achieved and make him proud.

MV: What’s the best part about racing? HB: Winning.

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