|Buff Van Landingham gets ready to race his super stock at the Prescott Valley Raceway Saturday night.|
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Buff Van Landingham started out as a spectator at Prescott Valley Raceway when the complex first opened in 2003, but it didn't take him long to acquire the itch for driving fast cars on the dirt oval here.
After about a year of watching other racers, the longtime Prescott resident built a pure stock car and spent the next four years competing.
Van Landingham, 40, subsequently jumped up one class to super stocks, constructed a different vehicle and became a championship contender at PV Raceway.
In 2010, a year before the raceway shut down due to the bankruptcy of the adjacent Yavapai Downs horseracing track, he led the super stock standings until the final race. He finished as the class' runner-up, only one point behind the winner, George "The Big Orange" Fronsman.
"Basically for three years in a row, I was second in points - a point or two behind the leader every year," an upbeat Van Landingham said Saturday night in regard to the track's super stocks standings. "I just can't seem to close the deal."
Following more than a year of being closed, PV Raceway reopened this past month to the delight of Arizona racecar drivers and racing fans alike.
And maybe, just maybe, the summer of 2013 will mark a breakthrough for Van Landingham. Saturday was the first time the super stocks raced at PVR since the closure, and this class should run eight races this season.
A guy who a decade ago helped pick rocks out of the site that became the raceway's infield, Van Landingham seems due for better luck.
"I kind of pushed my way in as doing anything and everything that needed to be done (to get the track up and running)," he said. "I learned how to do everything. I like to learn how things work."
Van Landingham had never raced cars until PV Raceway came around. He thought it would be fun and that he could be good at it. Buff was right on both counts.
Jeff Donaldson of Donaldson Trucking in Dewey-Humboldt is Van Landingham's main racing sponsor. Donaldson does hauling at the raceway free of charge and he, too, owns a super stock car that will appear next weekend.
"I try to do everything possible to help the boys here at the track," Donaldson said. "I do this for the community to get people coming out to support PVR."
When PVR closed in 2011, drivers such as Van Landingham, who works as an appliance repairman, felt shocked and devastated.
An extracurricular activity that he looked forward to every week of the summer was suddenly swept away.
"This was our life," Van Landingham said. "Every weekend, we were out here. And when the track shut down, it was like the world ended. All of the sudden, there's this big void and you have nothing to do."
Without PVR, drivers in the tri-city area of Prescott, PV and Chino Valley could have traveled to other racetracks in the Phoenix area, but many of them can't afford to. They spend enough time and money inspecting their racecars from top to bottom, and side to side, after races.
"There isn't a bolt on that car that's not touched," Van Landingham said. "It's a must."
Brian Hussey, a consultant for PV Raceway, said the next closest track is 100 miles away in Peoria and "four times the expense" for drivers from this area to travel to.
"It takes the fun out of it, you know?" Van Landingham added.
Now that PVR has returned to the fold, drivers are ecstatic and keeping their fingers crossed that it remains in business under new owner Gary Miller.
Immediately before Van Landingham started the roaring 400-plus horsepower V-8 engine of his modified, stripped-down Chevy Camaro late Saturday afternoon in a dirt lot west of the raceway, he was raring to get on the track. The "need for speed" may be a clichéd phrase, but it applies in his case.
Ten to 12 super stock drivers, including a few from Camp Verde and Cornville, were expected to race for county bragging rights on Saturday night.
"It's just a fun class," Van Landingham said. "Everybody races clean in the division. You don't have to worry about beating your body. All the drivers respect each other, and each other's cars."
Racing continues at PV Raceway this Saturday, June 22, when Challenge Cup sprint cars, super stocks, mini stocks and International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) modifieds hit the track.
Gates at the PVR, located at 10501 Highway 89A, open at 5 p.m., with racing beginning at 7. Admission costs $12 for fans ages 11 and up. Children ages 10 and under get in free.