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Terpstra: Racing to fires & racing to win
Manteca Fire Captain Kevin Terpstra wears a second hat as a racing driver. - photo by Photo Contributed
A trip down memory lane for Kevin Terpstra usually involves some sort of fire suit.

The Manteca Fire Department Captain – who was once a rising star in the NASCAR IMCA Northern California division – recently rekindled his racing career at the Stockton 99 speedway after teaming up with his brother Mike and piecing together a car that qualifies for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series “bomber” division.

They recently finished sixth out of a field of 17 cars.

While in his younger years when he was racing late-model modifieds, Terpstra said he didn’t really take the time to stop and appreciate the level he had reached and the fun that he was having while he was doing it – making a name for himself after climbing the racing ranks from go carts to main event features.

And with 20 years as a firefighter under his belt, the last thing he thought he’d be doing again was racing.

But when the Stockton 99 Speedway closed and reopened a year later, he and his brother started tabulating the parts they had laying around from their days at the track to see what they would need to get a car on the quarter-mile high-banked oval once again.

“My dad raced and my brother raced, so when we started pulling out parts there were things everywhere,” Terpstra said. “Literally all we had to do was go down to a tow yard and get the actual car and make some minor safety modifications, but just about everything else we had lying around from when we used to be out there every week.”

Unlike the race cars of their past, Bomber division entries must carry a passenger which gives the Terpstra brothers the unique opportunity to ride together under the same roof – taking turns each week alternating who drives and who navigates the track.

The family undertaking (their father is the crew chief) has already participated in two races, and preparations are already underway for the next outing on the first Saturday of May when they return to the track.

While he might have been racing in faster cars and in more glorious divisions in the past, Terpstra said he’s perfectly happy where he is right now and enjoys every chance he gets to climb behind the wheel and navigate the field of eager drivers.

“I talk to some of the younger kids who are out there racing modifieds (the top class) and they all talk about how it’s a good starting point for them,” he said. “I think to myself, ‘No, it’s a good ending point.’

“I had a lot of fun when I was younger, but now that I get to ride with my brother and work with my dad and have our families in the stands, I’m having a blast. Everybody out there wants to win so there’s no shortage of competition. But now I have a chance to sit back and appreciate it.”