Marchetti permitted to race without permit
BY FRED JETER
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Published May 1, 2008

MAY 1, 2008
SOUTHSIDE SPEEDWAY
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U-Car Racer Renno Marchetti IV isn't allowed to drive to and from Southside Speedway.

But once he's there, look out!

Marchetti is a 15-year-old, Varina High freshman who won't be eligible for a Virginia driver's license until January.

Still, he's been given the green light to race in the U-Car Division at Southside Friday nights and Hampton's Langley Speedway on Saturdays.

"People are speechless when they find out," Marchetti said with a laugh.

Don't call the police -- no need for any sirens and flashing blue lights. It's all on the up and up.

Southside passed a rule just this spring allowing drivers to compete before their 16th birthday. Langley jumped the gun last year, permitting drivers as young as 14. Marchetti was first in line.

Southside rookie: Driving a four-cylinder Cavalier, Marchetti debuted on Genito Road with a second-place finish after starting 15th.

He earned his first checkered flag April 18 after starting 16th.

In his lone start at Langley this spring, he started seventh and finished third.

A year ago at Langley, he had two top-five finishes and placed ninth overall. There are no cash payouts in the popular U-Car class that often draws 18-20 racers of all ages.

The teenager takes his success in stride.

"I've been around cars all my life -- even driving in the backyard," he said. "I come home from school, do my homework . . . then I'm in the garage till about nine."

Racing family: Renno's father, Marchetti III, an employee of Stock Car Products (formerly Zervakis Enterprises) is among the area's most respected mechanics.

His race cars -- 01 driven by Chris Hott and No. 2 by Joey Bryant -- have been among the fastest in recent years in Southside's Grand Stock class.

Eventually, perhaps as early as next summer, the elder Marchetti sees his son moving into the 01.

"Little Renno has good instincts," said Marchetti III, who schools his son during races via radio.

Denise Marchetti, Renno's older sister, even raced, finishing 10th in points during the 2001 Grand Stock campaign.

Marchetti III, 50, isn't done, either, as a competitor. Last summer, he won Langley's Demolition Derby.

"Just wanted to show people I still could," he said.

What does mom think? Bonnie Marchetti seems comfortable -- sort of -- with her barely old-enough to shave son racing at high speeds (topping at about 72) and trading paint against much older rivals.

"It's a little nerve racking -- scary," she said. "But I'm glad he does it. If he wasn't doing that, he might be doing something else . . . keeps him out of trouble."

Finding his niche: Marchetti played baseball and basketball growing up. He dabbled in go-karts but never competed.

Much of his youth has been spent at Southside, soaking up the sport like a sponge.

"Everyone knows him. . . . He'd ridden his scooter skateboard out there for years," Marchetti III said. "People always asked when he's going to start racing."

Southside's decision to allow 15-year-olds was celebrated in the Marchetti household.

Unofficially, at least, they're calling it "the Renno rule."

Contact Fred Jeter at (804) 739-2219 or fjeter@timesdispatch.com.