Article reprinted from The Richmond Times-Dispatch
Photo by Robert Dennis
Ray Ashworth makes a living remodeling kitchens and bathrooms.
He makes life worth living driving a race car.
"It's not about making money -- I haven't made a dime," the Southside Speedway veteran said. "It's all about the adrenaline rush."
Since he was a student at Henrico High, Ashworth has gotten his thrills racing -- for little pay but high excitement.
The 42-year-old Hanover resident has emerged from the track's lost-and-found department at Southside Speedway this summer in his No. 10 Monte Carlo.
After two seasons in which his engine was on mute, he's barking loudly again with the track's big dogs.
With nine Late Model Sportsman dates in the books, he's fourth in points behind Chris Dodson, Chris Hopkins and Russ Ellis.
He flirted with the lead in both ends of twin 50's on Aug. 25, placing fourth and third, respectively.
"That's about the best night of racing I can remember. . . . It was a brawl," he said.
Ashworth might be a candidate for Southside's comeback driver of the year. He fell below the radar in 2004 and was 13th a year ago in the LMS standings. He owes his resurgence to an upgrade in funding.
"It's all due to the sponsorship," he said. "When you've got some money behind you, you can take some chances. You're not as afraid of wrecking. When you haven't got any money, you can't afford to fix anything."
Ashworth's salvation, he insists, was landing McCray Electric as his primary backer.
Guts, adrenaline and racing savvy only get you so much on Friday nights at Southside's one-third mile oval.
"If you're driving with an old engine and old parts, you might contend for the top 10," he said. "If you want to be near the front, you've got to have the top equipment."
This has been a doubly fulfilling season for Ashworth. His 16-year-old son, Matt, a Hanover High student, has joined in the fun.
Matt races Go-Karts at Southside, and on Aug. 25, he made his debut in the Grand Stock class with a 20th-place finish.
"I grew up in Southside's bleachers, watching races with my dad," Ashworth said. "And now my son's here, too."
Ashworth was a two-time champion on the dirt track at Saluda in the early 1990s. He's enjoyed success at Southside and Southampton speedways in the Grand Stock division.
Ashworth likes to think he's a quality driver. But he's realistic to know that a donkey can't outrun a Thoroughbred.
"You're only as good as the car under you," he said.