Chris Mitchell Racing 22 looks towards his 2017 APC year at Motorama.
Nicole Benoit Creative Studio and Triben Media, our media affiliate, sponsor the Chris Mitchell Racing #22 APC Racing Series car. We enjoy covering all of his photography and videography, celebrating with him both the triumphs and tribulations of what it means to passionately pursue the often elusive dreams of building the perfect racing machine and driving it against the best in class.
After the Expo, we sat down with Chris Mitchell for a Q & A and asked him his thoughts on the value and experience of his 3 day participation at the annual Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo.
Q- Can you gives us an overview of who and what the purpose of the APC Racing Series is and the evolution of the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo?
A-The APC Series is a touring Pro Late Model racing series that has 9 races a year on asphalt tracks around Ontario. Pro late models are purpose built race cars that use 10” racing slick tires, spec shocks and the GM “604” crate engine. The 604 is not the displacement or horsepower, merely the last 3 digits of the GM part number. They are actually a built for racing version of GM’s iconic 350 with aluminum heads and a high rise intake with 4 barrel carburetors. They make about 425-450 HP and are factory sealed to help prevent tampering with the engines internal parts. The rules for the series are designed with parity and cost effectiveness in mind, but still take into consideration the best overall performance package for the money. The Series main sponsor is APC, which stands for Auto Parts Centres, a chain of automotive parts and supply stores around mid and western Ontario. Their goal as a series was to revive the Pro Late Model racing scene in Ontario by providing a competitive and level playing field and a cost effective way to race and they have been wildly successful in doing so, there are currently 40 drivers registered for at least a part time schedule in 2017.
There were originally 2 different automotive shows in the GTA area. One was geared towards the custom, classic and restoration crowd and the other was designed as an industry specific show for motorsports enthusiasts similar to PRI in Indianapolis. The two dates led to a fragmented crowd and made it difficult to have cars ready on time due to how early in the year it was. 2017 marked the 3rd year of the combined Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo for racers, tuners, customizers and restorers and really has something to offer for basically all disciplines of the automotive performance and show market. The popularity and large attendance at the show makes for a great stage to showcase the great product that the APC Series has to offer!
Q- What do the APC Series and the drivers and teams hope to achieve in their presence at the Expo annually? Are all drivers invited to attend the expo?
A- There is an open invitation put out to anybody in the automotive performance or customization and racing field. As the show is at least 2 months before the racing season starts, a lot of guys maybe didn't have the opportunity to get their cars together or be far enough along in time for the show. I would say different people have different goals that they want to accomplish. The APC Series as a whole, and specifically the director of that series, is always looking to promote who they are to try to attract new fans. We have to remember, as racers, our entire presence on the track or being a part of the Motorama show, is specifically to be in the sports entertainment business. In order for the series to exist and give the racers a place to go, they have to have the fans to come. In order to have the fans come, the fans need a venue to go to and a great show provided to them in order to actively promote the racers. If they can’t get enough racers to appeal to the crowd, then they won’t follow the tour. So you can see it’s a big machine - between the series, the fans, the drivers and the track it’s a big cycle that needs to be completed for the whole thing to thrive.
The Motorama motorsports expo for the APC Series, is to promote that particular brand of racing and that we are the most popular series in asphalt racing in Ontario right now. We have the largest group of drivers currently signed up for the new season, as well as the largest number actively involved in coming out to race at all these shows the last 2 years. The popularity of this Series with the drivers naturally attracts the largest amount of fan base as well and gives the fans a great opportunity to pick and choose their favourite drivers etc. As a driver in the APC Series, I wanted to offer support for the show because as a Series you have nothing really to display yourself, the cars are what actively promote the interest to the fan. The series has a great interest in having representatives of some of the best that they have in their field to be able to come out and show their wares, to be able to bring those fans to their booth. There they have the opportunity to convert that attention attracted by the car into a potential new fan by giving them a series schedule and a chance to talk about racing.
As a driver, it gives us an opportunity to get our sponsors and cars in front of fans at a standstill. Rather than just being out on the racetrack, they have an opportunity to engage with the drivers, see the cars close up, get an opportunity to read them while they are standing still and see the names on the side of the car. It gives the drivers the opportunity to invite our sponsors to come out so they can feel they are actively part of the show, it’s more than just putting their name on a racecar. It's the community, it’s a family, its an understanding of that sense of belonging somewhere so it gives us a chance to interact with the sponsors on a more personal basis, where it’s not just all focused on racing, racing, racing. If they come to the track for a weekend, it’s often you don't get an opportunity to just get to know them as a person and stand around and talk or be able to focus or spend enough time with those people, that you can do at a show like that.
Q- What do you feel that you got out of it as a driver personally from your perspective as a driver being there at the start of your 2017 season? What do you feel you took away from it this year?
A- There are a number of different reasons why I was there. I wanted to show the Series that I support what they are doing, I believe in the rule package that they have come up with and the choices that they are making. I believe in what they are doing to promote reasonably affordable racing in the Ontario area and with a touring series, that gives everybody the opportunity to create some hype around it, highlight some big-name sponsors that come on board with it and to be able to translate that into a larger fan base that has the loyal following of people because the more they support the series, the more they are able to attract some bigger sponsors. The more sponsors they attract, the more sponsors come on board. So I have fulfilled my obligation as a driver and as a car-owner as well, to be able to help highlight or be an ambassador for the sport as a well-groomed, well-spoken person. I wanted to have the opportunity to give people a chance to see the human side of us, not just the guy they see in a driving suit strapped into the car.
That’s part of why I'm there, the other part is I've learned the hard way many, many times over on how to do things the right way. I think I've honed my skill a fair bit on my ability to build and put these cars together and I’m proud of that fact. I like to showcase to the people in my peer group that know what I’m capable of doing, I get a lot of compliments from other racers and other car builders. It’s nice also to showcase to other people just walking by who are complimentary on how my car looked and how I’ve done in putting it together. I also had the opportunity to pick up a new sponsor this year, he brought his dad out to the show and it was reinforcing the family idea. He was proud to be able to come and spend a little bit of time with me and I made a big deal of putting their stickers on my car together and we took the time to make him feel like he was getting involved in the process. He had a lot of questions about what the car was, what the engine was in it, what power it made, who were some of the competitors I was racing against. They were curious what the differences were between the cars because the Pro Late Model from a quick glance looks a lot like a Limited Late Model, so they wanted to understand the differences between the cars. I took the time to explain all of that to them, which was great because it gave them a better understanding of what we do. Now they can talk to their friends and family and because they’ve got their name on the car, there are now at least two more people who will likely bring family and friends with them in the stands and watch! The snowball effect of that deal goes right from the guys that are running the series, to the guys that are driving in the series, to the car owners that have cars in the series, to the sponsors that are involved, it helps that whole cycle. Track owners, series promoters, cars, drivers, and fan base. We all need each other.
Q - Is there anything on a simply personal level that you got out of being there?
A- It’s fun to develop the camaraderie with the different guys, like going go-karting with JR (Fitzpatrick), Marv (Freiburger) and Shawn (McGlynn) or hanging out with Josh (Stade), Billy (Schwartzenburg), Shae (Gemmell) or Jamie (Cox) or any of the other drivers. We are all competitors but at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, I know for a fact if one of those guys was to wreck something and they didn't have that spare part and I had it, then I’d be the first person to volunteer to give it to them and I know that feeling is mutual. It’s kind of a weird dynamic you develop in the racing world, where it’s almost like a brotherly or sisterly kind of thing where you fight like cats and dogs but the first time that somebody picks on your brother or sister, you’re the first person that sticks up for them. It’s basically the same between the drivers, to where we are fierce competitors but we all try to be there for each other when we need to be.
Also I’m just a car guy at the end of the day too, so going to a car show like that I think is neat. It’s not just race cars that I am passionate about, if it’s got four wheels and an engine or two wheels and an engine or six wheels and an engine … if it’s got an engine and moves, then I’m interested! Going to a show like that it’s cool to see all the different disciplines of the same idea.
Q- Which was your favourite car?
A- Well, outside of the racing stuff, as far as the classic cars go there was a resto-mod which was a restored Camaro, heavily modified which was a pretty cool car. It was all chopped, channeled, lowered and had a super charged or maybe twin turboed LS motor in it I think.
Q- Why did you like a car like that?
A- A - I’m a GM guy, so it’s one of the nicest GM’s I've seen in a while. B - It encompasses all of the cool stuff available in the marketplace today, so it’s little bit of old, a little bit of new. It has that old Camaro awesome design, with that kind of flare that went into the older cars and then it had all new stuff like suspension, fuel injection, big horsepower, great brakes, air-conditioning and power steering lol.
My idea, if I were to build something like that, would be to make it really cool but not so cool that you’d never want to drive it. I can respect what he’s done on that Camaro, but he had gone to the extreme, where it was just a showpiece and not necessarily something you could ever use on the street. I mean you could, but not necessarily where you would want to because you would be scared to death that somebody would run into it or get a stone chip or something.
Q- How did you enjoy your go kart racing with the guys
A- It’s always cool to get out and do stuff like that. It’s usually hard on those indoor kart deals because we tend to be little aggressive and I’m surprised we didn't get kicked out! (chuckles)