Not only did James Altman Sr. win the Trailer Figure 8 race Saturday, Aug. 31, at Perris Auto Speedway, but the Lake Elsinore driver lapped every other car which finished. Altman took the lead in the third lap of the 15-lap race, lapped the fifth-place car in the seventh lap, and moved a full lap ahead of the second-place car in the 13th lap.
“It was definitely a challenge. It wasn’t that easy,” Altman said.
The track rules require that the trailer remain attached to the car. The contents on the trailer are not required to remain on the trailer, and while a red flag may be thrown to stop the race if driver safety is an issue, no yellow flag cautions provide for clearing the track of obstacles.
“There was a lot of stuff we had to drive around,” Altman said.
Delfino Santana began the race on the pole with Michael Schattilly starting on the outside of the front row. Altman took the original green flag on the outside of the second row.
“I had to start so far back,” Altman said.
Schattilly took the initial lead and Altman was in second after the first lap. Altman moved ahead of Schattilly on the third lap, which put him in first place but behind cars which had the potential to slow him down if he didn’t pass those.
“It’s hard to pass those cars,” Altman said. “You have to time it.”
Passing a competitor in a Trailer Figure 8 race requires advancing past the trailer as well as the car. When cars are approaching the “X” from opposite directions contact with the driver’s side door must be avoided but contact with the trailer is allowed. A driver who wishes to avoid contact must thus not only avoid hitting the other driver’s trailer in the “X” but also must ensure that his own trailer is not hit. Jesse Gordon was in fifth place before Altman passed him on the seventh lap. Schattilly had fallen to fourth place by the ninth lap, in which Altman passed Schattilly to gain a full lap advantage. Santana was in third when Altman lapped the Beaumont driver in the 12th lap.
“I kept looking at the board to see who was there,” Altman said.
That left Kyle Cox as the only driver Altman hadn’t lapped. Altman moved by Cox in the 13th lap.
“He gave me room. I passed him,” Altman said.
Cox finished the race in second place and Santana was the third driver across the finish line. In the 15th lap, Altman passed Schattilly to move two full laps ahead of the fourth-place finisher. Altman had led the previous race July 27, until losing his trailer on the final lap, which disqualified him. He noted the need to avoid contact and avoid losing his trailer as well as maintaining distance ahead of his competitors.
James Altman Sr. is the son of Jim Altman, who has a different middle name. Jim Altman raced at Ascot Speedway in Gardena and at Speedway 605 in Irwindale, and James Altman Sr. also has three uncles who raced at those tracks. James Altman Sr., who has lived in Lake Elsinore since 1990 and graduated from Elsinore High School in 1995, has raced since he was 15. Approximately seven years ago, James Altman Sr. stopped racing himself. James Altman Jr. was 13, and James Altman Sr. focused on his son’s racing career. The racecar James Altman Sr. uses has an early 1970s Camaro subframe. James Altman Jr. had driven that car in the stock car events at Perris.
“His car wasn’t competitive enough for the oval,” James Altman Sr. said.
The Camaro was turned into a Figure 8 car. The car was offered to the third-generation racer, who chose a different class, so James Altman Sr. has been racing the Camaro for approximately two years. Altman also drove in the regular Figure 8 race. The heat races are six laps, and Altman finished second in the heat he began on the outside of the third row. Altman was fourth in the regular Figure 8 main event, which was 20 laps.
The Trailer Figure 8 class has a main event only and no heat races. Battery issues kept James Altman Jr. from competing in the four-cylinder Mini Stocks races, Aug. 31. James Altman Sr. utilizes his family members as his pit crew. In addition to his father and his son his father-in-law, Rich Booher, is part of the pit crew. If weather permits, the next Figure 8 and Trailer Figure 8 races at Perris will take place Sept. 28.
“Hopefully we can come out and do it again next time,” Altman said.
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.