PERRIS – After making the decision to race at Perris Auto Speedway the day his father had a heart transplant, Menifee driver Kris Carnish won the Factory Stocks main event on Father’s Day Weekend.

Carnish took the lead in the fifth lap of the 20-lap main event June 17 and remained in first place. He finished second in his heat race that night.

Kris Carnish is 41. His father, Mat, is 64. Two years ago, Mat Carnish had a stroke, and in July 2021 he underwent a quintuple heart bypass operation.

“It didn’t heal like they were hoping it would,” Kris Carnish said.

Kris Carnish, a former Murrieta Valley Nighthawk, racing out of Menifee, celebrates during the post-race interview. Valley News/Doug Allen photo

On June 10 Mat Carnish was notified that he had been approved for a heart transplant, and on June 13 his insurance company notified him that his insurance would cover the procedure. On June 15 he was notified that a heart was available and told to go to UCSD Hospital in the La Jolla area of San Diego, but Carnish was subsequently told to hold off on the trip. On June 16 Carnish was notified that two hearts which were better options were available. He arrived at UCSD Hospital about 3:00 p.m. on June 16 and was prepped for surgery.

The actual surgery began about 3:30 a.m. June 17. Kris Carnish had to make the decision whether to race the day of his father’s surgery. “It was up in the air,” he said.

Carnish’s father recommended that Carnish race if he needed to clear his head. The drive from UCSD Hospital to Perris Auto Speedway is approximately 1 1/2 hours.

Other drivers and crew members and the track itself ensured that Carnish would be ready to race if he desired. Carnish’s 1975 Camaro was taken to the track the morning of June 16, and Perris Auto Speedway promoter Don Kazarian ensured that the car could remain on the premises. Larry Well unloaded the car June 17 and Well, David Stites, David Uraine, Chuck Becker, and Lanny Savage attended to the Camaro in Carnish’s absence.

“They were all looking over my car and adjusting a few things,” Carnish said. “If it wasn’t for those guys looking out for me, I don’t know how well my car would have done.”

The June 17 race was the first Factory Stocks race at Perris Auto Speedway since April 29, when Carnish finished third. The Factory Stocks also raced at Perris on April 8, and Carnish was second in that night’s main event. The Factory Stocks are known as the Pure Stocks at Barona Speedway, and Carnish took his Camaro to Barona for the May 27 races. He was fourth in his heat race and finished third in the B main to advance to the main event. On the seventh lap of the main event the right rear axle of the Camaro snapped.

Menifee’s Kris Carnish, in the No. 26 car, races on the track at Perris Auto Speedway. Valley News/Doug Allen photo

“I had to swap the whole rear end out,” Carnish said.

Carnish’s goal in the June 17 heat race at Perris was thus to determine how the car was handling and to ensure that all elements of the car were suitable. Heat races on the Perris half-mile dirt oval are six laps, and Carnish was satisfied with finishing second.

Buena Park driver Peyton Griffin began the June 17 main event on the pole with Ethan Kintop of Nuevo starting on the outside of the front row. Carnish took the green flag on the inside of the second row.

“I was trying to stay out of the other cars and trying to get the lead,” Carnish said. “During lap five I finally took over the lead and just stretched that lead to where I won by three-quarters to a full straightaway.”

Kintop had the lead before Carnish took over first place. In the fifth lap Carnish passed Kintop on the outside exiting turn four. “He gave me room,” Carnish said.

The main event had no yellow flag cautions and restarts. “We went green to checkered,” Carnish said.

During much of the main event Carnish was thinking about racing rather than his father. “For the most part I was looking straight forward,” he said. “I was just focusing on getting my mark.”

Stites, who lives in Canyon Lake, finished second. (The previous race’s winner starts in the back, and Stites won the April 29 main event to give him the rear starting position June 17.) Kintop was the third driver to see the checkered flag. Uraine, who lives in Menifee, was the fourth racer across the finish line.

With the win not assured but under his control, Carnish’s thoughts turned to his father. “When I got to about five laps to go it started sinking in,” he said. “The last three laps my eyes were all watery.”

Carnish also had to discuss his father’s situation during the post-race interview. Carnish was able to visit his father on Father’s Day and took his first-place trophy with him. Carnish showed the trophy to his father. “He instantly had a big old smile on his face,” Carnish said.

Kris Carnish, of Menifee, stands outside his car after winning at Perris Auto Speedway. Valley News/Doug Allen photo

Mat Carnish also smiled when he watched the video of his son winning the race and being interviewed.

Kris Carnish was born in Vista and was in Escondido as a kindergarten student before moving to Murrieta prior to first grade. He graduated from Murrieta Valley High School in 2000 and moved from Murrieta to Menifee shortly afterward.

Mat Carnish never raced. Kris Carnish began his Perris Auto Speedway career as a pit crew member for Menifee driver Ken McWilliams and first drove at Perris in the four-cylinder Hornet Stocks class with a 1985 Toyota Celica. Carnish became solely a pit crew member after the Hornet Stocks division was discontinued, but the acquisition of another 1975 Camaro allowed him to return as a driver in the Factory Stocks competition. Carnish won his first main event in August 2015. He has owned the Camaro he now races for five years and has raced it since 2021.

Joe Namain can be reached by email at