Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Community Interest” May 2009.
Father and son compete side by side in the ultimate heads-up racing challenge: drag racing with corners. Napa City Councilman Jim Krider took a weekend away from his civic duties and headed to Irvine, California, to get his mind off of the city and get some much needed R&R. But, for Jim Krider, R&R doesn’t mean Rest and Relaxation, it means Rubbin’ and Racin’. Jim went down to compete in the Sports Car Club of America Pro Solo. The “Pro,” as it’s known, is the ultimate racing challenge where two cars race head to head in a drag racing format. Except this drag strip isn’t a quarter mile straightaway. The Pro is drag racing with corners; two mirrored tracks of twists, turns and challenges.
But the biggest challenge for Jim wouldn’t be the track; it would be his own son, Rob Krider. The father and son duo were scheduled to race against each other in the first round. Both would be driving nearly identical Shelby Mustangs. The only real difference between the two cars is Jim’s Shelby would be operated by complex hand controls which would allow Jim, a paraplegic, to operate the clutch, brake and throttle with one hand, while he steered and shifted gears with the other hand. Sound complicated? Try operating all of those controls sliding a car sideways at eighty miles an hour.
The epic match-up would hopefully settle a debate which has raged on for years in the Krider Racing garage: who is the best in the family? You ask the different drivers and you’ll get different answers. Was it Jim’s father, the late James Krider Sr. who started the Krider Racing name and tradition when he rolled his stock car upside down in a race back in 1951? Is the Councilman the hot shoe in the family? Or, is it one of his two sons?
Jim is a proud racing father, enjoying the successes his two sons have had both on and off the track. His youngest son, Randy, who owns Bay Area Express Delivery Service (Bay Ex), took second place in the rallycross National Championships in 2008. Jim’s eldest son, Rob, brought the Krider Racing banner to new heights last year by winning the 24 Hours of LeMons at Altamont and also scoring four road course victories in a row at Infineon Raceway.
But no matter which generation of the Krider family is racing, they each work in close conjunction with Napa shops: B & G Tires, Napa Valley Muffler, Performance In-Frame Tuning, T.E.M. Machine Shop and Third Street Auto Repair. Their cars are maintained exclusively by Napa companies. Krider Racing even sells team t-shirts at Napa businesses: Wildcat downtown and Automobilia on El Centro Avenue.
During the big showdown between father and son, Jim was driving the specially equipped white Shelby Mustang, borrowed from paraplegic racer Jerry Lamb. Jerry is an engineer who custom built the hand control system himself so that he could run a competitive racecar with a manual gearbox. Rob would be driving the Kuhtz Diehl Insurance/ST Suspension sponsored blue Shelby Mustang, #138.
Before the race, both driver’s had a few words to say about their family competition.
Jim said, “Rob is a very aggressive racecar driver. He has incredible car control, so sometimes he gets away with things that he probably shouldn’t be doing, like tossing the car around and driving sideways too much. If Rob can calm down and smooth out his driving style he would probably see his lap times improve.”
When told that his father thinks he might want to calm down behind the wheel, Rob retorted, “That’s funny. He said that since I inherited the aggressive driving gene from him. Who’s he kidding? He drives harder than I do!”
Even though Jim has been racing for decades, the Pro was a new series to him. Rob, however, competed nationally in year long Pro points series in 2005 and was ranked third in the country after competing in the National Championships in Topeka, Kansas. So even though Jim taught his son to drive when he was fifteen years old, it was Rob’s turn to help his dad hone some racing skills.
Jim discussed what it was like moving from being the teacher to becoming the student, “It’s a strange transition having your kid, who you taught how to race, turn around years later and start giving you racing advice.”
Rob had an answer for that, “Yeah, he taught me everything he knows. We’ve both covered that. Now it’s his turn to listen to me a little bit.”
So, after all the bench racing and trash talking, who won the big father and son grudge match? Well, youth prevailed as Rob Krider not only beat “the old man” but led the entire field of competitors during the first qualifying session.
Jim didn’t see losing the race to his son as a loss at all, “If he wins, then Krider Racing wins, and that’s a win for me too.” Jim got a big smile on his face and said, “After all, I’m the one who taught him how to drive.”