Column By: JIM HILLIER SR. / RPW – CHARLSTON FOUR CORNERS, NY – I’ve watched, talked to and listened to race car competitors since the late 70’s. I’ve written columns and even did a radio show for a period of ten years so I’ve basically seen it all.
The 2017 racing season I entered into a new phase of racing that I knew very little about that being karting most notably Caroga Creek Speedway in Ephratah New York and promoted by my cousin Todd Moran.
I knew very little about the sport only seeing a race or two when my dad Herbie took me to the Meco kart track just outside of Gloversville NY. There I got to witness such future area stars like Teddy Luft, Dave Lape, Terry Lake, Jack Johnson, Bobby Weaver and even my fellow classmate Mike Dwyer who was a real racing star in his early and late teens with his crew chief father Chuck. Father and son teams were the real deal back in the sixties.
I got a quick lesson in kart racing by watching all of the happenings that went on each race night. Kart racing is a close knit family deal with dad working on the setup, junior doing the tires, sis cleaning up the kart and helmet with mom getting the lineups or snacks ready. It is a total team effort believe me from the entry into the pits and after loading back up the ride home. In all honesty, I met and built a lot of great friendships at Caroga Creek all due to the atmosphere that the Moran family has built there. Moving forward, I’d like to introduce a kart racer who in my estimation exemplifies the true meaning of how a kart racer professionally portrays him or her self.
I have had Robert “Bobby” Rhinehardt answer questions below that is his racing autobiography in explaining his love for his wife, life in general and kart racing. Bobby gave me as well as you in this story an honest picture of what he desires to do on a daily and weekly basis with his wife Danielle and his racing friends. Don’t ever get the idea that kart racing is easy or every event is a perfect feature or qualifier. These guys and gals put their all (and Money) into everything they do. This sport has an expense like anything else but look at Bobby Rhinehardt’s facial expression and it shows the total satisfaction of his favorite hobby. Happy reading my racing friends!
Where did the racing fever begin for Robert “Bobby” Rhinehardt from the beginning up until today?
RR: My interest in racing actually began when I was 14 years old. My school bus driver, Mister Max Phillips Sr. owned a race car that was driven by Bobby Varin. Max and his family took me in and I started my career helping the team in the pit area. That group became my close knit family and lasted for a period of 10 years. Next up for me was actually driving a four cylinder race car at Glen Ridge for a two year period. I had no wins during that period gaining seat time and racing experience to go along with finishing second thirty three times! In my defense, both four and six cylinders competed together for the championship both years. I then started competing one year in flat karts and two now with the Wing Champs that included 9 wins and 2nd in points in the flat karts.
How did you get interested in karts and why Bobby?
RR: It all started purchasing a kart for my son Gabriel on his birthday. While helping my son learn to drive, plus, working on the karts myself I began to have a new friendship with Jeff Swartz. Jeff gave me many helpful racing pointers and soon he “bullied me” into purchasing my own flat kart. Later on that season, fellow racer Tom Varin developed a class called wing champs of which today has really taken off and is known as the Wing Champ Racing Series or WCRS. Tom asked me to help get the new division up and running providing me different wing champs that he owned. I eventually selected a 2010 Trick Joker which proved to be the best decision I ever made for the following season.
You now compete as a regular in the Wing Champ division as well as the WCRS series. Where, your favorite track and your toughest to conquer to date?
RR: 2017 and 2018 my home tracks were Dodge City Speedway located in Howes Cave and promoted by the Montenaro family and Caroga Creek Speedway located in Ephratah and promoted by Todd Moran. The WCRS took us to such tracks as Dodge City, Caroga Creek, Paradise, Weedsport, Glen Ridge and Snydersville in Pennsylvania. Add in two exhibition events at Turkey Trot and Oakland Valley kept us busy all season long. My personal favorite has been Dodge City Speedway where we ran every Friday night that they had events. It is a drivers track with so much character and is never predictable based on the weather each week. The toughest track to compete on for me to date has been Paradise and I have no idea why but I have not been able to compete the way I know that I can. To answer a common question asked of me is how much does a competitive wing champ kart cost? Brand new everything top shelf about eight grand, but one can get started in competitive racing mode in a used piece for about four grand!
Everyone in the WCRS division spoke very highly of your sportsmanship move in 2017 that probably cost you the championship please explain Bobby!
RR: For Bobby Rhinehardt that specific decision was not about the WCRS championship. It was about a true friend and the competition. Jeff Swartz and his entire family have become a very important part of my life. When Jeff’s son Ryan had serious motor issues, there was never ever any question that I would make an attenpt to help my friends out. We both used the same motor builder and were not teammates but Ryan in my eyes was a close friend and competitor. It was an easy decision for me to loan a motor to Ryan for the finale. I believe there was a six point difference between Ryan, Matt Chavis and myself. I ended up crossing the finish line first (biggest win of my career) with Ryan finishing right behind me in second. The final points showed Ryan the WCRS Champion and I finished in the runnerup spot. Sure I wanted to win that championship badly, but to see Ryan edge me out I was very happy for him to say the least.
Besides your racing endeavors, what else are you involved with?
RR: I am avid outdoorsman and the proud owner of four beagles and truly love running them. My main job is Highway Superintendent for the Town of Charleston. My wife, Danielle (Dani) and I are also the owners of Racin’ Rhino Karting and Parts located in Charleston New York. We offer the normal parts for karts, scaling services, clutch services, kart maintenence and setups. We also have a parts trailer to the track most races equiped with all your racing needs including fuel and oil. One can even like our Facebook page at Racin” Rhino Karting and Parts. I’d like to state that I have won events at Dodge City, Caroga Creek, Snydersville, Oakland Valley and Utica-Rome. Overall 25 wins in two years to go along with track championships at Dodge City and Caroga Creek.
Where do you as a parts supplier as well as competitor see kart racing headed in the future?
RR: I’d say karting is making a comeback. The cost factor issues at best are trying to keep them under control as motors are pretty much set for the Adult WCRS class. We are searching for more cost efficient for the junior wing champ class. Tires seem to be the biggest cost along with being most sensitive for success. Currently for the most part, track promoters seem to be working together for the betterment of the race teams and in my opinion that needs to happen to keep kart racing growing and successful.
Your support network and where does it come from for you to be on top of your game?
RR: My wife Dani is hands down my biggest supporter in my racing career. She actually encouraged me to get into the seat and start my dream of racing. Dani has been by my side at every race and runs the parts trailer at the tracks we compete at. She has other plans for our racing future and ironically it also involves wings. It’s something that I hope that works out someday but if not I’m satisfied with what I am doing in racing now. Dani has become an owner of a wing champ herself and has her own driver David Manchester who has an impressive resume with racing karts in his career and he picked up his first win at Dodge City this past season.
Your racing success has contributed to securing sponsorships as well as both you and your wife being well liked on the WCRS why is that?
RR: We both as a husband and wife team and business owners put a ton of time and effort into our racing program along with our great sponsors. The results have been undeniable that we are currently at the top of our game and looking forward to the upcoming 2019 season. We are blessed with having the following sponsors believe in what we do. General Hydraulics Inc. in Johnstown has been with us since day one. Last season we added sponsorship from the Boehler Family owners of Pro Tech Scale Service, The$$Man and 2B Xtreme Vinyl and we again are so grateful to all four sponsors who help us make it all happen. To all of your avid race fans God Bless and see you all at an area track soon!