Casey returns to life in the fast lane
It's no secret that Casey, who is a former WISSOTA Late Model track champion at Shawano Speedway, has a dedicated group of fans who follow him. But it's also no secret that he has a dedicated group of non-fans, as he gets his share of boos to go along with the cheers, especially when he was racing locally.
Casey knows this and he's alright with it.
"It's funny how years ago, you can be loved in Antigo and you go south to Shawano and you get booed there," Casey said. "Like M.J. McBride told me once in front of the grandstand there, 'It's still all for me.'"
Around 2007, Casey began racing in more open Late Model shows around the country and earned the 2008 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Year award. Since then, Casey has had some ups and downs, and raced in only a few races in 2011.
That has changed in 2012, as Casey has once again teamed up with Arnie Ranta Motorsports out of Minnesota and is hitting dirt late model races around the country.
"I drove only a few times last year but I still stayed in touch with the technology," Casey said. "It's still my passion and still my desire."
Casey, who previously raced nationally with Ranta's help, said the two of them have been longtime friends.
"We never parted ways on a bad note," Casey said. "People said what they wanted to on the computers. We did not part ways on a bad note. Arnie has given me chances. We've had a lot of fun together. Him and I understand one another."
Casey said reuniting with Ranta in 2012 was Ranta's decision.
"He wanted to get back in," Casey said. "… I think Arnie is looking to retire, have some fun with this and just see where it goes."
Things are a little different than the last time the two paired up. Under the current deal, Ranta owns all the racing equipment. Previously, Ranta covered the motor program, and Casey said he paid the rest of the bills.
"I'm a percentage driver now," Casey said.
When asked if he missed racing last year, Casey replied, "Yes and no."
"I went to the lake and the cottage a lot," he said. "It was one of my old sponsors, I had spent a lot of time there. He passed away and I got to spend a lot of time up there taking care of it for his wife. It's a beautiful place, I love going there. I like spending a lot of time up in Lac Du Flambeau. I did a lot of fishing. That is my big hobby right now."
He's glad to be racing again, but with that he knows there are sacrifices to be made.
"It feels really good to be racing and being in this deal that I'm in. People think this must be awesome or this must be great, that this lifestyle, you can't beat it. They don't know the half of it," Casey said. "I don't miss the traveling part of it. I spent three or four years living in the hauler and missed a lot of things with the kids. Now, I turn around and look, they are all grown up, two of them have moved out already. I missed that. I missed their graduations, a couple of them. I missed things like that, and basketball games. You can't go back and take that back.
"It (racing nationally) was something that I wanted to do too, so I guess it was a toss-up. Years ago when I first started doing this, mostly on my own, I didn't know anyone when I started it. We just raced hard and managed to make pretty good money at it. But we ran good. You have to run good. B-mains aren't for me. This car is going to take a little bit to keep it out of the B-mains. It's way too tight for me. I'm happy to be back into racing but there are some things that I might miss too at the same time."
Even though racing nationally may mean missing some family events, Casey said it was either race nationally or nothing. He never considered racing locally again. The reason he enjoys racing nationally is - the people.
"I have a lot of friends anywhere this side of the Mississippi," Casey said. "I could stop in any state and I know people in any one of them and could spend the night there. Whatever I needed, they would bring me in. I guess it's the camaraderie of people that I miss the most."
Another change is the fact Casey is racing a MasterSbilt chassis instead of a Rayburn chassis, which he raced for the majority of his career. He said the race program Ranta bought out included two MasterSbilt cars.
"That was something Arnie kind of wanted to do that we talked about," Casey said. "I guess I didn't think it out as much, I just kind of accepted it."
He said he still has a Rayburn chassis from his previous racing. He did race that car at East Bay Raceway in Florida in February.
"It's (Rayburn chassis) been sitting here for three years with 3 ½ inches of dust on it," Casey said. "I brought everything from my trailer and emptied it in my shop and dumped it on the floor and never came in. I hardly ever came in here for two years. Everything just sat as you can see it is dusty and dirty.
"I knew we were getting back in someday, but it was actually sooner than I thought we would."
Casey does plan on making a return trip to Shawano Speedway on Wednesday, Aug. 1 when the World of Outlaws Dirt Late Model Series appears at the Speedway.
"Yeah, I'll be there. It's probably in the plan for now because it's home and I haven't been there in a long time and I'd like to see how many boos I get," Casey said. The plan is for this racing arrangement to be more than a one-year deal, Casey said.
"We'll race until he (Ranta) tells us he wants to stop or I do, whichever comes first," Casey said. "I'm not going to burn myself out at it like we did last time and get to the point where I didn't enjoy it anymore. Waking up in Walmart parking lots and stuff like that, I don't miss that part of it."
In addition to Ranta, Casey said Northport Convenience has been helpful to his racing program.
Casey said he has only a couple goals.
"Goals for this year are to win a few major races and just be competitive again," Casey said. "It's going to take a little while to get the rust off."
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