A Third Generation Auto Racer
Has Entered The Super Stock Racing World
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography by John Liviero, Sooters Photography
There was only one caveat about contacting this racing phenom, Chase Pinsonneault, for this story: “You have to call him after three o’clock in the afternoon,” my editor said.
“Why is that?”
“Because he is still in high school.”
Chase Pinsonneault is the third generation of the Pinsonneault racing family of Essex County. At 15 years of age, he is a tenth grade student at Belle River District High School, where he enjoys math and science with an eye toward studying engineering after graduation.
Chase has been involved in organized racing for more than half of his life. He began competing at age six. In the Micro Sprint division at Grand Bend Speedway, he was named Rookie of the Year in 2014. During his seven years in Micro Sprint, Chase drove in more than 100 races, won 27 of them, had more than 75 podiums. In 2019, he won the Junior Sprint Championship. In April of this year, Chase graduated to full-sized stock car racing.
Although the word “stock” is in the name of the racing division, there is nothing stock about the car Chase drives.
“The car is purpose-built from the ground up,” says Chase’s father, Alan Pinsonneault, who drove for a time, but ultimately found his niche working on racing cars. “The body is a Chevy Camaro made of fibre glass. The engine is a GM 602 Crate engine with 350 horse power.”
That’s quite a step up from the Micro Sprint cars in which Chase began racing.
Since starting in Super Stock in April, Chase has competed in a half dozen races. Although some of the drivers he goes up against are in their twenties and thirties, with years more experience, Chase’s finishes have improved with each race.
How does it feel to be a ways away from getting one’s G1 driver’s license, but flying around a race track at 90 mph each weekend?
“It’s a combination of adrenalin and exhilaration,” Chase says. “I always feel exhilarated, but not really scared. When I’m in the moment like that, the fear never gets to me. I don’t have time to think about it.”
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Alec Pinsonneault, Chase’s feelings about racing mirror Alec’s experience.
“I began as a sponsor of Bob Merrifield’s in the mid-1980s,” Alec says. “In the second year of the sponsorship, Bob let me take the car around the track. I was hooked!”
Soon after, Alec took up auto racing and competed until 2000.
“When I was in that car, I forgot about everything,” Alec continues. “That was my stress relief from being in business. I went to a pretty high level in ASA, in the States, racing against professionals. That was the only thing that got me out of work.”
Chase says that he is so focused when racing that he is barely aware of his competitors.
“I have a spotter in the stands who communicates with me by radio,” he says. “He tells me who is coming up from behind. If there is a wreck on the track, he says whether I should go high or low to get around it.”
Chase continues: “I try not to pay too close attention to the other drivers. I’m looking for points on the track that I call my ‘braking markers’ and ‘turning markers.’ I’m also watching my oil and water gauges, to make sure they are not higher than normal. I don’t really use the mirrors in the car because they vibrate so much, I can’t see anything in them.”
One thing race car drivers do not get enough credit for are the physical demands they endure.
“It’s a different kind of physical,” Alan explains. “You can’t be out of shape, and you have to be sharp mentally.”
Alan goes on: “There are summer days when Chase is in the car, it’s 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside, humid, and he’s wearing a double layer fire suit. In those conditions, the temperature in the car can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit.”
There is a fan built into Chase’s helmet, which does provide some relief.
Alan recalls a recent race: “It was the second race of the night and Chase was running third. He was so focused on pacing the cars in front of him, he got into the wall. He just focused too much on the cars in front of him and forgot where the wall was for a second, and brushed it. As it gets hotter, it’s difficult to maintain focus. Stamina really comes into play. The G-forces are hard on your body. The seat helps. It’s a full containment seat that does not bend. It holds him in there properly.”
Safety is paramount in racing. Chase is secured by his full containment seat, a six-point seat belt harness and Head and Neck Restraint System to prevent injury.
As a rookie, Chase started at the back of the pack in his first few races. Rather than psyching him out, he viewed everything happening on the track as a learning experience. In his second ever race at Delaware Speedway, Chase qualified 8th in the 23-car field and moved forward to a 5th place finish by the end of the 50 lap special event in May.
“It’s daunting to start in the back, but I don’t absolutely hate it,” he says. “I’m faster than everyone I pass. Going up through the field, you see what works from track to track. I watch other drivers and see how they handle the track.”
Chase races primarily at Flamboro Speedway in Hamilton and Delaware Speedway near London. The racing season consists of 25 races.
Chase and his family keep his future in racing in perspective: “We have stressed to him ‘If there is ever a time you don’t want to do this, you can walk away,’” Alan says. “It’s a lot of money, time away, effort, commitment, but if Chase doesn’t want to be doing it, we can pull the plug.”
As for the family’s elder statesman, Alec says: “There is a lot of potential in Chase. He loves racing. He understands it. He basically built the car he’s driving. He is still in school, but he can focus on this situation. I’m really enjoying it.”
Alec goes onto explain that Chase’s Super Stock car is a manual transmission. This was Chase’s first experience with a clutch. To get Chase used to manually shifting gears, Alec brought out an old dune buggy his father had owned, and let Chase practice with that, going up and down Alec’s driveway.
“He learned to do it really quickly!” Alec remarks.
“I’m really enjoying racing,” Chase says. “I am very grateful to everyone who made this opportunity possible.”
Success does not occur in a vacuum. Chase’s sponsors have been an integral part of his journey: FCF Custom Fab, Windsor Life Magazine, Integrity Tool & Mold, KMJ Industrial Contractors, Apex Auto Group, Wilds Printing, Lakefront Marine Sales & Service, Industrial Tools & Supplies, McColl Racing Enterprises, and Connor’s Cookies.
Distracting as racing could be to a young man, Chase remains attentive to his studies at school. As for his immediate future, he says: “I am hoping to go from this and grow my racing career into a great big thing.”
Visit cpmotorsports22.com for more information about Chase, his racing and to view a slide show of his current car being built.