With the help of his father, Stan, left, Brian McGinnis, right, has emerged as a champion driver on the local drag strip. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

With the help of his father, Stan, left, Brian McGinnis, right, has emerged as a champion driver on the local drag strip. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Restore the roar

Third generation McGinnis races long family-owned classic ’56 Chevy to two drag racing titles

A classic hot rod with a history of ripping down a quarter-mile asphalt drag strip stood silent for 14 years on a trailer in grandma’s back yard.

That’s where Kent’s Brian McGinnis found the black beauty on an Easter Sunday several years ago. It’s where the Kent man decided to restore the roar in the family’s coveted 1956 Chevrolet.

“I asked her if he could bring it home and play with it,” McGinnis recalled.

Grandma gave her grandson the green light, and the young pilot has since punched the throttle, driving the Chevy to a pair of Pro division E.T. bracket series track titles at Pacific Raceways. Grandma still owns the high-powered family heirloom – a car that’s been passed down three generations – but the grandson is enjoying special summertime moments with a dependable sidekick, his dad Stan, who helps turn the wrenches.

“I’ve been in his shoes, but it’s his turn to drive and make his own legacy. I’m having more fun helping him,” said Stan, 60, retired. “He’s doing a great job with it. … He’s proud of the car and the (family name).”

The Chevy has been a part of the family since 1977 when Stan’s father, Stanley, bought it for $700.

Stan and his older brothers, Jess and Gary, began to race the car in the early 1980s, and the Chevy became a familiar fan favorite. The brothers occasionally raced the car before parking it to devote more time to other family matters.

Like his uncles, Brian had always been competitive. He tried motocross, but a bad race spill broke his pelvis in five places.

Enter drag racing.

Brian proved to be a quick study. In five years of challenging local drag strips, he has blossomed into a steady driver. He captured three Wallys – drag racing’s most prestigious trophy – after topping the Pro class field twice at Kent and once at Bremerton last year. He repeated his points championship with three final-round appearances this year.

“It’s a totally smooth car,” Brian said of the Chevy powered by a 454 cubic-inch, big-block engine that produces 700 horsepower. “If you’re brave enough, you could probably close your eyes and drive straight. The rush isn’t necessarily going fast, the speed, it’s the competition. … All I’m doing is driving a car in a straight line, but it’s the competitive nature of it that’s the exciting part.”

Brian, 30, races weekends and during the week can be found under the hood of a bus as a mechanic for the Kent School District. One day he would like to compete on the national stage.

In a racing family, Brian has been consistent.

“Out of all of us, he’s been the best McGinnis behind the wheel,” Stan said.

In a tight battle for the points title this summer, Brian came through.

“I just told him to drive like the champion you are, and you’ll be fine,” Stan said. “And he did.”

In a class dialed in to laps no quicker than 10.1 seconds, Brian typically turns elapsed times just under the allowable index, cutting solid reaction times at the starting light. His top speed in the Chevy at the top end of the quarter-mile strip has reached 132 mph.

At times, the car on 10½-inch wide slicks races as if it were on rails.

“It’s not just a race car, it’s a family car,” Brian said. “That’s the coolest part about racing is that every race I go to someone comes up to me, (and says,) ‘I remember that car from way back.’ It’s cool. It’s the same car, same family, everything.”

Brian welcomes the opportunity to carry on the family’s racing tradition.

As Stan reminds others, “Not many kids can say they’re racing their 10-second grandma’s car.”

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