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Seven Days: Vermont Car Blog

October 15, 2008

Going Fast, Taking Chances

Joey Kale is a local Motor Sports enthusiast who has recently gained attention on the hillclimb circuit for coming out of nowhere and executing a serious beatdown on the perennial favorites of the sport. His efforts are even more impressive because he builds his own cars at his small business, Kale’s Custom, a shop in Essex, Vermont, where he specializes in building rally-style Subaru Imprezas. Last week, Kale put down the tools and gave me some face time.

Joey_kale BOB KILPATRICK: Who is Joey Kale? How old are you and what brought you to motor sports?
JOEY KALE: I’m 26 years old. I enjoy driving, driving around Vermont, dirt roads, winter driving. I just love breaking traction and sliding all over the place. In high school I started doing body work, working for a small shop in Essex. I worked there for five or six years, and then I took over the space. I was always building cars in my spare time. I got introduced to racing and hillclimbing. This is my first season racing, and I hope to take the King of the Hill trophy, which I don’t think a rookie has ever done before.

BK: Is the interest in cars a passion you share with your family?
JK: My Dad introduced me to the mechanical side of things. He helped me to do my first engine swap when I was younger. It was an engine swap in a Honda Civic, and that’s what started it all. I was 15; it was before I even had my license. It was the fastest car at Essex High School.

BK: How would you categorize your profession?
JK: General motor sports, any kind of competition by building a car and using what you built. Go fast, take chances. That’s a quote I use.

BK: I’m sure you’re familiar with Vermont SportsCar and what they’re doing. It’s a similar model to yours, but at a national scale.
JK: I know a few of those guys and actually just built a car and sold it to one of their guys. It was the first car I built purposefully for racing and sold. It has a full chrome-moly cage. I seam-welded the whole chassis, so it is very structurally safe. He’s going to be hillclimbing with us. I took it down to the bare frame. [The process is:] Weld it, cage it, put it back together with newer drive train parts, stuff from an ’02 or newer model, turbocharged, three times the power.

Joey_kale_car BK: Is that your business model?
JK: It didn’t make me a lot of money, but it helps get my vehicles out there and shows people what I’m capable of. He drives it to Vermont SportsCar every day and parks it in front of all of them and they all love it. They don’t build custom cars for people on the street. The kids over there saw that and they said, “He’s going to put Lance [Smith, president of Vermont SportsCar] out of business.” It was kinda cool hearing some of their reactions.

BK: Tell me about your hillclimb experience.
JK: This year I have participated in all of the [New England Hillclimb Association events]. At Mt. Ascutney, Okemo and Burke Mt. I placed first in class and second overall. Just a few weeks ago I finally won — by nine seconds — in this year’s second Mt. Ascutney event. I just wanted to compete with some of the fastest guys out there. Arlo Cota, the owner of Imported Car Center, a guy named Don Taylor, who does tech inspections for Rally America for all the national rallies. The guys that were the quickest guys on the hill. I really want to compete in the X Games.

BK: Is there a recognized path to get to the X Games?
JK: There are two options: You either race the entire season and earn your way into it by being one of the top six nationwide, or you can go to the Maine Forest Rally [now New England Forest Rally]. It’s the final qualifier before the X Games, and if you are the fastest non-invited contender, you’re immediately in. So that’s got to be my option. I have to got to Maine Forest Rally and kick some ass.

BK: Your goal is to get to the Maine Forest Rally and win, but you’ve never actually driven in a rally event. It sounds like you better get out there and enter some events!
JK: There’s a school in New Hampshire, Team O’Neil Rally School. I pretty much have to do that. It’s $4000 for a four-day course. You drive and sit in a classroom and he teaches you techniques — what to do, what not to do. You come out of it with coefficient points that you need to be able to race an all-wheel-drive turbo vehicle. Then I need to do two more rallies in a naturally aspirated car and just finish. I don’t even have to place, just make it across the finish line, and then I’m in.

Check out this video of Joey Kale tearing it up at the Burke Mt. Hillclimb


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Thats funny--I dont feel beatdown.... ;-)
Good luck beating Arlo + Don!


Bob Kilpatrick

I wish all of you guys a great run next weekend!


Kale Earnhardt just got a little bit faster. ;)

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