Two-seat Sprint Car gives fans unique perspective
By Bert Lehman
Full Throttle magazine
One of the jokes in racing is that Sprint Car drivers have to have a “screw loose” in order to race the high-powered Sprint Cars just inches from each other.
Area race fans now have the opportunity to see if that is an accurate statement.
Last year Mark Jens, looking for a way to help Manitowoc Speedway, decided to build a two-seat Sprint Car.
“It was hard to imagine what it was going to look like before we started,” Jens said. “We had some hiccups with it, learning that alcohol is a little different than gasoline. Gasoline is a little more corrosive and we were eating up liners on our fuel tank.”
Jens said there were no plans available to build the two-seater.
“It was a trial and error thing, but when you have guys like Andy (Wold) and Dave (Peik), they’re perfectionists,” Jens said.
Wold and Peik built the two-seater. Peik passed away during the offseason.
Jens also said there are probably less than five two-seat Sprint Cars in the country.
“I would say there is none of the quality of this one,” Jens said. “The biggest hurdle to be very honest with you, and Andy knew it going in, was the driveshaft, just to figure out how long that driveshaft is. A friend of Andy’s, an airplane builder, the guy made a driveshaft that you’d want to put in a museum. It’s spot on. There isn’t a vibration in the car, and it’s a long driveshaft. It’s very easy to take care of (two-seater) once it got dialed in and all the quarks out of it.”
Wold said when building the two-seater, they knew they had to get the driveshaft right.
“It was previously put together as a two-seater and all they did was have driveline problems with it,” Wold said. “We kind of started over on that and it’s been pretty awesome.”
When asked how many hours were spent building the two-seater Jens responded, “Quite a few.”
The two-seat Sprint Car not only has an extra seat when compared to a full-blown Sprint Car, it also can be started like a regular car. No push vehicle is needed.
The two-seater was at Manitowoc Speedway all last season.
“People couldn’t believe what they were seeing,” Jens said.
He added that some people automatically think the rear steering wheel by the rider controls the two-seater. It doesn’t, it’s just a prop.
Wold said it was a thrill seeing the two-seater on the track the first time. Wold got a bigger thrill when he got a ride in the two-seater.
“Probably the biggest thrill was last year when I got a ride in it,” Wold said. “Scott Sippel was driving it that night and he drove our Sprint Car for us for three years. He gives you a pretty good ride. Matter of fact, the first night we had the car together he drove it at 141 [Speedway] and made junk out of all four tires.”
“The fans really enjoy it,” Jens said. “We take it to parades. We take it to car shows. We take it everywhere. We take it to every business that puts their name on the car and buys a banner at the track.”
Jens said he doesn’t take money for rides in the two-seater.
“We don’t accept any money for people to take rides. All the money is given to the track,” Jens said.
Rides are given away at the locations of some of the sponsors on the two-seater.
The two-seat Sprint Car will be at Manitowoc Speedway each Friday night this season. It will also be at 141 Speedway on occasion, as well as other tracks upon request.
As Wold stated, Sippel drove the two-seater after it was first completed. Now it is driven by 19-year-old Joel Jens, Mark Jens’ son.
Joel said he didn’t drive it at first because he didn’t have a lot of experience racing on dirt. Don’t let his age and lack of dirt experience fool you though. He started racing go-karts when he was 10 years old, mainly asphalt road courses.
This eventually led to three national championships in one year, the year he won his first national race.
“I was gone every other weekend racing,” Joel said.
Joel said he had driven a Sprint Car during a practice session, and eventually his opportunity in the two-seater arrived.
“Last year I brought it to the track and they didn’t have anyone to give people a ride so I got to take a lap by myself and I did really good. Now basically I give all the rides,” Joel said.
He said he enjoys the reaction of those who receive rides in the two-seater.
“I’ve never had someone say they had a bad time,” Joel said.
(This article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)