Perch Fest racers combine two loves

Written by Nicholas Serrano. Posted in Dining & Entertainment, Uncategorized

Published on August 18, 2011 with No Comments

Portage’s third annual Perch Fest and Gran Prix on Aug. 12-14 combines two of America’s greatest past-times: fishing and racing. And that’s just fine with the Greenwood father/son team of Keith and Chase Jones.

Both are looking forward to this year’s running of the Perch Fest and Gran Prix as they and the rest of the RFR Cars Indy Karting Series regulars venture north to Portage for the first time.

“Oh, I’m definitely bringing my poles and box to Portage,” Keith, 50, says, “and if we get time (after the races), you bet we’re gonna try the fishing out.” Son Chase, 14, is on the same page as his dad: “I hope we can (fish at Portage).”

Both have been around fishing – and racing – for a long time. Keith says he’s had a fishing pole as long as he can remember. “My dad died when I was 2,” he said, “but it seemed like everybody in my neighborhood fished. A neighbor man liked me and started taking me fishing.”

As for his racing career, Keith answered a want ad in 1996-97 for Panther Racing and started a long career crewing for Indy Cars including the championship years of Sam Hornish in 2001-2002; Tony Kanaan’s 2004 championship; Dan Weldon’s Indianapolis 500 victory in 2005; and Dario Franchitti’s championship/Indy 500 victory of 2007. He also spent a couple of years crewing in the American LeMans series where he was seriously burned in a pit stop accident at Mid-Ohio in 2008 while working for Gil de Ferran. When de Ferran folded up shop in September 2009, Keith did too and stuck to fishing and karting with Chase.

Keith introduced Chase to fishing when the youngster was three or four years old. Ironically, it was about the same time the youngster started racing. “I’ve been fishing since I’ve been racing,” the youth notes. The family lived next door to a small pond in Brown County then and that’s where he started teaching Chase how to fish. A family vacation to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire about the same time also gave Keith and Chase another chance to continue fishing education.

Keith, Chase and the rest of the family eventually moved to Greenwood, a suburb of Indianapolis, but fortunately, Keith says, there is a pond nearby. When the pond isn’t enough, the pair takes the family bass boat to Lake Monroe near Bloomington. Chase uses his own poles and tackle box, and does everything on his own, although he admits he sometimes has trouble re-baiting the hook. Maybe that’s why Keith says they’re using artificial lures now.

As for racing, Chase has proved to be both a quick and successful study. He has earned race victories at a wide variety of tracks and four IKS championship trophies: Junior Sportsman in 2008; Junior Supercan in 2009 and 2010; and TaG Junior in 2010. He also competes in selected World Karting Association national races. He moved up to the adult classes just this season.

“Fishing and racing are both sports to me,” Keith points out, “although racing is a business for me and fishing is my therapy. I love to catch a fish or just be around the water. It just makes for a good day.” Fishing gives you a chance “to hang out and interact with the family,” Chase adds.

Both just seem to naturally go together for father and son. Keith points out that there always seems to be a lake near a racetrack. “I always took my fishing poles and tackle box with me when I drove the truck for Indy Cars,” he remembers. “I think they (poles and tackle box) have more than 250,000 miles on them,” he adds with a chuckle.

After all these years, both have very fond memories. “There are two lakes at the Homestead track,” Keith explains, “one inside and one outside. There are peacock bass in the inside lake and largemouth bass in the outside one. I caught a 10-and-half-pounder in the outside one a few years ago.”

Chase remembers a fishing trip to Lake Monroe when he was around 5 or 6-years-old. “I caught a largemouth bass that had to be 10 pounds,” he said. He also recalls an ice-fishing expedition to Canada a few years ago when he caught one “that had to be at least three feet long. We ate it for dinner.”

Despite the pair’s feelings toward fishing, the first order of business at Portage is the Perch Fest and Gran Prix. Chase is in his first season of competition at the adult level in IKS and in the midst of a very successful season with four victories in the TaG (Touch and Go) Lite class to place him atop the class championship point standings. He also runs the Yamaha Medium class and has used a couple of runner-up race finishes to currently run second in points in that class.

Chase is looking forward to running both of his No. 17 karts (one for each class) through the Portage streets in search of more victories for the season. And, with luck, maybe he and dad will join Perch Fest mascot Petey the Perch in victory lane.The Go-Kart racing stop at the Portage Perch Fest is part of the circuit’s official competition schedule. For more information on the Perch Fest, call 219-762-1675 extension 303.


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