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Chunn races on at two different venues

By: Jeannie Broussal, Special to The Press Tribune
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Ron Chunn is a Late Model driver at All American Speedway, but his day job is as a mechanic at Expert Automotive in Elk Grove. Although he's been a racer almost all of his life, he didn't start driving Late Models until last year. That's when he met Carter Flygare, who was looking for someone to put his Late Model back together, maintain it and drive it at AAS. Flygare is owner of CFI, a flight training, aircraft rental, pilot supply, charter, aerial photography and air taxi company at Executive Airport in Sacramento. Chunn put a team together, fixed the car and started racing. At first, they didn't expect the No.44 Carter Flygare Inc. car to do anything but finish, but when Chunn finished third on his third time out, exerybody's expectations changed. "The way I am is if the car's there, and I've got good equipment, I want to run up front," Chunn said. Chunn had some experience racing before getting in a Late Model last year. He won a go-kart at age seven and he and his brother and sister raced it around the family's five-acre compound in Elk Grove. He raced dirt bikes while in high school and he also raced Motocross for a few years. Then his boss decided to build a Street Stock and have Chunn drive it at Stockton. In 1995, Chunn and his father bought their own Street Stock, and raced it at Stockton Speedway for a year and a half. After that he raced Modifieds at All American Speedway, Stockton and Madera. With three children and a mortgage, Chunn stepped away from the driver's seat and became an official so he could keep close to the sport he loves. Then the call from Flygare came. "He's a great guy and a great racer,” Flygare said. “As a team we pull for him and help him in anyway we can." Chunn was just starting the season in 2009 when he and his wife Michelle got some devastating news. Their youngest son Cole, age 4, had cancer. "It didn't matter to me if I ever raced again," Chunn said. "Nothing mattered but getting Cole better." Michelle said she thought she was going to die when she got the diagnosis. "It's hard, he's my hero," Michelle said. Michelle had been an ardent supporter of her husband's racing (and still is), and had never missed a race, but since Cole was diagnosed, she hasn't been to a race. Chunn had two weeks off from racing at the time Cole was diagnosed, so he didn't miss a race, but it was hard. "You feel guilty because you are at the track,” Chunn said. “My wife said go, everything is fine. He was doing good at the time and I basically told everyone I'd be at the track as long as Cole is doing okay. If things aren't well with Cole, there is no way I can race. The racing provides an opportunity for Chunn to relieve some stress. “When I'm at the track I don't think too much about what's going on at home,” Chunn said. “Michelle tells me to go to the track because it's an outlet for me, but it puts more pressure on me because I've noticed, if I don't have good runs I'm a little grumpy, because I feel like I could have spent that time at home with my son and family." Chunn's team consists of all volunteers who spend two to three nights a week after work working on the racecar. The team manager is Eric Nyman, Tim Green is Chunn's spotter. Ernie Plasencia is the mechanic and tire guy, and James Gannon does fit and finish on the body and takes care of all the details that go along with racing. Family friend Jason Fensler and Phil Perry give them a hand in the pits. Other than Green, no one on the team had any experience on a racing team before joining Chunn. Michelle works every day with other families who have children with cancer. She contacts moms who have just found out their children have cancer, and connects them with other moms that have children going through it or who have been cured. She said it helps tremendously to have someone to talk to who is going through, or has been through the same thing. Cole, who has stage three lymphoblastic lymphoma, has been through a year of intensive chemotherapy and has another year to go, but the family feels the worst is over. There is an 85 percent survival rate for this type of cancer. Chunn will be racing the No. 44 CFI Late Model this Saturday, April 24 at All American Speedway. Note: Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death in children. For more information or if you'd like to help, go to: http://www.childcancer.org/chapters/roseville or http://www.stbaldricks.org/. Michelle also keeps a journal of Cole's fight to live on http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/chunn. You can see pictures and read about Cole on the site.