NHRA: Justin Schriefer racing to honor memory of daughter
By Tina Akouris For Sun-Times Media June 27, 2013 11:28PM
Justin Schriefer and his nitro fuel funny car. | Tina Akouris~Sun-Times Media
NHRA In Joliet
What: O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Where: Route 66 Raceway
When: Friday through Sunday
Friday: Lucas Oil eliminations; Mello Yello Series qualifying, 4:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
Saturday: Lucas Oil eliminations; Mello Yello qualifying 4:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.; Jegs All-Stars eliminations 1 p.m., 3:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2, 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.)
Sunday: Pre-race ceremonies, Mike Ditka honorary grand marshall, 10 a.m.; Mello Yello eliminations 11 a.m. (ESPN2, 9 p.m.)
Tickets: Adults $41 and up, kids $11 and up; visit Route66Raceway.com or call (888) 629-7223. Every ticket also is a pit pass.
Justin Schriefer doesn’t just race in the National Hot Rod Association’s Mello Yellow series for the money or notoriety or because he is passionate about race cars.
Schriefer races harder than most to honor the memory of his daughter, Ericka, who died in 2010. Ericka Schriefer was 24 and was killed in a snowboarding accident in Colorado.
Ericka’s memory doesn’t just live in her father’s heart and mind, but on his race car. Schriefer will race his nitro fuel funny car Friday through Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals at the Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. And he proudly displays a decal of angel wings with Ericka’s name on his side window.
“It’s my passion now because she was passionate for her sport,” Schriefer said Thursday at the Raceway. “I want to win a Wally (the trophy given to winners of an NHRA national event) for her and maybe this weekend could be it. But I will always keep trying for her.”
Schriefer said his daughter had just moved to Colorado three months before she died.
“I got the call that day and it was just the most tragic day of my life,” Schriefer said.
The Route 66 Raceway is considered Schriefer’s home track. It is about an hour away from Schriefer’s home in Grant Park in Kankakee County.
He is surrounded by local NHRA drivers who have supported him throughout his career and in the aftermath of Ericka’s sudden passing.
“I’m close with everybody out here and they’re all family and everyone is there for each other,” Schriefer said.
Schriefer, who drives for Paul Richards Racing, has a day job and races only part-time. Schriefer works in construction for Renzo Excavating in Joliet, one of his major sponsors.
Even though Schriefer can’t devote as much time to his sport as the bigger teams such as John and Courtney Force and Long Grove resident Tony Schumacher, Schriefer has the full support of his friend Paul Richards.
“I’ve known Justin for quite a while and I open a seat up for him whenever it’s possible,” said Richards, who is based in West Palm Beach, Fla. “He knows what the car is doing and he knows by feel, and that’s hard for a lot of people. If the car isn’t running the way it’s supposed to, he’s going to get out and save those parts.”
For now, Schriefer is taking it one race at a time with girlfriend Rebecca Norman in tow, waiting to earn that Wally and land the big paycheck.
“Maybe if I ever get that major sponsor, I’ll be pitted up that way,” Schriefer said, pointing to the trailers near the front of the infield. “I’ll be with John Force and the rest of the big boys.”
In Thursday’s qualifying action, the Stock and Super Stock fields were set for Friday’s elimination rounds after three rounds of qualifying. In Stock, Larry DeForrest is the top qualifier going into the final round. Ronald Matcham is the lead qualifier in Super Stock.