UNITY — Brent “Poochie” Chase stood next to his Late Model as a steady stream of sweat rolled down his face. The 44-year-old Burnham resident wiped his brow and rubbed his face with his hands.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Chase said. “I’ve raced every class here at Unity. I’ve been doing this every year ever since my brother Jerry said I’d never do it.”
Chase let out a laugh and then continued.
“Jerry was my biggest supporter,” Chase said, “but he’d never thought I’d do it. I remember telling him that I was going to race, and he didn’t believe me. He said I’d never do it. I proved him wrong, though.”
Chase purchased a four-cylinder car in the mid-1980s and raced in what was then the Enduro division. He then moved up to a Strictly Street car.
A few years later, in 2007, tragedy struck the Chase family when Jerry died of a heart attack.
“It was tough,” Chase said. “It was hard. I miss him. I think of him often. It’s actually been a tough year because my dad (Belmont) passed away last September. He used to always tell me that racing is a good way for a fool and his money to part. He always told me I’d be stupid to do it, but I guess I didn’t listen to him, either.”
Chase, who has five sisters and four brothers, last season raced in the Wildcat division. He was in contention for a points championship but came up short in the end.
He didn’t think he’d return this season, when Jere Humphrey took over the track and vowed to make it viable once again.
But things changed after several of his friends urged him to give a Late Model a go.
“I wouldn’t say my arm was twisted, but it kind of was,” Chase said. “We picked up a chassis from someone we knew in Pittsfield and then my crew chief, Kevin Poulin, did the rest. He and a lot of my friends got the car together, and he are.”
Poulin, 48, of Detroit, has been around race cars for much of his adult life. He worked on a car driven by former Unity track champ Jim McGinnis, also of Detroit, but never before served as a crew chief.
That opportunity came this year.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” Poulin said. I’ve always wanted to be the guy to make the decisions without having to answer to someone else. Racing has always been in my blood. I’ve worked on so many cars in my life but I’m at the point where all I wanted to do was to make decisions without having to clear them with anybody.”
Chase enters this weekend fifth in points. He has yet to take the checkered flag, but Poulin said they are close.
“We’re getting there,” he said. “Hopefully, it will come. We’d love to win a race in our first year in the Late Model. But, really, as long as we can be competitive, that’s all I want. We want to be able to come to the track and have other guys notice us.
“We want to be the team where people say, ‘you have to look out for them.’ We’ll get a win one of these nights. We have a fast car.”
It took a little while — the motor blew in the team’s first race — but Chase is staying in the hunt. He has three fourth-place finishes and a fifth to his resume.
“We just want to keep getting better,” he said. “I just want to keep doing this for my brother and my dad. I think of both of them often, and I’d love to get a win one of these days for them.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640