Kolby Araki has been around auto racing as long as he can remember.
His grandfather raced and so did his dad and uncle. At age 5, Araki started racing himself and went on to become a four-time national karting champion. He moved to micro sprints at age 8 and then full-sized cars when he was 16.
Now 18, Araki has moved up to racing in the USAC with his family-owned sprint car and is hoping to keep his career trajectory on path with a national scholarship.
The Fresno City College student from Clovis is one of 15 finalists for a $50,000 sponsorship from Champion spark plugs. Online voting at alwaysachampion.com takes place through March 24, and participants can vote once per day by clicking on Araki's self-made video that chronicles his passion for the sport.
"I want to live out my dream to become a professional driver," Araki said. "It would mean the world to me if I'm selected."
Beginning tonight at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway, Araki will compete in his first full season in USAC Sprint Cars and will race in Bakersfield, Hanford, Santa Maria and Las Vegas.
He is no stranger to the Thunderbowl. In 2011, he competed in a West Coast 360 Wingless Sprint race and started in the back of the main before finishing ninth on the third-mile race track.
Going into this weekend, Araki said the outlook was a bit dicey because his car wasn't put together in advance, but everything is now ready to go.
"We put it together," Araki said. "I'm looking forward to this weekend, but I'm a little nervous."
Araki's family is heavily involved in his racing. Dad Bryan, a senior planner for Clovis, manages the team, and Araki said his racing is dedicated to his grandfather, Manabu Araki, who died in 2009.
"I think he's going to be more successful than I ever was, including my brother," Bryan Araki said. "We're a racing family so he's been fortunate to grow up in a racing family."
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