Courtesy of Chevrolet Racing
Ken Black, who helped build hundreds of homes in Las Vegas as owner of Vegas General Construction and KB Framers, will be among the early arrivals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway each day to support KB Racing Pro Stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line in the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals and the special race-within-the-race K&N Horsepower Challenge.
Black, who along with his son started KB Racing in 2001, said nothing could keep him away from The Strip. Though he’ll move about the grounds in a wheelchair because of a December 2009 stroke, Black’s enthusiasm for the sport and joyful spirit haven’t waned. When he sees the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS zip down the racetrack, “there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.”
Black provides his perspective on racing and his close-knit team that is off to a fast start to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season:
Chevrolet Racing: Greg Anderson has won two Pro Stock events and Jason Line, who enters the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals as the Pro Stock points leader, has won the other event this season. Has the fast start, considering the new-for-2016 Pro Stock technical package, surprised you?
KEN BLACK: It’s amazed me because I opposed the changes initially. I’m an old-timer and all my years of racing never had anything to do with EFI (electronic fuel injection). I like carburetors. I was unhappy from a monetary standpoint because it was very expensive to comply with the new rules. But things change and if it can bring in more fans then I’m all for it. Greg and Jason worked hard to initiate the changes and make everything work out, which is what they have done from day one. They put in more hours at the shop than anybody else, and they are just driven to make it work. They weren’t happy with the changes either. So far, Greg and Jason and the crews have put in thousands of hours to put the package together, testing and trying different things. It’s a work in progress, but they hit the ground running and I couldn’t it be happier for everyone involved. It’s a testament to their work ethic and skills on the track.
CR: Greg has been with you since 2002 and Jason came on board a short time afterward. Is it like an extended family for you?
KB: They’ve been with us through all our success, which is mainly due to their work ethic. We interact with their families and have seen them grow through the years, which is exciting for me and my wife. In 2002, which was our first full season in Pro Stock, Greg finished second in the championship, which I thought was amazing. We had no idea if it would evolve into what it is today. It was just a matter of starting with the right people and letting them go to work. Jason, who was a Stock Eliminator champion, heard there was a Pro Stock team in town, and he joined us. He probably took a big pay cut from Joe Gibbs (Racing), but we promised him he could drive. We didn’t have to talk too much to convince him, and it’s been a great combination ever since. They were there for me after I had my stroke, and everybody supported Greg during his recovery from heart surgery (2014). It’s a close-knit group.
CR: Is it that familial atmosphere, the competition or a combination of both that keeps you involved in the sport after all these years?
KB: It’s a mixture, especially since I had my stroke six years ago. That has limited my movement and my ability to contribute. I still am involved in the financial end; I pay all the bills and do all that from my home office. Being involved really was the motivation for my recovery from the stroke. It pushed me to work hard in therapy and to get back. Everybody at KB Racing was supporting me, and I believe that made a big difference. It still does because it gives me a reason to get up in the morning. If I didn’t have (the involvement with the team) I don’t know what I would be doing.
CR: With the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it will be like a homecoming again. Do you look forward to the spring and summer events in your town?
KB: We ran out to the track Thursday (March 31) to see all the guys and hang out and catch up a bit. These guys are like my sons. I love it, and I’ll be out there every day early in the morning. I’ve been doing this since ’64 in some form or racing, and like I said it’s my drive. I just enjoy the heck out of all of it – the camaraderie, the competition, the fans, the event.
CR: The partnership with Chevrolet dates to the beginning of KB Racing. It must be a special alliance?
KB: My drag racing career – my legal one I should say – began at Stardust Raceway in the spring of ’64. They had a mile straightaway that they turned into a drag strip. I had a 1964 Chevy Nova with a 283 and a four speed that I bought when I was a senior in high school. Somehow I won and they gave me a trophy and a windbreaker and I was hooked. I’ve always owned a Chevrolet or GM vehicles. My very first car was a ’58 Chevy. I can’t say enough about Chevy Racing; they have a great group of people that help us out with whatever we need. It’s been a great partnership and successful for both of us. We’re looking forward to more success this weekend and through the rest of the season with Chevrolet.