Different people have different passions and hobbies in life, and when it’s summertime on the Kenai Peninsula, those activities often include a fishing line, baseball bat, tennis racket or golf club.
But the average outdoor enthusiast doesn’t often find themselves grappling with the steering wheel of a high-horsepower machine on the dirt at Twin City Raceway in Kenai.
In the Devaney household, that sounds like just another Saturday night. Sporting cars 33 and 34 in the A-Stock division at Twin City Raceway, the Devaneys have become a staple at the dirt track in Kenai, making the trip up from their hometown of Homer.
“It’s awesome to see them go out there and have fun,” Darren Devaney said of his children. “There’s always going to be someone better than you, and to go out there and see them have fun and compete is great. It’s an important sport to me, and to see them go out and do as well as they do, it’s just really cool.”
Darren Devaney builds the cars with his three sons and father, Mike, who raised Darren on racing cars on dirt, and ice.
“I actually started ice racing when I was 10 years old,” Darren said. “They ran kids races, and when I was 14 I was racing with adults.”
Competitors still race on the ice on Beluga Lake, right in the middle of downtown Homer, and while the Devaney family hasn’t competed there for some time now, it is the ice that started the craze.
“My father-in-law has been into racing since he was a teenager or younger, both ice racing and dirt tracking,” Laura Devaney, Darren’s wife, said. “Darren and I had a car about 20 years ago that we raced at the track there in Kenai. We got back into it again because we’ve been missing it, and the kids were older and they were able to race, and we decided to build a couple more cars.”
The family races cars numbered 33 and 34 at Twins City, both stock versions of the late 1970s line of Chevy Camaros, and knock off the parts necessary to race at the banked dirt track.
Darren often shares the rides with his buddy, Bob Reinhart, driver of the 98 car in the A-Stock category, and even swapped rides with Joey Essex recently.
Darren’s oldest son, Kyle, 24, built the first car with his dad and grandfather.
“We built it in like a week and raced it, made some changes, painted it, and we’ve had to rebuild the engine a couple times,” Kyle said. “We take these Camaros and strip them down completely until they’re pretty much bare metal, and we throw in some safety equipment like a roll cage, we rebuilt the engine ourselves, it’s a 350 Chevy from a similar year, and it’s just pretty much stock parts as far as everything that goes into it, and we put in some seats, fuel cells, and that’s pretty much what it takes to rebuild the car.”
Kyle said the joy he gets from working on and building race-ready cars with his father and grandfather isn’t taken for granted, and the ultimate joy is putting the machines to the test.
“It’s a big adrenaline rush, it’s fun to go out there and push your own limits when you’re racing with everybody else, and you’re sliding around on the dirt,” Kyle said. “My dad’s a mechanic, my grandpa’s a welder and we all kind of pick up everything, so it’s just fun to build cars and race them. A lot of our friends have helped in donating parts and pieces for the car as well.”
Kyle is a civil engineering major at Brigham-Young University in Idaho, and so building machines comes naturally for him.
“It’s a family thing, it’s not often you get a son, father and grandfather all together working on those kinds of projects,” Darren said. “I grew up racing on the dirt tracks and ice-racing in Homer. They’ve been doing it since 1954 or something like that.”
Even 18-year-old Brooke, Darren’s daughter, is getting in on the action. She debuted at Twin City July 21 and managed a second-place finish in the feature race, all while sliding across the line sideways.
“It was nerve-racking, but fun,” Brooke said. “It had more horsepower than I thought there would be, but it was fun.”
Brooke just graduated from Homer High School, and competed on the volleyball and softball teams as well, and was there when Homer finished second in the small-schools state championship softball match with Sitka in late May.
“I’m going to try to race more, if they need me to drive and if I can get off work,” she said.
Cody Devaney, 16, races when his brothers are not, and has found success as well, along with older brother Dean, 21. Cody swept all three races — both heats and the feature — at the most recent night of racing at Twin City in the A-Stock class.
“I’ve been out here probably four or five times,” Cody said. “Hopefully I’ll race more. My brother’s coming back (from the North Slope), and he’s the one that helped my dad put it together.”
Dean has found significant success in the car as well, which goes to show it doesn’t matter which Devaney is driving, because one of them will win.
Darren said the reason the family doesn’t ice race anymore is essentially due to their religion. Back in the day, Darren would race on Sundays, but has since decided that Sundays would be a traditional day of rest.
“I joined the church, and I stopped doing things on Sundays,” Darren said. “Then we moved and came back, and got bit by the bug again, and they race on Saturdays at Twin City, so we go up there and as long as they keep racing on Saturdays, we’ll be there.”
And the car numbers? Why 33 and 34?
“33 was Mike’s number that he used years ago,” Laura said. “We kept using it in honor of him, and we used 34 on the second car simply because it was the next number up.”
Kyle will be racing the 33 this weekend at Twin City Raceway, and Cody will be piloting the 34, with stock car qualifying beginning at 6 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m. this Saturday night.
Aug. 18th is Fan Appreciation Night, with grandstand seating going for $5 per person.