Weekdays, Chase Batt dons the subdued wear of a well-dressed young banker. Weekends, he dons seat belts and a helmet.
"He's got three boys, and they all race," Chase said with a nod toward his father, Larry, earlier this week.
As he spoke, they were both in the office of Sunset Motors, the Gaston used-car lot the elder Batt owns and operates, a brightly lit place where the rolling hardware inside and outside can't help but draw the eye of car fans.
One of the cars was Chase's 1968 Chevy Camaro, black as night with a faint Batman image emblazoned on the door and a set of racing slicks in back that looked big enough to have been liberated from an earth-mover.
Next to it, meanwhile, was Larry's 1967 Chevy Nova, a more angular, silver machine plastered with sponsorship decals but, like the Camaro, stripped down inside to a steering wheel and roll cage and bearing a similar pair of oversized racing slicks.
Though the Nova is his father's, Chase and the car seem to have a good thing going.
"For some reason, the car and I just click," said the 33-year-old Wes-Del High School graduate, who also holds a bachelor's degree in telecommunications from Ball State University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Anderson University. "It's just a good fit for me."
Indisputable proof of that came last month when Chase and the Nova, having won the National Hot Rod Association's Division 3 Pro Class Championship in Indianapolis, raced against other top-ranked competitors in the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, Calif. He ended up placing in the top four nationally in the Pro Class.
[Photo: Chase Batt with the Nova he drove in the California race. Credit: Jeri Reichanadter / The Star Press]
Winning his division also earned him free entry into all Division 3 NHRA tracks next year, plus a ring, a jacket, and the right to sport the number 31 next year, the 3 denoting his division and the 1 his standing in it.
While discussing it all, his distinctive NHRA "Wally" award, named in honor of founder Wally Parks, sat nearby.
"It was, overall, a neat experience," said Chase, who has worked 11 years at MutualBank, where he serves as a customer-service trainer and in human resources. "Very few people from this area get to race in Pomona."
That Chase is among the fortunate few to have made it there, however, shouldn't be too surprising.
"It's been a part of my life since I can remember," he said of stomping on accelerators.
By age 10 or so, he was hanging out at drag strips with his family, and at age 13 or 14, he was behind the wheel, racing an old Chevy Citation. Even at that age, he said, he knew this was something he wanted to keep doing.
Of course, it helped that his was a racing-fan family, including his mother, Sherry. His father had driven, as do his older brothers Larry and Brian. But Chase has reached new heights of family success, and not just because of his most recent performances.
"He's won races in his car, my car, and his Uncle Jack's car," said his father, who turns the wrenches for his son, noting the Nova's 383-cubic inch motor generates about 300 horsepower, and the car will hit about 117 miles an hour in the quarter-mile.
For Chase, however, drag racing is less about the speed and the prize money than something else.
"It's just the winning," he said, noting the comprehensive effort required to do so, and how the difference between that and losing can be measured in literally hundredths of a second.
The young banker, obviously, has gotten his share of wins, but he's known defeat, too.
"He's real good winner," Larry said proudly of his son. "And he's a pretty good loser. You have to be that in this sport."
With the racing season here generally running from April to November, Chase is already looking forward to competing next year at Muncie Dragway and other area tracks.
Folks at the bank find it hard to equate this tall, slender guy in the argyle sweater with the inveterate drag racer, he noted, but by the end of the workweek he has the drag strip firmly in mind.
"On Friday at 4 o'clock," he said, laughing, "I'm ready to get out there."
— John Carlson is features writer for The Star Press in Muncie, Ind. Story reposted.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.