Court Cardinal races against stress |

Court Cardinal races against stress

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal
CourtesyCourt Cardinal, president and general manager of Casino Fandango, races in his Sports Car Club of America Spec Racer Ford.

Court Cardinal is known around Carson City as the president and general manager of Casino Fandango.

He is also the immediate past chairman of the Carson City Chamber’s board of directors. Those who know him a little better know that he likes to go flying out of the Carson City airport in a Cessna 182.

Court is a Reno native, but has been in Carson City since opening the Fandango after stints at Boomtown and the Atlantis.

However, not too many people know about his recently rekindled passion for auto racing. Court started autocrossing in 1983, when he was in college. Autocross is a sport where you run against the clock on a tight course laid out with pylons in a big parking lot. But he got the urge to compete on real race tracks, and in 1986 he attended a driving school at Willow Springs Raceway in California to get his competition license. Two other students in his class were Kelsey Grammer and Ricky Schroeder, preparing to compete in the Long Beach celebrity race. With his competition license in hand, Court raced in Sports Car Club of America events at Willow Springs, Laguna Seca in Monterey, and Sears Point in Sonoma.

Court’s racing career went dormant in 1993, only to be revived in 2007 when his old racing buddy Gary Sorge got him interested in autocrossing again. He soon got into time trials and won his class in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The bug had bitten him again. This year, he is back on the track in wheel-to-wheel road racing, getting his SCCA National license and competing in the Spec Racer Ford class at Thunderhill, Sonoma, and Laguna Seca. The Spec Racer Ford is a purpose-built single-seat sports car with a sealed Roush Ford 1.9 liter four cylinder engine. He has only missed one race this season, using accrued vacation time to make the rest.

“I never used my vacation, and it built up,” Court said.

A serious medical issue in 2011 was another impetus.

“I decided to make the most of things when I came through that, “he said. My new motto is ‘Carpe Diem’, and I intend to race as much as possible.”

When asked why he races, he said, “Racing is a great de-stressor for me. The total concentration required is a complete change of pace from anything else I do.”

This year Court was also introduced to Chris Evans, who runs a racing series called the Great American Stock Car Series. The two hit it off, and Chris had a car built for Court to run in the series. So far, he has only done one GASS race, in Portland. He started 28th and finished eighth after running as high as fifth before he spun to avoid another competitor. He credits his seat time in the SRF for his early success in the stock car. He also likes the fact that both cars are prepared equally with others in their class, putting a premium on driver ability rather than a superior car.

“Spec Racer Ford is probably the most competitive class in SCCA, because the cars are identical,” Court said. The cars are light, only 1,670 pounds with the driver. But since they only have around 105 horsepower, they must be driven very smoothly to go fast. The GASS stock car, on the other hand, weighs 2,800 pounds and packs 550 horses under the hood.

“The cars are night and day,” Court said. “You don’t use the clutch to shift in the stock car, so you can left foot brake.”

The SRF, on the other hand, requires using the clutch and the “heel and toe” downshifting technique. Fortunately, Court doesn’t have to drive both cars on the same weekend!

Court is also interested in other types of racing, and takes a group to the National Air Races in Reno every year for what he calls a pylon party.

“I’ve been doing it for almost 30 years, and I’ll keep doing it as long as they have the event.

If you would like to see Court in action on the track, the Great American Stock Car Series will be racing on the road course at Reno-Fernley Raceway on Sept. 22, Oct. 20, and Nov. 3.