Family traditions

Sports Reporter

by Eric Oslund

Sports Reporter

As Mitch Hribar stood in his father’s garage, on the northern side of Elk River, he couldn’t help but smile when he began thinking of driving his brand new Mod-4 racecar.

Just thinking about flying around the quarter-mile dirt tracks he’s become so accustomed to over the last eight years, finding the perfect balance between recklessness and control. Sending his vehicle around turns at speeds up to 80 miles an hour gives him a thrill nothing else comes close to.

Mitch (yellow car) and Zach (black car) Hribar push each other for first place during one of their races at the Princeton Speedway. (Photo by James at the track)

 

“The best way to describe it is just an adrenaline rush,” he explained. “Once you race once, you’re hooked. It’s so much fun and it’s better than any drug out there. The speed and everything else, it’s just fun. And in dirt it’s even more fun because you’re sliding and there’s mud flying, it’s a blast.”

To make things even better is that the race tracks, and especially the winner’s circles, that have become his weekend home are almost turning into a family vacation spot. Nearly every time he finds himself in first place, all he has to do is give a quick glance over his shoulder to see he younger brother Zach pushing him for position.

“You just put your foot in the peddle a little more when you see that,” Mitch said with a laugh. “It’s fun because you want to beat him so bad and everything else. Got a little rivalry going, who’s faster, who’s going to win, it’s just a lot of fun.”

Winning has certainly become a family tradition in the Mod-4 circuit for the Hribars as Mitch has totaled nine as of July 10, and Zach has notched four of his own. And when one wins, it’s usually because they were able to edge the other one out by the blink of an eye – barring any wrecks or mishaps along the way.

But that’s not always how things were. In fact, you just have to go back one year to see how different things used to be.

Mitch was still racing the Mod-4’s and utterly dominating the field as he totaled 22 wins in 30 races, but he also didn’t have Zach challenging him. Instead, the younger of the two brothers was racing hornet cars (sport compacts), which are basically Dodge Neons with the interior gutted out and a roll cage installed.

But after such a dominating 2016 season, Mitch and his father Jeff wanted to try something different. They wanted to prove that they could build a car from scratch that was just as fast, if not faster. By doing that, they opened up the driver’s seat of his old Mod-4 racer to the younger sibling.

Zach Hribar stands over his car while celebrating a first-place finish at the Princeton Speedway. (Photo by James at the track)

And how did Zach repay his brother for the new car?

“I hit the wall the first time I took the car out and tore it apart,” the younger brother said.

Zach then returned to the family garage and fixed up his new car, winning his next race.

As you walk into that garage, it’s hard to believe how far things have come for this family. With one car hoisted up on a lift, another parked next to it, and an entire section of the wall dedicated to trophies and medals, one would never have guessed it all started with an impulse buy of a hornet car.

“Literally went to the track with a buddy and the hornet class is the beginner class,” Jeff began. “I was like, ‘Dude, that looks like so much fun.’ He goes, ‘Hey, I know a guy who’s got a car for sale.’ I went and looked at it and it was $1,250, so I’m like ‘OK, I’ll come get it Wednesday,’ and I raced it the next Friday.”

Jeff’s racing days didn’t last too long though because once Mitch turned 14, the youngest someone can be to race one of those cars, he passed it on to his son and became more of the team mechanic. But it’s not just him working on the cars, all three of the Hribar boys do.

Whether it’s in the garage, at the track, or traveling around the state on weekends from one race to the next, these three get to spend a lot of time with one another. They’ll butt heads as nerves get pinched from time to time, but, in the end, these are experiences they would never trade.

The wins are nice, but the trophies will begin to lose their shine as the years go on. The things that will stay preserved are these memories they are creating each and every day.

Mitch Hribar celebraes in front of his car after a first-place finish at the North Central Speedway in Brainerd. (Photo by James at the track)

“It’s awesome,” Mitch said. “People nowadays, a lot of times they don’t hang out with their – it’s hard to do stuff together. With this, we are always wrenching on the cars together, always at the track together, it’s just a great way to spend time and have fun together.”

Now, along with their continued success on the track, the Hribars are looking to create a new family tradition – bringing new life to the Mod-4 racing series. Dirt tracks have begun closing all around the state, and the amount of cars participating in races seems to continually decrease more and more each year. Now, these three are looking to do their part in preserving the sport they all love.

Jeff has already purchased the rights to Laske Chassis – now named Violator Chassis – just east of Princeton, which they used to help construct their newest car that Mitch has been racing in. They also purchased the company, in part, as a way to help people who are interested in the sport have access to cars at an affordable price.

For more information on the sport, or ways to get involved, you can reach Violator Chassis at 612-924-5003.