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Father and son keep their relationship on track - race track

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Allan Rettig helps his son Nathan change a tire.
SIKESTON -- Every Friday and Saturday night, you might be able to spot former race car driver Allan Rettig pacing back and forth as his son, Nathan, speeds around a race track in his 2,300-pound race car equipped with a 720 four-horsepower engine.

Look for the No. 94 car. Why 94? It was his dad's race car number.

"My uncle owned Mac's 94 Auto Sales on Highway 94 in St. Louis so that's the number I used," Allan Rettig explained. Allan Rettig's experience on the tracks combined with Nathan Rettig's natural talent has equaled success for this Sikeston father-son racing duo.

"I'm 42," Allan Rettig said. "My future in racing isn't going anywhere -- his could go somewhere. There's no sense in wasting my time and taking away from him."

Known as "Kid Smooth" by his fans at the Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway in Calvert City, Ky., Nathan said he's just doing what he loves -- racing . . . and winning. He's won the last four of five races in Calvert City.

"It's cool," Nathan said about what it's like to drive a race car. "The speed, the horsepower. It's a good feeling."

Nathan has even attracted a fan base at the Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway, signing 25-30 autographs after his races.

"I get more enjoyment out of watching him than I do racing myself," said Allan Rettig, who raced some in his teens and quit in 1988. Since then he's raced off and on, but no longer races today.

Nathan started racing in 1996 when he was 5 years old at the Sikeston Race Park, becoming points champion on the Junior Go-Kart class. Two years later Nathan won 17 features in the World Karting Association. After winning six feature wins in the Go-Kart class at the Sikeston Race Park, Nathan began junior sprint car racing in go-cart racing.

In 2001, Nathan set four track records for qualifying at T-K Raceway, Southern Illinois Raceway, Cole County Raceway and Camden Raceway. Nathan was No. 1 in the nation with his junior sprint car, but his racing was soon put on hold because his father had to have back surgery.

After returning to racing, Nathan advanced in class to full-size Stock Car/Pure Street Class, and in his first race finished sixth in a field of 32 cars.

At 11, Nathan took nine checker flags at the Malden Speedway and was points champion. He went on to Benton, Mo., Dyersburg, Tenn., Milan, Tenn., and Harrisburg, Ark.

In 2002, Allan Rettig bought a used late model car and made some modifications to his son's car. Nathan began racing in the Limited Late Model Class, where he has won the checker flag four times racing against the adult drivers.

Each week from April through November starts a little something like this for the Rettigs:

On Mondays and Tuesdays, Nathan and his crew wash and clean up the car, start to repair it and check their parts. Then on Wednesdays, they look at which track Nathan will be racing on and change the set up of the car. Maintenance is also done. On Thursdays they go over everything, making sure the car is ready for the weekend races. Sundays are their days off.

"When he's out there racing, Nathan's really good about telling us how the car's driving," Allan Rettig said. "If something's too loose or too tight, he knows. He's good about really pinpointing a problem, and it makes it easy for us to set a car for him."

And Allan Rettig's experience on race tracks is a great help, too, Nathan said.

"It's a lot easier when my dad knows the setup," Nathan said. "It helps me when I go to different tracks.

Crashes and wrecks do cross the minds of Nathan's parents, whose younger son, Austin, also races as a Junior Dragster. For this reason and for Nathan's protection, Nathan wears the Hutchins device that supports the head and neck, a helmet and fire suit, and his car has extra door bars.

And luckily, Nathan hasn't been in any major crashes since he's been racing.

"Nathan's good about watching ahead and missing wrecks," Allan Rettig noted.

The pit crew of six or seven men are the backbone of Nathan's success, Nathan and Allan Rettig agreed. "We couldn't do it without Robinson Race Engines, AFCO Parts, Summit Truck and Trailer Supply and Home Service Oil Co. either," Allan Rettig said.

Whether Nathan will wind up on an asphalt track someday still remains unknown as well as if Nathan will end up racing in NASCAR.

If Nathan moves to asphalt, Allan Rettig said he won't be able to help his son as much because he doesn't have the experience with asphalt tracks the way he does with dirt tracks.

But Allan Rettig said he can definitely see his son making it to the professionals.

"He has a natural ability," Allan Rettig said proudly. "He has a lot more natural talent than his father."

For more information, visit Nathan's Web site at www.nathanrettig.com.