Gutches chasing dwarf car record

Kelly Gutches needed only to be embarrassed at the racetrack once to realize just how much he hated the feeling.

The Central Point resident, a newcomer to dwarf racing in 2005, says he was lapped every three or four laps during the Western States Dwarf Car Nationals at Southern Oregon Speedway that year. It was his very first dwarf competition.

"I told myself, 'I can't do this anymore,'" Gutches recalls.

Frustrated and determined to improve, the 1975 Crater High graduate brought his car and a sleeping bag to Phoenix, Ariz. He stayed for three months, showering at a truck stop, eating quickly and racing with fervor. Gutches logged 1,800 laps.

A year passed — then he went back to Phoenix and did it all over again.

All that effort? It's paying off now.

With several successful seasons under his belt, the resilient driver is now just seven A main victories away from tying Frank Munroe's national dwarf record of 115 career wins. Ironically enough, Gutches has been chasing the man who built his car.

Munroe is the owner of M & M Enterprises in Tracy, Calif. The two are friends, and Munroe also engineered Gutches' ride.

"He keeps track of the wins," says Gutches of Munroe.

Gutches, now 54, will look to add to his collection of victories — he has 108 — and bolster his first first-place position in the national points race during this year's Western States Dwarf Car Nationals, set for Friday and Saturday at the Southern Oregon Speedway in White City.

Up to 80 cars are expected for the event, which brings out scaled copies of 1928 through 1948 vintage American coupes, sedans and trucks that are powered by 4-cylinder motorcycle engines.

Some of the areas top drivers — including Gutches, Chad Cardoza and Ryan Smith — will compete along with other racers from Oregon, Utah, Nevada, California and Washington.

Gutches, the defending Western States Dwarf Car Association champion, has 10 wins this season.

A victory in Pahrump, Nevada, in April gave him his seventh WSDCA national championship. He secured his eighth regional title at Diamond Mountain Speedway in Vernal, Utah, in June.

And to think that Gutches has done all of this with one eye.

As a young boy, he had glaucoma and retinal detachment in his left eye. Gutches underwent an operation and now has a glass eye. He struggled with depth perception at first, but is now mastering the challenge.

Gutches says he will likely race his 07s at the S.O. Speedway six of the next eight weekends. If he surpasses Munroe — who is also the founder and president of the WSDCA — he says he'd wish for it to happen here, in front of the hometown crowd.

"It'll be cool when that happens," Gutches says. "I'm hoping I'm at Medford."

Gates open at 4 p.m. with racing at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission (ages 13- older), $7 for seniors (62-older), juniors (6-12) and veterans, $3 for children (1-5) and $15 for reserved seats.

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Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email

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