Nine years ago, Justin Krossman just happened to be at a race when a family member needed someone to drive their car.
Krossman grew up watching his family race in the 1990s, but he didn’t pay much attention to the sport after they quit. Other than some laps at a local go-kart track, he had never driven himself.
“It was intimidating. That’s for sure,” Krossman said of his first night behind the wheel. “Everything was flying by. I remember it seemed like I was going super fast, and my reactions were just definitely not as fast as they needed to be to be in this sport.”
The intimidation didn’t stop him from wanting to keep trying, though.
“But it was an absolute blast,” he added. “I absolutely loved it.”
Krossman started racing in the mini-outlaws division at Coos Bay Speedway, a 0.375-mile dirt oval in Coos County, Oregon, and stayed there for two years before moving up to the track’s street stocks division, which he’s been in for seven seasons and won a track championship in 2017. The driver of the No. 4 finished third in Coos Bay’s only street stocks race so far this season.
Getting used to the speed of racing and what it takes to be successful behind the wheel was one thing for Krossman, but learning how to set the car up and get it ready to race was something he didn’t fully expect when he started in the sport nearly a decade ago.
Krossman has worked on cars his whole life, and he knows how to repair and maintain his own rides for the street, but there’s quite a bit of difference when it comes to the precision needed for a race car.
“Your standard maintenance is just your basic services, oil changes, stuff like that, or just replacing parts as they’re not working, and the race car itself is a lot more precise,” Krossman said. “You don’t take your street car and pull the tires off and scrub them and clean them up after every race to make sure they don’t get a bunch of oil sucked out of them from the dirt track. Just a lot more precision in the things you do and the depth you go into versus just your basic every-day mechanic.
“Trying to get the car set up for the changing track, it’s a dirt track, so it’s always changing. Car setup, suspension, shocks, adjustments, that’s been the biggest learning curve.”
Since Krossman is off from work every Friday, those are the days he spends in the shop, from around 8 a.m. until the afternoon. Between that and the time he spends tinkering on Monday through Thursday, and going over the car on Sunday to clean and make sure nothing happened the night before, he estimates he spends about 10 hours working in the shop every week.
It’s time well-spent, though, because he takes pride in being successful with his car both on and off the track.
“I’ve learned the more time you spend making sure that everything is good to go, the less time you’re at the track when you’re supposed to be racing and you’re running into issues,” Krossman said. “So if you check ever nut and bolt in the prep work it makes the night of the race a lot easier. It gives you a peace of mind. So, yes, I enjoy it.”
Krossman has two uncles and a cousin who are at every race to help him with making sure the tires are set and there’s nothing he overlooked.
“They double and triple check everything, and I definitely couldn’t do it without them,” he said.
He has also turned racing into a family event. Krossman’s young son, Blake, is also at every race and is getting the chance to grow up at the racetrack.
Krossman’s fiancée, Cheyanne Austin, is in her first season of racing in Coos Bay’s hornets division. She grew up around the sport, and Krossman helped clean and check her car, and is giving her pointers on what to expect on the track.
“The first time I got in a car it felt like everything was flying by even though it really wasn’t, so she’s going through the first steps of hopping in a race car and getting her reaction times quicker and just getting comfortable with the car.
“She absolutely loves it.”
From first getting in a race car as a way to help a family member out, the sport has now grown into a family event for Krossman.
“It’s a big family ordeal. That’s pretty much what we do on Saturdays,” he said. “It’s amazing. It gives us all something to do together, keeps us all out of trouble… so it’s definitely bonding time. My boy has grown up around it his whole life. He pretty much has free roam at the track. Everyone there knows him. Other racers have kids that are his age so he just runs around and absolutely loves it.”
Ever since Krossman’s championship five years ago, he has been trying to figure out the new car he bought the following season.
Since then, he has been a consistent top-five street stocks driver at Coos Bay, but he’s excited to see if his work this offseason pays off.
Either way, he just wants to continue chasing that rush he felt his first time behind the wheel nine years ago.
“I would say it’s the adrenaline rush. It’s strapping in with all your buddies,” he said.
“I think we finally got all the bugs out of this car, so it’s definitely just getting out there, getting more seat time in the new car and working our way to the front, I guess. That’s always the goal. I’m looking forward to the new races. We do some big street stock races up here, so I’m looking forward to the out-of-town competition.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Racing will return to Coos Bay Speedway this Saturday for the Mega Bike Giveaway, featuring the track’s America’s Mattress Super Late Models, Sportsman Late Models, Three Rivers Casino Street Stocks, Mini Outlaws, Hornets, JR Stingers, and OTRO Hard Tops. Racing will begin at 6:30 p.m. local time.