From time to time I turn the column over to one of our Chaplains to share
what the Lord has put on their heart. This week Pastor Scott Kraniak,
Riverhead Raceway Chaplain shared how he found his way to the track.
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So how does a Pastor go from serving Christ in the local church,
singing hymns and worship songs, Bible studies and prayer to burnouts and
fast cars? This is my story: One of a Pastor called to serve Christ, yet one
who ended up serving Him in a most unusual way. A story of a Pastor being
known by many as the Pastor who burns rubber. Funny, but I don’t know if
that’s a good legacy to leave behind but I guess if it’s one that also
includes leading people to Christ; then its all good as all things work
together for good (Romans 8:28).
Born in the sixties, growing up in the late seventies and eighties,
there are some things you cannot avoid; Big hair, Rock and Roll, and fast
cars. God and religion was not a part of that list, but being cool was. I
would spend many a night with my friends burning rubber and doing, as we
call it, “Smoke Shows”.
Jumping up a few dozen years I found myself in an odd place, in my
thirties, a Christian, going to church and growing closer to the God. Add a
few years more and I’m a Deacon, then Elder, then Pastor of my own Church.
WOW! Never would have guessed in a million years.
So I’m doing this Church - Christian thing, but still there is a
desire that never went away; cars, fast cars, cool cars, racing. So how do I
bring the two together? Can it be done? Would God say its ok?
Well one day as I was checking out a local cruise night, and loving
all the cars from my youth, I get this crazy idea. I look at all these
people who love cars, power and speed and think “I bet most of these guys
never go to church, or if they do, it’s not much. Hmmm, how can I bring God
to them? He cares about them. He loves them! He loves us all and why can’t
we reach these people where they are at, just as Jesus would do.”
Well, I thought, in order to get creditability with these people I
must prove to them that I truly am one of them. What I really need is a hot
rod. Being the Pastor of a small church I didn’t have the money for a cool
car, BUT being a Child of a BIG God, He has access to everything.
So while I was praying and waiting for a car to appear I did the
next best thing. I took my family’s then new 2004 Suburban and tricked it
out a bit; new air intake system, Hi-Po exhaust system. I did all that I
could to make it go from family cruiser to weekend Hot Rod toy.
Then I thought I need a name for the ministry, something that would
catch their eyes and get me in. I had the cool Suburban (NOT) but at least
it was something. I decided to call it “V8’s for Christ”. I had some signs,
posters and handouts made. I had a theme “V8’s for Christ - Sharing our love
for power by telling others of God’s powerful Love”. I started going to the
shows with my waxed up Burb.
Truth be told, it was not cutting it and I knew I needed more.
Little did I know that the Lord was watching me as I made a fool of myself
for Christ. Little did I realize that those who are faithful in little He
will make ruler over much (Matt 25:21). About a year later I was out to
lunch with an old co- worker/mechanic/friend. I shared with him what I was
doing and how I prayed that one day I could actually have a real hot rod, he
stopped me right there and said, “You need a Hot Rod for God, you got one”.
That person was George Muse, a long time car collector and drag
racing crew chief, but even more, he was also a Christian who loved Jesus
Christ. Next thing I knew George was pulling up to my Church in a 1965 Comet
Cyclone and handing me over the keys. She was black with red interior set up
for drag racing and in need of a little tender loving care. It wasn’t long
until that Comet was shining and looking great. What was even more amazing
was George Muse, the owner, gave me the car never to be driven by him again
for the most part. He pays the insurance, registration and for any big
repairs. It is in his name still but he lets me keep it and beat on it. Wow
that’s faith in God.
Well to speed things up a bit, no pun intended, the car show
ministry took off good at first. I started getting other guys who loved God
and fast cars too. They would park with me and it went along well for a
while. I was even asked to be lead car for a local radio station annual run
and open the event in prayer. I then placed the car in local parades. All
this was ok but I wasn’t getting what I really wanted. I wanted to really
see people moved for God.
Well this brings us up another year while I was in, of all places,
California visiting my sister. I’m there on vacation and my sister gets a
call from a friend, who happens to be the friend of the President of Racing
with Jesus from Connecticut. My sister is telling her friend about my
ministry in New York and she relates it to her husband who is friends with
Rev. Don. Next thing I know, I’m on the phone in California with Rev. Don
talking about a need on Long Island in New York. He asks me if I know of a
place called Riverhead Raceway. I say, “Yeah, it’s about thirty minutes from
where I live”. He tells me there is a need there for a Track Chaplain.
Only problem was I was not really a NASCAR type guy, I was more of
a street racing - custom car show guy, but it did sound interesting. He told
me they had a Priest there for many years but now they were without anyone.
Next thing I knew I was meeting Rev. Don at the track on Long Island. It
looked cool and fun but I was very nervous about it and didn’t know if it
would work. Rev. Don kept giving me encouragement to at least try it and see
how it goes.
One question I had was “Can I use my Mercury Comet somehow”? He
said sure, we will get some Racing with Jesus signs made up and you’ll be on
your way. Now, me being a drag racer at heart, my heart started beating
faster the first Saturday night when I saw that they started each race with
a parade of cars during the National Anthem. I naturally asked the track,
“Hey, can I take my car out too”? So I take out the car that first day,
about 6 years ago. I remember stopping at the Victory Lane spot as announcer
Bob Finan spoke about each pace car and then made a mention about my car.
When those cars started moving I couldn’t help myself and I laid a little
rubber. I quickly asked, after the fact, if that was ok and they said sure.
Well that began a tradition of doing burn outs at the beginning of
each race. First small ones, then, once I learned that the car had Line Lock
installed, I started doing some monster smoke shows.
It took a few years, but I started to become more and more accepted
by the racers there. They are a great bunch of people but they needed to
feel me out. Many times I would tell Rev. Don “I don’t think I’m going to do
this anymore. I just feel like I’m wasting my time”. Yet every year Rev. Don
would talk me into staying.
Actually, my wife Julie would hammer me the most about sticking
with it. I remember Rev. Don saying over and over again, this ministry takes
time. These are great people but they need to know you love them and care
about them. Next thing I knew I was doing weddings and funerals. Visiting
racers at the hospital and counseling some. Some would see the car at the
track then see it at a car show or parade and say, “Hey that’s Pastor Scott,
the burn out guy”. Soon I couldn’t go anywhere without people coming up to
me. One time I was in my family car which had the church name on the back
and Racing with Jesus Stickers. I was at a light and a cop pulled up next to
me and tells me to roll down my window. I think I’m in trouble and he goes,
“Hey are you that guy from Riverhead Raceway?
Well, that’s the story, and it continues on and grows. My Church
now supports the ministry and car financially, people give money on their
own, and others like Mike Munez provide parts when I need them. Yes, I do
use tires but believe it or not I’m only on my second set going on seven
As for Riverhead Raceway, I have come to love all the people and
staff at the track and I think most like me too. I have even gotten some to
come out to church, give their lives to Christ and get involved in my
church. I have a man who saw me at the track who needed counsel who ended up
being a good friend. He has a 1955 Chevy Hot Rod that we will be using as a
back up burn out Racing with Jesus car.
God sure is amazing, and if we don’t give up and are faithful when
no one is watching, He will do amazing things in our lives. I am looking
forward to the next step as God moves this ministry into the next place it
is meant to go. So thank you Rev. Don, George Muse, Riverhead Raceway,
owners of the track Barb and Jim and, yes, Jesus Christ for allowing me to
have fun and serve God, all the while still being cool.
Side note: The funniest things I was ever asked was “Is it ok for a
Minister to do burn outs”? I said, I don’t see any anti-burn out
commandments and it is on a track. I think they like the burn outs!
Thanks for reading along I’m Pastor Scott Kraniak, Centereach Bible
Church and Track Chaplain Riverhead Raceway New York.
Until next time, be a witness for our Lord with the ministry decals
and apparel. See them at the Show Your Faith Apparel Store at
http://www.rwjm.com/store. Send us your prayer and counseling needs no matter
what part of our racing family you are in, or give us a call. Remember that
God loves you, we love you and
Jesus is Lord over Auto Racing. GOD BLESS.
Mail reaches us at Racing with Jesus Ministries, PO Box 586,
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Please remember, we can only do what we do because of your prayerful
Numbers 6:24-26 "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord
make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face
toward you and give you peace."
May God always Bless you, everyday in everyway. Rev. Don
BRAD & LINDA HIETALA- The proprietor of Reliable Welding in Enfield, CT/
Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Mod driver and wife have their anniversary.
JEFF & JENNIFER PEARL- This Waterford Speedbowl Modified driver from
Colchester, CT and wife share their 13th anniversary.
BILL, JR. & MARY BRICE- This New Jersey couple now retired served the NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour for many years. They celebrate their 51st anniversary.
JEFF & JULIE WINSOR- This Waterford Speedbowl staff couple from Danielson,
CT have their 18th anniversary.
JOE NEMECHEK- Front Row Joe, Lakeland, FL Sprint Cup driver and car owner.
PAUL DURANT- Manteca, CA IRL driver.
LINDA AUSTIN- Fromer scorer for the NASCAR KNPSE #5 team owned by Barney
SHERI FULLER- Wife of No. Boylston, MA former NASCAR WMT team owner, Bobby,
one of the famous Fuller racing brothers.
CLAY PURVIS- Son of Clarksville, TN NNS driver Jeff and wife Susan.
MARY BETH WIBBELSMAN- The grown-up daughter of RWJM Advisor Dick and
Counselor wife Judy of Gainesville, FL.
WARREN ALSTON- A friend of RWJM, NASCAR Official and Christian brother.
BERT MARVIN- Colchester, CT Modified driver.
DAN ORBST- Potland, OR NASCAR West driver.
BRUCE TAYLOR- Seekonk, MA NASCAR WMT and ProStock driver.
JOE TRUDEAU- Chaplin, CT retired Modified driver.
DOREEN COLSON- Wife of Leominster, MA ProStock driver Fran.
JUSTIN CUSACK- Son of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway President Glenn.
KRISTEN MONTVILLE- The daughter of Solhem Racing NASCAR KNPSE/NASCAR WMT
PAM KRAUSE- The wife of AARN's Assistant to the Editor/ Columnist, Earl.
KIM BAKER- Road Racer, part-time NASCAR KNPSE driver from Springfield, MA.
JACKIE ARUTE- The President of Stafford Motor Speedway and TV Sports
TYLER LEWIS- The son of Holland Speedway Charger Driver Mark and brother of
Mark's Crew chief son Christopher.
PAUL RADFORD- The legendary "Ferrum Flash" Modified and LMSC driver from
TIFFANY BRODERICK- The youngest daughter of Brookfield, CT former NASCAR
Modified driver Jim and Debbie.
BRENDA BLAIN- Wife of South Killingly, CT ProStock driver David.
RICHIE RESNER- Team owner and brother-in-law of Riverhead Late Model #60 and
driver Paul McElearney.
J.J. BRANSCOMBE- A grown-up son of Northwood, NH NASCAR KNPSE driver Babe
and wife Deb.
RYAN PLOURDE – Crew Chief of the #27 SK Light at Stafford Motor Speedway and
tire changer for Todd Szegedy’s WMT #2.
STEVE NOWAKOWSKI- "Stevie Wonder" of East Hampton, CT NASCAR KNPSE and dirt
MARK SIMO- Carlsbad, NC NASCAR KNPSE/ LMSC driver.
KEVIN HODGE- Crewman son of Manchester, CT photographers Mary and Howie
CARL PASTERYAK- Lisbon, CT NASCAR WMT/MRS driver.
JOE BARNES- Scranton, PA NASCAR KNPSE driver.
JOE INGLIN, JR- Three time most popular driver at the former Flemington
RICHARD LASATER- CWTS Crew Chief from Little Rock, AK.
VICTORIA ROMANO- This West Long Branch, NJ Wall Township Speedway George
Andretta, Robert Geibel and a Steve Park fan.
***IN THE SHOP***
DAVEY SAMMONDS- Please keep Davey in your thoughts and
prayers as he recovers from injuries suffered at Selinsgrove.
AGNUS KICHURY- Mother of Carol Pares, wife of
photographer Michael, went home to the Lord this past week, please keep the
family in your thoughts and prayers.
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RACING WITH JESUS MINISTRIES
PO Box 586
Tolland, CT, 06084
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