Top Fuel team owner Dustin Davis wasn’t interested initially in talking about the situation he and his fellow Californians face right now.
The Kincade Fire, which started last Wednesday near Geyserville, Ca., is considered the largest in the state this year after having burned through 115 square miles on the northwestern edge of California’s premier wine region as of Monday evening. According to the Sacramento Bee newspaper, the fire has destroyed 123 structures, including 57 houses and a winery whose stone facade dates to 1869.
“This is a tough time here for this community, so I don’t have a problem sharing the story, the fire, in general, has a huge, has been a huge part of my story,” Davis said.
Just two years ago, Davis lost everything in the 2017 California wildfires.
This weekend, members of Davis’s Top Fuel team were given mandatory evacuation orders because of the fast-moving fires. He’s bringing the team this weekend to race at the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals.
“It was an extremely difficult one to make because it didn’t seem like the right thing to do,” Davis admitted. “But it’s something I love, and I’m passionate about, and you only go around once. Know what I mean?”
Davis and two crewmembers have been affected by the mass evacuations.
“It was a huge area that got,” Davis said of the estimated 150,000 residents in the Sonoma County area evacuated throughout a 40 to 48 hour period.
The last time Davis was ordered to evacuate in August 2017, he had to move quickly as his house was in flames as he fled the area.
“There was no advance warning. My home was on fire when it hit,” Davis explained. “This time, they were very cautious with this fire trying to get people out, but it’s a huge area, close to the size of San Francisco.”
Davis’ heart aches for those who had barely recovered from past disasters.
“Some of these people that were rebuilding their homes had to re-evacuate the area that either they just moved in or they were still rebuilding,” Davis said. “It’s been a trying time for the area.”
Davis confirmed his house, and those of the team who were evacuated are not in immediate danger of losing property, but the air quality makes breathing very difficult.
“It’s been kind of a war zone up here for the last couple years and a lot of hardship for people,” Davis said. “People are displaced.”
Ironically, Davis is a successful demolition contractor and owns multiple recycling facilities. His companies also manufacture landscape products from wood waste, concrete waste, and the like.
“We have a lot of employees, and over half of them had to leave their homes and scattered from everywhere from the South Bay to the Sacramento area,” Davis revealed. “Some of them left completely, depending on where they had friends and family. So, we’re just now getting back to work. We had a company-wide shutdown Friday through Tuesday. We’re back in earnest today, and then we should hopefully be kind of back to business as usual either tomorrow or Friday.”
The bulk of the team is en route for Las Vegas, where driver Justin Ashley will attempt to reach his first final round after reaching the semis in his debut. Davis, who handles the clutch duties on the team, remained behind to ensure the homefront is protected.
“Obviously, racing has always been number two,” Davis said. “My family and my company and my employees; without them, there’s no racing. We’re trying to build a career here for Justin, and I feel very fortunate to be the one to be in charge of that. But at the same time, I got an eight-year-old son here. When that all comes down, you got to make sure that all of that is handled first.”
Robert Hansen, the team’s bottom-end engine specialist, will not be in Vegas this weekend, forcing the team to improvise.
“I’m hoping that the team can just focus,” Davis said. “These cars need a lot of attention to detail. Hopefully, the distraction is not heavy. I would prefer that I didn’t have to race under these conditions, and I’m going to get a late start. I’m going to be kind of coming in at the last minute. But I am extremely lucky to have the guys that I have. I got a phenomenal group of people. The preparation is top-notch. Any success that we’ve got goes to the braintrust of Aaron Brooks and Jason Bunker, and our entire team.
“When you got stuff at home going on, you’d like everything to be hunky-dory so you could gallivant around and race your hot rod, but that’s just not the way. It’s been a lot of hard work. It took me 12 years to get to this point. So, I guess no reason it should be easy now.”
If you’re an underdog, then Chip Lofton is a big fan. Read about the man who specializes in helping small teams get over the hump. @thejustinashley @strutmasters #DragRacingNews #nhra – https://t.co/PBtRbp3nG2 pic.twitter.com/IjbIvghw3X
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) October 29, 2019