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Richard Bales photo

MOLES: A Star In The Making

As he joined the podium finishers at the 80th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway, Mitchel Moles was difficult to miss.

The 6-foot, 3-inch driver towered over winner Logan Seavey, but was drawing attention for more than his height. Beginning with his appearance at the inaugural USAC Nationals at Huset’s Speedway some of the Midwest-based stakeholders were beginning to realize what their West Coast brethren had known for some time.

Moles is fast and gifted. Now days before his 22nd birthday, Moles had claimed rookie-of-the-race honors and team owners were scheming for a way to lure him to their camp.

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Moles battles NASCAR driver Christopher Bell in micro sprint competition at Port City Raceway. – Richard Bales photo

For Moles the road to the upper echelon of open-wheel racing has been a bit different than many of his equally talented and youthful peers. Where so many of those fresh-faced hopefuls made a beeline from quarter-midgets, karts, and micros, Moles took an unusual detour along the way.

It all started conventionally for the Raisin City, Calif., driver. Moles’ family is deeply involved in farming. His father Larry Moles owns Southern Pacific Farms, an operation that encompasses about 1,200 acres.

There’s a bit more to the story. Larry Moles also has a racing habit. He has been involved with Dennis Roth’s sprint car team for years, built engines for Matt Wood Racing and has sponsored drivers such as Sheldon Haudenschild and Kraig Kinser.

Mitchel Moles began his career at age 7, racing quarter midgets on pavement. His primary home was Madera Speedway and figures that he averaged about 20 races a year. He moved to the non-winged micros at 11 and admits that he didn’t set the house on fire. Then he did a complete about face and went fishing.

Through a family friend he got interested in the world of professional bass fishing and as it was, he already had an affinity for similar outdoor recreation.

“My parents got me a boat when I was 16,” he said. “One of my best friend’s dad was a professional and it just took off from there.”

There was pressure in this world too, and just like racing, one always casts a watchful eye on conditions that can impact performance.

“The sport is weather driven,” he said. “You are watching the weather channel every day and it is always wrong.”

Whatever aggravations came with his freely chosen occupation he shrugs off philosophically.

“You are getting paid to fish, and I even won a few,” he said. “I did it until I was 18 and had a lot of fun. Then I went back to racing.”

Even when he was busy trying to make a go of it with a rod and reel, he kept his hand in racing. He has had a long relationship with Shane and Dustin Golobic and regularly helped them at the race track.

One evening Shawn Smith, who was involved in micro racing, popped an interesting question. He knew Moles had spent time behind the wheel and wondered if he might have an interest in returning to the cockpit. After a night of testing Smith told Moles he should consider pursuing racing again. Once Moles took the plunge, Smith was there to guide him.

“If you go to any of the big micro races he is there,” Moles said. “He’s my crew chief and calls all the shots and has been a big help to me.”

One thing that helped Moles get back firmly in the game was his ability to weld, fabricate and do a range of things that keeps a race car functional. He began working at Jerrod Huckleberry’s Ten-J Chassis and helped establish the brand in a competitive market.

There is no greater advertisement in racing than winning and Moles did a lot of that. In 2019, he won 45 micro races and it didn’t matter if the wing was on top or not. Not surprisingly, he was widely hailed as the top micro sprint racer in California.

With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, particularly given shutdowns in his home state there was no way to duplicate his success, but 2021 was an entirely different matter.

He began the year by taking the prestigious Tulsa Shootout in January and then added the Clay Cup Nationals at Washington’s Demming Speedway, the Duel at the Delta in Stockton, Calif., and numerous other significant micro sprint races.

“I won seven of the eight micro races I entered and made about 50 thousand dollars,” Moles recalled. “So you can see the ones I raced paid a lot.”

Big-money races at any level draws a high car count and the best in the discipline and that’s precisely why so many predict Moles will make a big splash in the sport.

Beginning in 2019, Moles also dipped his toe in the winged sprint car world. Luckily, there is a family car at his disposal and he could move quickly between a 360 and 410. He has also benefited from his father’s association with Dennis Roth.

The Roth connection led to a chance to race in the prestigious Trophy Cup last October. However, Moles admits things didn’t go as well as he had hoped.

“We weren’t very good there,” Moles said. “When you get run into, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.”

That disappointing event aside, on the positive side of the ledger he also enjoyed breakout wins, including his first NARC -King of the West sprint car victory aboard a Roth car last October at Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford.

By this time, Moles was getting the attention of other movers and shakers far from his base of operations. When USAC wrapped up the season with a West Coast swing, he was there each night. As a result, he secured a ride with Dave Mac Motorsports and finished fifth in a December midget race inside the Southern Illinois Center.

Still the quest to find steady work in midgets and sprint cars was elusive. Roth helped where he could and Moles developed a relationship with Arizona car owner Dennis Gile. However, the one steady patron saint in his budding career has been Matt Wood.

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