Scott Pounds started turning left at Bakersfield Speedway 43 years ago.
Tonight he’ll be doing so again in an IMCA Modified race at the track just north of Bakersfield.
At 58, Pounds knows he’s not as sharp as he once was as decades of wear and tear have taken a toll.
“I guess you’re only as old as you feel, you know what I mean?” Pounds said before a race at the track last month. “In my mind I’m still 30 years old. My body tells me all the time I’m not.”
But that’s not keeping Pounds from zipping up his driving suit, pulling on his helmet and strapping in to do battle on the third-mile clay oval against a host of talented drivers, many of whom were not even born when Pounds won the IMCA national championship in 1994.
“I always tell people: Some people go camping, some go fishing, some go golfing. I just go racing,” Pounds said.
Except when he couldn’t, which was a few years ago when a troublesome back kept him from competing.
“I’ve always had a little bit of (back) trouble the past 15 years or so, but around 2013 I was just bound up and it kept getting worse and worse,” Pounds said. “The doctor highly advised me that until we got it figured out, I should quit driving.”
So Pounds stayed out of the driver’s seat, but his back didn’t get better.
“I went to a couple of different specialists and they determined I had calcium built up in the middle of my vertebrae,” he said. “They said 10 years ago they didn’t have a procedure for it, but now they do.”
Pounds had surgery two years ago and was back driving a year later.
“I got back in and have been pretty competitive; I feel comfortable in the car,” he said. “I’ve got three or four second (places), got a win at (Kern County Raceway Park). I’m able to hang in there. I’m not going to be anything like I was in my prime, but at least I’m able to be fairly competitive with these kids.”
While racing opportunities begin early nowadays (as young as 5 years old in Junior Mini Dwarfs), you had to be at least 16 when Pounds started out.
“Actually, I ran a couple of races when I was 15½,” Pounds said. “I told them I was 16.”
Bakersfield Speedway was a quarter-mile of asphalt when Pounds first hit the track, but it switched to clay in 1980 and has been lengthened and widened a couple of times since then.
Pounds started in Street Stocks, moved up to Modifieds and also drove Late Models for many years. He’s won hundreds of races and garnered 14 championships — two in Street Stocks, five in Late Models and seven in Modifieds.
In the early 2000s, with son Brad just starting out and showing promise, Pounds opted to leave the driving behind and help his son.
“I was driving back from Santa Maria one night when I decided I needed to focus on Bradley as much as I could,” Pounds said.
So Pounds cut back to just a handful of races each year until 2006, when the father and son split time in a Modified.
Scott Pounds won eight races at Bakersfield Speedway (and the championship), while Brad Pounds won eight races at other tracks.
Pounds said the Modified division has changed dramatically over the decades and racing is much closer and tougher now than when he won the national title in 1994.
“The technology that has come into these cars is second to none,” he said. “They are a lot more of a Late Model suspension style compared to what we were when I was serious in the mid 90s. Everybody has gotten so much closer, and the quality of these cars have got so much better.”
And drivers, as a whole, are much younger.
“”It all has to do with Mini Dwarfs and all that,” Pounds said. “Kids are getting experience driving, and they end up getting opportunities at very young ages.
“Even when Bradley (who is 34) started, they didn’t let you on the track till you were 16.
“You see a lot of young kids doing well — Ethan (Dotson), Cody (Laney). It’s way different from my time. That’s how it changes.”
But a couple of things have not changed: Pounds is still competitive, and he’s still having fun. The two go hand in hand.
“I made a promise to myself that if I didn’t feel I was competitive, that I would quietly fade away and let these kids have at it,” he said. “To tell you the truth, I probably enjoy it more now than when I was running for championships.”