Purchase photos

Law enforcement investigating damage to race car

10/17/2013

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

Chadd Brown's modified often appears as if it's been beaten with a sledgehammer.

That's the norm for dirt-track racers some nights.

But late Saturday night, Brown's modified was beaten with a sledgehammer as it sat on his open trailer in the pits.

Now, the Great Bend driver is looking at thousands of dollars due to an act of property damage that happened at RPM Speedway in Hays.

"It's a bad deal," Brown said. "I've raced 15 to 20 years and never had anything like this happen."

While Brown, his brother and nephew were watching the final three races of Fall Nationals VII, someone took a sledgehammer to Brown's modified parked in the overflow pit area northeast of the track.

The damage was extensive, estimated at approximately $9,000 -- including the carburetor, front shocks, headers, valve covers, intake, bars, etc. Brown said most of the damage was done to the more expensive parts of the race car. A $1,000 reward is being offered by friends of Brown to help in solving the crime.

"I just can't believe someone would stoop to that level," Brown said. "I know where we were parked was a prime spot, but you never expect something like that. Where we were parked, it worked out perfect for him. One of the track officials said he heard someone beating and banging out there but thought it was a racer working on his car."

After the final checkered flag flew, Brown and his family went to IHOP in Hays. There, he said an acquaintance noticed the damage to his car but thought it just was cosmetic damage from a night of racing. The friend didn't say anything to Brown until the next day, when Brown reported the damage to the Great Bend Police Department.

The Great Bend PD took pictures and began a case, then transferred it to the Ellis County Sheriff's office since the initial crime is believed to have happened in the county.

"We talked to two people (Tuesday) night and one the same day of the report," sheriff's deputy Thomas Garner said Wednesday. "We haven't come up with anything solid yet."

Brown's car was parked on a flatbed trailer at the track. His brother's car was on the same trailer as well, and his nephew's car was next to both.

Only Brown's car was damaged.

"At this point, we can't say," Garner said about why only Brown's car was damaged. "We're not sure if they didn't have time to do the other one or not.

"We're hoping somebody comes forward to say they saw something. That hasn't happened yet, but all it takes is one."

RPM Speedway officials are letting law enforcement handle the issue since it involves a criminal act.

They are hoping all their hard work and effort to put on a quality three-day show doesn't receive a black eye due to one unfortunate act. This year's Fall Nationals brought in 237 drivers from 12 states and Canada to compete for one of the largest payouts in the entire country.

Many people crowded into the stands and pits to watch the action that culminated Saturday night with John Hansen of Brush, Colo., winning the $5,000 modified feature.

"RPM is probably one of the best tracks in the country," said Rick Meier, a friend of Brown's who has organized a $1,000 reward leading to the arrest of the guilty party. "A lot of good people go to RPM. All it takes is one black mark to ruin it. That's not what RPM wants, and people know that's not what they stand for."

Garner said the guilty person or people likely could face charges involving felony criminal damage to property, which constitutes a range from $1,000 to $25,000.

Brown's car was new this year, and he had saved in order to finally get a new chassis.

"If they don't catch the guy, it's not like a regular car where you have insurance to cover it," he said.

Now, he's looking at a long winter of trying to repair his modified when he had plans to save to purchase a crate motor and a few other odds and ends for the car.

"I haven't heard anything from anybody yet," said Brown, who has an idea who the culprit might be. "I'd just like to get it done and over with and move on. I'd just like to see someone caught. It's going to be a pretty big expense over the winter to recoup. ... It's going to make for a tough winter, that's for sure."

Anyone with information about the crime can contact the Ellis County Sheriff's office at (785) 628-1040. Garner said individuals also can contact law enforcement in their own jurisdiction as well and have them forward that information on to Ellis County law enforcement.