Ask amateur race car driver Bobby Sak how he got started, and he’ll tell you he was basically born into the sport.
“My dad raced since the mid-‘70s and my mom raced a little bit, too. They started out autocrossing (racing against a clock and following cones),” said Sak, a Groves High School graduate who grew up in Bloomfield Hills and West Bloomfield. “I spent summers on the racetrack and weekends and nights working on cars. It’s in my blood and it’s something you can’t get out once you experience it.”
His father also raced in the Trans Am Series for over 15 years. Now Sak, who lives in Bloomfield Hills and works as a logistics manager in Madison Heights, races in the Spec Racer Ford 3 class in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).
Even a pandemic can’t stand in his way. “It did delay the season last year, but you’re alone in the car, so it didn’t kill the season like many sports. It was one of the first to come back,” he said.
Sak mostly races in the midwest for a team based in Illinois. He just won his first national championship at Road America in Wisconsin, which is the biggest race an amateur can win. Perks include free Hoosier tires for the coming season.
Each season has six to eight races. Though cars can exceed 150 miles per hour, Sak believes it’s safer on the track than on the road. “Everybody’s been trained. There’s rigorous schooling and all sorts of rules,” he said. “Nobody’s on their cell phone and everyone’s paying attention all the time.”
When he started at the age of 16, his goal was to become a professional race car driver.
“I kind of got to that point,” said Sak, who did SCCA Pro Racing and one race for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA). “If you’re a fast driver, that’s about 50 percent. The other part is marketing. I just wanted to drive and I wasn’t good at the marketing side back then.”
After an eight-year hiatus, he returned to the sport in 2013, when he found the old race car he had in ’97. “I felt it was an omen,” he said. “I love racing and wanted to get back into it.”
He especially loves the competitive nature. “I know that if I can go a little bit faster, I can beat the guy in front of me,” said Sak. “Even if I win, I look at the data to figure out how I could have done better. There’s always somebody else trying to go faster. If you don’t try to go faster, you’ll always get left behind.”
He also enjoys the camaraderie. “I’ve made great friends through the years,” he said. “It’s like a weekend getaway where I get to hang out with my buddies and my family comes.” He and his wife Liz have two boys, ages 8 and 5, who may also race someday.
His parents are proud. “My dad’s been my biggest fan, probably since I started beating him in a race car. One of the greatest moments of my life was when I won the national championship and he gave me a big hug,” Sak said. “My mom may be an even bigger fan.”
Sak’s passion can’t be beat. “Other than my family, it’s what I can’t wait to do all winter and what I can’t wait to do after I get out of the car for the next time.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Chris Ward