SPOTLIGHT ON SPEED: MARTIN RANKER
Topeka drag racer Martin Ranker is off and running in his quest for a track championship at Heartland Park Topeka after taking the Street victory in the season-opening event in the E.T. Bracket Series.
But regardless of what happens the rest of the year, Ranker might have already wrapped up the comeback of the year award.
Ranker, who will turn 53 next month, is a mainstay on the local drag racing scene, but was forced to miss the entire 2010 season after a scary work-related accident.
"I'm an electrician and I fell through a roof and was strapped to a backboard and hauled off,'' Ranker said. "It was the first time I'd missed a points race in 16 years. It was a compression fracture so surgery wasn't recommended. It was kind of like, "Take some time and recover.' ''
Ranker might have been able to sneak in a late-season race or two, but opted against it.
"I parked it because I wouldn't have been competitive and it's so mental of a game that you've got to be 100 percent,'' he said. "If I don't think I can at least be halfway competitive I'm not going out.''
In fact, Ranker tried to stay away as much as he could.
"I watched a few races and went out with some friends, but if you're not a participant, man, it just gets you,'' he said. "It was the hardest thing I ever did, taking the year off.''
By the time the 2011 opener rolled around Ranker was physically able to go.
"Well, like they say, it's as good as it's going to get,'' he said. "I don't know if it's not hurting as bad or I've just become accustomed to it. I have more good days than bad days now so I consider that a win.''
Ranker's visit to the winner's circle in his first race back was a true Hollywood storyline.
"It was kind of like I had been visualizing everything that I have to do for a whole year without driving,'' he said. "So when I got in the car, after a couple of nervous runs on test night, the next thing you know it just came back automatically again.''
And the hop magically in Ranker's step magically re-appeared.
"We've got one of the greatest facilities in the world,'' he said. "It's like playing pee-wee football in the Astrodome. We have a blast.''