by AMANDA WINTERS
When Jeffrey Kritenbrink lost his grandfather, grandmother and uncle to cancer within just a few years of each other, he was moved to use his passion for racing cars to benefit cancer treatment and raise awareness.
He had a vision of a "funny car," which is a race car with a fiberglass body mounted on a tube frame, with an American flag paint scheme, he said. Kritenbrink, 56, originally thought of the car design and sketched it out in 1997 but it was his grandfather's death in 2003 that pushed him forward, he said.
"He was like a father figure to me," he said. "It hit me hard."
In 2004, during his first summer as a Sequim resident, Kritenbrink stood in front of stores selling racing T-shirts and getting the word out about his vision to use car racing as a way to raise money for cancer treatment.
He donated 20 percent of the money to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation and used the rest to buy his dream car, he said.
Kritenbrink raced cars for 10 years in the 1970s. In 1971, he won a class championship in his division of the National Hot Rod Association and in 1979 and 1980 he had back-to-back championships in Alaska, he said.
It took 21/2 years to build the car and pay it off, he said. The back end of the car is blue with white stars while red and white stripes run down the sides. "Race for the cure" is painted across the front along with a pink and blue ribbon because "men get cancer, too," he said.
There are close to 2,000 cancer survivor and "in memory of" signatures on the back end, making the car a memorial of sorts, he said.
By January 2011, Kritenbrink hopes to have his Race for the Cure Foundation established. Right now he participates in cancer and racing events on the peninsula.
At every event he places a jug to collect funds. He also has pink recycle bins at local stores so people can drop off cans for him to take to the recycling center. As he did with the original T-shirt sales, 20 percent of the proceeds go to Olympic Medical Center's cancer treatment center.
"The response has been overwhelming," he said.
He donated the money to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation first but later decided he would rather keep the money local.
"This is grass roots," he said.
For a month this fall the car was parked inside Safeway to bring attention to the Oct. 23 Sequim Breast Cancer Walk.
He also takes the car to racing events in Forks, the annual logging show in Sequim and other attractions. In March, Kritenbrink and his team will start the race season with the primary sponsorship of Pro Build and the Elwha River Casino, and the associate sponsorship of 15 other local businesses including Novus Auto Glass, All Metal Recycling, Allform Welding and Tranco Transmissions.
For more information on Kritenbrink and his funny car, go to www.fansfunnycar.com.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.