Twin sister act at KRA
WILLMAR -- The Wollak sisters had plenty of success playing volleyball for St. Cloud Cathedral -- three straight state tournament appearances in Class AA and a state runner-up trophy in 2007 losing only their final match of the year to Marshall in five games.
Racing Street Stocks with the boys has been a little harder.
Christina and Marie stood sixth and seventh in the KRA point standings Thursday night at the fairground. Both are still looking for their first checkered flag here.
Each was last in their heat last night.
"We don't do well in the heats," said Maria. "We don't have the corners down. They're all different. I think we take (Turns) three and four too hard."
This is the 19-year-old identical twins' first year in Street Stocks, after 1½ seasons in the smaller-engine Hornets.
"We're waiting for the feature," Maria continued. "We always do better."
The sisters just finished their first year of college at St. Cloud State in their home town.
They spend the summer racing and also working for their dad, Ernie, whose company, Wollak Construction, Inc., builds housing developments in Sauk Rapids, Sartell and St. Cloud.
"The girls do whatever I need," said Ernie. "Lay sod, clean up sheet rock, landscape, clean up houses after construction, mowing."
He helps finance their race cars but points out that the twins raised about $11,000 in sponsorships, including major sponsors Central McGowan, Inc. (welding supplies) and Matthew Hall Lumber Trusses.
Maria also works at a tanning salon, but says she likes the construction business more.
Ernie, who sponsors several other drivers out of the St. Cloud area, and his wife, Terri, often took their daughters to the races starting at about age 13.
"After several years watching, we just casually asked dad, 'Could we try it?'" said Christina. "We really didn't expect to ever race."
But dad quickly sprung for an entry-level racer. Christina got the first shot, the summer after her junior year at Cathedral, where the twins were also outfield starters in softball.
"The idea was that they would share the car, alternating behind the wheel," recalled Ernie. "But Christina got out of the car after her first race and said 'This is my car.'"
So dad had to start looking around for a second car and bought what he called a "$400 beater."
The girls had good results in the Hornet Class at the Golden Spike in Sauk Rapids and at Princeton. (The class started racing here in June for the first time.) Ernie said between them his daughters took home 30 trophies.
The move up to Street Stock is a big change, the girls agreed. The first win, in a heat race, came last week at Golden Spike, which along with KRA is the Wollaks' regular track.
"It's so different, so much more work," said Christina. "You're always changing things on the car, grinding tires and looking for an edge because it's so competitive."
Maria blew an engine and Christina has had a transmission go already this season.
"We didn't know anything (mechanically)," said Maria. "But we're learning. We read everything and we have a lot of friends teaching us."
Several young men scramble around cars No. 59 (Maria's) and No. 95 (Christina's). The sisters said they couldn't race without their volunteer pit crew and the advice of drivers they know well.
Their older cousin, David Goulet of Sauk Rapids, was 2008 Street Stock Rookie of the Year.
Tim Johnson of Brainerd, one of the top Streeters in Wissota, pits nearby and is also sponsored by Wollak Construction. And Shane Sabraski of Rice, a leading racer in both Modified classes, is another close friend sponsored by Wollak Construction.
The sister's racetrack etiquette is what you might expect. Says Maria, "I want her to do good but I want to pass her."
Adds Christina: "Our dream is to finish 1-2, side-by-side ..."
"But me first," interjects Maria with a big smile.
There are not many girls mixing it up with the boys, most all veterans of many years of racing.
"You don't see a lot of weak competition," said Maria, who also races with her sister at Sauk Centre on Friday nights.
The sisters say the guys hate it when they are able to pass one of them but add everyone in the pits at KRA has been "very respectful."
Dad has the last word: "This is a great family sport. The fans and the people at the track make it all possible. The best thing is when they open the pits at the end of the night and all the little girls come flocking down here to see the girls."
While the sisters haven't finished above fourth in a feature, they've raced steadily, finishing almost every race they start -- so consistent that Christina ranks 10th in Wissota national points and Maria 11th.