Good Sports: Valley family races to remember local driver

Alec Nolan Image
ByAlec Nolan via KFSN logo
Sunday, August 28, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

Micro-sprint car racing has a storied history in the South Valley.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- For the Hagopian family, racing is a way of life.

"I got into racing at the age of 8," says Jake.

You won't find the 34-year-old Caruthers native too far from a dirt track.

"I started racing myself but I was born around it because of my dad's involvement, which he got into racing right out of high school," Jake said.

Jake's father, Mark would become a fixture in the micro-sprint car racing community right here in the Valley.

His success went beyond the track.

"He (Mark) learned how to make parts for himself," Jake said. "Ultimately started a side business around because guys were wanting to buy parts from him at the track. He was ahead of his time."

Mark originally called it "Hagopian Engineering" and the name later changed to "Driven Performance."

In 2016, the family business and the family itself suffered a sudden loss just a few days after Christmas.

"I was in Oklahoma attending a race, a big national race that a lot of us go to and unfortunately, I got the news that he had passed while I was away," Jake said.

At just 56, Mark was gone.

Without a father at the age of just 27, Jake searched for ways to keep his dad's legacy alive.

That's when the Mark Hagopian Memorial Race was born at Visalia's Plaza Park in 2017.

"The goal of the memorial race is to give back, but also reminisce," says Raquel Hagopain, Jake's wife.

Raquel has been with her husband every step of the way.

"Unfortunately, Mark wasn't here to meet out last child, so it's just something that keeps them knowing who their grandpa is," she said.

With two boys of their own and one already in the driver's seat racing, Raquel knows just how important the event has become.

"Just making memories and having people who have never been involved or don't know about racing, they can come out and really enjoy what this is in the Valley because it is big," she said.

As fate would have it, Jake would win the first annual race.

He's now retired himself from running in it, hoping others can enjoy a victory lap of their own.

Come late September, Jake is hoping to make this year's running bigger and better than ever.

As he prepares for another race in his dad's honor - he's mindful to keep it all in perspective.

"We all have a common goal -- that's to build the sport up and to create an event that I know my dad would be proud of," he said.

Related Topics