Before Chris Dalton headed onto the track last weekend, he applied lettering to the back of his two race cars. The message: #backtheblue.
At the track, most recognize him as a successful race car driver. Dalton steers a super stock weekly at the ½-mile paved oval of Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California, and a modified in select events on the Spears Modified Series schedule. He has three track championships at Kern County — two in modifieds, one in a super stock — and earned his 31st feature win last Saturday.
Away from the track, Dalton has a day job, like most racers. His, however, required him to take an oath to “serve and protect.” Dalton works as a police officer for the Bakersfield Police Department — a profession under intense scrutiny across the country.
“[Police officers have] had a lot of adversity to deal with in the past months,” Dalton said. “There are people who do wrong in every profession. It doesn’t mean everyone in that profession has done or will do wrong.”
The Bakersfield City Council recently unanimously passed its budget for 2020–21, according to The Bakersfield Californian. Despite movements urging to defund police departments, the budget included an increase of roughly 10% to the police so that they could add 44 positions to better serve the city.
“I believe our community loves us and supports us, and I can’t imagine being a police officer in any other city,” said Dalton. “We strive to understand the community’s issues and we learn from them as we learn from mistakes made in law enforcement.”
Those at the track who know Dalton’s profession support him.
“I’ve never had any issues in racing related to my job — everything’s been positive,” Dalton said. “My job was what I was born to do, and people thank me for it every day.”
Chris Dalton hopes the message on the back of the race cars he drives reminds the racing community that if they appreciate their police officers, remember to let them know it.
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 50th year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.