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Published May 04 2012

Bitker proves to be jack-of-all-trades at the track

Fargo - All of this started as a hobby.

Nine years ago, Jake Bitker started racing Midwest Modifieds cars just to have fun. Today, he still races but does a whole lot more than drive in circles.

As the area’s racing season revs up – including tonight’s Red River Valley Speedway opener in West Fargo – Bitker comes into the summer as one of the area’s more pivotal figures.

The 36-year-old Bitker owns Fargo-based Performance Auto, which is a one-stop shop for many race car drivers in the area.

He and his wife also operate Norman County Raceway in Ada, Minn. If that’s not enough, Bitker also owns three racing teams.

And, he still has time to operate his family’s farm.

“It’s funny, because it’s still a hobby,” Bitker said. “Sometimes, it gives me stress, but it’s what I do to get away from stress too.”

Bitker attributes his success to his wife, Sharnel, who also co-owns Performance Auto.

He also gives a lot of credit to his staff. Michael Johnson is one of those people. Johnson works at Performance Auto and has known Bitker for eight years.

“Yeah, I wonder if he actually sleeps or is programmed to where he doesn’t need to,” said Johnson, who is also a race car driver. “It’s a lot for anyone to handle. To be successful is good on top of that.”

Bitker says his life is busy this time of year. He’s been planting corn, soybeans, sugar beats and wheat on his 9,600-acre farm near Halstad, Minn. Bitker also sells seed.

“I have a lot of good people that work for me,” Bitker said in regards to his businesses. “I am in the farm office a lot and I am linked into the store down here.”

Bitker and his wife purchased Performance Auto six years ago. They moved the store from its old front on Main Avenue to a new, spacious location alongside Interstate 29.

It is a store that sells everything from racing tires and helmets down to steering wheels.

Come racing season, Bitker has two trailers that travel around to area racing circuits from Ada to Jamestown, N.D., selling parts to racers before, during and after a race.

“We’re here for our racers,” Bitker said. “That’s one of the reasons why we do it.”

When there’s time, Bitker does get a chance to race cars instead of just supplying parts to enhance them.

He owns three, one-car teams under the Performance Auto umbrella. Bitker said he’s still working on his car, and it’s taking time due to other commitments.

Norman County Raceway is one of them. The 3/8-mile dirt track holds races every Thursday during the summer.

The raceway had its season opener on Thursday. Bitker and his family were there earlier in the week getting a few odds and ends taken care of.

“That’s something we do as a family,” Bitker said about the speedway. “Everyone is involved in it.”

Family, of course, is the other piece of the equation that is Bitker’s life.

He and his wife have four children. They’re all girls 10 years old or younger.

To recap, Bitker has a happy marriage, four children, three race teams, two successful businesses and operates one racetrack.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “But it’s a lot of fun.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com