Josh Leisinger dodged the cones on the final left turn of the obstacle course set up in the Ohio
Expo Center parking lot, and zipped past his mom, who was standing nearby with her hands clasped in
“Come on, Josh,” Karen Leisinger called, barely audible above the roar of his suped-up ’64
Corvette. He crossed the finish line — 27 seconds on the money. Good enough for the next round of
the Goodguys autocross competition.
“Yes!” she cheered.
The Goodguys PPG Nationals car show, greeted this year by sun and temperatures in the low 80s,
has been a staple of local summers for 19 years now. In addition to the autocross tournament, the
event features about 6,000 show cars from across the country: Hot rods, custom builds and
restorations. It continues Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Goodguys Rod and Custom Association organizes car shows in cities throughout the nation,
with events from Raleigh, N.C. to Spokane, Wash. But Betsy Bennett, an event organizer, said the
Columbus stop is especially popular because of its central location and the expansive facilities at
the expo center.
This weekend’s car show is just one of about 20 stops the Leisingers make every year along the
Goodguys competitive autocross circuit.
The Leisingers, from Sioux Falls, North Dakota, have a long history of racing. Josh, 26, and his
brother Jared, 18, started racing go-carts even before they could legally drive on the roads. Their
dad, Dave, 56, started out in drag racing when he was younger. Karen, 50, also races.
The family members serve as the others’ pit crew, teammates and cheerleaders. Whether there’s a
triumph or a defeat, Josh said there are always hugs all around.
Still, racing against his brother brings out a certain competitive edge, he added.
“It could be anything, dominoes, Monopoly, all he cares about is beating me,” he said. “Even if
he gets in fourth place, as long as he beats me.”
Family ties are a common thread among many of the car show’s attendees.
Rob Goetsche, 50, drove his ’70 Chevelle from Syracuse, N.Y. to visit his mother in Sunbury.
Kathie Goetsche, a car enthusiast herself, has published several books of car photography. But Rob
attributed his love of cars to his dad, who grew up street racing on Sunset Boulevard in
Larry and Ryan Hill, 51 and 24 respectively, drove their customized ’53 Ford Panel Truck down
from Ontario. Larry bought it in 1999, and spent five years converting it from a rusted carcass to
a functioning, sky blue custom vehicle. Ryan was young then, but it didn’t take long before he and
his father started working on cars together.
“Cars have always been around,” he said.
Bennett has been working with the association for 25 years, but said something new surprises her
at each show.
“Every time you think you’ve seen the most bizarre thing, you see something else even more
bizarre,” she said of the highly-modified hot rods people bring in.
She noted that this is also the first year the group has held the event since the death of the
association’s founder, Gary Meadors.
“His thinking was the people are what make it worth it,” she said.