Dominic Dobson takes the wheel on a handful of car-related businesses

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Sixteen years ago, when veteran Northwest race car driver Dominic Dobson opened Dobson Motorsport — a Seattle-area business that sells, maintains and restores classic, vintage and racing cars — it kicked off an ever-growing string of local ventures tapping his extensive racing experience.

“It’s a company that I started back in about 2000 when I realized that I liked messing around with old cars,” the seven-time Indy 500 driver says.

“I quit racing in about 1998 and got involved in managing a collection and I thought, ‘I’ll do some brokering and maybe some buying and selling on my own.’ It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been able to drive and deal in a lot of cool vintage cars, both race cars and street cars.”

Dobson is among the Pacific Northwest’s most accomplished drivers. He has raced in the Indianapolis 500 (finishing 12th in 1992), LeMans, Daytona, Sebring, the Baja 1000, the Goodwood Festival of Speed and many more.

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After retiring from racing in 1998, Dobson served as manager of the Oregon-based Cavallino Collection of historic vehicles before joining LeMay — America’s Car Museum as chief advancement officer and later chief development officer, a position he held until last year.

Today, Dobson oversees a growing number of enterprises, including Seattle-based Gerber Motorsports (with brother Patrick Dobson), the launch of an Oregon-based racing simulator company, and the management of 18-year-old Sammamish race car driver Andrew Evans.

His love of racing started when he was young. The 59-year-old, German-born racer who grew up on Capitol Hill, where he built and raced go-carts.

“Our garage was on the alley,” Dobson says of his childhood home. “And we would run the go-carts up and down the alley. They were really loud, but I can’t remember the police ever coming by. The neighbors would come out and cheer us on. It was such a different environment then.”

He was introduced to professional racing in the 1960s by his father, a course marshal at Pacific Raceways in Kent.

In the ’80s, Dobson became an instructor at the Bob Bondurant Driving School in Sonoma, Calif. His entrepreneurial side began when he started Zephyr Racing with fellow Bondurant instructor Ron Nelson. The two opened the pioneering “arrive and drive” race shop that sold, rented and maintained cars and provided racing support.

That entrepreneurial spirit continues today. One of his recent creations is a company with former Intel software developer Keith Maher, a racing fan who had built simulators for the World of Speed museum in Wilsonville, Ore.

Dobson and Maher joined forces to create VR Motion Corp., which builds racing simulators.

“When you’re in one of these simulators, you think you’re in the car,” Dobson says.

He believes racing simulators will become an essential tool. “I think every racing school ultimately will have one,” he says.

Among the drivers practicing on the VR Simulator is Dobson’s protege, Andrew Evans. Dobson met Evans through Don Kitch, owner of ProFormance Racing School at Pacific Raceways.

“Andrew’s probably a better driver at his age than I was. So when it comes to coaching him to go faster, there probably isn’t a lot I can do,” Dobson says. “But I’ve helped him gain a better understanding of the sport in general, as well as marketing, PR and fundraising.”

Dobson has been reliving his own racing career through Evans.

“It’s kind of gotten me back into car racing at the professional level. We’ve traveled to quite a few races together, and we’ve been having a lot of fun,” Dobson says.

“I call it my pro bono work. If we’re wildly successful, I’ll make a little bit of money. But it’s not the reason I’m doing it. I had a lot of people help me when I was young, either financially or through mentoring. And so I thought it would be fun to do that for someone else.”