Concerns have grown over the years whether the amount of young auto enthusiasts have been shrinking. With that said, we need these young enthusiasts to help pave the future for our sport. We received a message online from Roger and Theresa Graham about their son, Dale.
This 13-year-old from Florida is taking the auto world by storm. Dale Graham was born in 2000 and races pure stock at North Florida Speedway after some much needed convincing of his parents. After he finally persuaded them to let him race, Roger, Dale’s dad, found him a car.
Roger added more roll bars and a steel plate inside the driver’s door for safety measures. The car already featured two fire-out systems, one he could pull and an automatic one. No point in repainting the car for the track, so they added a “G” (for Graham) in front of the 0, but some call it the “GO” car.
When it’s your kid out there, safety is the first priority. Dale wears a HANS device when racing and one of the best firesuits for his size. For a kid that weighs only 100 pounds with a 28-inch waist and 30-inch inseam, a one-piece firesuit is hard to find.
This year on March 9, 2013, Dale drove his first race at North Florida Speedway in Lake City. He finished in 10th place out of 20 cars, beating out half of the other racers his first time out on the track.
During his 5th race, he was a close second on the white flag and tried to jump to first place, but ended up taking third, which is still more than impressive. On August 17, 2013, during the rainy summer season in Florida, the race Dale was scheduled for was rained out. So, that next weekend meant a double feature for Dale where he took home his first win!
And like almost everyone, sometimes racers forget stuff on the mental checklist, and that happened to the Grahams with Dale’s firesuit. They were lucky to find out that somebody brought an extra firesuit, but it was a size 40. None of that matters when you’re holding up that checkered flag.
Dale is the youngest driver in his class competing with men who have been racing for over 15 years. The next youngest driver is just 16 years old and raced this class last year. The average amount of cars is about 20 on race night, whereas Roger remembers that in the late ‘90s there might be just five cars out there on the track.
Soon Dale will be driving in a different class, but probably not until next year. Roger still has his Late Model #14 with a wing, and is already trying to figure out how to adjust the seat to accommodate little Dale. Soon Dale will be making the change from dirt to asphalt racing!
Now Dale has two feature wins under his belt and two sponsors, Hales Auto Parts and Graham Auto both out of Live Oak, Florida.
We look forward to hearing more about Dale’s racing in the future.
Photos Courtesy of Raz Pewton.