Safety is an important issue...
Safety is an important issue when discussing youth in racing. Safety companies have already begun designing equipment for our young drivers. And the market is one of the fastest growing in all of racing. Just think about it: As the young person grows, he/she will outgrow most of what he/she wears several times in 10 years or so. This means multiple purchases for items such as the firesuit, gloves, helmet, shoes, undergarments, seat, and hopefully the HANS or other head-and-neck restraint device.
An important thing to consider is this: We, as parents, are the ones responsible for deciding if our child is mature enough to race. We, as parents, are the ones responsible for being certain there is the proper insurance in place for our kids to race at any particular track; and that all the proper safety equipment-right down to the rescue team-is in place. And, ultimately, making the wrong decision for the wrong reasons not only puts our own children at risk, but also other people's children. This isn't hockey.
Point well taken, but I will inject this. It's not only you and your child at risk, it is, in reality, everyone associated with his/her racing that will ultimately be putting it on the line. I can say too that encouraging irresponsible behavior in children is in itself a liability risk.
There are some parents who before the "event" speak of taking full responsibility for their actions, but when faced with the loss of their child suddenly change their opinion and begin to blame others with lawsuits to follow. That's the hard reality of the world we live in.
Really, there's so much more to the story that I didn't touch on, good things-for instance, how close your family becomes when you all race together. It truly does create a different atmosphere than most families share. It's not all fun and games, either; there are a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into a Saturday night racer, particularly when you live with your team (and Dad races too).
But if you do it right, it's well worth the trouble. And we need to ask these questions: What does this kid have to give up to race? Is it worth it to him/her? Is he/she willing to work for this? What I failed to tell you is that John has been around race cars his entire life, and has worked on them since he was old enough to use a wrench. Maybe that makes a difference.
Probably the best thing about youth in racing is what you have said here, it's the family being able to share time together and becoming closer. I believe racing accomplishes this more than most other kids' sports because of the time spent away from the track working on the car. Yes, it does get the kids away from the Playstation and the TV. And for that, I applaud the parents.
Is this tyke a future race...
Is this tyke a future race car driver? The growth and survival of our sport depends largely on how well we promote racing to the younger generation. We need this influx of youth, but we also need to govern it within reasonable limits, regardless of how badly the kids and/or parents want to advance prematurely. If we can't govern ourselves, then there's a high probability that we will ultimately be forced to abide by new laws created to protect our youth from the irresponsible actions of their parents. It only takes one loss of a youngster to turn the tide of public opinion in favor of regulation.
Let's face it, we have said before that racing needs a youth infusion and it would be hypocritical to speak out against that movement. What needs to be done is to implement reasonable rules and age limits for kids who chose to race.
We, as a society, have shown in other areas that we're sometimes not responsible enough to regulate ourselves as evidenced by our drug laws, speed limits, helmet laws, and so on. This is no different than those. An important argument in court cases involves the question of is an action universally accepted as "reasonable and responsible?" In other words, would a reasonable and sane person undertake this action?
Courts have further ruled that an adult parent can't make legal decisions for a minor such as waiving of liability. If the parent can't execute a contract for a minor and the minor can't execute a contract, then there is no waiver of liability and the track owners assume all liability.
Then there is the arena of public opinion, and believe me it counts. If the majority feels that allowing an 8-year-old to drive a Mini-Cup car on a half-mile asphalt track at an average speed close to 100 mph isn't acceptable, those who wish for their kids to race in that way will need to respect that opinion, just as we accept our seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws that are designed to protect us from ourselves.
We encourage debate on this subject and one reader suggested that we only print those opinions that agree with us. That's not true, and we encourage track owners, promoters, sanctions, and insurance companies to chime in on this so we can put together a set of reasonable rules and move forward. The future of circle track racing is at stake.