More good points are presented here. Racing should be, first of all, the child's choice and then the child should work for the privilege of racing. On the CT Tour, we met one father who insisted that his child attain a straight A report card in school in order to be allowed to race.
There are plenty of lower...
There are plenty of lower stock class cars on dirt and asphalt where younger drivers can gain valuable experience before taking on the high level of responsibility of high-horsepower cars. Whereas most young drivers can show a progression of experience from an early age, we have witnessed some youthful racers who moved up a bit too quickly.
We went back to the track that he started at, and put him in a Strictly Stock for a season. He learned really quickly that it's not always a bowl of cherries. He blew up several engines and ended up sitting out many races. Alternately, when he was having a good night, it was a very good night!
We sold that car at the end of the season when the Crate Mods were introduced and had the track owner's permission to put John into one. Now, this is the part where it gets interesting.
I guess it was about February; we had a Modified in the works for him, putting it together as the checkbook allowed. One day we got a phone call from the track owner, who told us that he couldn't allow John to race in that division. Mind you, this was after he had already given his permission. As it turned out, it wasn't so much the promoter as it was the insurance company that wouldn't allow it.
At Carolina Speedway there...
At Carolina Speedway there was this four-cylinder class that resembled a Late Model car and that provided a lot of action and competition. It would be perfect for a sub-16-year-old to use to learn the trade.
I even went to them myself, because I wanted to know how the 14- to 15-year-olds who were racing in PASS Pro Stocks were allowed to race, but in this class they weren't? The Pro-Stocks have more hp and so on and were a touring division.
Come to find out, the insurance company told me that this indeed was an issue that was (at the time) on the table between all the motorsports insurers. I was told that the kids under 16 years old racing on these touring divisions were either sneaking in, or the promoters were not aware that they had no coverage and that if anything were to happen, the promoter would be held liable for all expenses.
Indeed, this does get interesting. With the emotions that come with an injury to a child in any sport also come the inevitable lawsuits. A jury of 12 would certainly sympathize with the parents of a child injured, or worse, in a stock car crash. Can our insurance companies afford this level of exposure? Only they can tell you that.
The person I was speaking with at K&K Insurance asked me the million-dollar question: "Are you that confident that the promoter could cover damages in the event of a serious accident? Would you trust him to do the right thing?" That's all it took. I don't trust anyone except my husband when it comes to my son's safety. It's just the Mom in me I guess.
It would be hypocritical of...
It would be hypocritical of us to say that youngsters should not race when we recognize the need to attract more racers into circle track racing. Yes, we need for more youngsters and their families to come into the sport. At the same time, there should be a progression of sorts where a driver can move up in class and gain experience before taking on the upper classes. Just the act of working on a race crew provides lots of great experience and knowledge that our future stars need.
We shelved the Modified, and built another Strictly Stock from the ground up and documented the whole thing on our website. It was sort of fun, we had loads of followers and John kicked some major butt that season, winning 16 out of 19 races.
Fortunately, the insurance "rules" also changed to allow him to race the higher division. Unfortunately, we were already hip deep in the Strictly when we got word. John was disappointed a little, however he also pointed out that it was a fun division, and to quote him:, "That's where I learned to drive."
I agree whole-heartedly that 12-year-olds do not belong in 350hp (or more) race cars. I also believe that they should not be handed the whole package, they need to do their share of the work. That's where they learn to respect it; and that will carry over onto the track. At least it did with my kid.
But remember, youth in racing isn't a bad thing; it's all in what you allow. With all the video games and computer time these days, we need to get these kids off their butts and back to the racetrack. This allows them a way to find out if racing does for them what it does for us.
What I disagree with is putting them in karts when they are 5 years old. By the time they are old enough to get into a car, they're burned out and a car certainly isn't a kart. I've heard that line too, "I've driven karts since I was 5!" And that was from the kid who didn't know enough to take his foot out of the throttle when he dumped John in his Crate Mod on championship night during a tight point's race.