Race Cars For Kids
by: Michael Tierney
Previous QMA Publicity Director
Quarter Midget racing is motorsport racing for kids. A Quarter Midget is a small racecar designed for children to drive on little oval racetracks. In fact, it is a scaled-down version of a Midget-style racecar. It's only about 1/4 (one-fourth) the size of a Midget racecar, hence the term Quarter Midget. There are over 57 sanctioned Quarter Midget clubs throughout North America, most with an oval racetrack that is about 1/4th the size that the full-scale Midgets run on. Quarter Midgets lap their 1/20th of a mile oval in about 6 or 7 seconds. This track could just about circle the perimeter of an average-sized home lot. Quarter Midgets can attain speeds of about 20 to 40 miles per hour. There are many non-sanctioned tracks sprouting up across the states too. There are many older organizations that have been tradition in many states too. You do not need to join the sanctioning organzation to run at non-sanction tracks. One track in New York currently has a 1/10th mile track. The kids love the thrill of the bigger track. The Syracuse Club has hosted two National Events in past years.
Quarter Midgets feature full suspension systems and full roll cages. Seatbelts and shoulder harnesses are also mandatory because safety is a prime consideration in this sport. Power is ususally supplied by a 120cc engine with specifications closely set by the national governing body and enforced at each local club race by officials.
Quarter Midget racing provides competitive motorsports for children ages 5-16; however, the whole family is invited to get involved with dad as crew-chief and head-mechanic, mom working in the Tower scoring races, and big brothers and sisters working in the snack bar. Lots of little brothers and sisters can be found playing all day in the racecar trailers and motorhomes. It is a great spectator sport since admission is free and there is usually a snackbar nearby with reasonable prices.
This is entry-level motorsport (auto) racing and no experience is necessary. Quarter Midget racing is a form of auto racing where a child can start racing on the track at age 5. Auto racing is the fastest growing sport in America. Quarter Midgets are the best (and only), place to start at such a young age, however, the purpose of this organization is to create and maintain a clean, safe, healthy sport be enjoyed by the family in close relationship with better sportsmanship.
As these young drivers grow and develop, they move up through racing classes that are defined by engine-type, the driver's age and weight. Any Quarter Midget driver can progress through Quarter Midgets to Half Midgets (a superior racing class), and race there for a bit longer. Many life-long relationships are found by parents and children in Quarter Midget racing. It is a sport that generates a family of racing families who love and promote their children.
Racing classes are divided by age, weight and motor type. When dividing by age, drivers are divided between those with experience and those who are new to the sport (Novices). The Novices are further divided by age, that is young drivers (Juniors) and older drivers (Seniors). The minimum age for a Novice is 5 years old. The Junior and Senior Novice Divisions of the Novice Class are both non-competitive. That is the Novice Class is a non-competitive racing class. They exist as a learning class for new drivers.
Junior and Senior Novices are moved up to a competitive class after several races (usually somewhere between 2 and 20 races). They are moved to either the Honda Class or the Stock Class or both. The Honda and Stock Classes both have Junior, Senior and Heavy Divisions. The Heavy Divisions of these two Classes are for drivers that weigh more than 100 pounds. After a driver completes at least three races in the Stock Class he or she may move to the Modified, Modified B or Alcohol AA class. Each of these three classes has Light and Heavy Divisions. Drivers 14 to 18 years old may race in the Junior Division of the 1/2 Midget Class. Drivers 19 years and older may race in the Senior Division of the 1/2 Midget Class.
Kid's racing is fun. Quarter Midget racing is a blast and the benefits are virtually immeasurable. It's a family sport - all races are staffed and run by family volunteers from local tracks. Drivers develop physical skills such as coordination, timing, alertness and basic mechanical theory. Internal strength is developed through sportsmanship, self-reliance, accomplishment and recognition. Most importantly - it's just plain fun.
There are many Quarter Midget race tracks. Since it's start in the Los Angeles area back in 1937, Quarter Midget racing has grown significantly. The cars have improved from the metal platform on wheels that carried a Maytag washing-machine engine to the highly specified (and very safe), rocket-ships available from a dozen manufacturers. Races are held in virtually every region of the continental United States and Canada too. One of the QMA clubs (in 1966), was headed up by none other than Robert Labonte in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mr. LaBonte is the father of Terry and Bobby LaBonte of NASCAR fame. Today QMA has over 2,500 families with over 3,500 drivers that race on tracks that are 1/20 mile banked ovals comprised of asphalt/concrete or dirt surfaces.
Race cars vary in price but it is good to shop around. Many second-hand cars in good condition can be found and are perfect for starter cars. The cost can run from $700 for an older used car, to nearly $5,000 for a top-of-the-line model with all the bells and whistles. Motor costs also vary greatly. A brand new Honda motor is readily available for less than $400. and Stocks, Mod's, 'B's and 'AA's as well as Half Engines are availabe. Local clubs can often put a smart shopper in touch with a member offering a package deal of a used car, motor and gear.
You can find the local club are in your area. All clubs have free training programs where your child can actually learn the rules and how to drive the car before ever being placed in a competitive situation. The drivers are trained first in the basic operation of the cars and safety equipment and then receive instruction on the actual racing skills. When the driver has successfully completed Novice Training, he/she is permitted to compete in the racing program.
Perhaps your driver is the next Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Bobbie Labonte, Jimmy Vasser, or Ryan Newman.. They all got their start in Quarter Midgets as well as Sleepy Trip, Jimmy Kite, Kenny Irwin Jr. and many others. Admission is free at all events.