Let me introduce myself, my name is Stacy, and I have been working behind the scenes helping here at Autistic Globetrotting for a few months now.
While my daughter does not have autism, she does love extreme sports. Extreme anything to be exact. I know that some children with autism also love extreme sports. Hence I thought that writing about Quarter midget cars might inspire some kids to learn more about it or even try it.
The history of Quarter Midget Car Racing
Quarter midget cars originate from the original midget car. The Quarter Midget car, is the midget car at ¼ of the size, hence the name. The midget car racing started back in the 1920’s. In 1954 parents in Long Island, New York, decided they wanted to create a vehicle for their children to drive and race too. The parents scaled down the original midget car, to a size more suitable and manageable for kids. The car size isn’t the only thing reduced. Quarter Midgets race on an oval track that is 1/20 of a mile.
During the years when the economy was down this sport wasn’t too familiar. Between the costs of cars, racing karts, and the equipment, many parents did not explore this option as a sport for their kids. Now that the economy is somewhat picking up, the sport has resurfaced. Just to give you an example in Florida where we live the local track, has an average of 60 cars per night.
Where to find Quarter Midget Racing
Racing divisions for Quarter Midget car racing can be found all over the United States.
There are different sanctioned bodies of quarter midget racing in the United States. The Quarter Midgets of America (QMA) and the United States Auto Club (USAC). My daughter is in the Quarter Midgets of America Association. Check out both websites to find locations near you. For children like mine who dream big of being a NASCAR Driver, this is the perfect opportunity. Famous drivers like Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, A.J. Foyt, and Joey Logano all started their driving careers in the quarter midget divisions.
Requirements to be aware of
Participating in quarter midget car racing does have some requirements. Kids have to be between ages five years old and 17 years old. Most of the time kids can practice a little bit before each race, but some parents pool together to rent the track and pay for an EMT to be on hand. For safety reasons, each driver has to take the novice training before actually driving on the track.
Quarter Midget car racing is not a sport where you can drop your kids off and wait in the car kind of sport. The parents do have some responsibilities to fulfill. One of the parents needs to be the primary handler. As a handler, the parent is responsible for making sure their kid is properly strapped in their car, also, push start the vehicle and a take care of any repairs that have to be done. These repairs can include changing tires, replacing axles, or other broken parts in the case of an accident.
The cars can become quite pricey, even before you reach the track.
Parents have two choices for purchasing a car. New or used. A new car can easily run about $5,000. Used cars are readily available for $1,000 to $3,000. We chose the used car path. We emailed our local QMA, and they gave us great contacts that helped with purchasing the car.
After parents buy the car, the personal safety equipment is next. The kids are required to have: a helmet, a fire suit, wrist restraints, a neck brace or HANS device, gloves, and fire shoes. All of these items need to pass specific requirements and safety ratings. Last, is the Race-ciever that all children must have. The Race-ciever is a headphone set up that allows the officials to talk to kids on the track.
Tip: If you do decide to sign your child up, do not pre-buy any items. In most cases, ours included, fellow club members will help you purchase the right equipment.
The Learning Curve
This sport comes with a continuous learning curve for both kids and parents.From learning how to set up the car to how to drive the car better, there’s always something new to know.Children also learn discipline. They have to be able to follow the directions from the race directors as well as the flagmen.For their part, the trainers encourage good sportsmanship, and how to be supportive of other drivers.
While parents are primarily responsible for the mechanical repairs, many encourage their children to work on the cars too. My daughter works on the car alongside my husband. She has learned to change the tires and is currently learning the different tools that her car requires.
The Actual Racing
Once your child completes the novice training which typically takes 3-6 days at the track they are set to start racing with other drivers. As with any sport, your child could get hurt. They are driving a car with up to 10 other drivers. Often cars will spin out, or even flip on their side. As weird as it sounds, that is okay. The safety precautions are in place for a reason. Bones can be broken, a concussion might happen, but realistically that could occur in cheerleading or football too. Every sport that a child does carries the risk of some injury.
As children progress, they will get moved up into faster racing divisions. Once they turn 17, they can no longer race a quarter midget. At this time, many still have the racing fever and move up to full-size cars or trucks. Some even race their way up to NASCAR.
My family often heads over to New Smyrna Speedway to watch the local guys race their cars. Normally they have the Super Late Models, Pro Late Models, Modifieds, Sportsman and Bomber divisions racing their cars. Well, one night in March they had their cars on display. As soon as my daughter sat in the car, that was it. She caught the ‘bug.’ We had to get her a car.
I spent hours researching injuries, wrecks, and all of the horrible “what-if” scenarios in my head that I could think off! Realistically, children have a greater chance of an injury playing junior football than they do racing a quarter midget car.However, I was still pretty scared at first. Through talking to other parents and watching the races myself, I am now happy with our decision.
Now we were on the hunt for a car and gear. The members we met through the New Smyrna QMA association have been great. They helped us find and purchase a car, and even measure my daughter, so her safety gear fits properly. My daughter is currently in novice training. Novice training is the beginning level training during which children learn the basics of racing. After she finishes her novice training, she can move up into the other divisions. She does dream of being a NASCAR driver when she grows up.
As a mom, I look forward to when my daughter is out of novice training, and racing on the track. We have created a Facebook page for my daughter dedicated to her racing. I also plan on having matching shirts made for all of us to wear.
If your child is interested in racing a quarter midget race car, I would recommend contacting your local division and ask if they have a day where your kids can come try out a car on the track. Our track called this day an Arrive and Drive. At the Arrive and Drive, children were suited up in safety equipment and allowed to drive around the track for ten laps. The event cost $20, which was well worth the small price.
Quarter Midget racing is a sport that children often decide after a few months, that they no longer want to do. As a parent, be understanding of that. Yes, it is a lot of money to put out, but you will likely get back your investment in the car at least. Selling off the personal safety equipment is hard. So, you might take a loss on that.
The sport teaches sportsmanship, patience and is great for enhancing organizational skills and manual dexterity. However, it is less recommended for children who cannot follow directions. Following directions is such a vital part of racing.
The sounds can be loud, so if you are going to visit a track, noise canceling headphones are always great. My daughter is sensitive to sounds, so when we went to watch the first race, we did bring headphones. It turns out she did not need them, but we had them on hand.
Have you heard about quarter midget car racing? Would you let your children participate in something like this?
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to upset anyone by the word midget. The article describes the racing division for children. Do not confuse a quarter midget car racing, with a go-kart. Go-karts are completely different in all aspects.