Lots of kids and teens have had a taste of kart racing, and it's a growing sport with karting clubs, one-day expos and driving schools for children as young as 5 years old.
"Kids start as early as age 5 and run until they are 16," says Curt Sullivant, Chris's father and Quarter Midgets' regional director. "Not too many kids go to the 16 cutoff. My son did, and he had to retire."
Although Chris retired from his racing career, his 12-year old sister Mandy is carrying on the speed-karting tradition. The kart motor's stock configuration gives it between 2.5 and 4 horsepower. Modifications, as allowed in the upper classes, permit the engines to reach several times the stock horsepower.
"We race on a 1/20th of a mile, small, oval track," Sullivant says. "A novice is an 8-second lap and bigger engines run a 6-second lap."
A 6-second lap means the experienced drivers are running at speeds of 40 to 45 mph. The oval shape keeps racers at lower speeds because of the nearly constant turn, says Sullivant.
If the thought of a 5-year old behind the wheel of a kart screeching around corners worries you, the family-oriented Quarter Midgets have strict safety rules. The organization requires every new driver to take part in a training session for both driver and pit crew, usually a mom or dad. The session is included with club membership fees. The other club members come to the track and teach about the car, flags, racing and rules.
"We get them on the track to get some laps under their belt," he says. "Then more novice kids go out so they can get used to racing with other kids."
The Quarter Midgets currently have 4,500 racers nationwide. The contestants' beginnings were all nearly the same: They came to a promotional day. Days are scheduled throughout the year at different venues.
"It is a 10-lap test drive in a [member's] car with safety equipment and instructions," Sullivant says. "And in our experience we haven't come across a kid yet that hasn't had a blast."
The next step is to buy a car and required safety equipment, costing between $1,500 and $3,500.
After that, finding a racing venue in South Florida can be somewhat challenging. Current race locations in the state are New Smyrna, Tampa and Titusville.
"We are trying to establish a club in South Florida," Sullivant says. "We thought we had a go with one venue but they decided to go another way."
The South Florida club has a few participants willing to drive to the north and central Florida locations, sometimes on a weekly basis, he says.
"The guys that are racing want something to do with their kids," Sullivant says. "We know it would be big; we just need a venue."
Looking for a home
Ronnie Laing, president of the South Florida Quarter Midget's Association, found the sport when his son Tyler, 12, said he wanted to race "something."