Random Observations – does drag racing need earlier youth involvement?

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Editorial – Get them early. That should be the philosophy of ANDRA and indeed any drag racing organisation/body/track as we look to build our base of racers.

The NHRA recently announced moves to lower the age of Junior Dragster participants to just five years old. They actually copped some mixed response to this, with a few people critical of allowing kids on to the drag strip at such a young age.

However looking at the restrictions in place, I think they are very much on to something here. If you’d like to see the article announcing the lowering of age limits it is available here.

When you consider kids are able to get involved in motorsport like peewee motocross from as young as four years old, there is no reason a version of drag racing should not be offered to them as well. Keep it safe, keep it slow, keep it simple – but get the kids hooked. Let’s not beat around the bush here – at its old heart this is a way to make sure that kids will go to drag racing as their sport of choice. The earlier we can get them to choose drag racing over football or soccer or motocross, the better.

ANDRA should be looking to emulate what the NHRA is doing here, provided it can get it across the line with the insurers. However given the amount of safety available to Junior Dragster drivers and the inherent safety of a solo car travelling in a straight line versus something like motocross which involves falling off, steering and so on it should be an easy argument.

Taking junior involvement one step further, is it time to allow teenagers to take the family grocery getter to the drag strip and have a go?

I didn’t know that NHRA has regulations for this, but they do. Available here.

Again they make great sense and get around some of the obvious issues. The car can only be driven by the teenager from the staging lanes to the track, down the strip and as far as the time slip box. So that gets around the issue of having an unlicensed driver moving around in the pits as far as your public liability goes.

The street cars used have to be at the less powerful end, NHRA’s limit is 10 seconds to the eighth mile, which seasoned observers will notice is much slower than the Junior Dragster limit.

If there is a problem with the Junior Dragster program, it is that the financial barrier to entry is high. Lots of families simply don’t have that kind of cash lying around. Certainly the investment in a Junior Dragster operation is higher than a peewee motorcycle – which can be used off the race track as well in order to justify the cost.

There would be many hardcore drag racers out there who have kids they would love to send racing and this offers the perfect way to do it. Drag racing could be the only motorsport available to teenagers that doesn’t require any investment whatsoever – aside from the obvious of having a family car and a helmet. There is hardly any competition here in terms of accessibility.

Suddenly that teenager can go from just reading about motorsport on Facebook or in magazines to being actively involved. How cool would it be for a kid to go to school on Monday and tell his/her mates that he/she went drag racing on the weekend? That they won an event, or went 100kph – all while those same mates don’t even have their learner plates.

I’m not saying this should be at a national championship level, but rather for street meets or perhaps track championship events at a maximum level. Speaking of the tracks, it would surely be a boon to competitor numbers to open up another segment of people who can participate.

And there’s a good chance that if we can hook them as teenagers that quite a few of them are going to choose to remain involved when they are old enough to get into the big league cars or bikes.

A lot of people talk about getting bitten by the bug of drag racing when they were young – perhaps it is time to really focus our efforts on making this happen with the current generation.

– Luke Nieuwhof, Drag News Australia

Got any Random Observations? Drag News is seeking guest editorials. Send us an email.


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