Introducing Kids to Motorsports
Most kids are exposed to sports like baseball, soccer, and basketball at very young ages, but many are not immediately introduced to motorsports on a regular basis. Motorsports, however, are excellent ways for kids to both have fun and build character while competing against peers and mastering their skills. Motorsports are also contactless, meaning they don’t involve any violence in the same way other athletes like MMA fighters and football players experience. While motorsports aren’t as widely discussed as other sports in many areas, there are actually a lot of them out there for you and your kids to experience and test out. There are also many ways to introduce children to motorsports and possibly find their lifelong hobby or career. Let’s take a look at some methods of introducing kids to motorsports.
Watch the Pros
If you have sports channels on TV, chances are you can find Formula One and NASCAR races on at some points throughout the week. Kids can learn the different types of cars, tracks, and competitions through watching motorsports on television, and “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” at the professionals can get them extremely interested in the activities. With so many streaming services available today, you can even get special channels and subscriptions to watch all of the motorsports you want. As with all other sports, motorsports commentators are normally former pros themselves or have been involved with motorsports for decades so they are very knowledgeable and passionate about them. This can get the kids excited, too, making them more interested.
Image Credit: 12019 / Pixabay
See Them Live
Oftentimes, experiencing something live makes it much more “real” than just watching it on TV. Seeing motorsports in person may get your kids excited about them and give them an “I want to do that!” attitude. Most big cities and many small ones have racetracks that you can take your kids to in order for them to get live exposure to exhibitions and competitions. Aside from big-name races and competitions, many of these offer free entry or an inexpensive entrance fee, so spending a day at the tracks won’t break the bank. If you live in a town on the coast or located near a large body of water, you may be able to find events like power boat competitions if the water-motorsports route is the one you hope your kids will take.
In most areas, motorsports aren’t as popular as other “mainstream” athletics, so kids may be unaware or unknowledgeable about them. The good news is that if you are super into a sport or hobby, chances are your kids will want to at least try it, too. Kids are very motivated by being like their parents, so if you tell your kids about your passion for motorsports and the joy it brings you, they may be inclined to consider getting involved in them. Of course, parents always have to be careful to not pressure their kids into liking something, but having conversations about motorsports may help get your kids interested in them.
Buy Motorsport-Themed Toys
Let’s face it – kids absolutely love their toys. Thankfully, there are a lot of options when it comes to what fun things you buy for your kids these days. Car and motorsport toys have evolved greatly throughout the years, and many of the ones on the market today are even more engaging than before. These range from retro cars to cool new motorcycles, so chances are you can find a certain model that your kids are really into. You can even buy remote-control cars and motorized toys for your kids, which will make them more interactive. A bonding activity that may also be good is building a track for these toys so your kids can simulate motorsports with the toys in real life.
Video games have been a huge hit for kids since their inception decades ago and the advancing technology behind them has been quite amazing. Motorsports video games have come extremely far since the first one on the market in 1973, which was Atari’s Space Race. There are now so many different options on the market, and newer ones have amazing graphics that make them seem close to real-life. Of course, your kids can play these on a computer or gaming platform like Xbox or PlayStation and many of them are now affordable, especially if you buy last year’s or other recent releases.
An excellent starting point for introducing your kids to motorsports may be to go to a go-kart park or a theme/amusement park that has go-karts. These are extremely fun and you can spend several hours racing and teaching your kids how to drive the go-karts. Go-kart facilities are actually where many of the pros get their starts, likely because they are so much fun and can easily become a hobby for kids.
Football is probably the most popular fantasy league sports lovers get involved in, but most people are unaware there are also fantasy leagues for motorsports. NASCAR itself offers a fantasy league in which you can learn about the different drivers and types of races involved in the sports. GridRival is possibly the most utilized platform, as it is dedicated solely to motorsports and allows users to pick their drivers/riders and compete with others while also allowing for a lot of social interaction.
Take a Tour
If you have a local racetrack, you may want to see if it offers tours. Some facilities highly enjoy showing visitors around and helping to get more people interested in motorsports – especially kids. Some racetracks have volunteers who are more than happy to show off all that racetrack and motorsports have to offer. One of the most visited tours is the Daytona International Speedway tour in Daytona Beach, Florida, so if you’re in the area or are traveling to Florida, you may want to make a stop. Tickets are $25 for ages 13 and up, $20 for ages 5 to 12, and free for ages 4 and under.
NASCAR Racing Experience
What could be even cooler than taking a tour of a speedway with a pro him- or herself? Driving a race car yourself! NASCAR has over 15 speedways where you can sign up for a so-called NASCAR Racing Experience, which entails you driving your own race car! Kids are allowed as passengers as long as they are at least 5 feet tall and weigh at least 100 pounds. NASCAR also offers “junior ride alongs”’ for kids between 48 and 60 inches tall at its Daytona and Charlotte (North Carolina) speedways.
Save Money to Invest in a Motorsport Vehicle
Dirt bikes, ATVs, and similar vehicles can be pricey, but if your kids are at the point where they are ready for a “real” motorsport vehicle, it may be worth it. It’s a good idea to see if there is a local place that will let you rent a motorbike or ATV for a specific period of time and see how that works out. However, if it’s evident your kids are going to follow through with their motorsport of choice, you’ll have to be prepared to pay.
You’ll probably want to start out teaching your kids how to operate their new motorsport vehicle in a small area such as your backyard before moving on to actual race tracks, off-roading areas, streets, and so on. It is all for a good cause, as your kids will be having fun and making friends and connections in the process.
Join a League and Compete
Once your kids decide what motorsport they are most interested in, you may wish to get them involved in a league or club. Go-karting clubs, dirt bike leagues, and circuit racing groups are just a few options that may be available in your area. Doing this will get your kids exposed to different motorsports and also help them make friends while they grow their skills. Competing builds character as well, so wins and losses will also help your kids mature as they get older. They will learn how to strive to meet goals as well as both win and lose with grace, which will be important for their futures. Most of the time, it is recommended parents get their kids involved in leagues around age 10.
Of course, keep in mind that safety is the most important component to introducing your kids to motorsports. Like any other sport, motorsports can be dangerous and lead to injuries and equipment damages if not carried out properly. Most of us have seen scary videos of race cars crashing, and while drivers are fine most of the time, it is important to teach kids how to avoid accidents as well as escape in the case of an accident. This can also make kids responsible and careful, which are more great qualities for kids to gain. Once you are sure your kids will be safe during their motorsport of choice, you’ll all be ready to have a lot of fun regardless which they choose.
THE DURYEA BROTHERS AND THE FIRST AUTO RACE
Brothers Charles and J. Frank Duryea started off as bicycle mechanics, but they became some of the earliest automakers after they became interested in gasoline-powered engines and cars. They’re best known for designing and producing the first American automobile. However, they cemented their place in automotive history by winning the first American auto race, held in 1895.
In 1893, the Duryeas hand-built a gasoline-powered wagon in their workshop in Springfield, MA. It had a one-cylinder engine and a three-speed transmission that were mounted on a used horseless carriage. They made their first test run with the vehicle in September of that year, and the car ran at an average speed of 7.5 miles per hour, which was pretty good for that time period. Over the next year, the brothers perfected their invention, and the new Duryea wagon gained more power from a two-cylinder engine instead of the previous one-cylinder. This is the vehicle that they would drive when the publisher of the Chicago Times-Herald, H.H. Kohlsaat, decided to stage the first American auto race, inviting all comers to participate in the event.
France had held the world’s first auto race a few years before, but Kohlsaat was determined to hold an event in Chicago that would rival it. The course that officials arranged for the race in Illinois turned out to be about 54 miles long, running from Chicago to Evanston and back. Initially, the date of the race was set for Nov. 2, 1895, but only the Duryeas and one other competitor, Oscar Mueller, were ready, so the race was postponed to Nov. 27, which was Thanksgiving. Out of dozens of race entries received, only six participants showed up to the starting line that morning. The race went on in spite of the paucity of competitors.
Traveling through freshly fallen snow on a 30-degree morning, the handful of race participants set off. Included in the group of contestants were drivers of two electric cars and four gas-powered vehicles. Frank Duryea entered the competition with the only American two-cylinder gas-powered automobile there; the other gas-powered vehicles were Benz wagons that had been imported. The two electric cars failed to make much headway, with their batteries failing due to the cold weather, and the two other gas-powered vehicles failed to finish, but Mueller and Duryea were close rivals for much of the race. Duryea’s wagon was robust enough to drive through the snow and gained the lead, but the brothers lost time twice when they had to stop to make repairs. Mueller passed them while they stopped to make repairs to a broken steering arm, and later in the race, the engine’s cylinders stopped firing and needed repair.
Despite falling behind on the road heading to Evanston, the brothers regained the lead on the turn back and ultimately held it to the end, despite needing to stop for gas and for a railroad crossing. At 7:18 that evening, Frank Duryea crossed the finish line, taking just more than 10 hours, averaging around 7 miles per hour during the trip. Mueller’s car made it over the finish line at 8:53 that night.
For their win in the race, the brothers received $2,000, which is about equal to $49,000 in today’s money. In the wake of their victory, the brothers established the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1896. Their new business became the first one to mass-produce cars: They hand-built 13 identical vehicles, which were the first gasoline-powered vehicles sold in the U.S. The Duryeas’ achievement moved the auto age into the limelight, setting the stage for Henry Ford to come along with his Model T about a decade later. While the Duryeas’ automotive success was not to last, without it, the American automobile industry would not have been the same.
The Unknown Sport of Sprint Car Racing
By Austin Rife
There is a sport that no one is aware of except for a couple thousand people scattered throughout the world. This sport is heavily adored in small portions of the world but is unknown to many. This sport is known as sprint car racing and if you ask most CEOs, they probably have no clue what you are talking about. As it turns out sprint cars are just not good enough for regular TV coverage which is utterly wrong. Sprint cars blaze at speeds of up to 160 miles per hour and slide into the corners of half-mile dirt tracks across the world leaving spectators breath-taken from the great racing. Tell me when you ever will see that in a Formula 1 race.
Sprint car racing has been around since the 60s and has evolved a lot through the years. They have become a lot lighter and faster which enables the cars to fly through the dirt and provide some very exciting racing. Anybody that goes to sprint car races will tell you that they would watch the winged sprints ten times before they would go watch a boring 500 mile INDY car race that no one passes except for on restarts. This is what really has me confused about why an unexciting INDY or F1 race will be on every weekend but sprint car races make it to TV maybe once a month on select television programs. As a an avid sprint car fan, it really ticks me off to see an F1 race on with very little passing and excitement that is live and then watch a sprint car race on TV the next week that I saw three weeks ago in-person.
Many sprint car fans like me are questioning this as well. It’s a great sport but sprint cars truly aren’t made for the television market. It’s very unfortunate but sprint car racing doesn’t have the amount of beloved superstars that F1 racing and Indy racing have. You can meet a lot of racing’s best in a local Wal-Mart in town. Does this make it wrong? Heck no, I would much rather meet a great sprint car driver in the local retail store and have a good conversation with him or her than have to wait in a two- hour line to meet some INDY superstar that really does not care about the person but just cares about getting to the next autograph to get on their million-dollar private jet to go home. Sprint car racing is a great sport it just does not have the lavish luxuries that come with racing the big-time asphalt tracks around the country.
Personally, I could care less about all those luxuries. When I watch a race I want to see a good race with a lot of passing and action. It really does not matter what you make at the end of the day. I can pay 13 dollars to go to a local sprint car race and love life for 4 hours. I do not need to pay a couple hundred dollars to watch an unexciting race with no passing. Whether, sprint car racing is as popular as INDY or F1, it does not matter. If you show the sprints on TV, people will begin to like it. As a person living in Pennsylvania, I advise you if you want to go have a lot of fun watching a sprint car race, go to a local sprint car race at a dirt track near you. You will have a blast without having to empty your pockets for no reason. I go to William’s Grove Speedway on some Friday nights and Lincoln Speedway every Saturday night. Like I always say dirt’s for racing; Asphalt’s for getting there.
NASCAR Got Right With Ike
By Audrey Parente, Staff Writer – News-Journal Corporation
A cigar-chewing race-promoter sidekick of Bill France Sr. sat down with President Dwight D. Eisenhower at a Gettysburg, Pa., restaurant to save auto racing from oblivion.
During the mid-1950s, an Oregon senator proposed a national ban on the activity, after deadly racing accidents at Watkins Glen, N.Y., Langhorne Speedway in Langhorne, Pa., and Indianapolis.
Efforts to curb racing also were under way in Italy, Switzerland and France after a disastrous accident at a LeMans race in France in 1955. A Mercedes plunged into the spectators, killing the driver and at least 80 people and injuring more than 100 men, women and children.
“People alive today have no idea about how many people used to be killed in and around auto racing — not only race drivers but cars regularly went into the grandstands,” said Edgar Otto of Boca Raton. His father was the fast-talking promoter, Ed Otto, who met with the 34th president on behalf of NASCAR.
At this time, AAA also sanctioned auto races but pulled out as anti-race press and public sentiment mounted. France was getting worried, Otto said in an interview in Ormond Beach, where he recently promoted his book, “Ed Otto, NASCAR’s Silent Partner.”
“France said to my dad: ‘You are a Yankee. Why don’t you go on up to Washington and see what you can do about this?,’ ” Otto said.
Otto’s father called Pennsylvania race promoter Hilly Rife, who owned a farm adjacent to President Eisenhower’s farm, used for weekend retreats.
Rife, now of Ormond Beach, said he called Pennsylvania state Rep. Francis Worley.
“He was a friend of my family and would do everything for me,” Rife said. “I said, ‘Can you get me in touch with Ike?’ And in two weeks he had it worked out.”
A meeting was arranged at a downtown restaurant. Rife drove Otto into Gettysburg and met Worley.
“I waited across the street. Francis Worley took Ed into the restaurant,” Rife said. “Ed came out first, and Francis came out later with Ike.
“Ed said Ike told him: ‘Don’t worry about a thing; it won’t go any further, and if it does, I will stop it. You can go back to Daytona and tell them they don’t have to worry about it,’ ” Rife said.
Otto said NASCAR followed up by making racing safer, “not only for the drivers but for the spectators.”
Source: 2007 News-Journal Corporation. ® www.news-journalonline.com.
The Hilly Rife Story
by Bob MaGinley, Illustrated Speedway News – Speedway Personalities
Some say Hilly is “crazy,” a spendthrift and fool, Others state that he is a “Promoter’s” promoter always working to further the reputation of his already famous “Fabulous” Lincoln Speedway.
Farm boy, race driver, auto dealer and track owner, Hilly Rife at 38 years has parlayed a love for auto racing, sharp business mind and an effervescent personality into a three-track stock car circuit promotion.
The Dorsey Speedway, Elkridge, Ms., the “Fabulous” Lincoln Speedway and the Susquehanna Speedway, Newberrytown, Pa. to go make up the operation.
Born Sept. 1, 1927 on a dairy farm in New Oxford, Pa., Hilly spent his youth as a farm boy doing chores and dreaming of his ambition to become an aircraft pilot.
He attended New Oxford, Pa. High School and in 1945 married Beckey E. Wenschhof. They now have three children, Vickie Diana, 20; Hillen G, 18, and Larry E., 18.
Hilly’s interest in auto racing dates back to the resumption of the sport in the Penna. Area, following World War II, Ted Horn, Bill Holland, Bill Schindler and Tommy Hinnershitz became his idols.
In 1949 Hilly Rife started his racing career. He purchased a ’37 Ford coupe from Bob Mundorf of York, Pa. and competed in his first even at the Mason Dixon Spdwy., Oxford, Pa.
From 1950 to 1953 the Lancaster, Pa. Speedway and Mason Dixon provided the experience he needed to become a winning driver.
Hilly became President of the newly formed Lincoln Speedway Corp. in 1953 on the strength of his racing knowledge.
Late model competition in 1953 with the Penn-Mar Racing Assn., in addition to his Sports-Modified activities, led to NASCAR Grand National rides in 1954.
Driving the Kuhn Auto Sales 1954 Dodge Coronet, the late and great Joe Weatherly paid the then handsome sum of $85.00 for Hilly to appear at his Virginia Beach, Va., Speedway with his fast and sharp appearing Dodge.
During 1955 Hilly copped 17 features. A nasty spill at Lancaster cost him his right thumb. Four weeks later, he won his first feature race at the Lincoln Speedway.
1956 saw the driver-promoter finish 2nd in point at Lincoln and Lancaster without a feature win.
The untimely end of what could have been a brilliant driving career came in a near-fatal flip over the first turn bank of the Lincoln Speedway on June 29, 1957. Prior to the accident Hilly copped seven features in the famous #999 Ford.
After 12 weeks of convalescence, it was confirmed that Hilly was sidelined from oval competition and relegated to the role of full time promoter.
In 1958 driving a “showroom” Plymouth Golden Commando, on the sands at Daytona Beach, Fla. During “Speed Weeks” Hilly out scored the “factory” Plymouths with a blistering 122.256 through the measured mile traps.
In 1959 the ambitious New Oxford promoter became sole owner of the Lincoln Speedway and a new era of race promoting came to light in the Central Penna. Area.
Flamboyant advertising, diversified competition, introduction of split shows, added attractions, and the Institution of Modified racing at Lincoln headed a long line of “firsts” that appealed to the race fans and packed the Lincoln Speedway for every race meet.
To show his appreciation to the fans for their loyalty, Hilly presented a full show of racing, paying $3,100.00 in purses while allowing all spectators into the Speedway for FREE.
Langhorne’s co-promoter Irv Fried, witnessing a regular weekly Modified race program dubbed the action “Fabulous.” Hilly quick on the uptake incorporated it into the track name.
The Hilly Rife promotional methods have earned him the reputation of a “Free Swinger.” Close studies of the operations reveal a definite purpose behind every move that pays of at the box office.
In 1964 the Lincoln Speedway and Hilly Rife attracted National attention after Hilly negotiated the “impossible” insurance coverage, the broadest in THE WORLD for ANY speedway. Today the entire racing industry has broadened its coverage of competitors and spectators alike as the result.
Asked the formula for his success, Hilly states, “A love for racing. You have to be aware of the problems of drivers and owners, try to please the spectators at all times. Present new and interesting shows that will keep the fans coming back.”
Good quality food at sensible prices at the concussion stands in another must. His record of 5300lbs of French Fries for one race meet is proof that fans like their food.
When questioned about his promotions, Hilly said, “I feel that cleanliness and safety are the two most important factors where the race plant is concerned. We have a doctor in attendance at Lincoln with our own hospital. Two ambulances assure the show continuing the case of an emergency.
The condition the racetrack is in reflects itself in the type of show that results. We work on all of our dirt surfaces all week long in an attempt to have the best surface possible.
Some say I’m a nut and a “show-off” with some of the ideas I get. As a promoter I do my best to attract attention to the sport, and my operations are as it should be, at least that’s my feelings.
Racing next to my family is my life. I try to make it a success, and will continue to improve the sport in any small way that I can.”
A big cigar, horned rimmed glasses and cheerful smile are the trademark of this hustling impresario of speed, that is in the thick of things at all of his race meets. Some say he’s a “way out,” others respect him for what he is, a “promoter’s” promoter.
Hilly takes it all in stride with a chuckle and sly smile, doing what he loves best, promoting. Along the way he has acquired a “multi-engine” pilot license logging 2,100 hours in the air, “as a hobby.”
Source: Illustrated Speedway News, Year: Unknown
Notes: I spoke with Hilly Rife on March 7, 2009. What a fun guy to talk with! Here’s some things Hilly thought would be interesting to share with the race fans.
• The first sprint car that raced at Lincoln Speedway in 1968 was Gus Linderman in the #69 sprinter.
• The winner received $1,000.00 for the first feature win at Lincoln Speedway.
• The admission for the first race at Lincoln Speedway was $1.50 per person.