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Racers anxious to show their stuff

Approximately 300 drivers from across the country are converging on the local speedway for the quarter midget nationals this wee

Approximately 300 drivers from across the country are converging on the local speedway for the quarter midget nationals this wee

August 05, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Barely the height of his "midget" car, 6-year-old Colby Dice lifted off his helmet Sunday as his father helped him out of his racing jacket.

Colby, of Chambersburg, Pa., had just finished practicing for the 2002 Quarter Midget Junior Honda Dirt Grand National Championship at the Hagerstown Quarter Midget Association's dirt track. The track is next to Hagerstown Speedway off U.S. 40.

The association is hosting this year's weeklong championship competition, in which approximately 300 drivers ages 5 to 16 from throughout the United States will compete for the national title in their division.

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Family and friends of the racers sat under tents, in motor homes and worked on cars in anticipation of the competition.

Colby, who is in his second year of racing, described zooming around the miniature dirt track in Hagerstown as "fun."

His father, Kevin Dice, said Colby got interested in racing while riding around in a go-cart on the family's Para-Dice Farms.

"We just had a go-cart around the farm and then he wanted to go racing," Kevin Dice said. "He likes racing."

After practice and time trials during the week, the champions in all 15 divisions will be crowned by Saturday night.

Each division winner will receive a 6-foot trophy.

The title of "Dirt Grand National Champion" comes with prestige, said Hagerstown Quarter Midget Association members.

Many NASCAR drivers got their start racing in quarter midget competitions, including four-time Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon.

"He once held this title that we're racing for," said association member Amy Hershey.

She said two Hagerstown children, Robbie Kendall and Tyler Hershey, hold current track records in their divisions.

Hershey said drivers from as far west as Washington state and San Francisco will race in the competition.

She said the Dirt Grand National championship race alternates among tracks on the West Coast and the Hagerstown track. Hagerstown hosts the championship about every two years.

"We are the only track on the East Coast that's big enough ... that has the facilities to do it," Hershey said.

Quarter midget racing began in the 1930s in the Los Angeles area, according to quartermidgets.com. The cars are small-model race cars with four wheels, roll cages and motors that go between 30 and 60 mph, depending on the age of the driver.

Ten-year-old Joshua Smith, of Hagerstown, drives a car that goes about 30 to 35 mph, said his grandmother, Mary Becraft.

Joshua, who started racing when he was 5, said he wasn't nervous about the competition and that he has a fun time racing.

Becraft said her grandson races every week in Hagerstown from May through October and makes occasional trips to Harrisburg, Pa., for quarter midget competitions.

She said he got interested in racing by attending races as a toddler.

"We just used to come up and watch the races when he was real little," she said.

Joshua said after quarter midget racing, he hopes to become a NASCAR driver.

Chap Buchinsky of Winchester, Va., said his 8-year-old son, Chaz, started racing when he was 5.

He said a family friend, Rodney Franklin, who drives dirt track late model cars at Hagerstown Speedway, got Chaz interested in quarter midgets.

"He loved it," Chap Buchinsky said. "It's what he lives for."

He said his son will race three cars in this week's competition and usually participates in races two or three times a week at different tracks.

Chaz has won the Asphalt States Race in Oswego, N.Y., his father said.

"We race him as much as we can afford to," he said.

Admission to the weeklong race festivities is free.

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