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Big wheels

Lee, Koontz, Plank go full throttle for Grand time at Quarter Midget nationals

Lee, Koontz, Plank go full throttle for Grand time at Quarter Midget nationals

August 15, 2009|By MARK KELLER

Kyle Lee comes from a racing family.

His grandfather and uncle, John and Randy Grove, were mainstays at Hagerstown Speedway. Kyle's father, Andy, is a former Quarter Midget racer.

So, it seems logical that Kyle would follow in the footsteps of his elders and pursue racing.

And at the age of 11, he's having more than his share of success.

Kyle finished first in two classes and is one of three drivers from the Hagerstown Quarter Midget Association to win a national championship last weekend at the 2009 Dirt Grands in Terre Haute, Ind.

Kyle won the A Main races in the Light Mod and Light B classifications in his second trip to the national event. Last season, he qualified for the A Main with the second-fastest time and finished 10th.

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Winning two titles "was more than I expected," said Kyle, who lives in Mercersburg, Pa. "I've progressed a little bit from last year."

Kyle said he'd like to race Microsprints once he outgrows Quarter Midgets, in which drivers range in age from 5 to 16. For now, he's looking forward to a trip to next year's nationals in California -- a trip that will present a new challenge.

"Grands are on concrete next year and we normally run on dirt," Kyle said. "I probably only run once or twice a year on concrete, so we might not do as well next year."

Keith Koontz, 15, of Boonsboro, won the Heavy A classification in what will be his final trip to the national event. He's retiring from the Quarter Midget circuit at the end of this year.

His last race at nationals was more marathon than sprint. The main event is scheduled for 40 laps around a track that measures 1/20th of a mile. However, laps run under caution are not officially tallied.

Including caution laps, Keith turned 160 laps in the championship race.

"I've seen some of those races go 200 laps or more," said Keith's father, Dickie Koontz.

Keith is a veteran of Quarter Midget racing, having started as a 5-year-old. His older brother, Kevin, also raced Quarter Midgets before moving into a stock car at Hagerstown Speedway. Keith would like to follow the same path, driving in the sportsman series at the dirt track.

There's still plenty of time to consider his driving future. Keith's more immediate plans are to prepare for the upcoming high school hockey season. He'll be a sophomore member of the Washington County North Stars team.

Jacob Plank, 13, of McSherrystown, Pa., won the Heavy Honda classification in his second year at the national event. He finished fourth in the A Main in a lower classification last year.

"Running in this class taught me a lot this year, how to correct mistakes and how important it is to hit your marks each lap," Jacob said.

Unlike Keith's A Main race, Jacob's was much more of a sprint with 35 consecutive green-flag laps.

"I didn't think it would go green for that long," Jacob said. "It was really exciting, the biggest win of my career easily."

Jacob said he'd like to race Microsprints at Trail-Way Speedway in Hanover, Pa., when he's finished with Quarter Midgets.

"I don't play sports in the winter," Jacob said. "I just lay back and get ready for next season."

Notes: All winners at the Dirt Grands will have their accomplishments recognized at the National Quarter Midget Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala. ... The Hagerstown Quarter Midget Association will conduct a "ridearound" for kids ages 5 to 16 on Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. at the Hagerstown track, which is adjacent to the Hagerstown Speedway on U.S. 40 West. Kids who are interested in racing will have an opportunity to test drive a Quarter Midget for 10 laps. Cars, safety gear and instruction will be provided. The cost for the ridearound is $20.

Rain date is Oct. 11. For information, visit hagerstownqma.com.

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