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Local driver celebrates national titles

November 12, 2011|By WILL ROBINSON | Staff Correspondent

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — While many people around the area are glued to their seats to find out who will win NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, a local racer spent Saturday in his own winner’s circle.

A banquet was held at American Legion Post 571 for 13-year old Kyle Lee of Mercersburg, Pa., who is celebrating both his Quarter Midget Club Eastern Grands national championship and his United States Auto Club Dirt Triple Crown national championship. Kyle also won this year’s Hagerstown Quarter Midgets Club points championship.

“Hagerstown Speedway had the USAC dirt national race this year (the Mason-Dixon Shootout), so it was pretty cool to race on our home track,” said Andy Lee, Kyle’s father. “We hit all of the points races we could this year, so to win the points championship is pretty cool, too.”

Kyle mostly races on dirt, but this is the first year that he has won a pavement championship. Kyle took the QMA Eastern Grands title at Oaklane in Trumbauersville, Pa., setting a track record in the process.

“Dirt is fun, but pavement is a lot more fast-paced,” said Andy. “This is the first year we’ve raced on pavement.”

Andy, a former racer himself, got Kyle into the sport at age 8, when most kids are starting around age 5. Despite the late start, Kyle has learned the sport quickly.

“I didn’t know very much about (racing) when I was younger, my dad introduced me to it when I was seven and I’ve been racing since then,” said Kyle. “Now we have five cars.”

The Lees don’t have the advantage of big-name sponsorship, so much of their success is built from their own hands. Kyle has raced against teams from big names such as Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Ryan Newman. Kyle even received a card from Newman at his banquet, wishing him continued success on the track.

“When we first started out, we were awe-struck by those guys,” said Andy. “But after a while it’s just like a NASCAR race. They’re your competition and you’re trying to beat them.”

“You kind of get used to it after a while,” said Kyle.

Quarter Midget racing is open to kids ages of 5 to 14. After Quarter Midgets, drivers move up to the 358 Sportsman class. Those cars are very much like real stock cars, and the participants move up to the full-sized track.

Andy already has a Camaro model lined up for Kyle.

“We’ve got one more year of Quarter Midgets, then we’ll think about moving up,” said Kyle. “I’m excited about it, but my expectations aren’t too high.”

“Kyle’s pretty humble, but you’ve got to be,” said Andy. “Once you move up to a higher class you’re on the bottom rung of the ladder and moving your way back up to title contention.”

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