July 6, 2004 > Racing at the Speed of a Quarter Midget
Racing at the Speed of a Quarter Midget
by Susana Nuņez
Whenever one hears the word "race" used to describe a sport, words such as "risk" or "danger" come to mind. What may appear at casual glance to be a dangerous sport is actually a safe, fun, and family oriented pastime. Baylands Quarter Midget Racing Association offers this to families and prospective teams and drivers.
Since the early 1960s, Baylands Quarter Midget Racing Association has been active in helping youth to race in safe yet spirited competitions. Baylands offers a comprehensive training program for children 5-15 interested in racing these small cars. The cars are approximately one-fourth the size of midget racers and 8-10 of them at a time race around 1/20th mile banded oval tracks. They are powered by a small, cylinder engine of about 150cc and prices per car range in the thousands. A good used car can be found for around $2,500, while a new car is around $5,000 complete. The cars are made in several sizes to fit most kids 5-15 years old. There are several Quarter Midget racecar manufacturers throughout the country, including one in Fremont and one in Hayward.
The cars can reach speeds of up to 60 mph at some tracks in the upper classes, but most average around 30-40 mph. To keep the sport safe, children are required to wear a fire suit, helmet, neck collar, Nomex gloves and seatbelts. At Baylands, all the equipment is supplied, including a car, at a normal fee. The program is intended to give prospective drivers an introduction to the sport at a reasonable price. In California, there are paved tracks in San Jose, Livermore, Sacramento, Madera, and Pomona, so once the lessons are through, you can go to your local track to test your skills!
Although the sport may seem to be too much for a child as young as 5 years of age to handle, it's safer than other child oriented sports. The reason for this is the extensive safety precautions taken in this sport. During training sessions, prospective racers are taught how to safely negotiate the racetrack. Bayland's 2004 Club President Rick Guardino, owner of Dorso's Automotive in Fremont, says, "I feel our training program is one of the best; we have great trainers. The kids train usually 3-6 weeks or more until the trainers decide the child is ready to graduate." Once the child has graduated, they move into the Junior Novice (ages 5-8) or the Senior Novice (ages 9-15) class. The thorough training program, stringent car safety inspections, and a mandated set of minimal safety clothing and equipment are some of the factors that keep children safe from serious injury. The driver is also taught how to pass, the meaning of the flags, the flagman's signals, how to form-up to begin a race and what to do in common emergency situations.
A driver remains in the Novice class until parents and the club's Novice Committee feel it is time to move him/her up to a competitive class. There are 16 different classes based on age, engine size and engine type. The sport runs year round, with the exception of two training months - January and February. In these two months, teams prepare for club races and the three major annual competitions. These competitions are the Grand Nationals and are very special to the club. The car counts average 400-1000 cars and the best drivers in the country race at these events. This year, the Western Grand Nationals will be held July 17-24 in Sacramento, CA; the Dirt Grand Nationals in Hagerstown, Maryland on July 31-Aug 7; the Eastern Grand Nationals were held in Connecticut on June 26-July 3 (the local club was unable to attend). There is also a special race held in Indianapolis called Gasoline Alley in July. Families, or teams, travel from all over the United States to compete. Since each family is its own team, the number of members varies. These families travel all summer long in hopes that one of their teammates will become a champion.
Throughout the course of the racing year, drivers receive points for each race in which they participate. There are eight club races per year, split into the first half of the year and the second half. Points awarded depend on how well the driver performs. The champion is determined by the amount of points a driver has accumulated during the year; there is one champion per class. One of last year's champions was Fremont resident William "Batman" Camara. "Batman," placed in the Grand Nationals and took first place in the club series.
The Quarter Midgets of America (QMA) is Bayland's parent organization. Nationally, approximately 3,500 families and 4,000 drivers are currently participating in this fun and exciting sport. Guardino comments, "It's a great sport, much like a little league on wheels. Mom, dad and kids all help out to keep the club running. We have a scoring tower and snack bar just like other sports...we all volunteer our time to keep things running." This year Fremont members of Baylands Club include Tristan Guardino who has set 6 track records so far this year, William Camara, 2003 champion and always a threat and Cody Thompson, Dustin and Shane Golobic and Marcus Rojas who are all having a great year at the wheel.
The cost of the program is $150, which includes a non-refundable fee of $75 for QMA membership. If you have your own car, the cost is only $125. This training fee covers the first few lessons on a one per week basis. Scheduling is flexible and fees are subject to change.
The club invites folks of all ages to come up and watch a race, and admission is always free. The next race at Baylands will be held August 21-22. For those who miss the race and would like to see the cars and talk with parents and drivers, they will be available at the Good Guys Car Show at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton on August 28th and 29th. Baylands offers families a great opportunity to participate in a fun and safe sport together, so sign up today!
Metcalf Motorcycle Park
300 Metcalf Rd. (Hwy 101 & Bernal Rd.)
For more information call Rick Guardino (510) 796-7510 or visit www.racing4kids.net
Other websites of interest: www.quartermidgets.org, http://www.geocities.com/baylandsqma/articles/crazy.htm and www.aqma.org.