I don’t like yellow as much as I used to…

Yellow is the color of the sun, Black Eyed Susan, and the bottom of Jason’s kart.  I don’t like to see the color yellow when he is racing.  Our first race at Concept Haulers did not go as well as we would have liked.  Too much yellow.

If you remember last week’s post, I talked about the Briggs engine we are using.  This week we took it to CHMS to let some other folks see how it works on a kid kart.  They have a brand new LO206 class and we want to try to start a Rookie LO206 class next year.  That, and we have been practicing there since we started in October, so it was well past time we raced there.  The only down side is that Jason was running in an experimental class and would not be receiving any points or a trophy.  This, of course, irritated Jason.  He was really hoping for a trophy, but once things started he was ready to go.  His biggest motivator from then on was chasing the Kid Kart lap record.

Since we were experimental we were asked to start in the back.  Both Jason and I agreed this was a good idea.  We spent a lot of time before the race explaining to folks what the motor was and how it fit in with the Comer class.  Since only a few folks have seen him drive and knew how he would behave, I asked him to hold back for the first practice and just let folks know he was there and was not going to be a problem.  He did,  and traded places kid behind him (#56); chased him for a few laps, passed him and then just hung on the back of the kid in front of him until the end.  He was annoyed that he only passed one kart, but understood our strategy.  I was a little worried that we would make a poor showing in the race.  I should have been happy that he listened.

For the second practice session he started in the third slot,  I wanted him out of traffic and to have the possibility of getting some clean track in front of him.  This time I told him to go for it.  Jason made two attempts to get around the leaders on the back straight.  Then on the third lap on the back stretch they went 3 wide.  The karts shuffled and Jason entered the corner first followed by Mason (#55) in 2nd place who had passed the Joey (#00).   Now that he had clean track he put his foot down and walked away from the pack.  On his last lap he recorded a 42.79, getting closer to the record of 42.16.

Now that everyone knew who Jason was, and he seemed to be in his groove, we decided to put him in the back and let him run through traffic.  At the end of the first lap he had passed several drivers.  Coming out of the carousel on the second lap he passed a few more.  By the time he had entered the turn at the end of the back stretch he was on the heals of the leader.  They raced passed pit lane and headed toward the turn into the carousel.  The lead driver missed the turn and Jason started to follow, but then corrected hard trying to make the turn.  The turn was too sharp.  He slid into an orange cone in the grass, turned sideways, the wheels dug in and the kart flipped into the air.  All I saw was the yellow bottom of the kart as it rolled over, and him in his little red suit slip out of the seat.  He laid there for a bit, “looking at the clouds”, and then he remembered to breathe.  This hurt like hell because all of the wind was knocked out of him, and he curled up into a little ball.  At this point, corner workers and I were running out to him and stopping the other karts.

When I reached him, he was still curled up clutching his chest and stomach.  Try to remember the first time you had the wind knocked out of you when you were a kid – really knocked out of you so that you cannot inhale.  It is painful and terrifying.  We stretched him out, held him still and started talking to him.  His chest hurt and his ankle hurt.  The paramedics started to examine him ruling out the more serious injuries quickly -no broken limbs, hands, or feet.  “Yes, I am at Norway Race Track”.  “Let’s leave your helmet and collar on for a bit”.  “Are you ready to stand?”, we can wait…

He was able to get up after a few more minutes and took him for a quick ride in the ambulance, to get off the track.  I asked Gregg to find Jason’s big sister Katie and let her know where were.  Unfortunately, the A/C in the ambulance was broken so it was not the cool place we had hoped for.  After a bit more sitting in the ambulance and checking him out.  I carried him out to the truck and placed him in a chair to “relax”.  While some helpers kept an eye on him, additional people helped me packed the truck.  After we packed, the challenge was to find his mother who was still on her way to the track.  Thankfully, just as we were pulling to the driveway she drove up.  After a brief discussion of what happened, we were on our way to the ER for a final checkout.  Thankfully it was a quiet night, and that only took about 10 minutes.  The doctor even said there was no need to hold him back from activities – that he was fine.  After we left the hospital, my wife took the kids home and I went back to the track to pick up some items that we left behind and let everyone know Jason was doing fine.

Our next race is likely to be at Badger on Sunday, 7/8.  Our next Concept Haulers race will be at the end of September.  I wish we could be back sooner, but our schedule has us at other tracks or out of town for most of the summer.  We may even be testing a Rookie LO206 kart by then.

Some lessons learned from the day:

  • Follow your line and not the kart in front of you.
  • Neither of us is getting enough fluids and keeping cool enough on these really hot days.  Next race I am bringing more ice, drinks, and a frozen 5 gallon bucket to sit in or on.
  • Lastly, you really need to scout the other drivers, it is easy to spot the fast ones.  The guys that are still learning will sneak up on you.

It is hard to be the parent of a karting driver.  There are days when I really question if I have done the right thing.  This was definitely one of them.  I never want to put my child in danger.  Like any sport there is inherent risk.  I don’t think karting is any less safe than other sports.  I hope that I have the wisdom to say we are done should that time ever come.

Thanks to Les and Greg for giving us the opportunity to race.  Thanks to Jeanie (Mom of #56) and all of the young racers who talked to Jason as we packed.  Thanks to the packing helpers, including Les and Vince (Joey’s Dad, #00).  Huge thanks to the track workers and the paramedics who attended to Jason immediately after the accident. Finally, to my lovely awesome wife of nearly 11 years and daughter who put up with what has become something of an obsession.