RIO LINDA, Calif. – The long road trip from Southern Washington to Northern California was worth it for the young drivers of Elma’s midget racing club.
Five of the club’s racers won national championships for their respective divisions, facing some of the toughest, high-level competition from around the country at the 2018 Quarter Midget Association Dirt Grand Nationals July 27-28 in Rio Linda, California.
Grayden Youmans, Treycen Sample, Zachary Riehl, Destry and Xan Miller all walked away with first-place hardware for their age group and car model.
Sample and Xan Miller were the only drivers from the Elma-based team to win multiple events. Miller won the Heavy Honda, Heavy 160 and Heavy Animal classes while Sample won the Junior Honda and Senior Animal events.
The same track 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Gordon raced on as a kid yielded some results that parents said encouraged the young racers to continue with the sport.
Kelly Sample is responsible for track set up and, along with other parents, works with a lot of drivers in the racing club. He said the turnout at the nationals was a little smaller than some of the events hosted at the club’s home track adjacent to Grays Harbor Raceway, but noted that quality of racing is higher than what a lot of the club members have previously faced.
“We only had about 125 cars show up to nationals, but they were the best of the best,” Sample said. “It’s a long haul and some stiff competition so a lot of guys just stay home.”
Along with the talent they were facing on the track, the track itself presented a challenge since none of the racers in the club had competed there before.
Treycen Sample’s father, Cody Sample, said he was impressed to see the drivers in his club quickly get comfortable in some unfamiliar surroundings.
“The driver has to adapt to a different track. This one had some bumps and each corner was different,” he said. “We had a day of practice but it was amazing to watch these 7- to 14-year-olds adapt so quickly to a track they had never been to.”
Unlike other youth sports, where a parent’s main responsibility may be cheering from the sidelines, the parents in the sport of quarter midget racing put just as much work into the car as the driver, according to Kelly Sample.
“The parents have put in countless hours,” he said. “It’s just like anything else, it takes a lot of people to make the thing go. It takes help to get those kids to win those events.”
Kelly Sample put a lot of work in to his grandson Treycen’s car as he helped track down the old 1994 Honda that was originally driven by Kelly’s nephew.
The car is ancient compared to the 2016 and 2017 model years it goes up against, but a fresh coat of paint and some fast lap times quickly impressed the competition in Rio Linda.
“People look at the car like ‘What the heck is that old thing?’” he said. “And then they see it on the track. It’s the car that my nephew raced so it’s been in the family a long time.”
Kelly Sample also gave a lot of credit to Xan and Destry’s father, John Miller, who had the tough task of working on two championship-winning race cars leading up to last weekend’s competition.
Steve Youmans’ son, Grayden, walked away a champion in the Senior Novice classification in the father-and-son pair’s first racing trip out of state.
Grayden, who is 12 and just picked up the sport about a year ago, barley had time to change out of his race suit before he was asking his dad to go on more trips to other race tracks in the region. He is already disappointed a family vacation will keep him off the track this weekend.
Not only was Grayden learning from scratch to become a race car driver, his father is learning what it takes to be a race mechanic. Unlike a lot of parents that have a racing background or a love of cars, Steve Youmans didn’t start working on cars until his son started driving one.
“There is a gigantic learning curve,” he said. “I’m not really a car guy. I didn’t know anything about motors or engines. I had to learn everything about the car so I could get it to a point where he could drive it to be successful.”
The trip to California was a test for both driver and parental pit crew, and Kelly Sample thinks the club’s success is a testament to how well they work together as a group.
“When we got out there we realized we had some fast kids,” he said. “We all help each other out and that helps us get a little faster,” he said
For more information, visit www.i-5qmc.com.