Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
They’re young and eager to drive.
Hundreds of young people ages 5-15 started Saturday morning bright and early to test their race car driving skills at the Hulman Mini Speedway during an annual event called “Arrive and Drive,” hosted by the Terre Haute Quarter Midget Association (THQMA).
After putting their safety gears on and listening to instructions, the young drivers got on the race cars called quarter midget — a scaled down version of an actual sprint car — and drove around 10 laps on the 1/20 mile dirt track.
The cost was $10 for 10 laps and the Terre Haute Quarter Midget Association provided the cars and safety gears which included fireproof rated gloves, helmet, neck restraint, wrist restraints and a three-point harness that fastened the driver in the car.
“It gives kids a chance to actually drive a car and see if they like it. ...It’s a chance to come and drive a car and see if this is something they want to do,” said Cindy Wright, association member and one of the organizers of the event.
It’s a “very positive and very safe” environment, Wright said.
The sport, she said, gives a child discipline and “makes them think.” It teaches them eye-hand coordination, following rules, among others. In addition, friendships are developed.
Young drivers appeared very excited at the prospect of driving a race car at the event which started at 8 a.m. and ran through 5 p.m. at the Hulman Mini Speedway on 13th Street (near Lockport Road) in Terre Haute.
Some of them are first-timers.
Beneath his helmet, 8-year-old Brian Sarvich nodded in response to the question about his excitement shortly before driving off. His 6-year-old brother, Eli, also participated in the event.
“They’ve been wanting to try to race [in] forever,” said the boys’ father, Brian Sarvich.
“It’s a lot of fun. They’ll learn a lot. Lots of teamwork,” he said.
But it’s also a father-sons bonding time.
After completing his laps, Eli ran excitedly to his father to show his trophy.
“My first time,” he said with a huge smile.
It was his first time to receive a trophy and drive a race car.
Everyone who participates received a trophy as a reward, Wright said.
The boys were hoping to get a scholarship from the Terre Haute Quarter Midget Association, which awards around five families a year with a race-ready fully equipped quarter midget race car free of charge for a whole season.
“This is a great opportunity to participate in the sport with minimal cost to the family,” according to a THQMA flier.
Training classes, car set-up, practice and safety guidelines are also provided.
“Arrive and Drive” was more than a father-son event. It was a family event.
Another prospective racer was Celeste Wilson, 6, who enjoyed the activity with her brothers and cousin with whom she plays “at home.”
Celeste said she was a little nervous but it was fun. Her favorite driver is Danica Patrick.
As she completed her laps, Celeste was cheered on by her grandmother, who took her, her brothers and cousin to the event.
“I want them to get outside and do something. This is her first time driving,” her grandmother said.
“I’m very proud of her.”
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@ tribstar.com.