Advertisement

Archive for Saturday, May 27, 1995

HOT-RODDER EARNS RIDE THROUGH SCHOOL

May 27, 1995

Advertisement

A Lawrence boy has found a love of drag racing at an early age.

The closest most 10-year-old youngsters get to driving a top fuel dragster is racing a battery-powered remote control car. Or shooting a Hot Wheels car across a track. Or maybe driving in virtual reality in an arcade game.

Most can only dream what it's like to race the fastest cars on the planet.

Then there's Brandon Womack.

The Schwegler School fourth-grader knows what it's like to put on his helmet, climb into a roll cage, strap on a harness seat belt, secure his arms in restraints, then grip a steering wheel and feel his heart pound as the hot engine behind him snarls.

He knows the trepidation of waiting for the green light.

And he knows what it's like to tromp on the accelerator, hear the engine roar and the spinning, screaming tires bite the track, then be hurled faster and faster and faster and faster before the one-eighth of a mile track runs out.

"I was scared the first time I did it," Brandon said. "It's great. It's fun. As far as I know, I'm the only one in town in it."

Brandon is a member of the National Hot Rod Assn.'s new motorsports program for youngsters, the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League.

The league, which was founded in 1992, has more than 5,000 members, most of whom compete at any of the NHRA member racetracks that offer such programs for drivers from ages 8 through 17.

Brandon has raced at Topeka's Heartland Park and at Kansas City International Raceway. His next race will be June 3 at KCIR.

His junior dragster, powered by a 5-horsepower, gasoline-fueled Briggs and Stratton engine, has reached a speed of 46 mph. Some of the youngsters who use alcohol fuel have reached speeds into the 70s, he said.

During a recent interview, he washed a spot off his junior dragster, which was sitting the front yard in his family's southwest Lawrence home.

"When I first started it up, I was nervous and had a bad reaction time," he said.

Brandon said he's told a few of his friends about his new hobby.

"They wish they had one too," he said. "It's better than the cars at Worlds of Fun because you actually get to control it. "

Brandon's father, Doug Womack, said his son became interested in the sport after they attended a few junior drag races in Topeka. A few of the half-scale dragsters were on display last fall and Brandon got in one of them.

"We found out he fit pretty well in it," Doug said. "It kind of went from there. He made some promises about how he would keep his grades up if we were to do this. And we kept him in suspense until spring break. His grades were where he said they would be -- he didn't have anything lower than a B-plus."

Brandon also has to do chores around the house, including cleaning up after the dog.

Doug said he sought help and advice in buying the frame and assembling the dragster.

"A lot of people are real willing to help," he said. "Once we get a new paint scheme on there, we'll be ready to hit up sponsors."

As Brandon washed his dragster, his sister, Allison, picked up a garden hose and started spraying the car.

"She's 5 now and if she wants to, when she's 8, we might get her a car," Brandon said. Allison walked off, shaking her head.

Brandon's mother, Janette Womack, said she thought Brandon's drag racing has been a good family activity.

"It gives him and his dad time together," she said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.