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Teen racers school the teacher

By admin | July 25, 2009

By Richard Allen

How many of you would get into a car with a teenage driver for a ride with no speed limits? Recently, I did just that.

This past Thursday I had an incredible opportunity. I was invited to The Mountain Raceway in Maryville for the ‘Ride for Life’ program, which is a fund raising vehicle of the American Cancer Society.

The program allows donors to ride in a real two-seater late model dirt car. Drivers from the NeSmith Chevrolet Crate Late Model Series serve as the chauffeurs for this once in a lifetime joy ride.

Two of the drivers participating in this program were Josh Henry of Newport and Hunter Best of Greenback. Henry is 18 years old and recent graduate of Cocke County High School. Best is 15 years old and looks forward to his sophomore year at Greenback High School.

Henry drove me around the track for five thrilling laps until a flat left rear tire brought our run to an end.

Just because these two are young, do not think of them as inexperienced racers. Henry has driven late models for the past two years and has raced since he was thirteen, beginning in the modified mini class. He has won four feature races so far this year at The Mountain.

Best has driven since the young age of five. He started in go-karts and has advanced through the ranks to the crate late models. He has taken three checkered flags so far this year.

While their friends work in fast food restaurants and other such labors during the summer these two have a slightly more exciting means of staying occupied. Henry says some of his friends are envious while others are a bit less impressed. “Some of ‘em think it’s pretty cool but some of ‘em say what’s the point in going in a circle,” he says with a sly grin.

Best reports that his friends are supportive of his line of work. “All my friends usually come and see me,” he says. “They like it.”

These two have come a long way in a short time but both still want more. “I want to be in a super late model someday,” Henry says. When asked if he would like to be the next Jimmy Owens, a very successful super late model driver from Cocke County, Henry simply replied, “I’d like to.”

Best echoed Henry’s thoughts. “I’d like to drive a super late model someday,” he declared.

Typically, as a high school teacher I like to be in control of any situation in which I am around teenagers. However, in this instance, I was more than happy to literally hand the wheel over to one of these two fine young men. I actually felt at ease riding around at over 100mph with a teenager in control.

In this instance the teenagers schooled the teacher.

Here is a note from 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour: Starting this Saturday night, there will be a new program in place. The ‘RacingWithRich.com Back of the Pack Challenge’ will go into effect. The late model fast qualifier will have the option of starting at the rear of the field. If he can win the race from there he will earn an extra $300.

“I’ve been to race tracks that do this sort of thing,” said 411 promoter Chris Corum. “It really adds a lot of excitement.”

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorpsorts Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

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