This is the second part of a story about Ryker McConahay, an eight-year old Guernsey youth who hopes someday to drive in NASCAR.
GUERNSEY—So just where does a future NASCAR driver begin? For those who aren’t born into a racing family that can provide has all the connections and opportunities to chase that dream, it’s a matter of starting with the basics and that means getting involved in quarter midget racing, usually within an organized club. But this isn’t like Little League or Pop Warner football where there are teams to join in every community.
For Ryker McConahay, the nearest group to join was the Rocky Mountain Quarter Midget Association in Dacono, Colorado, between Denver and Longmont. Quarter midget racing originated on Long Island, NY in a parking lot marked out with traffic cones. The cars were home-built with few standards. But the popularity caught on quickly and by the late ‘50s, California had tracks and clubs springing up all over the state. California alone had nearly three dozen car manufacturers putting out the racing vehicles that became more standard as the sport grew nationally.
The cars are very much standardized now, with an emphasis on driver safety.
Quarter midget cars are so-titled as they are one quarter the size of a full-size adult midget racing car. They race on a 1/20th mile track with a surface of dirt, concrete or asphalt. The speed typically tops at 30 miles per hour although that can be higher in the upper classes.
The cars are built with around a tubular frame, fully suspended with springs or torsion bars and shocks. The bodies are fiberglass, painted or trimmed out to the owner’s preference.
Drivers are protected by a roll cage, nerf bars, multi-point seat harnesses, full face helmets and protective clothing.
Everything about the cars, rules and procedures are designed specifically for kids. Drivers may be anywhere from five to 15 years old. Per capita, the sport has fewer injuries than kids’ football programs see.
Drivers are divided into 14 classes and divisions and the season runs from March to October.
Clubs put on their own races throughout the season but each also hosts one regional race.
One state championship race per region, as well as three Grand National Events are held each year. They include two asphalt track races and one dirt track race.
While there is admittedly significant cost to participation in the sport, the benefits are substantial and not one-dimensional. It is meant to be and is a family sport where everyone can participate in some way. The nature of the sport requires commitment from families to help, from crew members to judges, score and time keepers and even concessionaires. Proponents say the sport teaches responsibility, self-reliance, sportsmanship, coordination, and gives kids a head start on developing driving skills. Many, including the McConahays, say it has become a second family for them—drivers become friends as well as competitors and the emphasis is on building those relationships rather than just winning on the track.
Ryker also has a younger brother, Rhett, the second R in Double R Racing. Rhett will begin racing this summer in August. At five, Rhett is excited to join his big brother and says he wants to drive a red car. It’s about the simple things at Rhett’s age!
Ryker’s early success has given him some opportunities to do some very special things. He has driven his car on the Indy 500 track, met Chase Elliot, his favorite driver, and has already raced against a national field several times. This summer, he will attend the Grand Nationals to compete for a national title in San Bernardino, California.
Ryker’s awards to date are impressive, particularly in light of his limited experience. His accumulated awards include:
- 6th at Battle at the Brickyard, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- 11th in End of Year RMQMA Points in Jr. Honda
- 9th in D Main at Winter Nationals Las Vegas in Jr. Honda
- 9th in B Main at Winter Nationals Las Vegas in Jr. Animal
- 5th in Series Points at Region 8 Winter Indoors in Jr. Animal
- 6th in Series Points at Region 8 Winter Indoors in Jr. Honda
- 11th and 12th at Texas Motor Speedway in Jr. Honda and Jr. Animal
- 3rd in End of Year RMQMA Points Series in Jr. Animal
- 4th in End of Year RMQMA Points Series in Jr. Honda
- 10th at Winter Nationals Las Vegas in Jr. Animal
- 9th in the C Main at Winter Nationals Las Vegas in Jr. Honda
- 9th at Winter Nationals Las Vegas in Jr. Stock
- 3rd in Series Points at Region 8 Winter Indoors in Jr. Animal
- 4th in Series Points at Region 8 Winter Indoors in Jr. Honda
- 1st in Series Points at Region 8 Winter Indoors in Jr. Stock
- Track Record in Jr. Stock at Region 8 Winter Indoors
Whether or not Ryker McConahay reaches his goal of becoming a NASCAR driver with thousands of fans cheering him on to the checkered flag remains to be seen. There are a lot of things that will factor into the process. But for now, Ryker and Rhett have the most important and basic fan support they need—parents and friends who will do everything they possibly can to help their dreams come true.