Go-Kart racing is one of the most popular forms of competitive racing in the area.
It is a good way for race fans to get involved in the sport without spending a fortune.
Many of the top sprint car drivers in the area began their careerracing go-karts. One driver who is getting an early jump on racing is Chris Wainright of Finksburg. The 11-year old student of East Middle School already has five years racing experience.
When your father owns the Westminster Kart Supply in Finksburg, it is only natural for the son to become involved.
He started racing competitively in the 8- to 12-year-old, four-cycle box stock restricted junior class in western Pennsylvania. Because he was under-age, he was unable to compete closer to home. But he quickly showed he was capable of racing with the older boys.
By the time he was seven, Chris started in the rookie class at the kart track in Hunterstown, Pa. Since he had raced before,he was allowed to start a year earlier and a month after his eighth birthday he won his first race.
Since that first win, Chris has become one of the top young competitors in the area. In his second year at Hunterstown, he won the track championship at age nine. En route to the title, he had an 11-race winning streak.
Last year, Chris advanced into the two-cycle super stock junior class for 10-15 year olds. Running against older boys didn't matter to Chris, who out-raced them and won the track title.
So far this season, Chris is off to a good start. He has won two races at Hunterstown, a one-eighth mile dirt track north of Carroll County in Pennsylvania. Chris races there every Saturday night.
On Friday nights and Sundays, he competes all over the East Coast.
Chris has done so well that he has the backing of two national sponsors, M.L. Burris Corp. of Los Alamitos, Calif., and RLV Pipes of San Marie, Calif.
Two weeks ago hewon at Sandy Hook Speedway in Bel Air, Harford County.
That win was on asphalt, showing Chris is a top competitor no matter what surface he races on.
"I have no preference," explained Chris. "They areboth a challenge."
Go-Kart racing is like sprint car or late model racing; you have different set-ups and driving techniques for various tracks and surfaces.
"On dirt, you go into the turn deep and set up, then you nail on the throttle," explained Chris with the eloquence of a true veteran. "But at Sandy Hook, you go through the turns differently, you steer through them."
"You can't slide in the turns on asphalt like dirt," continued Chris. "You'll lose your RPM's. You have to go in smooth."
Chris is looking forward to racing at theSummit Point Road Course in West Virginia later this year.
He hasto be 12 years old to compete there and he plans to be there for thefirst race after his June 7 birthday. Chris has already had some practice runs at the 2.5-mile road course and his eyes light up at the mention of the 85 mph speeds he was turning.
Chris helps on the maintenance too. Each week he checks out the carburetor, piston, rings and clutch of the 100-cubic centimeter Yamaha engine.
He also appreciates the help of Larry Davis and his grandfather, Jim WainwrightSr.
"He (Chris) is an old man as far as driving is concerned," said the proud grandfather.
Like any sport, Chris has his share of butterflies before the race.
"I get worried, anxious, but once I get inthe seat, it just goes away."
Karting is a physically demanding sport, especially on dirt. The car has no suspension or shocks, so thebumps go right through to the driver.
"It builds good upper-body strength," said Chris. "You have to get in the seat a while at the beginning of the season to get used to it."
Chris has received his share of bruises. He flipped once when a car spun in front of him.
With nowhere to go he ran over the front of the car propelling him end over end. Chris was uninjured and his mother, Mary, hasn't been attending the races since.
Chris' main goal is to run modifieds and super karts. The super karts run on super speedways like Daytona. Theyare powered by 250 cubic centimeter motorcycle engines and reach speeds in the 150-mph range. He hopes some day to run "Indy."