WINFIELD — Lori Coon isn't your ordinary 11-year-old.
She is a youngster with more maturity than some twice her age.
She is at ease with adults and handles press interviews like a veteran. She also handles the wheel of a go kart like a seasoned racer.
Last week, she won her first feature event in the junior sportsman class at the Monrovia Raceway in Frederick County.
What was so special about the win is that Lori accomplished this in only her fourth day of racing.
"I was very surprised," said Coon of her feat. "Iwas real excited. Now I have a first-, second- and third-place trophy."
To say she been improving each week is an understatement. Since she began racing less than six weeks ago, she has placed in the topthree the last three races.
No one, not even her father, expectedher to do so well so fast.
"She caught on real fast," said her proud father, Chuck Coon. "You knew from the first time that she was good.
"She counter-steered and handled the car very well. She can handle the car and hit the corners like she should. She really does a good job."
After her win, Lori had a lot to tell her sixth-grade classmates at New Windsor Middle. But it is only the beginning.
The racing bug has hit Coon and her father. With only two more weekends of competition remaining at Monrovia Raceway, the father-daughter duo are laying out their racing plans for next year.
Following the last outdoor event at the end of November, Monrovia Kart Club will hold their first indoor event at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Baltimore County, Dec. 21. Coon plans to be there.
Next year, Coon plans on racing at other asphalt kart tracks in the area.
Lastyear at this time, Coon was more interested in soccer. Now she has given up the sport to concentrate on racing.
She became interested in go karts by accident. Her uncles, Mark Day and Don Tegeler, who also work for her father's excavating company, had just begun racing atMonrovia.
"I saw them and thought it was exciting," said the 4-foot-11 blond.
She raced at her uncle's short clay track in his backyard and within a couple of weeks, she had a kart of her own to go racing. Her first time out at Monrovia she placed fourth.
"I was scared," she remembered of the first race. "But I knew everyone was counting on me, and I was counting on myself to do good."
Fourth is the lowest she has finished. Since the first race, Coon improved one position each week. She topped it off last week with a win.
It hasn't been all smooth racing. In her second week, she flipped her kart over in a turn during the qualifying heat.
"It scared me," she recalled. "But I just got up and continued."
She came back to finish third in the feature.
In addition to driving, Coon is learning how to maintain her kart. Last week, her father installed a new four-cycle Briggs & Stratton motor on the kart. It paid off when she gained her first win.
Chuck Coon is learning about karting, too. In addition to Lori's kart, he helps Day and Tegeler with their karts, and theyall travel to the track together.
Go kart racing is known as a family sport. It is especially true with the Coons.
"This is the best quality time that I have ever spent with her," said Chuck Coon. "I spent most of my time building my business while the other two children were growing.
"It has helped me in more ways than one. It is a break from work and I spend quality time with her."
The two have built a bond that would seem more likely between a father and a son than a father and a daughter, but times in auto racing are changing.
Chuck Coon already is looking forward to taking his new grandson kart racing.
"If a father is looking to do something with his kids, he should look into kart racing," he says.
While waiting for his grandson to grow up, Chuck Coon said he will take Lori as far as she wants to go.
With her fast start, her future in racing just could beunlimited.
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