Friday, October 16, 2009

High Schoolers Teach Harvick Fast Way Around Track

It was a great event in Bakersfield Wednesday as NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick mingled with some of the local area teens who came from several schools to test their abilities against the local racing hero. Kevin flew in late Tuesday evening for the special event held the following day to help get the Kern Youth Racing Series up and running once again in Bakersfield. Before race time Kevin was excited to see the kids back on the track.
"A lot of people in the community have put a lot of time and money into the effort and it's great to see it all come together ... to see it finally come to the race track and see the kids in the car. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm really excited about it" Harvick said.
The resurrected High School Racing Series this time around will run Mini Stock class cars instead of the more powerful Hobby Stocks they ran on the paved 1/2 mile Mesa Marin racetrack a few years back. Mini Stocks are a four cylinder, American or import, front or rear drive, stock compact car fitted with racing safety equipment. They are an inexpensive way to go racing on Saturday nights. The high schools are responsible for building the cars which are driven by students.

During the afternoon practice sessions, Kevin was passing out helpful advice for the young racers on how to negotiate the 1/3 mile clay oval. Kevin has some experience at dirt racing having been in several of Tony Stewart's Prelude To The Dream events and, last year, making his first appearance here at Bakersfield Speedway in an IMCA Modified race car in The Inagural Run In The Dirt. Kevin, though was quick to point out he is not an expert dirt racer.
"I don't know if I'm the greatest teacher on dirt. We should have went and got Dick Shepherd or somebody to help them learn," he said. "But tonight is all about them having fun and learning what the cars are all about. I can guarantee they're going to have a good time and that's what it boils down to."
Come race time, the kids took what they learned from Harvick and headed out on the track. Porterville High Motor Sports driver Trent Carter (there at right) was the one to give Kevin some lessons in their heat race taking the checkered flag. His right front wheel disintegrated immediately after crossing the finish line and he was towed back to the pits and fitted with a new wheel. In the 20 lap main it was Carter once again pacing the field with Kevin close behind. It was a classic short track dirt race with lots of hard close racing and some beatin' and banging. Some of the econo cars could not handle the intense action and flat tires and broken wheels were the end result for many hard driving teens. Trent would fall victim to his second busted right front while leading the race with two laps to go. He again was towed to the pits while receiving a standing ovation from the packed crowd for his dominating effort. That left only two cars on the track for the final dash to the finish, Kevin Harvick and Centenial High School's Dakota Schweitzer in the red #5
(Though Carter was able to get another wheel mounted on his car and return to the track). Schweitzer and Harvick battled for the lead swapping positions several times. At the flag it was Dakota edging out Kevin for the trophy and more importantly, bragging rights for having outlasted all his competition and beating a Cup level driver.

After the race Dakota Schweitzer was ecstatic, "That was the most fun I've ever had in a car. He came into me so I went into him. I had the momentum. I want to say thank you to everyone who helped out on the race car. It's been an awesome time." Harvick had fun racing with the kids too,
"It was pretty cool," he said. "Like I said earlier, it was just a lot of fun seeing the kids. I wish you could have seen the kids working in the pits on each other's cars."
Everyone in the stands had a great time too, including me. The evening was just plain fun with some great racing by a couple of talented young drivers. Hopefully, this will become a regular feature at the speedway next year. If it does, I know I'll be spending a lot more time at my local short track on Saturday nights.. If you haven't been to a short track race - dirt or asphalt - lately or ever, do yourself, and your family, a favor and go check it out. There may not be any Sprint Cup stars there, but I guarantee you'll have a wonderful time and just maybe you'll get a chance to see the next Kevin Harvick in action.