They start racing at age 6.
A few years ago, the minimum racing age was 5 — kindergartners racing miniature hot rods.
Both the Kid Sprint class (for kids ages 6-12) and the Restrictor Sprint class (ages 10-16) at I-44 Speedway give aspiring sprint car drivers a chance to train for bigger cars and faster races.
And while the Kid Sprints reach speeds of about 40 mph, and the Restrictor Sprints reach speeds close to 70, parents of children who drive in both divisions at I-44 insist racing is safer than most sports, including baseball and football.
"You have a fire retardant uniform, a roll cage and a five-point seat belt,” said Wade Jarvis, who has boys who race in both divisions. "It really is safer.”
Greg Moore, whose 12-year-old daughter competes in the Restrictor Sprints division, agreed.
"My kids play football and baseball, and I have seen 10 times more injuries in those sports than I have in racing,” Moore said. "When you have all the safety stuff in place, it is very safe.”
Requirements are increasing
All the safety equipment, though, was allegedly not in place Saturday night when Harli White, 12, of Lindsay suffered third-degree burns after her Restrictor Sprint caught fire at I-44 Speedway.
Spectators and drivers who witnessed the crash said a combination of Harli's insufficient equipment and lack of preparation is responsible for the burns.
Moore said if Harli's car had a bladder inside its fuel tank, the blaze never would have happened. The bladder is a woven, rubber casing that fits inside the fuel tank at the rear of the car. The bladder holds fuel in case the outer shell of the car is punctured. While bladders are mandatory for some race cars, like those that race at State Fair Speedway in Oklahoma City, miniature sprints like Harli's are not required to have them. Moore said the American Sprint Car Series II and
POWRi mini-Sprint divisions will require fuel-tank bladders next season. The two series decided to make the change for 2009 before Harli's crash.
Cost might be a reason bladders have not been mandatory. A standard bladder kit costs about $1,250 for a mini sprint.
"I'm now strongly recommending (bladders) to everyone,” said Scott Sawyer, a Broken Arrow resident who witnessed the fire.