I didn’t choose the race life; the race life chose me: an interview with my favorite rookie racer

This summer is our oldest son’s rookie year racing go-karts. Ryan started last year, and has encouraged, helped, and guided our oldest son to race alongside him. (Most tracks open rookie racing at age five; our boy is just months away from 7.)

Our big kid has done a pretty amazing job learning the ropes of driving his little race car. I’d be lying if I said the idea of allowing him to drive, in a car, by himself, with other children, around in a dirt circle, doesn’t amp my anxiety to the hilt, but he loves it and he’s proven that he can not only do it, but he’s kind of great at it. This past week, our boy placed third out of seven cars, running a smaller engine than any other kid (more about that in a minute). At the end of the race, after accepting his trophy, I watched my six-and-a-half year old grip his trophy in his left hand, while totally casually steering his go-kart back to the pit area with only his right hand.

I’ve only attended two of his races so far (see: anxiety, above). But the races I’ve attended have shown me even more how capable our kid is. I shouldn’t be surprised; this boy amazes me. He’s pretty mature at his tender age, and there’s not much he takes on that he doesn’t come out on top of. He’s hard on himself; he’s a perfectionist (not sure which side of the gene pool that came from…). Striking out at a baseball game always leaves him shaking his head in disappointment. Bumping another car on the race track leaves him frustrated, yet more amped up than ever to go back and do better next time. At his last race, he veered off the track and into a muddy patch. He kept his foot on the gas and motored through the muck, coming out of it with one hand in the air aimed at his family with a “thumbs up” to show us he was good. Which, come to think of it, is kind of an awesome metaphor for his attitude about life. But on that night, I’d have given just about anything to have had a mic on him at that moment to hear what was going on in that go kart.

Curious to get his thoughts on racing, I asked him if he would grant me an “interview” to share with you. He couldn’t wait to oblige. Here’s what he has to say:

Me: “Mr. Merrow, I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me today. I have a couple of questions for you about your racing career.

Little Merrow: “Um, I race on it with dirt and it’s really fun to be in it because last summer I was watching my dad do it, and I was like, ‘I just wanna do this!’ so this winter we went to this kid’s house and got this kart that this kid used , who’s my age…well, he’s seven and I’m about to turn seven and it’s too…well, once I first got in it…it’s really fun. I’m ready for the questions, I think.”

Me: “Tell me about your go-kart. Do you know what kind it is? What year is it? What kind of motor do you run?”

LM: “Uh, I don’t remember. I have a 2012 go-kart.* The motor is from Harbor Freight for a hundred dollars. It’s a Predator 79CC. They’re getting a bigger Predator. I’m racing a kid in DuBois who I came in second against my dad’s engine. They’re way bigger; they’re called clones. He just got a new motor from a guy though who, he made it. It’s called an Animal.”

(*NOTE* We had to consult an expert here. Ryan supplied the following information: the go-kart chassis is a 2012 Mongoose. Our boy has, up to this point, run the Predator 79CC engine, but will be testing a Clone motor in tomorrow’s race. )

Me: “Where do you race?”

LM: “Um, I race at a track that’s called Race 1 in Dubois, I race in Pittsfield, I race in, um, New York, not in New York City, at Stateline, really close to here on Saturday mornings. My dad races in DuBois sometimes, but when we go there we can’t go to Stateline on Saturday mornings because we don’t get home from DuBois until 2:00 in the mornings and I don’t really want to do that. I also race in Clearfield at a track called Flat Run that has a big wall that, like, a bunch of people crash into- I have before- and I only smacked it one time because there’s tires around it and I only smacked the tires then I saw another guy bang into another guy on two wheels and he hit the wall, came back down, and his engine stopped but I wasn’t in that race.”

Me: “that’s a lot of race tracks. Can you tell me which is your favorite?”

LM:”Um, my favorite track is, um, all the tracks that run my engine like Slippery Rock even though we haven’t been there yet but I would like to race my engine, and I like to go to Stateline a lot. I can’t race at Flat Run. Well, I can, but I still would be racing [against other engines like my dad’s].

Me: “What was your best finish at Stateline?”

LM: “Um, my first time I finished second [in the feature]. Well, I won a heat race there. It’s really fun. I’m ready for another question.”

Me: “Your mom gets nervous about you racing. What would you tell me to make me worry less when you’re racing?”

LM: “Well, just think about like, um, how much fun, um, like, um, like if I come out of a race without being in a wreck, it’s really fun about it. And just, like, think about fun things that you and I have done together. And you don’t have to come to all of the races.”

Me: “Do I make you nervous when I’m there?”

LM: “Well, NO! Just, this was awesome.”

Me: “Tell me about all of the safety equipment you have to wear to race.”

LM: “At the end of the interview you’re going to see pictures of me in all my gear”

Me: “What is all of the gear?”

LM: “Well, wear this Armadillo chest protector in case I bump the steering wheel and it hits right here [pointing to his chest], in my chest, I’m fine. And I wear racing gloves that say K1. I wear a K1 fire suit. I wear a Bell helmet. Um, my dad also wears a Bell helmet. And a neck brace (and my dad also wears a neck brace and racing gloves). The neck brace, you can’t move your head around because of the neck brace and you can’t move your helmet like this, side to side, because, um, it’s like really cool and I’m six years old and it’s really fun being in a kart, being a kid.”

Me: “What would you tell other kids, or even grownups, who think they might want to race go-karts?”

LM: “I would want them to know about my wins, really. And I have a bunch of trophies. I think I have four.”

Me: “What’s the most fun part of racing?”

LM: “The most fun part about racing is being under the visor of the helmet and, like, how cool it is to be under it. When I put up my visor, I’m like, breathing so much energy and I love it and I give a thumbs up to you guys who are watching me, and just, thanks for coming, actually, for watching me. My cousin was just at my race last week and he got to sit in my kart and put on my helmet and my neck brace and and my gloves and he got see what it’s like, and how cool it is.”

Me: “That was really nice of you. And it was really nice of you to do this interview with me. Thank you for your time, Mr. Merrow.”

LM: “OK. Thanks.”

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