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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Young race car driver dies

racecar.jpgUPDATE: Youth race car driver Tyler Morr, 12, who lived in Arcadia, has died.

On news of a 12 year old critically injured in a stock car race, parents are defending their choice to let kids as young as 5 get behind the wheel of a racecar. As our colleagues Laura C. Morel and Lane DeGregory report here, driver Tyler Morr, 12, had been traveling about 40 mph along the oval in Winter Haven Saturday night when his No. 17 black stock race car crumpled against the wall, just past the second turn in the track.  Monday night, Morr, who lives in Arcadia, was in critical condition at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Parents of other youth race car drivers seemed eager to defend the growing sport, even as they acknowledged the risks.

"Naturally, when my boys' father talked to them about racing, I was scared to death," said Charlene Lively, 35, whose 13- and 15-year-old sons have been driving for eight years. "But I went to the training facility, I saw all the safety devices they would wear, and I kind of relaxed.

"I don't think it's any more dangerous than any other sport," added Lively, a stay-home mom who lives in Riverview. "Football, to me, is much more dangerous."

As they report in, youth car racing began in the 1930s, with quarter-midget cars — basically go-karts with roll bars. The vehicles, which have lawnmower engines, run around a quarter-mile track. In Florida, kids can start racing before they start kindergarten.

"We have 5-year-olds that run to speeds of 40 mph here," said J.R. Garcia, who runs the Ambassador Racing School in Wimauma. "Our 10-year-old drivers have been driving for five years."

At Garcia's racing school, instructors start kids in cars that can be shut off remotely. Soon, the youths are racing alongside their instructors. After a couple of months of instruction and practice, the young drivers are ready to race.

Is this any more reckless than letting a kid strap on a football helmet or knock a soccer ball into a goal with head?

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 4:47pm]


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