Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!

Left to right, Churchill, Beimfohr and Highland. All photos: John Gunnell and Christa Haley.
Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
Left to right, Churchill, Beimfohr and Highland. All photos: John Gunnell and Christa Haley.

Dana Highland, Dave Beimfohr and Bob Churchill were at the Race & Performance Expo (www.raceperformanceexpo.com) because they are kids at heart. Actually, all three of these spark plugs in the Junior Drag Racing sport are adults who have the future of young drag racers in their hearts.

As Beimfohr told Racing Junk, “We have been involved in the sport of drag racing for a long time, but if we don’t get these kids involved today, it’s not going to be here tomorrow.”

Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
Young champions enjoy a photo op.

Dana Highland works as a volunteer to keep the Junior Drag Racing program at Byron Raceway in Illinois going. “We have eight races a year,” she explained. “The kids come out and they race against each other. They compete in practice rounds and two sets of racing, one for points and one just for fun. Trophies get handed out.”

Highland said that her program has one class for 6-12 year olds and a second class for kids 13 and up. “Junior Drag Racing is national,” she pointed out, “but what I do is volunteer for the program at the local track.”

Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
Junior Engine Challenge is a new series for young racing fans.

Beimfohr is the Director of the Midwest Junior Super Series. He said that the trophies and cars on display at the Expo were mainly from his regional series, which organizes nine races in places such as St. Louis, Indianapolis, Byron, Columbus, Ohio, Tulsa, Okla., Terre Haute, Ind. and Martin, Mich. “We have 12 different classes for all the kids,” Beimfohr explained. “We’re a Junior only event at all of these race tracks and we have 200 to 300 kids involved. I usually go by Tech Cards, and we get about 500 Tech Cards for each event.”

Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
A lot of kids are involved in Junior Drag Racing programs.

Beimfohr said that there are a lot of races each day. “Our series is popular because the kids can race in more than one class in a day. There’s a lot more races than at most local tracks. We break up into NHRA age brackets of 6 to 7, 8 to 9, 10 to 12 and 13-and-up.”

Churchill said that he does the Junior Drag Racing program at Rt 66 Raceway, also in Illinois. “We do two different age groups: 6 to 12 and 12-and-up,” he said. We do roughly 60 entries per race and we do five races per year.”

Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
Young racers are proud of their cars.

According to Churchill, all of the Junior dragsters are based on five-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engines, although carburetors and gearing set ups are changed for the faster classes where the ages go up. He said that a sealed motor will cost around $600 and will probably last three years. “All in all, your expenses for the year, if nothing breaks, will be pennies for gas and oil.”

Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
Cars all use similar 5-horse Briggs & Stratton power.

According to Churchill, a new car built from the ground up could cost $10,000 today. “But you can buy a nice, used car for $3,500 to $5,000 and still run it for up to five years, and still be very competitive.”

Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
Pint-sized speedsters got lots of attention at Race & Performance Expo.

Beimfohr said that Junior Drag Racing participants can now become part of a new Junior Engine Challenge program. “We wanted to bring more to kids who want to become mechanics, plumbers, electricians and so on,” he noted. “So, we partnered up with the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Building program to have the younger kids build their own Briggs & Stratton engines.”

He said that the Junior Engine Challenge is currently a local series, but there are plans to roll it out on a nationwide basis. “We’re doing it a little at a time,” he said.

Pint Sized Dragsters Rule!
With a used dragster a family can get into a car for $3,500.
About John Gunnell 104 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.
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