Mike Bullis and Waltrip put the finishing touches on the Scout’s karts while rain continued falling for about another hour. Just about the time Barnes, Waltrip and Bullis were ready to fire up one of the six clone motors, donated by Box Stock Project, bolted onto Ultramax ---- Chassis it stopped raining. They took the first kart off its stand and set it down on the ground near the grid. Scouts squealed with delight when after a couple of tugs on the cord Barnes got it to fire up.
While the Girl Scouts were waiting their turn to practice they got a surprise visit from female NHRA Top ET drag racer Sheryl Hlavacek, of Louisa, VA, who talked to the girls about racing and signed autographs for the Scouts. She had her daughters Tana 3-years-old and 7-year-old Bria.
When the rain stopped Bradbury got the track ready to run in. Karters volunteered to run it in and in short order the surface was race ready. The first class was called to the grid, but before they could get there rains returned. It was now getting late in the afternoon and Bradbury was ready to call it and run the race Sunday. He called the drivers down for a quick meeting for their input and a vote. It was almost unanimous. The racers voted to stay and race. So stay they did. It was agreed that they would get in a fast round of practice and then start Heat races.
It was getting close to 8 pm before karts were running in the track. A few minutes later the only practice round by class commenced. You could see and feel the excitement building in the Girl Scout pits as their turn to practice approached. With the help of experienced racers the girls filled their motors with fuel and oil, strapped on their helmets and pushed their karts to the grid. In just a few minutes they would be on the track for the first time.
For several laps they followed a pace kart. When the pace kart left the track the girls pressed their throttles a little harder and picked up speed. Several of them spun out, but corner workers and volunteers quickly rescued them from the muddy infield and returned them to the racetrack. After several laps most of the girls got comfortable piloting their karts and began picking up speed.
When their first group’s first practice round was over the girls were beaming with excitement screaming about how awesome it was driving their karts. The second group was just as thrilled about their first time driving a race kart.
The first girls to compete were the third class out. They impatiently waited to race glued to the fence to watching experienced karters compete battling side-by-side at top speeds. After the first class was done Waltrip, AKRA’s announcer, call them to the grid. The Girl Scouts quickly put on neck braces and helmets with the help of AKRA workers and volunteer karters.
Group one drivers lined up as instructed and took the first Girls and Gears green flag. Leading the way was 11-year-old Sophia Stokes of Newark, DE who at first was a little reluctant to try karting. Stokes held the lead as fellow Girl Scouts offered her several serious challenges. Near mid-race the caution flag flew and Stokes had to lead a restart before taking the first Girls and Gears checkered flag.
“It was really fun,” Stokes said of her win. “I liked going around the track for the first time so I could get a feel for how to control the kart. In the real race it only took me one lap for me to get the hang of it and it was really fun. I liked it a lot. I think the kart handled really well for my first time because it responded very quickly. I’m going to ask my parents for a kart, it’s really exciting.”
Three features later the second group of Girl Scouts left the grid. Like the first group they took the green flag and 11-year-old Lauren Whisman, also of Newark, DE, grabbed the early lead and fought off challenges from her competitors. “It felt pretty good,” Whisman said of her first kart racing victory. “I was going pretty fast. I got a lot of experience and it was a lot of fun and the kart handled good,” Whisman said adding that she too was going to ask her parents if they would buy her a race kart and become active in the sport.”
Despite the rain AKRA/Action Enterprises, Inc.’s first ‘Girls and Gears’ program was a huge success with the girls getting a true dirt karting experience.
That Sunday morning Scout leaders met for breakfast with AKRA and Action Enterprise, Inc. representatives for a review of the Girls and Gears Progrm. Aside from getting a little muddier than they planned the Scouts said they enjoyed the program. It was nothing like what they expected, especially the speeds they were racing at.
“QUOTE from Bill
AKRA and Action Enterprises, Inc. plan on hosting Girls and Gears programs at tracks around the county next season. Plans include for other groups such as Church Youth Groups and the Boy Scouts to be included. Dates for 2010 are filling fast. If your Scout Troop or other youth organizations that might enjoy a karting experience contact AKRA President/CEO Bill McCutcheon at 704.764.8138 or Action Enterprises, Inc. at 302.537.RACE (7223).
Story and Photos by Bruce C. Walls