Girls and Gears
Girl Scouts Try Karting at Amelia Motor Raceway

AMELIA COURTHOUSE, VA-Girl Scout Troop 425 of Newark, DE made karting and Girl Scout history as the first of what’s expected to be many Girls and Gears Karting Experience presented by The American Kart Racing Association (AKRA) and Action Enterprises, Inc.  The Scouts, ages 11-13 traveled over 200 miles from Newark, DE to their eventual destination Amelia Motor Raceway.  Their first stop was Tonda Enterprises on International Drive in Richmond, VA, provided by Jason Manes of Discount Karting arranged for them to get started on their Karting Experience. Manes gave each girl a Discount Karting Sweatshirt. There they met veteran kart racers Walt and Marsha Barnes, Bobby Waltrip, David Meade, David and----- who had six karts ready for them to setup and race against each other.


At Tonda Enterprises the Girl Scouts posed for a group photo then looked over the machines they would be racing in the next day.  Then they were paired off by size so Barnes and Waltrip could adjust their throttle and brake pedals to fit. Once fitted to their karts the girls matched up decals made from their hand drawings to their karts so they could be applied Saturday morning in their pit area.  Eric Riggins of Alpha Canvas & Awning Race Covers did an amazing job of turning their drawings into colorful exact fit decals for their kart panels.

They got safety instructions and learned how to put on their helmets, neck brace and other safety equipment from Marsha Barnes who also pointed out their need to protect their hair from motorized kart components such as gears and chains. Her brother Walt explained some basics of setup, how to start their motors along with a brief description on kart assembly.

When they were done at Tonda Enterprises, the Girl Scouts headed to their hotel while the AKRA crew packed their karts into a hauler and took them to nearby Amelia Motor Raceway where that morning they assembled a covered pit area for the Girl Scouts.  The Girls Scouts came for a true karting experience and they got one.

AMR promoter Lee Bradbury and his staff had the track surface in perfect condition.  “We thought about watering the track late last night, but we held off to see what was going to happened today before we did that,” Bradbury explained.

Shortly after their arrival at Amelia Motor Raceway predicted rains began falling.  Under covered protection they made final setup adjustments and applied decals to their karts and did what a track full of karters were doing.  Standing under tents staring at the sky looking for a clearing while dialing up weather radar on their cell phones.

Long time national, regional and local flagman Buddy Burkett, of Richmond, VA, instructed the Scouts on the flags and signals they might see during their races.  While the Scouts knew the familiar green, checkered, yellow, black and red flags meant, but most did not recognize the blue flag or the blue flag with a large orange circle.  “Do you know what this flag means?” Burkett asked showing them a blue flag.  The girls were stumped.  “The Blue flag ” Burkett explained,” If you see me wave the blue flag at you that means faster karts are coming up behind you and you must move higher up on the track out of their way.”  

Then he showed them a flag unique to karting the meatball flag.  The meatball flag is blue with a large orange circle in the center.  Burkett explained that if they saw him waving the meatball flag at them they had an equipment or safety issue such as a lost neck brace or muffler.  If they saw the meatball flag they were to wave a hand, slow down and exit the track.  Just after Burkett’s flag demonstration a few drops of rain turned into another front passing over the speedway.



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