When Huntsville Kids Feel the Need for Speed
Welcome to our new series, Offbeat Hobbies in Huntsville! We want to feature kids and organizations that participate in activities beyond the ball and ballet shoes. Every month you’ll find out more about each activity and how your kid can get involved locally if their interest is sparked!
Rockets aren’t the only things that go fast in this town. In the middle of Huntsville, there is a place where kids can go to channel their inner Dale and Danica. The Huntsville Quarter Midget Association is a racing club for kids ages 5-16. Sometimes, when the sound refraction is just right in the summertime, you can hear the engines for miles around.
We talked with Bart Hunt, President of the Huntsville Quarter Midget Association, about this unique hobby and how whole families get involved.
Bart got into Quarter Midget Racing because of his own dad. “My father was driving down the Parkway in Huntsville in 1963 and saw a little race car. As a kid, it taught me sportsmanship and how to lose – you lose a whole lot more than you win. In a football game you have a 50/50 shot of winning but in a 12 car race your odds are lower. I’ve got some great memories of racing with my dad and mom growing up.”
The Huntsville QM track had its first race in 1965 over by the old fairgrounds off Holmes Avenue. The new track moved to its current location off Airport Road in 2005.
What is Quarter Midget Racing?
A Quarter Midget car is a scaled-down version of an actual midget racer, approximately 1/4 scale. The cars are built around a tubular frame and are fully suspended with springs or torsion bars and shocks. The bodies are fiberglass, aluminum or steel, painted to the drivers preference. Surrounding the driver is a chrome-moly roll cage, nerf bars and bumpers. Seatbelts and shoulder harnesses, are also mandatory because safety is a prime consideration in this sport.
The racetracks are 1/20 mile banked ovals comprised of dirt, concrete, or asphalt surfaces.
A typical race season with HQMR runs March through November. There are about 12 local races, and five regional races. HQMR travels to Nashville, Gainsville, Charlotte, and Cummings, and hosts 1-2 regional races a year here in Huntsville.
Racing is a Family Affair with Benefits
In Quarter Midget Racing, family teams compete, and the racing community is very close. It is not a “drop off your kid” kind of sport.
“The whole family is invited to get involved with one parent as crew-chief and head-mechanic, another parent working in the Tower scoring races, and big brothers and sisters working in the snack bar. Lots of little brothers and sisters can be found playing all day in the race car trailers and motor homes. It is a great spectator sport since admission is free.”
Quarter Midget Racing can help teach kids:
- Healthy Competition
- Responsibility & Self-Confidence
Does your kid love STEM subjects? Kids are also involved in the building and maintenance of their cars. Quarter Midget Racing is about engineering, physics, and above all, safety.
… But Is It Really Safe?
Bart knows how important safety is in a sport like Quarter Midget Racing. “In our club, we have never had a life altering injury in the sport. This sport has fewer injuries than little-league football.”
Safety starts with car inspections and the drivers must wear proper racing equipment like full face helmets, racing suits, gloves, arm restraints and neck collars. Corner men are present during each race to assist in case of an accident. Most importantly, safe driving habits are instilled in the children from their very first time on the track in Novice Training.
HQMA is constantly reviewing and evaluating safety rules to ensure that quarter midget racing remains a safe competitive sport.
How to Get Started Racing with Huntsville Quarter Midget Association
If you think this is a hobby your son or daughter might enjoy, the first thing to do is go watch a race. The home season starts March 30th.
One of the best ways to gauge interest is for kids to attend a Ride & Drive session. There’s one coming up April 28th, 2019 from 12-4 PM. Boys and girls ages 5-16 can come out and test drive a race car!
Members can practice anytime since the track belongs to club, but on race weekends some practice time is regulated. Sunday afternoons are a great time designated for new members. The Training Director, Bill Ondocsin, will train your kid on everything they need to know before running their first race. They will learn the meaning of all the flags, how to run a proper line on the track, how to line-up for starts and re-starts, etc. Contact Bill Ondocsin at 256-527-1737 or email@example.com.
Photo credit: Megan Spence
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Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.
I never drove, I’m Bart’s older sister. Among all of the other great things in this sport is you make lifetime friends. I have people in my life I have know since I was 13, so it is truly a family sport.