BROOKVILLE — Most 12-year-olds dream about the day they turn 16, so they can get behind the wheel of a car for the first time, but one local boy has a head start on his peers.
Will Fleming, a sixth- grader at Hickory Grove in the Brookville Area School District, just completed his first season racing a 270 cubic centimeter powered micro sprint race car, showing many signs of improvement and success in his rookie year.
The 270cc micros — a smaller version of the 410cc sprints — are powered by what is basically a motorcycle engine and run on alcohol as a fuel source.
Fleming said his interest in racing a micro sprint started by going to the races with his family.
“The micro sprints just looked really cool,” he said. “They looked like they had a lot of horsepower.”
Fleming’s rookie year was a successful one, especially given the fact that he was the youngest regular driving at every track at which he participated. Fleming said that the other drivers and the tracks were very supportive of him, though, adding, “It’s pretty neat to be the youngest guy out there.”
Most tracks have a minimum age requirement of 14 years old, according to Fleming’s parents Brenda and Dave, but the tracks were willing to waive the requirement if they signed off on it.
Will also had to start at the back a few times so the track officials could see whether he was capable of driving well enough to race, but his parents said he had no issues picking it up and was allowed in the middle of the pack in no time.
His greatest success this season came at Sportsmans Speedway in Knox, where he finished seventh in points.
Sportsmans was also the spot where Will earned his very first victory in a heat race — a moment he points to as the highlight of his season — and his first second-place finish in a feature event.
“My favorite thing about the season was winning my first heat race, for sure,” Fleming said.
Will was also awarded the youngest driver trophy by Sportsmans and finished second in a junior micro race there Aug. 28.
His accomplishments at one track would have been impressive enough for such a young driver in his first season, but Sportsmans Speedway was just one of the tracks at which he spent his weekends racing.
Fleming raced Sportsmans most Sundays, except for the occasional Sunday at Blanket Hill Speedway in Kittanning.
On three occasions, Fleming finished fourth of 10 drivers, and on another, during a special feature, he finished eighth of 18 at Blanket Hill. Blanket Hill was one of the first places Fleming gained interest in the micros.
“My family went to Blanket Hill, and then we started going to Harrisburg and other places to watch the mircos,” he said.
He also took part in a 35-lap race at Clinton County Raceway in Mackeyville, and finished 10th of 22 drivers in points at Sharon Speedway — a 3/8-mile track in Hartford, Ohio.
Will’s not the only one in his family that races, either. In fact, he races against his father every weekend.
He and his father both said that it was a fun way to spend time together as a family, as they all get involved in the process.
Will and his father have very different approaches at the track, though.
Dave said that when he comes off the track, he immediately begins thinking of ways he can change the car to make it run just a bit quicker, but Will has a different attitude.
“He just runs what he has,” Dave said. “He’s always happy with it. When I come off the track, I start making my adjustments, but he’s not worried about that at all. He just runs what he has.”
The one question that stands out as an obvious one for Will’s parents is the question of safety. Do they fear for his safety when he’s out there?
Well, of course, they both said there are times when it is scary, but Dave also compared the hobby to riding four-wheelers.
Many kids Will’s age ride their four-wheelers on trails in the area, he said, and they are much more dangerous in an accident than a micro sprint would be.
The technology that goes into keeping the drivers safe and designing the roll cage is top of the line, and his parents promised he has every safety feature available to help keep him safe while he races.
Will said he is thankful for his sisters, Hannah and Sarah, who help him wash the car throughout the week, and they also help out in the pits.
He also wanted to express thanks to Dave Buck, who helps him in the pits and push-starts his car before the races, as micros don’t just start up and drive off like a normal car would.
Will’s season is finished, as his teammate, and father, is also done after the Little Guy Nationals at Mercer Speedway wrapped up Saturday.
Will said he is already looking forward to next year when he can hit the track again.