As the Greeley Stampede Rodeo and Carnival moved to greener pastures, Island Grove Regional Park was filled with a whole new level of competition – midget racing.
More than 60 young runners from the Rocky Mountain Quarter Midget Association, RMQMA, along with their families and friends, gathered in the park’s south parking lot on Saturday for the 2021 Stampede Shootout, which includes a weekend of running, education and community awareness.
“We do that from time to time where we can find spots. We have set up a track for children to have different experiences with different configurations, ”said RMQMA President Melanie Wicker. “When traveling through the states you have to be used to different trails. “
Melanie’s husband, Tom Wicker, is a second generation midget runner who helps their children learn the sport.
“I’ve been there my whole life. My dad started running when he was a kid, then me and my siblings did and now I have my youngest in it, ”explained Tom Wicker. “So for us it goes back to the 50s and 60s. For us, it’s just a family tradition.
Tom Wicker even has a tattoo on his right forearm that features aspects of his sons’ cars.
While the club track is located at the IMI Motorsports Complex at 5074 Summit Blvd. in Dacono, the group will travel to other trails or events to participate in races or organize community events, such as Saturday’s at Island Grove Regional Park.
Tom Wicker said Saturday’s event attracted two curious ‘come and drive’, or families who go through the races to visit the club and give their own children the opportunity to take a ride in a race car. to see what midget racing is all about.
“We have to put their kids on the track for a few laps to try it out,” he said.
Parents looking to be sidelines spectators may want to opt for a different sport, said Melanie Wicker. Quarter Midget races are definitely a team effort with parents getting kids and their cars ready for races, helping with signaling, organizing heats, getting cars on and off the track and other chores. various sports related.
“Moms, dads, sisters, brothers – everyone is involved,” said Melanie Wicker. “The managers are usually the fathers and they’re going to tinker with the cars, change gears and all that. Our fathers also take care of the signaling and direction of the race and all of our mothers do the tower work, so we are in the tower to mark races, work on raffles and make sure our children eat.
Racing mom Melissa Steinke has taken care of scrapping her son’s tires on her race car in preparation for his next round on Saturday.
“I’m still learning,” Steinke said with a laugh. “I can do little things like change a spring, throw away tires, things like that. My husband usually does the other things.
In addition to the maintenance and race preparation for the cars, quarter midget race cars need to be started by pushing, so the parents are the muscle behind the cars as well.
Cars are pushed until they reach a certain speed, usually only a few meters. Once the car reaches the required speed, it starts automatically, the driver presses the accelerator and go.
For parents with more than one driver in a race, the push-start process can be a challenge, as one father demonstrated by pushing his two sons’ cars lined up behind each other on the track. . As the cars picked up speed, the boys hit the accelerator and drove off.
Quarter Midget racing cars come in three sizes – 76 inches, 78 inches, and 80 inches – to accommodate children as they grow older. Cars can reach speeds of around 40-60 mph.
Beginner racers can expect to pay between $ 1,500 and $ 3,000 for a used racing car and around $ 300 for safety equipment which includes a helmet, fire suit, gloves and gloves. belts. As racers get older and more advanced on the track, the cost of newer or more custom racing cars can reach over $ 6,000 per vehicle.
“There are many different chassis, engines and manufacturers all over the country,” said Tom Wicker.
To start at RMQMA, children must be 4 1/2 years old and at least 5 years old to start competing against other pilots on the track. Runners can participate in events up to the age of 16 or 17.
“They’re split between age groups, so our junior class would be 5-9 and our senior class would be 10-17,” said Tom Wicker.
All runners start in the club’s Rookie program and progress into competition as they gain more skills and knowledge. The program teaches runners and parents the ins and outs of the sport, safety guidelines and running techniques.
“We have red rookies and blue rookies and it depends on the speed. So you start out as a red rookie and you learn to start, stop, go around corners, and then you start to learn how to pass people. There is a lot of practice before you get into a competitive class.
The club hosts and participates in around 14 races each year from April to September.
The annual RMQMA membership fee is $ 100 and the race registration fee is $ 35 for the first car and $ 30 for any additional car.
In addition to the RMQMA, Colorado has two other midget running clubs: the Pikes Peak Quarter Midget Association in Colorado Springs and the Southern Colorado Quarter Midget Association in Pueblo.
RMQMA was founded in 1957 as a non-profit youth running club. RMQMA is sanctioned by the United States Auto Club .25, USCA .25 – one of the auto racing sanctioning bodies in the United States
The youth running club hopes to partner with Island Grove Regional Park to make the event an annual activity, Steinke said. Next year the club would like to involve more local businesses and food trucks in the weekend racing event.
For more information on the Rocky Mountain Quarter Midget Association, visit www.rmqma.com.