Putting the pedal to the metal

Local boy a whiz at midget car racing

By Aaron Reynolds
The Surveyor

Aidan Brooks, 7, competes in the Junior Honda, Junior Animal and Junior Stock divisions in the ultra-competitive region 8 of QMA.
Courtesy of Joe Starr

Aidan Brooks is 7 years old and likes to play baseball and hockey. He also is a big fan of “The Mighty Ducks” and the “Cars” movies, and can be frequently found playing with his older brother or dogs. He represents the epitome of a 7-year-old boy, aside from one notable difference; Aidan very well might be a better driver than your average adult.

Yes, that’s right. He’s 7 years old and could probably out-drive you.

Aidan competes in junior Quarter Midget racing, a form of automobile racing for children between the ages of 5-16. It may sound like a new motorsport that was recently established; however Quarter Midgets have been around in one form or another since World War II, and over 4,000 drivers participate in the United States. It has also served as the training grounds for legendary race-car drivers such as Jeff Gordon and A.J. Foyt.

Quarter Midget racing is no joke. The little cars cost thousands of dollars to own and maintain, and can reach speeds up to 30 mph for junior racers and 40-45 mph for senior racers on a 1/20th of a mile oval track, sometimes competing against as many as 11 other drivers. In the ultra-competitive national circuit, some families travel around the country for a vast majority of the year where mom, dad and siblings are all encouraged to help the young driver in one facet or another.

“Part of the beauty of this sport is they really try to make it a family sport,” Kerri Belsito, Aidan’s mom explained. “The moms have roles, the dads have roles. If big brother used to race he’s probably in the pit crew.”

Aidan recollects he has been in love with cars since preschool after the family took a trip to Italy and got to witness firsthand the luxurious styles of some of the most alluring automobiles in the entire world. The passion for cars continued into kindergarten where he told his teacher he wanted to be a professional race-car driver “because it would be fun.”

After attending a Try It and Like It Day at IMI Motorsports in Dacono, Aidan got his first taste of driving behind a quarter midget race car. He was hooked. A few months later Kerri, and her husband George, surprised Aidan with his first quarter midget car on his sixth birthday, complete with a helmet, fire suit and gloves. He began racing at the “novice” level weeks later.

Since then, Aidan’s progression on the racetrack has been superlative. He now competes in the junior division, and in his first full season had first-place finishes at Rocky Mountain Quarter Midget Association (RMQMA) in Dacono and Southern Colorado Quarter Midget Association (SCQMA) in Pueblo, as well as second place at the RMQMA Budweiser Piston Cup in Loveland.

The upcoming 2017 schedule is loaded with several anticipated races beginning in April, and will lead up to winter nationals next December in Las Vegas. Last year Aidan was just short of reaching the podium for third place, and his goal this year, he says with a huge smile, is to “win a slot machine,” or in other words a miniature version of it that is shaped into a custom-made trophy for nationals.

While Quarter Midget racing may look dangerous with participants as young as 5 years of age competing, Kerri – who works as an equine veterinarian – describes it as safer than being involved with horses at a similar age.

“There was a part of me that’s just glad he didn’t want to ride horses,” she admitted. “I think that safety-wise, most of the time it is safer than horses. I worry more about my nieces and nephews who rodeo without their helmets on to be honest with you. My apprehension or anxiety with it was that I don’t know anything about cars.”

The Brooks have certainly had some catching up to do, as a lot of the families involved in Quarter Midgets come from deep racing backgrounds. They have, however, gained valuable insight from other families in the Rocky Mountain club (consisting of about 40 other families) as well as from Tad Fiser Racing in Denve,r who has rebuilt the three cars Aidan currently uses to compete in. Still, Kerri says with a chuckle “We’re learning one division at a time. What we could use even more than sponsors is a pit crew.”

Aidan will continue to develop his skills on the racetrack once RMQMA and SCQMA competitions resume in April. He recently visited Indianapolis where he participated in a three-day race training simulator to help breakdown strengths and weaknesses on the track. It is also designed to help him prepare for an extraordinary competitive junior division that Kerri describes as “twice as big and a lot of rough and tumble” compared to the novice division the second-grader raced in for part of last year.

“It can be pretty crazy and physically demanding,” Kerri described of a race. “There is no rest period. They are constantly in a turn. He’s building to that (level of endurance).”

 

— If you would like to learn more about the sport of quarter midget car racing, including attending the next Try It & Like It Day at IMI Motorsports – visit RMQMA.com. Aidan’s upcoming race schedule and sponsorship info can be found at aidanbrooksracing.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter, as well as watch videos of Aidan in action by searching Aidan Brooks Racing on YouTube.