POSTED ON JULY 27, 2011:
Micro Racing, an expensive and dangerous pastime
One of the highlights every year in Tulsa sports is the Chili Bowl. Emmett Hahn keeps growing the event and the racing world continues to visit Tulsa in droves.
This is the best of the best. The Midget Sprint cars are driven by professionals with sponsors and a lifetime of experience. Where and how do Oklahomans get their start?
Perhaps down at the Port City Raceway, 15625 East Pine Street.
Meet Jeromy Bowers. The 31-year-old weekend racer was turned onto the sport at an early age.
"My parents went all the time," said Bowers. "It just graduated from there." He has been competing in Tulsa on and off for three years.
Welding pays the bills during the week. But when Friday signals the end of the work week, it is time to feed the animal. "It's like an addiction, man," he said. "You have to feed the addiction every weekend."
What is so addictive? Is it the competition, the winning, the speed or the quest to prove your car is tops? Yes, yes, yes and yes.
"It's adrenaline," he said. "Everything goes out the window. Pain; everything. When you hit the gas, you ain't thinking about none of it."
Unlike the Midget Sprint cars you see at the Chili Bowl, these guys are not sponsored. Everything is on their dime. This adds a little sizzle to the steak. His friend Curtis' uncle owns Intruder's Chassis and he spends plenty of time grabbing parts to make his own repairs. In fact, Curtis sold him his first car.
It is basically an expensive hobby for race fans. The stands are usually packed on the weekend. All ages are welcome both on the track and in the stands.
Not So Hasbro.
He owns and operates a Micro Sprint car. "We are just small time guys trying to do a big time sport I guess. It gets expensive. Some people get lucky and get sponsors but Micro Sprints you pretty much do it on your own."
Little League provides the basics for burgeoning Major Leaguers. There is Pop Warner football for aspiring professional football players. Where exactly does one craft his or her racing skills?
"They have practice days. You go out there and make practice laps when you first start."
Listening to an experienced crew is a must. They give information on tire pressure and other car settings to help maximize your performance.
Then again, you can have the fastest car, best driver and still run into trouble... or a wall.
This past Friday night Bowers was running 4th in the "A" feature. He had just made a nice pass and the car was humming.
Even with the short circular track, the Micro cars can get up to 60 miles per hour in the straight away.
He was hitting full throttle when his steering broke. The wheel was turning, but the tires kept charging straight ahead.
"I'm pretty sore," he said two days later.
"I was going down the back straight away. I'm wide open. I have it to the floor and I go to set the car and it doesn't set and just straight into the wall," he said while clapping his hands.
Now the red flag is out and the drivers stop. The next thing he remembers is the track officials. They were checking on his well-being.
Then they told him to shut off his fuel. "It rung my bell so I left all my switches on, knocked the carburetors off and fuel is dumping out onto the ground. If any kind of spark catches - you are on fire before you know it. Being dazed is not a good deal when you're trying to get out of the buckles. You need to try and get out as fast as you can."
The first thing he thought when the wheels were not cooperating was about his health right? Wrong.
"My first thought was 'this is going to be expensive.' I thought I was going to destroy the car and hurt the chassis but I didn't. I got lucky. I've hit way different and tore stuff up a lot more."
"I don't go because of the wrecks," said his wife Natasha. She also cringes while watching money "flying out of the window" as she puts it.
"He's had real bad wrecks," she said. He is trying to shed his nickname: King Krash. A couple more rear over nose flips and they might paint the moniker on the side of his ride.
So Saturday morning, the night after his latest fender bender, he's back outside working on his car. A couple of buddies pitch in some time and effort. They make another visit to Intruder's Chassis and he gets the itch.
The race Saturday night started at 8pm. His car was back in the running just 20 minutes before the starting gun. He couldn't resist another spin.
"I was gun shy. It is hard to go back there and let it hang out once you've hit the wall that hard."
He admits he probably should not have run Saturday. But the adrenaline got the best of him. The whole atmosphere is addictive.
"It's like a big family. The micro driving in Oklahoma is so good, pretty much the Oklahoma guys go all over the United States and whip up on everybody," he said.
There was a big money race up in Illinois. Six of the top ten finishers were from Oklahoma. The guy that won calls Port City Raceway his home track. He is a teenager.
Bowers daughter Grier is four years old. She already has a favorite driver. Jimmie Johnson? No thanks. Dale Earnhardt Jr? Pass. Then it must be her dad right? Wrong.
She is enamored with Taylor Reimer. Reimer is all of ten years old. "This little girl is a gasser," said Bowers.
The young racing prodigy gave little Grier a trophy plaque. The little racer already "gets it." She made Grier's day and earned a lifelong fan.
It is just one big family out there.
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