These are the racers who deserve our respect and should capture the attention of every spectator at any given race. When you see them on the starting line waiting for the green flag to fly, only one thought consumes their growing minds, and that's blasting to the other side of the pit before their competitors do. It doesn't matter who is lined up next to them, whether it be a good friend or relative, they want more than anything to own the bragging rights at the end of the day. Standing over them at the starting line, their parents cross their fingers anxiously hoping they've properly prepared the machine and that their mini rider exits the pit with a massive grin on their face. These determined youth racers are the future of our sport and deserve the utmost respect as they are often as, if not more, competitive as some of the top-level racers who lead the sport today.
While these mini racers draw a good-sized crowd (though small in comparison to the fan frenzy of the full-sized pit races), many spectators don't think about or realize how intense the racing in the smaller pit can be. I honestly don't think there is any other person, regardless of age, who will possess as much of an intense drive and motivation to be the best as any youth racer. While attending the 2010 High Lifter Mud Nationals, Thad and I made a point to spend time at the youth bog with these young racers and to experience this adrenaline-filled level of racing firsthand. As we strolled through the staging area I was surprised by the focus and concentration these racers possessed, even before they were lined up at the starting line.
It's not uncommon while covering the long list of off-road events throughout the year for people to see our camera gear and start hamming it up in hopes of getting their picture in the magazine (which we love, by the way). This was definitely not the case as we attempted speaking with and snapping a few shots of many of these kids. We could barely get them to lift their heads, let alone open their mouths. It's not that these guys and some young ladies didn't want to rap with us, but they were focused on something way more important to them: their 10 seconds of fame. This was some serious concentration that we were seeing out of these young racers.
The parents, on the other hand, were exactly the opposite of the young riders. While the kids sat on their machine anxiously waiting their turn to hammer down at the drop of the green flag, the parents were meandering around sharing stories of rides or parties attended the night before. Some stayed by the machines to make sure everything was in working order or do last-minute adjustments in an attempt to give their kid the upper hand in the murky water. The last thing any parent wants is to see disappointment in their children's eyes as they need to be towed out of the pit, and I can't blame them for that.
As the riders were finally called to the starting line for the first race, there was one young competitor who let his nerves get the best of him, as he rolled on the throttle and blasted into the murky water before the green flag was thrown. Chances are that he would use his unaccounted run as an excuse to get a crack at the pit before anyone else to find a line that would give him an edge over the competition, but I think it was just a combination of his nerves and excitement. From competing in races myself, I know just what that little guy was going through and cheered him on through the pit as well.