NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League age minimum dropped to include 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds

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As an old sports marketer’s saying goes, “Get ’em while they’re young — and you’ll have ’em for life.”

That’s the philosophy of the National Hot Rod Association, which announced Saturday that it has reset the minimum age requirement for youngsters to take part in the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League.

Effective June 15, the minimum age for an aspiring John Force, Tony Schumacher or Courtney Force will now be just five years old, sanctioning body officials announced.

Five-year-olds will now be part of a new class called the “Trainee” category, where, according to an NHRA media release, “participants can begin running a Jr. Dragster with a crate engine from Briggs & Stratton with a slide valve limiting the power output of the engine. Trainee participants will make single passes down the dragstrip to get familiar with the car and track surroundings in a non-pressure environment.”

In addition, a separate class for six- and seven-year-olds, the “Youth” category, has also been created and will allow participants “to begin competing head-to-head on the track at the 13.90-second index with a crate engine and slightly increased power output from the Trainee category engine,” the NHRA media release stated.

Those classes will join existing classes for youth participants: novice (8-9), intermediate (10-12) and advanced (13-18).

Also, new licensing procedures have been put into place that will require every new youthful participant to complete a cockpit orientation, basic driving test, track orientation and test passes.

“It is important to provide competition opportunities for children in these age groups so they can become exposed much earlier to the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League and the sport of NHRA Championship Drag Racing,” said Josh Peterson, NHRA vice president of racing administration. “With similar introductory programs available in stick and ball sports for ‘pee-wee’ competitors, we wanted to put an NHRA drag racing option into that mix for families to consider.”

The setting for the announcement, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., was fitting, as it was there that the original NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League was formed and began competition in 1993.

Several of today’s stars in the NHRA pro ranks got their start in the Jr. Drag Racing League, including 2013 Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon and current NHRA Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens.

The Jr. Drag Racing League Western Conference Finals will be held July 10-12 at Utah’s Rocky Mountain Raceways, while the Eastern Finals are July 24-26 at Bristol Dragway in eastern Tennessee.

Nearly 1,000 kids will be competing for individual and team honors, with nearly $50,000 being awarded at each event including $2,500 and an NHRA Wally champion’s trophy to each individual winner.

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Hamilton: McLaren could help create four-team F1 title fight in 2018

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Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes Formula 1 team cannot afford to let up in its push to improve ahead of a fiercer fight at the front of the field in 2018 – potentially including former team McLaren.

Hamilton clinched his fourth F1 drivers’ title in Mexico at the end of October as Mercedes continued its perfect record of championships since the introduction of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014.

The team faced a stiffer challenge in 2017 thanks to a resurgent Ferrari, while Red Bull also posed a threat towards the end of the season, setting the stage for another close fight next year.

Hamilton is expecting both Ferrari and Red Bull to remain a force at the front of the pack, but also feels McLaren could join the fight after ditching Honda in favor of a Renault engine supply for 2018.

“When I’m training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset,” Hamilton said.

“If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to gear yourself up to win.

“Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again.

“We can’t stand still – we have to keep moving forwards.”

Hamilton started his F1 career with McLaren back in 2007, winning his maiden world title in 2008 before leaving the team for Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season.