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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Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.