Participants in quarter midget racing’s biggest event this week have literally taken over the Madison County Fairgrounds.
The Eastern Grand Quarter Midget Races, hosted by the Central Ohio Quarter Midget Racing Association (COQMRA), is the largest event of its kind in the nation.
The event is larger than the other two national events, the Western Grand and the Dirt Grand (it’s run on a dirt track), said Greg Adams, the COQMRA spokesman.
“It always draws the largest number of cars,” he said.
The draw of the sport is not only the cars, but also the family involvement within the sport. Generally speaking, Dad, Mom and the children come along, if one or more of the youngsters are strapping themselves in the cars.
As Mark Tobey was draining the fuel from the “wild formula” quarter midget resting on a stand, his daughter walked up to check Dad’s progress.
“I know where my kids are every weekend,” Tobey said. “They’re with me.”
The Chalfont, Pa. resident has been involved in the sport for 24 years. At the outset, Tobey, an electrical contractor, sponsored his neighbor’s son’s car. He donated $400 to his efforts. Some years later Tobey, who had been involved in sprint car racing, saw it as a fun, family hobby. All three of his children — two boys and a girl — race.
Nicole Tobey has raced for five years and is racing in her 11th grand, as it’s called. She has become acquainted with other racers from all over the country and stays in touch with them.
John Kimnach, also from Pennsylvania, calls it a sport with a great equalizer. Boys and girls of the same age and weight race against each other and based on their skill have an equal opportunity to win a race. His son, Carson, 15, will be racing in a car equipped with a Honda 160 cc engine.
That Honda engine, which powers most of the cars, was the savior of the sport, said Dave Young, president of the Quarter Midget Racing Association.
Twenty years ago, the sport was limping along. Young said costs were high and participation was dropping. To remedy the illness, American Honda stepped forward to help out. Help came in the form Honda’s 140 cc engine. Young said that engine dropped the price of that component from $6,500 to $400.
“It allows a lot of people to go racing who couldn’t otherwise,” Young said.
John and Carson Kimnach of Perkasie, Pa, are people such as those. They bought a used race car for $1,900. The Kimnachs have close camaraderie with the Davys, who are more experienced racers, but are giving their friends a huge helping hand. It’s fulfilling Carson’s enjoyment of “going fast.”
The Kimnachs and others can thank Honda’s Dave King who became involved to provide an engine to the racers which all would use. With all the engines, which are durable and relatively low maintenance, basically the same, Young said the driver’s skill and the chassis on which the driver rides become the deciding factors in a race.
King also developed the different classes (by weight, age, and engine size) and continued the “substantial” monetary support by Honda.
King passed away in 2012 so to continue Honda’s involvement, Doug Foore continues the relationship.
Members of the association decided after King’s passing there should be a trophy to honor his memory. After a year’s “development,” western regional representative Debbie Zimmerman said the result is the Dave King memorial trophy, which will be presented on Sunday to the winners of each “A-mains” classes. Foore called it the equivalent to a grand national champion.
Racing will continue through Saturday. Admission is free.