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Track again revs up for action

As the sun set over the Red River Valley Fairgrounds on a recent Wednesday night, three cars zipped around the race track, with Ashton Miller speeding to the finish line.

Brittany Tendeland

As the sun set over the Red River Valley Fairgrounds on a recent Wednesday night, three cars zipped around the race track, with Ashton Miller speeding to the finish line.

As he rounded the track with a trophy in hand, he was greeted by his loyal fan base of family and friends for a pat on the back.

Eight-year-old Miller is among several dozen boys and girls who gather once a week to feed their need for speed, driving up to 50 mph in their karts.

After several years of inactivity, the go-kart track is once again full of youngsters from the area racing competitively.

The participants, as young as 8 years old, meet at the track for several races in which they move through multiple levels of competition depending on their age, weight and abilities, said Kevin Nathe, West Fargo track promoter and track owner at Buffalo River Race Park in Glyndon, Minn.


Like any other sport or activity, many kids become absorbed in the competition, Nathe said.

"Even when they aren't racing, they are in the garage cleaning the kart, talking to their friends about racing or sitting and waiting to go racing," he said.

Fargo parent Bill Bauer said it's a chance for kids to enjoy competition and learn a lesson in physics at the same time.

"We are just a bunch of people keeping kids involved in something that takes a lot of discipline and common sense," he said.

Miller's mother, Jody Wendel of West Fargo, said the benefits go far beyond a fun Wednesday night routine. Miller has attention deficit disorder, and the races require him to concentrate.

"He is now able to focus and stay out of trouble," she said. "It's something for him to be proud of."

Bauer's 16-year-old son, Brian, started racing when he was 8 years old and has competed in more than seven states. He's known as one of the top go-karting teens in the country.

"Once they're hooked, they are racers for life," Bill Bauer said. "The kids love racing for a trophy because it means more to them than any monetary value."


Racing is a big deal for many parents, too. Some spend as much as $7,000 on a kart, Bauer said. At the larger competitions, some parents spend $400 a race to replace the tires and rims, which gives their children an advantage.

But with cars nearly reaching highway speeds on the track, Nathe said safety is stressed. He said he hasn't had an injury at West Fargo or Glyndon since he started four years ago.

In order to keep racers safe, Nathe said riders need a good helmet, jacket and gloves. Karts also are checked to make sure they are working well before the races.

Wendel said the safety of her son is always a concern.

"I am probably more nervous than anyone here, but as long as Ashton has the guts to do it, I'll let him be out there." she said.

While many of the parents keep themselves busy with one racer, Tom Lund of Lisbon, N.D., had his hands full with his twin daughters.

Shelby and Taylor, 9, are both racing for a second year.

"It's a lot of work, but twice the fun," Lund said.


Still, the sibling rivalry on the track can also cause a lot of fights when one sister runs into the other on the track, he said.

Many of the area go-kart racers continue to race successfully even as they get older. Fargo sprint car racer Natalie Sather, 21, started racing go-karts as a 9-year-old and was the first female to win a go-kart grand national on pavement.

She now considers racing her full-time job, but she said she remembers getting some grief for being a female in the sport.

"One guy told me to go home and play with my Barbies," she said. "But no matter how many times people tell me I can't do it, it pushes me even more."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Kaiser at (701) 235-7311

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