One challenge many young Northwest late model drivers face in advancing their career is having to wait until age 16 to get behind the wheel competitively.
Across the country many late model drivers younger than 16 have already amassed years of experience and caught the attention of NASCAR’s top car owners in hopes of realizing a dream to race professionally.
The Inland Empire has a young driver waiting in the wings who is happy to finally be of age to race in a late model series.
Braedon Havens, a 16-year-old Christian Heritage School student in Edwall, Wash., has dreamed of the opportunity to race late model stock cars. He finally gets his chance Saturday as Havens will enter the ICAR Late Model Series season opener at Stateline. Based on the outcome, he may head to Spokane County Raceway for their late model opener on Sunday.
Not bad for someone who just last year was running go-karts at Sunset Speedway. Kart racing has been exciting with several championships and a pile of main event victories, but Havens knows starting this weekend things will be much different.
“It’s been a lot of fun practicing the late model getting ready for this weekend,” he said. “With karts it’s not hard to make adjustments to get better on the track, but this is a whole lot bigger car and I’m still learning what to do to fix it when it’s loose or has a push in the corners.”
Having 2006 Inland Northwest Super Stock Association champion Mike Behar as a mentor and setup artist has helped with the learning curve, Havens said.
“(Behar) has been so much help in getting our Child Haven Learning Center/Western Rail Chevrolet going,” Havens said. “From help with getting the motor built, to paint and practice setups to putting a good seat into the car; Mike has worked very hard.
“We know that his daughter (Nicole) is going to be racing go-karts this year and he’ll miss most of our races, but we’re trying to learn as much as we can as fast as we can while we have him at the track. After that we’re going to build our own team to make things happen.”
That team includes Havens’ father Todd, cousin Fred Simmons and local go-karting guru Jim Dodson.
One of the biggest adjustments from karting to late models to which the team has been adapting in spring practices is radio communication and how that plays out during the course of a day, Havens said.
“I run the track to hit my own marks, but having (Behar) or my dad coaching me on the radio helps to have another set of eyes in getting through the corners better,” he said.
With or without Behar calling the shots on race day, Havens has a simple plan to get through the 2009 season.
“The focus is on Stateline (home to the majority of ICAR’s 2009 schedule) for now,” he said.
“If everything goes well, we can travel to other tracks and run more than a few races at (Spokane County) Raceway. Next year and how we approach it will really depend on how things go this year. To take that next big step we really have to have things going well at Stateline.”
If you go
Stateline Speedway is hosting the ICAR Late Model Series, Outlaw Compacts and the Stateline Hobby Cars on Saturday. Racing begins at 6 p.m. For more information log on to www.raceidaho.com or call the Speedway’s Event Hotline at (208) 773-5019.
Spokane County Raceway hosts its first action of the 2009 season on Friday night with NHRA Street Legal Drags on the quarter-mile drag strip and two days of NHRA Test and Tune on Saturday and Sunday. The half-mile oval holds its first event of the year with SCR Late Models, Zips Pony Stocks and Cops and Robbers on Sunday afternoon.
To learn more about Spokane County Raceway’s weekend schedule, call 244-3333 or go to www.spokane countyraceway.com
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