TJ Hartman Racing News March 1, 2009



TJ Hartman Racing News March 1st, 2009
March 1st, 2009
Author: Ted Hartman


Photo Courtesy of The Nicki Factor - TJ helping flag at novice training

TJ Hartman Racing - UPDATE - TJ goes back to where it all started!

Puyallup, WA - March 1, 2009...

TJ signed up for duty to help train new drivers at the same track where it all started for him in 1998. Eleven years ago, the then 6 year old enrolled in drivers training classes at the Little Wheels Quarter Midget Association in Graham, WA. The 1/20th mile paved oval has been a fixture at the Pierce County Fairgrounds Frontier Park for more than 30 years. The club began construction of the track at its current location in the Winter of 1974, and held the first official race there on May 4, 1975.

The Little Wheels racing organization for kids was officially formed in 1969, and has been training winning drivers ever since. TJ trained and raced his first year there, before making the local dirt club chapter his official home club. "The first time I raced dirt I just really liked it. You got to slide the car around and that was fun!" TJ says with a smile. "But we stayed members at Little Wheels too and I raced there off and on until 2005. Our quarter midget region was made up of five paved tracks and only one dirt track, so you had to know how to run pavement if you wanted to compete."

TJ preparing for action with the Little Wheels Novice Class of 1998

Though he hasn't ran quarter midgets since winning the final two of his four QMA National Championships in 2006, TJ hasn't been far from the tiny race cars. He explains what led him back to Little Wheels: "I'm just a Junior in High School, but before I graduate I have to perform 20 hours of community service for my Senior Culminating Project. I already did the job shadow part, and there are several things I need to put together as a portfolio, including the community service. In my Senior year I present it in front of the class and show them what my plans are for the future. It's something I need to do in order to graduate, and I figured what better way to volunteer and do my community service project than by doing what I did for nine years - racing quarter midgets."

TJ learning the pattern in drivers training

Quarter Midgets of America is an all-volunteer organization, and TJ learned early, the value of helping and the rewards it can bring. The teenager continues: "My family is still members of the club at the Grays Harbor Raceway, but I thought it would be kind of neat to help train kids where I started racing. I sent an email to their trainer(Marc Deaver) explaining what I needed to do for school, and he responded right away and said he knew about the project for High School kids, and he said he could always use the help. I thought it would be good to do my community service project in the community where I go to school. The Little Wheels track is just a few miles from my house and school."

Marc Deaver has served the Little Wheels club for several years and has been racing there with his two boys. It wasn't hard for him to understand the importance of the project - he is also an 8th Grade science teacher at Cascade Middle School in Auburn, WA. Marc comments: "His experience, energy, and enthusiasm are a valuable asset to our training program. A class of drivers, ranging in age from 4 to 13, has the opportunity to learn from TJ's experience as a former quarter midget driver turned sprint car racer. TJ has been devoting his Saturdays to fulfill High School graduation requirements and, more importantly, to give back to a younger generation of drivers. I greatly appreciate TJ's commitment to helping new drivers work their way toward becoming veteran racers."

TJ and Marc helping one of the young drivers learn to read the flags and know when to speed up or slow down

TJ concludes the update: "I'm having a lot of fun. It' is a great feeling to have the kids look up and you can see their eyes and they respond to what you tell them. My dad was a drivers trainer, and I remember him telling us about that feeling. Now I know what he was talking about." As distant as the little cars and his time in them seems, TJ quickly realized just how much a part of his life quarter midget racing was. "I was kind of surprised to see cars on the track that I use to race against, and one car I even drove for Dave Peppel at Oakwood Arena because his son David didn't really like dirt at the time! It's cool to go back and see those cars and know their history. Marc and everyone there have been really nice and welcoming. Everything seems so little. The kids are so small, but they figure out what everything is really fast. I really don't remember learning that stuff." He adds with a laugh: "It's hard to believe I had to learn what each pedal was for. It seems like yesterday that I was there training to be a race car driver!"

Next scheduled stop - Training the future competition!

TJ Hartman Racing