RICHMOND — Down a winding dirt road, and tucked in behind a parking lot filled with construction trucks and equipment, lies Richmond Karting Speedway, which for weeks has quietly been open to the public.

Shuttered for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the speedway opened in mid-June. Competitive races, which attracts drivers as young as 5 years old, is now a weekend staple at the track, one of the few places in the state to offer live events.

On Sunday, a modest crowd showed for the racing — most practicing social distancing. Some spectators isolated themselves on different parts of the bleachers that are scattered around the track. Makeshift garages are lined down the home stretch of the track and a food shack separated the track, tents and trailers. 

Willie Anderson, who’s owned the track for the last eight years, said he hasn’t seen much of a change since the track reopened in June. 

“We took about two months off,” Anderson said. “We still are pretty much the same. A lot of it is all family so they stay together.”

Anderson was on hand during Sunday’s races in the blazing sun. Holding a microphone for announcements, one could find Anderson going around the tents and trailers talking to racers and families. 

“Five years old is the start and then up through adults,” Anderson said. “It’s good because you work with them all as they grow up.”

Chris Thacker, who was there Sunday to watch his son, Jacobee, race, said the speedway is a good place for kids to get into racing. 

“Every Sunday and a few Friday nights a year they race,” Chris Thacker said. “At 5 you can race. They go really slow and as you get older and more experienced, you get faster plates put in. You get your own car, trailer, it’s a lot of work. Parts, tires, it’s an expensive sport. The kids enjoy it, they have fun. Sometimes they get a little too serious.”

 Jacobee, 10, who races in the Sportsman division, then interjected, saying with a smile, “A little?”  

Zoe Creamer leads the pack during a race in the Jr. Predator division Sunday at Richmond Karting Speedway. Adam Robinson/The Times Record

“My cousin has been racing since I was 2 and my pop put me in one when I was 5 years old and I got on the track to race,” Jacobee said. “I loved it.”

Jacobee watched as Daniel Harding crashed and wrecked his front end. Jacobee understands the risks that come with racing. 

“All the time, every time you go out there I’m nervous,” Jacobee said. “People go fast, people flip over the fence, it’s scary. Last year I got a huge concussion, I spun out and a guy came and hit me really hard and once my friend broke his back and got a concussion. It can be dangerous.”

“Last year someone flipped over this fence,” Chris Thacker added, pointing to the fence in front of him that was bent back at a severe angle. “Some people flip. It’s shorter than Oxford so they only have seconds to get out of the way.”

Harding was safe after the crash and had his father working on the car afterward. 

“I came into a corner and didn’t let off and I smashed into a car,” Harding said.

When asked if he was nervous while driving, he added, ‘Not really, no.’ 

Camden Dube spins into a tire barricade in the middle of the track during the action Sunday at Richmond Karting Speedway. Adam Robinson/The Times Record

His father, Daniel, said he used to race motorcycles but what his son is doing is much safer. The 10-year-old has also been racing since he was 5. Daniel now races alongside Jacobee in the Sportsman division. 

Cayleigh Rose, a 10-year-old racer in the Jr. Sportsman division, was also getting her car worked on. Rose has only been racing for ‘Two or three years,’ but is much more comfortable behind the wheel now. 

“I’m really comfortable now,” Rose said. “I’m not really nervous anymore but when I first started I got really nervous and got scared when I first crashed.”


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