SEABROOK – Dwight Souther Jr. recently won his third checkered flag in the 14-race season at Star Speedway in Epping.
It may not sound remarkable until it is revealed that Dwight is 13 and is racing against adult men.
Sometimes when his father, Dwight Souther Sr., watches his son interact, exchanging stories with older and much more experienced runners, he has to step back and catch his breath.
“He just turned 13 in September and he’s raced against guys who are in their 20s to 45s, some in their 50s,” the proud dad said. “He took three first places, two seconds and a third in his rookie season. On the track, they say he spanks older guys.
The teenager’s love for cars and driving began when he was young, after spending time with his boyfriend, Jaxson Fillipone, a friend since kindergarten, according to Souther Jr.
“My friend’s dad (Jaxson) had a car he raced in and I went to see him,” Souther Jr. said. “I really like it. And I wanted to do it.
Souther Sr. had done some running himself, but not to the degree his son had achieved.
“I did a few endurance races, but nothing competitive,” said Souther Sr.. “I drove in the pits for some of my friends who raced. “
Star Trooper Program:Young people enjoy a practice like no other during the pandemic at Star Speedway
Where it all started
When Star Speedway owner Bob Webber along with racing enthusiasts Jay and Amanda Avery organized driving lessons for the kids, Souther Jr. was into it, his father said. Father and son took to the track on Saturday morning. It was a time for children, where they could learn the inner workings of motor racing and have the track to themselves for a few hours a week.
“The parents helped out and made sure everything was safe,” said Souther Sr. “I told Dwight we were there to have fun and respect the race.”
A youth class has been created for children between the ages of 8 and 14 called the Star Troopers. The races included special precautions and limitations for young people, such as throttle controls preventing vehicles from going over 40 mph. All Souther Jr. needed was a car.
“I bought him a 1999 Chevy Cavalier,” Souther Sr. said. “It’s a four cylinder. We worked on it together. “
Repairing a runner is not as easy as it seems. There are a lot of safety requirements like roll bars, window and window removal, welding doors closing, engine modifications, racing seats, hood clips and safety harnesses. to only cite a few.
And then there is the pilots’ equipment.
“I am wearing a (flame retardant) suit and pants, shoes, gloves and a helmet,” Souther Jr. said.
“And he’s wearing a neckband,” Souther Sr. said.
Everything was ready by the time Souther Jr. was 9, so he got behind the wheel. He raced in the youth league and did really well, said Souther Sr. But as the young driver’s skills improved he wanted more. Last year he entered the adult clean animal division; he was 11 years old.
Step up your game
Modifications were made to the Cavalier to improve the odds of the 4-cylinder, Souther Sr. said, but it couldn’t keep up with the more powerful 8-cylinder engines that others were driving. Souther Sr. started looking for another car that would give his son a better chance.
“I found a 1980 Chevy Malibu,” said Souther Sr. “It’s a 305 cubic centimeter turbo 8 cylinder engine. It is faster.”
With that, his skills and his competitive spirit, Souther Jr. entered Slingshots, an adult division sponsored at Star Speedway by K-Cob. And according to the racetrack announcer, it didn’t take long for Souther Jr. to “become a true fan favorite” in his No. 23 Malibu race.
“I just love driving cars,” Souther Jr. said. “I think it’s fun.”
Maybe one of the reasons this 13 year old wins is because he has more patience than most of his age. He doesn’t try to win the race as soon as it starts. He takes his time, his father said, finding opportunities to move and overtake, while trying to avoid trouble on Star’s quarter-mile oval track.
“I completed all but one of the races,” Souther Jr. said. “I was stunned from that one.”
Even when Souther Jr. finds himself at a disadvantage, according to his father, he methodically progresses through the peloton of cars in front of him, until they are behind him.
And so far, Souther Jr. said, he has not been injured. To which his father quickly added: “I’m touching wood. “
He is not scared
As for dealing with fear as he runs the track at around 70 mph, Souther Jr. said, that hasn’t been a problem for him.
“I’m not scared,” he said, “But it’s scary sometimes for my mom (Marcee) and my dad.”
His siblings, Skye, Rylen, Jayden, and Nolen also probably had a few tense moments watching their brother zoom in on the runway. However, if Souther Jr. has what he wants, the family have to make peace with it because when asked how long he expects to run, he has a quick response.
“All my life. I want to race for NASCAR,” he said.
In five or 10 years, those at New Hampshire Motor Speedway may have the chance to see a son of the country chasing the checkered flag on the 1,058 mile oval of Loudon’s “Magic Mile”.
Then again there is the dream of a New Hampshire Yankee winning the trophy at the Daytona 500 in the years to come.