BangShift Question Of The Day: How Young Is Too Young To Race?

BangShift Question Of The Day: How Young Is Too Young To Race?

The little girl you see in the picture is eight-year-old Anita Board. She raced a Junior Dragster, and on November 12th, 2017, was involved in an incident on-track at Perth Motorplex that claimed her life. Per the rules in Australia, she was to be limited to a top speed of about sixty miles an hour, and as of press time, there is an investigation ongoing into what caused her dragster to go into the wall as she was qualifying for her license. The racing community as a whole is mourning the loss of a young girl who was chasing a dream, and feel for the parents who are undoubtedly shattered by what has happened. On behalf of, I extend our condolences to the Board family.

I’m honestly not comfortable bringing up the question that I’m posing to you, readers, but because of this incident, the question will be posed regardless. Safety groups, child advocate groups, and many others who I cannot view without derision of some kind will say that she was too young, that she, or any other child under the legal driving age, have no business piloting anything faster than a bicycle and even then, only with the prescribed safety gear on. Anita was under ANDRA rules for her licensing pass, which meant that she had a helmet, arm restraints, neck collar, and a five-point harness as prescribed by the rule book. But that doesn’t mean that racing will be 100% safe…look at some of the losses the racing community has endured in the adult leagues in several different disciplines. Formula 1, NASCAR, NHRA and others have all seen racers who had up-to-date gear and plenty of seat time lose their lives in accidents.

Here’s where I’m not comfortable bringing this up: I grew up as that kid who was dying to get competitive in motorsports. I was racing the motorcycles and ATVs and wheeling whatever I could get my hands on in far less safe terms than what a Junior Dragster driver has to tolerate. What will you say to a ten year old who is staring at a go-kart track if it’s determined that only licensed drivers should operate a vehicle, period? “Sorry, kid, you’re just not mentally developed enough?” I’m already seeing opinions flying that age is playing a factor in what took place. Child prodigies develop into professional drivers and the earlier they start learning skills and responsibilities, the better off they are in the long term. I’m sure there are plenty of you that raced go-karts, motorcycles, bicycles, ATVs, or maybe even Junior Dragsters yourself. Remember what it was like back then, when you were young and you got cut loose for your first taste of speed. Remember that euphoria? Remember the excitement? What about the thrill of the competition?

What happened to Anita Board appears to be an accident, but that will ultimately be determined at the end of an investigation by both Western Australia police and the ANDRA. And I highly doubt that it will stop the Safety Brigade from howling something along the lines of “Think of the children!” as they protest anything that looks faster than a Radio Flyer being pulled along behind a parent. Am I biased? F yes, I am.  Look at that picture of Anita again. That is a little girl who is excited at the opportunity to do what she wants to do. Maybe I’m wrong…wouldn’t be the first time.

What do you think…is there such a thing as being too young to race?

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35 thoughts on “BangShift Question Of The Day: How Young Is Too Young To Race?

  1. Jay

    It is a decision for parents to make. We don’t need the opinion of the uninformed masses. If she had all the proper gear and precautions then sadly, unfortunately it is one of those all too tragic incidents that are in motorsports. Hopefully something can be gleaned that will prevent this from happening to someone else’s child. My deepest prayers and most heartfelt condolences to Anita’s family, friends and the racing community.

  2. Gary Smrtic

    Jay nails it right out of the box. It is the responsibility of parents, and no one else! My daughter could ride a motorcycle on two wheels before she could ride a bicycle on two wheels. She was amazing. I had planned to try and send her to Kenny Roberts’ school out in California, because she could slide both wheels in a turn. She had what it took, and I thought about her bing the first woman Moto GP racer (this was back in the early ’80’s). When her mom got sick, and eventually died of cancer, our lives changed, and we stopped. But the point is, invovled parents, doing things with thier kids are the only one’s who get to say what their kids do. Life happens, and life ends. This is tragic, but it is part of the human condition. Do you want to live in a free society, or not?

  3. Scott Inman

    I need more info on this crash. I have raved Jr dragster in the past and have even seen some crash. How did this happen what failures led to this? Without this knowledge we cannot come to any real answers. I think 5 that the kids carts start may be too young. But based again on the kid and parent involvement 8 is probably the best age to start

  4. Davey

    How many hundred of thousands of passes have kids this age made in a Jr Dragster over the years? This was a tragic and heart wrenching accident and I feel for the parents and family – but it was an accident, an anomaly. My niece drove Jrs my friend’s kids drove Jrs. I have seen accidents and incidents that were not just age related but the car and safety gear did the job and in the vast majority of the issue, the young racer acted correctly. I’ve also seen adults driving cars slower than my daily driver mess up big time. My point is (before I get too heartless) we should look at this and understand what happened and make changes if required – but not immediately condemn the sport and then dissect and dismantle a program that works and works well.

    My heart goes out to the family. RIP Anita

  5. Nicole

    I definitely believe the new 5 yr old age requirement in USA and Canada is way too young! So sorry for what that family is going through

  6. Matt Cramer

    That’s a very sad story.

    If I had the budget for something like that, I’d have a rule that my kids would need to have mastered riding a bicycle, with no training wheels, before they could race anything motorized. Base it off skills and coordination instead of an age number.

  7. Loren

    Chasing a dream, when you’re eight, with a vehicle that costs many thousands of dollars to just go 0-60-0 in a straight line, or chasing your parent’s dream?

    1. Alan

      My two daughters raced Juniors in Australia, one for 4 years, one for seven. Their mother and I have a long drag racing history and have lived OUR dream in the sport for 30 years plus. The girls were never pushed in that direction. They saw the cars racing when we were at the track and the youngest one asked to try it. A year later her sister decided she wanted to try it as well, and a second car was added to the stable. Honestly, it was tough on the finances but that was never a consideration or a pressure for them to stay with it if they didn’t want to; it was always their call. One is now a happy home-maker; one is working towards racing T/F. On her own initiative and drive. Were we pushy? Only when making sure they understand exactly what they were doing and how to do it as safely as possible. Were we nervous every time they got in the car? Yes. Were we / are we proud? Hell yes.
      JD racers in Australia are a close-knit “family”. Our hearts are breaking right now; please don’t play the “child living Dad’s dream” card…..

      1. Loren

        My personal experience with very young children and organized motorsports (not my family but one close) was -not- positive, and my short comment regarded a question that I came to feel should normally be addressed by participants. I too raised daughters and once hoped to have a race driver in the family, their interest and abilities in sports had to be carefully managed and it was sometimes a difficult experience. For reasons good or bad, out here at a distance this is a period this incident is spurring discussion.

        My sincere apologies for being callous or seeming hurtful to those affected, and for if it was felt to be personal criticism of people whose suffering at this time is something I could never know.

    2. Ron Thomas

      My son could have started at 8 like this girl. He wasn’t interested. When he became interested we got him a car. Why?…because drag racing is cheaper than rehab. 90% of Junior racers have a PARENT that’s raced or still does. Junior Racing has enhanced my son’s life…gave him responsibility…drive..motivation and a sense of accomplishment. It’s also taught him the value of monetary expenses. All these have added up to a young man that has never been in trouble. Graduated from high school this summer. Entered the work force and has moved out of our home to lead and independent life at 19. It’s not all little league dad’s/mom’s in Motorsports. I used Junior Racing as life skills and teachable moments. And now my son is thriving and is focused on his future.
      Small investment in my child’s future and far cheaper than rehab.

  8. Bob

    I understand the need and want to get kids involved in motorsports but I just see anything under age 10 as being too young. It is nothing more than an opinion but being younger than 10, you don’t have the thought process needed to attempt to avoid a crash or understand the mechanics of something going wrong and when to lift. This is just a very sad story for all of motorsports.

    1. DD

      You should go out and watch a quarter midget race then. Kids start at 4 1/2 (only by themselves on the track) and at 5 can start racing competitively.

      Are all of them great? Nope….. But the ones that generally don\’t get it will be the slow drivers on the track.

      Saying 10 is when you can start is just as bad of a generalization as saying 4. I\’ve seen 10-12 year olds start driving quarter midget cars that shouldn\’t get near anything that moves, let alone a race car going 30-40mph. I\’ve also seen 6 year old kids that can hang the back end out sideways at 30mph lap after lap all day long.

      In quarter midget racing the race director / novice director have some pull over when a child is ready to race competitively, but at the end of the day parents need to be responsible for determining if a child can handle it or not. Not every 8 year old can. Not even every 16 year old can.

  9. geo815

    Parents (myself included) should give serious thought as to their motivations for allowing their kids to compete in anything that is potentially hazardous. If the lawyers, statisticians, and safety-gestapo of the sanctioning body of said competitive sport deems a certain age to be “acceptable,” it does not mean that your budding Jeff Gordon or Stu Thompson is up to the task at whatever age. Parents have to be smart enough, and informed enough to make the call. As for the parents who are trying to live vicariously through their child – well, I have opinions on that matter, but I will say that that will not happen in my house, and I have no control over what you do in yours. My heart goes out to the family, friends, track officials, and participantz who were affected by this tragedy. Although it’s a part of the deal on this planet, none of us will ever understand it, or will be able to legislate it out of existence. Life is short. Do what you love. Love what you do. If you don’t, you’re not living.

  10. jerry z

    I’ve been a motorhead for as long as I can remember. My parents though were not car people ever! To them it was basic transportation. If the opportunity was presented to me at eight yrs old, I wouldn’t have hesitated to run a jr dragster.

    This is a debate that will never be settled IMHO.

  11. David

    Many above me are saying the only person to blame are the parents, for letting her race.

    First…assigning blame is ridiculous…her parents are gutted right now…saddened more then many of us can imagine.

    Second…this has nothing to do with her AGE!!!! Kids have been go karting, as young as 6.

    We are not there…and yes I would like to know what happened, so we can make sure, it doesn’t happen to any kids over here. But, before we speculate, let’s wait to see what the accident investigation comes up with, as a cause.

    My condolences to her family.

  12. Crazy

    Sadly a child passed, but so ?? you can never make it so safe that it can’t happen, we don’t even know if her health wasn’t a factor in the outcome..

    If you get the racing bug at 4 y/o and the parents are ok with you being in a soapbox derby, so be it.. sad b/s used this tragic even for clicks/hits.

  13. Gwillyville Kid

    Too many people want to “Jump the queue”. Jr Dragsters USED to have 5.5 hp engines . What do the top Jr Dragsters run now? 7.90 in the 1/8th is 11.90 in 1/4. Your 69 Road Runner did not run 11.90. How young would your child be before you gave your keys, to an 11.90 car/bike, to him/her? A 7 yr old should be able to run a 5.5hp Jr. dragster. I’m understanding that this was not what this Jr. Dragster was.

    1. Gary Smrtic

      Gwillyville Kid, those aren’t the engines in the 8 year old’s class. Don’t forget, Jr. Dragster drivers ages go up to 17.

  14. ksj2

    ANDRA rules racers from age 8 -10 are to go no quicker than 11.90 in the 1/8 mile and no faster than 60 mph.From what Ive seen she also had a sibling that also raced JRs.Sad deal as I said a prayer every time my son went down the track racing JRs.He had no interest in regular mainstream sports and I wasnt going to have him sitting around playing video games all the time.His grades,chores had to be in good standing for him to race.That pic of her says Im a gearhead.Godspeed.

  15. Threedoor.

    It’s up to the parents. Period.

    Life is dangerous and always fatal. I’ve got friends who wrap themselves in bubble wrap and worry about dying. It’s a sad thing to see.

  16. lonnie

    haans devices should be on all drivers nothing to hold the neck foam callers don\’t work . i know the hard way but still alive disabled

  17. malc

    When a vehicle comes to a dead stop
    the driver’s body stops too but the internal organs don’t.
    All the restraints, roll cages even airbags
    don’t prevent this.

    I also think eight is too young.

  18. john t

    yep torn on this one.. this was all over the media here in the last few days and talking to my mum this morning, who’s 80, she said to me oh my god why did they let that kid in a dragster?? I had to explain and try to justify jr dragster to her but she just didnt want to know, and I suspect many of the mainstream will just see the cold fact that a kid died without any understanding of the drive and passion she had. Remember all the dumb shit we did on our bikes and stuff when we were kids wiith zero safety equipment? Saw a kid from school get decapitated at the same age on a mini bike trying to scoot under a chain fence, saw my brother cop a 50 stitch leg injury, and myself got run over by a fairlane at around the same age, all of which were done behind our parent’s backs…its sad that we cant keep our kids in cotton wool but thats life. My grandsons are 2 and 4 and do crazy shit and I find I’m the one trying to cotton wool them – how long will it be before they simply take their risks behind grand dad’s back?


    The word is that a turnout gate was open, drivers car hit it in the cockpit area at around 30mph. I didn’t find anymore details than that.

    I have built these cars and provided tech inspection for several years. Without more details, I would think there was a head injury? Even if that wasn’t the cause I would purchase the best helmet, a HANS device and the ISP roll bar padding for car before I spend 5k for an engine. I know she didn’t have a big power motor however, I bet there is a lot of you racers out there with either no roll bar padding or cheap junk on there to protect your head!

    5 dollar helmet for a 5 dollar head!!! Don’t be part of that group!!!!!!

    1. Donny Chops

      A-Men brother . I buried a 3 year old little girl in the mid 70’s. She was the love of my life . I can tell you it never goes away . One day she was playing and happy , the next day she was gone . To this day I can still see her in her white lace dress laying in her white coffin . It still hurts . Sorry folks , this has nothing to do with racing it just brought those awful memories rushing back .

  20. Jeff

    Growing up on a farm I was pulling modified tractors at 12 and farm stock at 8. Made my first pass in a B/Gas coupe at 14 . It’s a tragedy when any child dies but in my life I’ve seen a kid die from a bicycle accident and once while playing basketball. Life had risks parents should decide if there children are mature enough to manage those risks. Bad things will happen no matter how hard we try to protect them just because they do.

  21. Joe Jolly

    Kids literally knock the crap out of each other (football), hurl baseballs at each other, imitate pro wrestlers and often race each other on their bicycles on public streets without supervision or proper safety gear and accidents happen. In organized sports, be it little league ball or Junior drag racing, accidents will happen in spite of all the safety gear, supervision and precaution.. I may soon be putting my grand daughter in a junior dragster in spite of this tragedy. I hope they determine exactly what happened so we can prevent it from happening again.

  22. ratpatrol66

    Really sad deal for the family. I’m sure if the kid didn’t want to race she would have spoke up. I don’t have kids but if I did they would be racing something.

  23. Kevin Rowe

    I think the 5 to 7 is to young. 5 year olds are allowed to go 20.00 sec. and slower with 6 & 7 year olds 13.90 and slower. I work at a track full time and I see the new kids ALL THE TIME doing their runs and the hardest thing for these young ones is to turn off the track! going from A to B is not the problem. They get down to the top end and it is like they get the peddles mixed up when trying to turn or they come at it way to fast. The best thing you can do as a parent is before the kido ever goes down the track take them to the far end and push them off the track over and over again tell they get it. Then using a pit bike push them at a speed you think they should be at when making the turn until they get it and understand it. Like I said going down the track is the easy part for these kidos. And as a father that raced Jr’s with my kids for 12 years I know this works. We do this with the kids at our track.

  24. Andy

    My son was racing a Jr. on his 8th birthday. We have been in a Jr. now for 9 years and have seen alot. Some kids are ready and some are not. My son was on a 4 wheeler at 4 and was ready but some kids are not. There are thousands of Jr. drivers and luckily we don’t hear these stories normally.
    This is just a sad accident just like kids that have died playing football and riding bikes.

  25. DD

    My son & daughter both started running Quarter Midget (oval track) cars at 4 1/2 years old. Was there a possibility of them being injured? For sure – but realistically less likely than when they are riding their bicycles……

    That being said, my son started running Jr. Dragsters when he was 10 as well as the quarter midgets – I must say that the safety intent is there on Jr. Dragsters, but I get the feeling from seeing some people at the track that they don\’t pay enough attention to it. Simple things like training, licensing etc. It\’s up to the parents to make sure that the kids know exactly what they are doing, how to safely shut off the car etc. and that the safety equipment is correct (belts mounted correctly & tight, wrist restraints, helmets etc.).

    We have used Nextgen head & neck safety devices for years in the oval track stuff, and seem to be the only ones around here using them for Jr. Dragsters. (quarter midgets have a tendency to get airborne, flip, crash, etc. very frequently)

    So age – I don\’t think it had anything to do with this wreck. It sounds more like inexperience and possibly not being familiar with shut down on the car. (Jr. Dragster – at least in the NHRA – have two different kill switches within reach of the driver – an electrical switch and a mechanical kill).

    Horrible for any parent to have to deal with this, same to the track workers & rescue personnel involved. I would hate to be involved with that incident in any way.

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