Go-kart driver, 13, races to championships


LAMBERTVILLE - Jeff Myers had always enjoyed racing, and when he met an engine builder in his neighborhood, Myers started to put the pieces together to compete in racing go-karts.

His son, Jeff, Jr., got involved in the sport at just 5 years old, and it wasn't long before his dad had to face reality and assume a different role.

"He was better than me, so I had to step aside and let him do the driving. People started to notice that my son had a real talent for this, so we were better as a team with him driving the kart and me providing some help, at the track and in the garage," the elder Myers said.

His son worked his way up through the ranks, advancing in the divisions of karting and expanding his race schedule each year.

The elder Myers worked on the karts, balanced the logistics, sought out sponsors, and kept encouraging his son.

Last season, the younger Myers won a World Karting Association divisional series and the three championships that make up the Great Lakes Sprint Series Triple Crown.

"I love the speed and the competition," said Jeff, Jr., a 13-year-old who attends Bedford Junior High.

"Once I started racing, I couldn't wait until the next time we could go to the track. It's the most fun when things are going fast and I feel like the kart is doing just what I want it to do."

Once he started to make his mark at places such as Palmyra Speedway near Adrian and at East Lansing Kart Track, racing became a real family affair for the Myers clan.

Jeff, Sr., a single dad, has spent many weekends between April and September on the road with his racing son and his daughters Julie and Kristy.

"It's really been a family deal - something that we do together," the elder Myers said.

"I think it's made us closer as a family and let me spend a lot of time with my kids and really enjoy them."

Kristy and Julie have made numerous friends at the various tracks and have been called on to sing the national anthem before the races.

Kristy also admits to having a case of butterflies at the start of most races.

"When the green flag goes out, I tend to hold my breath," said the 15-year-old, who attends Bedford High School. "I worry about that first corner, because there seem to be a lot of wrecks on the first corner."

The family has traveled to Florida over Christmas break so young Jeff could race at Daytona International Speedway, and they recently wrapped two weekends of racing in the Chicago area around a midweek trip into the city to visit the museums.

Julie, 12, who was at Monroe Road Elementary School this past year and moves to Bedford Junior High in the fall, said she enjoys the sight-seeing and the side excursions that are involved with the racing trips. Jeff, Jr., added that having his family around and doing other things on these trips reduces the pressure surrounding a race.

"I really like it that they all come to the races and support me," he said. "We have a lot of fun making trips as a family."

He has moved up into the faster juniors division this season, and is racing against drivers as old as 16.

He said he expects to gain more experience racing in faster karts against the older kids, and then be more competitive in the class next year.

Meanwhile, the Myers family recently returned from racing in Pennsylvania, and they are preparing for a trip to Wisconsin to race at the renowned Road America course.

"When Jeff got involved in racing, I really had no idea what was going to happen, or how far we would come," the elder Myers said.

"We watch races on TV now and see people we've meet through karting. We've got friends in NASCAR and in the IndyCar Series, and we go places we never would have gone if it hadn't been for racing. A lot of great people - family, friends, sponsors - have helped us out, and it has been an incredible experience for the whole family."

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.