Quarter Midget racing action is compact and close.
In Stock Car Racing's continuing efforts to help our devoted readers expand their appreciation and participation in our sport, we begin a regular feature with this January '04 issue: Get On Track! In it we'll tell you how to go from a Stock car enthusiast in the stands to a participant on track. This month we overview a great entry-level racing class for kids-Quarter Midgets.
If it weren't for the diminutive size of the racing machines, you would swear you were looking at full-size Midget race cars. The characteristic rollcages and open-wheel design of the cars, along with the tight competition, make it seem like Quarter Midgets are the real thing. Just read the resume of any top gun Stock car driver and you will learn that the tiny Quarter Midgets were quite often the racing career starting point. Many of these stars started getting up on the wheel at the tender age of 5.
The Quarter Midgets also have their brand of playful on-track attitude.
In the modern Stock car era (1972-present), the number of top racers that started racing early in Quarter Midgets is incredible, including the likes of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, John Andretti, the Labonte brothers, Jimmy Vasser, Ryan Newman, and Jason Leffler, just to name a few. Also, a number of current drivers have had their sons involved in Quarters, including NASCAR runners Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, and Wally Dallenbach. Martin and Labonte have expanded their Quarter Midget involvement even further, both experienced in the building of Quarter Midget tracks.
The mini-racing machines have been around in some form or another for some 70 years! During the early '30s, it has been reported that unpowered soap box race cars were stripped down and equipped with washing-machine or other type engines to provide minimal power.
The first official meet, so to speak, occurred in 1934 at the Indy Motor Speedway,using cars built by the famous car builder, Pop Dreyer. There was actually a small racetrack set up on the front straightaway of the mammoth speedplant. Two years later, the Maytag Washing Machine Company built a similar car. Both cars used an arrangement in which the engine was located behind the driver, driving the wheels with a V-belt arrangement.
Unlike most racing carts, Quarter Midgets have a rollcage and a tunable coilover suspensio
The Junior Midgets of America, organized in 1938, was the first sanctioning group for these mini open-wheel race cars. Most of the racers, though, were homemade and used wooden frames. Later, factory-built cars that looked like the front-engine open-wheel cars of the era, were constructed and named Midget-Midgets.
After World War II and into the '50s, the sport took off, led by activities in Los Angeles, California. During 1957, for example, there were 17 tracks and some 3,000 drivers.
With that type of diverse activity, it was evident that a single organization was needed as a governing body. Thus was born the Quarter Midgets of America (QMA), the national governing body of the sport today. QMA sets the rules for Quarter Midget engines, cars, competition, and safety. By the way, there is also Quarter Midget-type racing in Canada and New Zealand.
This detail of a right-front shows a tidy steering arm, coilover shock, and axle support r
The QMA is organized into 13 multistate geographical regions, one region including a portion of Canada. The total involvement includes some 57 clubs and an estimated 3,400 families, which amounts to over 5,000 drivers and 8,000 cars. There are approximately 60 sanctioned Quarter Midget tracks in the U.S. and numerous "outlaw" tracks that offer the racing.
In 2001, the QMA brought Quarter Midget racing to a higher level of prestige when it was announced that the United States Auto Club (USAC) would become the new national headquarters and home for the QMA. That exposure can't do anything but help this "best-kept secret in open-wheel racing." The QMA is an all-volunteer operation, and that includes all the officers. Everybody involved loves the sport and is willing to give his/her time and money to make it work.
All Quarter Midget racing is carried out on 1/16- and 1/20-mile ovals. The banking can be whatever is desired, but the size and shape are fixed. Back in the '50s and '60s, there was some Quarter Midget racing done on road courses, but with the chassis offset of today's cars, that's just not practical.
Maximum left-side weight distribution is achieved by leaning (way) out to the left.
Dirt Late Model ace racer Donny Moran is bringing up son Devin through the Quarter Midgets
Going through the tech scales keeps the competition even at this racing level.