Editor’s Note: Joseph Parsons is a member of the Kansas City Region SCCA and a regular competitor in our Solo program racing his white 2011 Subaru WRX in the D-Street class. Recently, he has had another responsibility during Solo events, readying, mentoring, and supporting his son’s first experiences in karting in the FJC class. Joseph shares the experiences, challenges, and joys of sharing our sport with his young son.
One time during my first season of autocrossing, my wife brought our son, Cole, out to see me race. Being the prudent father that I am, I put him on my shoulders to see the Formula Junior Karts. He kind of thought they were neat, but didn’t really say much. But in the middle of my heat, he was getting really tired. Only then did he want to DRIVE one of the karts. When we told him he couldn’t yet, the tantrum came! “BUT I WANNA DRIVE A KART!!!!”. My poor wife had to drive this tired, screaming, and disappointed child home. Hoping he would fall asleep on the way. Needless to say, the seed had been planted.
The next season, I talked (bugged?) to the other parents for advice and how to prepare. Trying to soak up as must information as I could. Cole asked if he could have a kart. I knew he was ready as he drove his Power Wheels truck around the driveway with precision, coming close to objects but not quite touching them. At the end of the season before he turned 5, I started my search.
I found a lightly used Rocket kid kart that had been sitting in a garage for a few years. It looked in really good condition. Before letting Cole jump in and drive it, I wanted to walk him through the controls, especially how and when to use the brake. Besides, it started getting really cold shortly after I bought it. Over that winter, both Cole and his little sister would go down to the garage and sit in the kart pretending they were the next Michael Schumacher.
Finally the weather started warming up and I got the kart out of hibernation. Like anything new, it took a bit to learn all of the nuances. Once it was started, Cole’s excitement peaked. He was going to finally get to drive it! He did exactly as I told him. Take it slow at first. But before the end of that tank of gas, he was spinning out at the end of the driveway, beaming a grin from ear to ear.
After a few driveway sessions, Event #1 finally arrived. To be honest, this was more exciting to me than Cole. After all, I had to not only take care of him, but also prepare myself, and I’m still new to autocrossing!
I was a little worried. This was the longest course that he has driven. He didn’t know the concept of dodging cones or driving around other karts. It had rained that morning, so there were small pools of water around. We walked the course. I tried to explain to him what the cones meant. Which way to go. He giggled a few times while dodging goose poop. Half way through, he got bored and wanted on my shoulders (which happened at every event). I went over the rules a million times! Drilled into his head about using his brakes if he lost control or got scared.
It was time to start the engines and suit up. He sat in his kart, waiting as patiently as a 5 year old can. The time came for the karts to line up at the starting line. He was the last in the lineup. I told him to follow the other karts and they will tell him when he can go. On their way to the starting line, he bumped into the kart in front of him. Twice. That second bump, he got a glaring look from the kid he bumped. Finally, he was at the starting line. When the starter told him to go, he went…slow. It felt like forever for him to make it through the whole course. He looked a little jaded when he made it back. But he was ready to go again.
On race days, we would wake up, load the car, and head to the site. He would help me get my car and his kart ready. A father and son team. He would say many times that he was ready to race. We would do our work assignment together, mostly waivers. For the most part, the season went really smooth. One day at the last moment, it was decided the kids would get 5 runs. I informed him that he could drive another lap when he was ordering a burger with grandma. The burger won. But somehow, Brad Smith was able to convince him to drive. Thanks Brad!
His first season was great! My goal was for him to have F…U…N…!!! We both had a blast! His mom came to every event. Other family came out to watch him, too. We are both looking forward to another great season.
— Joseph Parsons
Photos courtesy of Patterson Prints, LLP.