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Orange County Speedway

Orange County Speedway News
Talented Teens at OCS
Mar 30, 2008 - updated Mar 30th, 2008 5:21pm
Web posted by Randy Pettitt

Rougemont, NC --

            – Talented teens flocking to Orange County Speedway say they are ready to challenge the Triangle area’s racing establishment when the 2008 season begins here Saturday afternoon, April 5th.
           
            Thirteen-year-old Lizzy Smith is the youngest of a group of teenage drivers expected to compete regularly on the steeply-banked three-eighths mile asphalt oval.  Perhaps the best coached will be John Edward Burton IV.  Better know as Jeb, he is the son of former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton and nephew of Jeff Burton.
            Jeb Burton, 15, is graduating from a successful go-cart racing career and expects to compete in Orange County’s Limited Sportsman class.  His father and uncle cut their racing teeth here, too, and went on to a combined 34 victories (and counting) at the major league level.
            Smith is one of the most talked about young female drivers in the country.  “I want to be the first (female) winner or champion in the (Sprint) Cup series one day,” she declared when featured on cable’s Discovery Channel last year.
She is an eighth grader at Fuquay-Varina Middle School has won 3 divisional championships in go-carts.  In her first foray into stock car racing, Smith was third among 22 contestants in a four-cylinder class at another track last year.  Her team has prepared a new V-8 powered car for her to use in Orange County Speedway’s Grand Stock division.  “I can’t explain why completely, but I love racing,” she said.  “I just love the smell of the rubber and sound of that engine.”

Why is Orange County Speedway such a magnet for talented young drivers?
The speedway’s public relations manager Randy Pettitt said there are two reasons:  “We operate independently, so we are not restricted by age limits imposed by a sanctioning body.  I think the biggest reason is we have great fans, a fast track and a family atmosphere here.  Most of veterans seem to enjoy helping these young drivers.  Some of our guys have raced with the Burtons, Denny Hamlin and Scott Riggs before they made it to Sprint Cup level.  It’s exciting to watch this latest crop and wonder who is going to be next!”
Fifteen-year-old Kenny Bullock set the bar high for his fellow teens when he became the youngest Late Model winner in the track’s 48-year history.  Forbes lives in the Granville County town of Bullock and attends JF Webb High School.  “My friends gave me a lot of ribbing when I went to get my learner’s permit,” he said with a laugh.  “Here I am racing at a hundred miles an hour and I can’t drive myself to school yet.”
Forbes credited the track’s 2007 champion Terry Dease and “really all the guys over there for putting up with me and helping me.  It felt really good to win there toward the end of the season.  I’ve won at every level of racing and this has definitely been the hardest.”
He teased that Dease’s coaching may come back to haunt him this year.  “We’ve built a new car and expect to run for the championship this year,” said Forbes.  “I know that Terry (Dease) and Ronald Hill and all those guys are going to be tough to beat.  My goal is win a few races and be consistent.  That is what it takes.”

Dease and Ronald Hill, 2006 Orange County Late Model champion, are among several veterans expected to challenge the youngsters.
“It was a thrill to finally win the Late Model title at Orange,” said Dease, a mechanic at the Altech plant in his hometown of Oxford.  “I hope we can do that well again.  These young kids keep getting tougher every year.”
The track’s senior driver, James Turner of Danville, Va., laughed when told of the youth invasion.
“I believe I’ve got some tools in the shop older than some of these kids,” said Turner, who begins his 54th season of racing.  Turner will be 75 in May and plans another full schedule in the track’s Grand Stock division.  “Everybody is so friendly over there.  It’s like a family reunion at the first race of the season.”
His racing career almost ended December 22.  “I’ve always had a little trouble with one eye, but the other one quit working all of a sudden,” Turner said.  “I was so blind I almost didn’t make it home.  I had cataract surgery and they fixed me right up.”
Turner chuckled and offered some friendly advice for the youngsters:  “I can see better now than I did 20 years ago.  I hope they know how to check their mirrors.”
The main event of the April 5th opener is 150 laps for the Late Model Stock Car division.  Track officials said the NAPA 330 will feature racing in seven preliminary divisions starts at 2 pm.   More details are available at the track’s website www.ocstrack.com .


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