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Sat, March 23

At age 7, area resident Jordan Thomas is off and racing

Bob Thomas' eyes light up when talking about the experiences of his 7-year-old. Karting has been an interest of his since his childhood. But his own mom and dad wouldn't allow any competitive racing.

"My parents thought it was too dangerous," he said. "But it was something I always wanted to do."

The danger element does not seem to be much of a factor for Jordan and his family. His mother admits being a little worried in his first start following an accident a few months ago. But she saw Jordan was responding fine and has no qualms about her boy's racing.

In fact, Jordan talks with pride about his accident, even displaying a trophy he received from the Phoenix Kart Association for being a member of the "Up-Side-Down Club." The crash occurred on May 15 and although Jordan thought he flipped just once, dad said he watched his son do a double cartwheel before landing on his head.

Thomas said the safety equipment in place for competitors is really good, evidenced by Jordan's walking away from his cartwheeling. But the accident did force the purchase of another helmet.

Jordan's equipment also includes a professional racing suit. Mirroring those worn by "the big boys," the suits are made to protect the driver and are even abrasion and fire resistant. There are also gloves, rib protectors, neck collars and other miscellaneous items.

The kart tracks themselves are even designed with safety in mind, with places for vehicles to run off course, if needed. Competing in the Kid Karts division, Jordan's racing speed averages 46 mph.

Jordan is big for his age, which actually slows him down a bit on the track. But dad says he makes up for it in other ways, calling him a "natural seat."

"His best attribute is his ability to pass in the corners," he said. "If he gets beat, it's because of his weight on the straightaways. He's pretty much a natural."

Once the new season begins, Jordan will be on the track about twice a week for practice. Currently, they have to travel to Phoenix for time on the track, although Thomas said he is currently working on bringing a facility to Prescott Valley.

The mid-July trip to California Speedway in Fontana was for the second annual King Taco Open. More than 300 racers from California, Arizona and Nevada competed. Dad said his son had a shot at winning, but blames himself, the pit chief.

"He stepped on the gas and it died," he said.

Jordan qualified sixth and ran fourth out of 16 in his heat on the 1.2-mile oval.

Jordan will soon be moving up to a more advanced division for 8- to 12-year-olds. He will eventually move up from his direct drive kart to the power and manual transmission of a "shifter." Jordan is already getting plenty of time on these types of karts, which involves the fatiguing task of shifting through gears. His dad estimated he'll be ready for shifters when he's about age 10.

One trip to Jordan's room and it's obvious he wouldn't mind becoming a professional driver himself someday. Dale Earnhardt Jr., is his favorite and his wall includes an autographed picture of Raines, his older Outdoor Channel counterpart.

For now, Jordan is enjoying his time on the track, and he especially enjoys the wins.

In fact, after taking the checkered flag for the first time in Phoenix last year, mom was there to lead the celebration.

"It felt great," he says with a grin. "My mom poured water on me."

The family's love for karting has already drifted down to Jordan's little brother, 4-year-old Chase. Dad says he'll be getting into Kids Kart racing in November.

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