High School freshman takes aim on IndyCar racing career
Quinten Nelson once drove a race kart one-handed around a challenging track at Camden, Ohio -- after his side pod came off -- never lost his position and still finished in first place for the day.
It's no coincidence that track is one of the venues where Danica Patrick started her IndyCar career, as a kart racer.
Nelson, a 15-year-old freshman at Newark Catholic in Ohio, has serious designs on a similar career after dominating in karting. He's moving up to open-wheel racing, looking for a chance and the financial support to work his way up the leader.
He's the real deal, says First Response president Craig Young, who first met Quinten when he was just 9 or 10 years old. He couldn't believe the maturity and focus for someone that young.
"He's a boy who's a man among boys," said Young, whose company does restoration and reconstruction. "I've been down to see him race. When he walks, he walks like a champion and just looks like a champion. Straight up, shoulders back, looks you straight in the eye and has a firm handshake. He has a certain charisma for anyone that young. He demonstrates that same confidence on the race track."
Young hooked him up with local consultant Dave Brenner, who worked for State Farm for 32 years. He introduced Nelson to the Andretti team at Indianapolis. "And he made an impression," Young said.
It all started when Quinten and his father, Rick, happened upon a kart race at Circleville after injury had ended his motocross career. Tim Bell offered to put him in a kart to test at Camden, he immediately was making times similar to veterans, and the rest is history.
"I liked driving," Quinten said. "It hit me that this is what I want to do for a living."
In 2006, he started racing with the Ohio Valley Karting Association and took six first places in nine races, moving up from the rookie class to cadet junior sportsman. The following year, he made the tough decision to give up all other sports including baseball where he was a promising shortstop. "But this was my only chance to go pro," Nelson said.
After competing well against nationally ranked drivers in cadet junior sportsman and junior sportsman Yamaha classes in 2007, Quinten took two first places and four seconds while also racing at Daytona (Fla.) International and Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. Focusing on national and divisional series in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina, Nelson recorded 25 firsts and 12 seconds competing in various club and World Karting Association events in 2009.
With a look to the future, Quinten Nelson Motorsports bought a new race car transporter and new kart in 2010, competing at the WKA National at Daytona and several club races. Last year, he had 18 more first places and nine seconds with the Mid-Ohio Kart Club.
Some of his friends were at first skeptical about his racing, saying it wasn't even a "real sport." They became believers when they went to the track and saw how he raced.
"He also did a junior high project, a video of him racing, and they saw the speeds he was competing at and the competition he was facing," Rick Nelson said.
Next up is buying a Formula Enterprise race car. He needs to attend the Skip Barber driving school and Skip Barber advanced racing school in Florida before racing in the Skip Barber National Race Series, sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America.
Nelson wants to drive for Jay Motorsports of Charleston, W.Va., featuring Patrick Gallagher of Thornville and Mount Vernon's Jason Wolfe.
"It's the first rung in the ladder to the IndyCar Series," Rick Nelson said. "We've been to a couple of races with them and they have shown an interest in Quinten. They're a great group of people, like a big family that respects each other, and they've let him be involved over the weekend."
Another strength is knowing what is going on with his car during the race. He knows the math, science and technology that go into it.
"Through karting, I know exactly what to put into the car," Quinten said. "I can come off the track and tell Dad what needs fixed."
"As he moves up, he can talk to engineers and tell them what the car is doing, and he's already been able to prove that," added Rick.
"We've learned a lot together, from a lot of people," said Rick, a former motocross racer. "There's not a day we don't learn something, and his dedication has enabled him to learn a lot."
Quinten also helps his father modify their impressive race trailer, adding a second deck this winter. "When these guys show up at the track, they look like they're there for business," Young said.
They've done so with limited funds. They've raced karts with the same engine the last five years by rebuilding it, keeping up with and beating racers who have several engines at their disposal.
"There have been a lot of races we haven't been able to do," Rick said. "We hope people see him and think he's the real deal."
Nelson Motorsports is offering sponsorship packages ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 as the major sponsor (the website is www.quintennelsonmotorsports.com).
"It takes a lot to do this right, and we're really serious about this," Rick said. "He's proven to be a very good driver; he does a professional job at what he's doing, at age 15. You want to get them into this sport early, and he's already made a name for himself."
Quinten has seen what Derek Holland has done for Newark with baseball. He wants to do the same with racing.
"I've proven myself in karting, and put my name on the map," he said. "The focus I have at the track and how I prepare. ... I picture myself winning. I want to put Newark and local businesses on the racing map."
Young has no doubt he can do it.
"He has racing talent," he said. "He just needs a break, a chance, because he's going to be a winner.
"Currently, I have Quinten's first dated and autographed photo that I wouldn't part with for anything. It will most certainly be a collector's item when Quinten Nelson Motorsports is a household name in the racing world." Newark Advocate