Thompson sweeps first junior races

So much for an adjustment period.

So much for an adjustment period.

Red Deer’s 12-year-old kart-racing phenom — Parker Thompson — moved up into the junior division two years early after a season of dominating the minimax division and he picked up where he left off.

This weekend in Phoenix he twice beat a group containing the top 15-year-old drivers on the continent to sweep the first leg of the Gatorz Challenge of America.

“We won it all in our first junior race, which is virtually unheard of,“ said Parker who credits his Tony Kart West Racing Team for setting him up with a great cart kart for the weekend. “I wasn’t shocked but I was certainly very happy. In your first race to win it all is pretty cool. I was racing against some big names that had a lot of money behind them.”

Not only did he win the two races, he also earned the pole in qualifying for both races.

Quite the impressive start for Thompson who is dwarfed by the competition, arguably the biggest hurdle he faces in jumping up to the junior division. He is so much smaller than the other drivers that his team has to add nearly 100 pounds of ballast to his kart so he can make the 320 pound combined weight.

“I’m racing against guys with huge muscles and six packs and all that kind of stuff, and to be physically strong enough to drive a 25-lap main in a huge kart and . . . with all that weight going into a corner at 70 miles per hour (112 kilometres per hour), that’s a lot of weight to push and turn,” said Parker. “To come out on top is a real accomplishment.”

Taking the pole and the first two races of the year is huge for any competitor at this level as it all goes towards points. The driver with the most accumulated points at the end of the Gatorz Challenge of America circuit — which includes stops in Fontana, Calif. and Sonoma, Calif. — punches his ticket to the world championships, this year in Italy.

Parker’s early success has the sponsors fawning over him already, which will help get him down to the U.S. more often this year for things like training and test runs, which he was unable to do much of last year despite driving in around 40 races. He will also be competing once again in the Western Canadian Championships which has races in Calgary, Chilliwack and Saskatoon, as well as the Canadian Championships.

But all this attention and success has not escaped the conscience of his competition who are already exhibiting signs of jealousy.

“Everyone in the karting world is a pretty good sport but they didn’t like a 12-year-old beating them,” said Parker, who adds he was T-boned in a corner of one of the mains after passing a kart for the lead.

“They play head games with and a bunch of stuff. They really don’t like you beating them. (In a race forum) they were saying ‘Parker Thompson’s got a special chassis you can’t buy on the market and special tuned engines that nobody’s ever heard of before, and he’s got illegal stuff . . .’ We’re just running our back of the line stuff, everybody can buy it, it’s not like it’s off the market. That’s just some of the stuff they say to get into your head and you can’t let that effect your racing ability. You got to brush that off your shoulder and go on with your day, and that’s what we did and we came out on top.”

These are all things Parker is learning to adapt to as he chases down an eventual professional career in the sport.

“My expectations are very high,” said Parker. “There’s a lot of big events that I’m going to this year . . . and if we keep it up this could lead to Europe in the near future for racing.”

jaldrich@reddeeradvocaye.com