Ten-year-old Devin Wignall has been a racer for about half his life.
The fifth grader at Altoona Elementary races an Outlaw Dirt Kart — a miniature version of a sprint car that weighs 320 pounds, with a top speed of about 60 mph. He’s received numerous accolades including the titles of 2012 and 2011 Outlaw Dirt Kart Nationals Champion.
Out in their family’s four-car garage, Devin and his dad, Ron, do the maintenance, pressure washing and assembling of the kart.
It started when Devin was 4 years old, and they took him to an Outlaw Dirt Kart race, Ron says. Devin thought the cars looked neat, so they bought him one the following year, which he drove around a small track they built in their backyard. He started racing when he was 5.
“I got started (racing) because my dad used to race when he was younger,” Devin says. “I like it because it’s fun, and I do it in my spare time.”
It’s a sport that takes a lot of time, effort and money. Race season runs from April through the end of September. Devin usually races once a week at English Creek Speedway in Knoxville. Competitors are divided into four classes by age.
When he first started racing, they would do practice runs at that track. Now his training consists of playing racing video games.
“They help me with the steering and looking at the TV and not down at the buttons, to help with my eye-hand coordination,” Devin says. “That comes in handy because you really have to look where you’re going (when you’re racing).”
The scariest part is being in a wreck, says Devin, who has been in a few, though not serious.
Between races, they spend about 20 hours a week doing maintenance work on the kart, cleaning it and making sure nothing is bent or cracked, Ron says.
To compete at Devin’s level takes about $10,000 to $12,000 annually, which makes having sponsors critical, his dad says. Every year, they create a marketing packet they present to potential sponsors that describes Devin, his racing accomplishments and aspirations in the sport.
“I would like to be like Tony Stewart — he drives a sprint car and is in NASCAR,” Devin says. “He’s my role model.”