- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY By Joe Chandler and Doug Ford
Harrison Walker and the Halifax County Public Schools Motorsports Academy karting program is embarking on a unique opportunity this weekend.
Will Frank, the owner of Blue Ribbon Racing, a well-known go-kart racing team and the District 5 Trustee of the World Karting Association (WKA), is putting Walker, a rising ninth-grade student at Halifax County High School, behind the wheel of one of his karts for this weekend’s WKA Dunlop Tire National Road Racing Series driven by Mazda event at Alton’s VIRginia International Raceway.
The event is expected to draw upward of 400 karts and racers from around the country competing in a wide array of classes.
“This is a great opportunity for Harrison and for our Motorsports Academy karting program at Halifax County Middle School,” noted Brian Seate, an instructor in the karting program.
“It’s a big shot in the arm for both Harrison and our program.”
Seate said the kart that Walker will drive this weekend is a professional racing go-kart and that speeds on the pavement could reach or exceed 80 mph.
The opportunity for Walker and the local karting program to become involved in the WKA event at VIR came out of nowhere.
“We ordered some books for our program from him (Frank) in March, and about three months later he called me out of the blue,” Seate explained.
“He wanted to know if we had a driver in our program that was capable of handling a go-kart on pavement.”
Seate explained that he and Buddy Wilborn, another instructor in the program, came up with five students they felt would be capable of competing in the race. Not wanting to arbitrarily choose one driver, the instructors asked the selected students to write an essay about why they should be chosen for the opportunity.
Walker’s essay was selected as the best, and Walker, last year’s champion of the Halifax County Middle School karting program, was given the opportunity to compete in the program.
“Harrison is a good choice,” Seate said.
“He turned in the best essay. He has a good attitude, has good grades and wants to have a career in motorsports.”
Seate, Wilborn and the students who were not selected as the driver, will work as team members during the weekend.
Walker, an honors student, said he is very excited about having the opportunity to compete in this weekend’s road course events.
“It’s a great honor to be selected,” Walker said.
“I put a lot of work into the essay and I’m glad that the work paid off. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m very grateful that Mr. Frank has given me this opportunity.”
Frank said the idea to contact Seate came from the success of the ongoing program by the school system in evolving kids to the point where they could do some real competitive racing.
“Since the World Karting Association was having a race here at VIR, we contacted Brian to see if he had anybody who was capable of racing,” said Frank.
Walker will be racing in a WKA Enduro event at VIR, and classes are divided by age group, Frank explained.
“If you’re less than 15-years-old, which Harrison is, we use a restrictor plate like NASCAR does to cut the air flow down and the horsepower down.”
The Halifax County High School student understands that he will be competing against many experienced racers. He added the experience he has received through the Halifax County Middle School karting program will help him.
“I know there will be racers out there who have been racing most of their lives,” Walker pointed out.
“The Halifax County Karting program has helped me greatly in preparation for this race.”
Walker recently attended Camp Motorsport at VIR to further his preparation.
“They taught me many great skills at VIR that are required for winning in racing,” Walker said.
“I’m taking what I learned at Camp Motorsport and will carry that into the event.”
Walker admits competing in this weekend’s WKA road race event will be a big adjustment from the racing he is used to doing.
“In the dirt karts we raced in the middle school’s karting program, it was just about making left turns and racing on an oval,” explained Walker.
“This will be a road course race with left and right turns, and the speeds will be greatly increased.
Walker said he has modest goals for this weekend’s event.
“Of course, everyone wants to win,” he pointed out.
“I would be happy to finish the races and be able to say that I completed something like that. That would be a success for me.”
The rising ninth-grade student says he wants to pursue a career in motorsports.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to pursue a career in motorsports, possibly in engineering of some sort,” he remarked.
“I talked to a few racing engineers at VIR while I was at Camp Motorsports and really learned a lot from them. I think it would be a very interesting career.”
Walker said he is also interested in trying his hand as a driver. He noted that he would like to obtain a car and compete in the Pure Stock Division at South Boston Speedway.
“I keep pressuring my dad to buy me one (a Pure Stock car),” he said.
“I would really enjoy doing that.”
Frank is hopeful he can continue his relationship with the Halifax County Middle School karting program and the Halifax Public Schools Motorsports Academy.
“We have been talking to some people at WKA, and we feel like this is a wonderful program that needs to be copied in other parts of the country,” Frank noted.
Frank, who has been involved in kart racing for about 30 years, can recall several well-known drivers who have raced his karts, including Casey Atwood.
There are a lot of other well-known drivers who race karts, including some who race them during NASCAR’s off-season, Frank pointed out.
“We run the big show at Daytona right after Christmas and before New Years,” he said.
“We usually get A.J. Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray, Dan Weldon and some of the really top-notch racers who come down.”