Greenbrier Middle School student Cade Downes is well on his way toward his goal of becoming a NASCAR driver.
On Oct. 19 and 20, Downes participated in Endurance Karting’s 24 Hours of America race at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Driving on the Pro Cup Karting Juniors team along with four other teammates, who he was paired
with on Friday, Downes helped the team to a fifth-place finish out of 21 teams.
“We probably would have finished third, but they penalized us for weight since we don’t weigh as much as the other people,” said Downes, who turned 12 on Friday.
Because he is lighter than many of the other racers – the average age of the racers was 39 – Downes has to compete with a weight belt, sometimes with as much as 50 pounds.
Downes was allowed to race because he had gone through the basic driving school when he was 10
and the advanced class when he
was 11 and had prior racing experience.
Downes ran his go-kart on the dirt track at Gordon Park before it closed and has spent time in asphalt go-karts at the Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C.
He first got the sights and sounds of auto racing from the television at his grandfather’s house and his parents have done what they can to support his racing desires.
“We never expected this,” said Downes’ mother, Kim.
“He’s passionate about this, so as a parent you do whatever you can to make it happen.”
Before the race, he was looking forward more to his third time at the driving school on Friday.
“They teach you about driving,” Downes said.
“It’s not anything like verbs and all that from school and math. Instead of learning all that from school, you can just go out and do it.”
The race started at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 18 and finished at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 19 with drivers allowed to drive up to 45 minutes at a time.
Downes had the day shift with two other teammates so he was able to get a full night’s sleep.
He got a few more turns behind the wheel Sunday morning, finishing with a total of eight shifts.
In the end, the driving school couldn’t compare.
“I liked the 24-hour race better,” Downes said because of the driving and the competition.
“It was probably a mixture of both, like passing people and all that.”