A.J. Howell enjoys skateboarding, football and playing saxophone in the Lakeside Middle School band.
But what really makes the world go 'round for this 13-year-old eighth- grader is taking the wheel in his Go-Kart and racing circles around the competition.
Lakeside Middle School pupil A.J. Howell recently won his first South Carolina Divisional victory in Go-Kart racing, which put him in second place in the series standings.
A.J. hones his skills on an oval track in Burke County, where the dirt is hard as pavement and the noise of racing fills the air. It was there, at the Burke County Speedway, where he earned a recent win.
After finishing near the back of the pack in the heat race, A.J. and his father, Andy, fine-tuned the kart's tires and adjusted the gears. The teamwork paid off, as A.J. took first place in the Oct. 6 event.
Despite the dangers of racing, A.J.'s mother, Barbara, says the thrills of Go-Kart competition outweigh the spills.
"While there are some risks involved, I consider it to be a great hobby for kids and teen-agers," she said. "It keeps them completely involved, teaches them sportsmanship and gives them some extra confidence. It also keeps them out of trouble and off the streets."
Although A.J. races for fun, winning requires hard work. At larger events, racers arrive early in the morning and begin preparing their machines. Drivers are given several practice runs, and then qualify for their positions. They take five qualifying laps and use the fastest run.
A.J. was able to qualify on the pole at his last South Carolina Divisional Series race, which was held at Thunder Valley Speedway. He went on lead all 20 laps and earn his first state divisional victory, which placed him second in the series standings, out of 23 drivers.
Success comes down to ability, but A.J. also gives credit to Schu Performance for building his Go-Kart's engine, and for providing supplies, such as fuel, tires, gears, body parts and other accessories.
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