Like many teen-agers, Brandon Carpenter began driving before he got his license. Unlike many teen-agers, he was behind the wheel of a stock car going 90 miles per hour.
Brandon Carpenter, 16, was named Rookie of the Year at Silver Eagle Speedway. The Harlem teen has been racing stock cars since age 14.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The 16-year-old recently completed his first full year of racing at Silver Eagle Speedway and was named Rookie Of The Year. He finished third in the points standings of the street stock division and had 17 top-five finishes.
The ride to Rookie of the Year was as bumpy as it was fast.
Brandon's first race came when he was 14 years old. He got into the race car and flipped it three times. After turning 15, three months later, he crashed into a wall. He was in five races that year.
The fun didn't stop there, though.
This past year, at age 16, he flipped his car again. Undeterred by having one accident per birthday, Brandon already is looking forward to next year.
"I hope all I'll do is win races," he said. "Because to be honest, I've had all the accidents I can handle."
Brandon, a junior at Harlem High School, didn't get his fill of accidents without parental consent. Before he could get behind the wheel, he had to get permission from his father Harold, who has stood by his son since the first accident.
Harold was a mechanic for late model stock cars before Brandon was born and said he knows what the car can do.
"The only thing you worry about is fire," Harold said. "He's smooth and consistent."
Brandon learned to be consistent with the help of Bo Johnson and Shot Ousley. Johnson sets up the engines and Ousley coaches Brandon.
Harold said the moment he put Brandon in a car, every one of them knew the boy would be a natural.
"The first time he got in the car he just went to the front," Harold said. "Brandon is at the right age and if he gets the right backing, he can go to NASCAR."
Until recently, Brandon wasn't at the right age to get his license. He turned 16 on Aug. 31 and promptly took the test. He said the only problem he had was parallel parking - a skill rarely required on the race track.
Driving on paved roads proved easier.
"You have to be a lot more cautious in the race car than you do in the road car," Brandon said. "On the road you have speed limits and stuff. In a race car all you have is your instinct."
Brandon is hoping those instincts take him to NASCAR. But he is planning on making a pit stop in Tennessee, where he wants to attend diesel college.
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