Tessa Hawthorne, a 10-year-old from Mullica Hill, isn’t the type to shy away from a challenge.
A fourth-grader at Pleasant Valley School, she races a quarter midget car, which is a quarter of the size of a regular sprint car, in the United States Auto Clubs racing league. The sport is made up of mostly males, but Tessa sees this as “no pressure at all.”
“All the boys treat me the same,” said Tessa.
The club holds competitions every two weeks at tracks ranging from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the mid-west. She travels across the country for races throughout the year and just got back from a race in Ohio.
Some 280 quarter midget racers attended this event and Tessa raced against 35 in her class, titled senior animal. The classes are divided by engine type and age.
She is also part of a local club located in Newcastle, Del. The club is called Blackbird Quarter Midget Racing Club. The season typically starts on Mother’s Day and ends on the last weekend of October.
“We have raised her to be a confident competitor, regardless of gender or other circumstances,” said her stepfather Barry. “She is tough mentally and physically.”
When she was 7 years old, Barry introduced her to the sport when he noticed she expressed interest while watching Barry’s son race. Out of a whim, Barry put Tessa in his son’s car and she immediately loved it.
“It was easy for me,” said Tessa.
Barry has been racing since he was 12 and currently races a sprint car, a high-powered car designed primarily to race on circular dirt tracks. He also is Tessa’s handler, which means that he handles and sets up her race car, along with performing maintenance work. Her mother, Dana, checks the lineup before the race to make sure her car is ready for the race.
Working on each other’s cars is a chance for them to have some quality family time, says Barry.
In the next few years, Tessa plans to move to micro sprints, which is a larger version of the quarter midget and has a wing attached to the back.
Tessa will end her season with a Halloween race, following a turkey race, at the track in Newcastle.