The air is hot and humid afternoon at the Terrace airport. Waves of heat pulsate from the tarmac as large, powerful muscle cars take their places on the track. The deep bellow of their V8 engines roar through the air as they rumble their way down the track in a high-speed, two-by-two procession.
A short distance away from the action, 13-year-old Shelby Peterson and his grandfather Dean Moore are preparing for his race. Peterson zips up his racing suit, and then the pair slowly wheel his slim junior dragster out on track behind some of the larger cars that are racing.
Once the car is in place, Peterson puts on his helmet before climbing into the driver’s seat. Moore leans in and secures his grandson snugly in place, pulling his five-point harness in tight. He then goes to the back of the vehicle and uses a hand-held starter to bring it to life.
Peterson slowly drives his car out to the burnout box where he purposefully spins his rear wheel to make them extra sticky. He then advances slowly to the line where he waits for the go signal. Three yellow lights flash, followed by a green. With a screech of his tires, Peterson is away for a race that will be over in just under 10 seconds.
Peterson has been racing since he was nine-years-old, but his love affair with fast cars began when he was only four. His grandfather took him to a drag racing event in Seattle, and while he was still quite young, the experience made and impression on Peterson that he has not forgotten.
“The cars were a lot bigger and a lot louder than some of the ones here,” he said.
After seeing his grandson showing an interest in racing, Moore said he would take Peterson to see races at venues closer to Prince Rupert like Houston Kitimat and Terrace. He says it wasn’t long before Peterson began to ask about racing himself.
“He’d see the kid’s cars and was asking when he’d be old enough to have one,” he said.
Peterson got his first car when he was nine years old. It was a specially designed, professionally built dragster that has less power, and allows children to learn to drive safely.
“It was a slower car, and we had to start out with lots of weight in it,” Moore said. “We had to keep it slow because he was young, but as they get older you can increase the speed of the car.”
Peterson took part in his first race in 2013, eventually building up to racing in up to five events per year — three times per year at the Terrace airport, once at the Houston airport and once at the Kitimat airport — with his grandfather providing support in the background.
“My job is to get the car ready and look for things that are falling off,” Moore joked. “Because these are pretty sensitive vehicles and the do shake themselves apart.”
Moore said he was always careful during this time to make sure that Peterson was pursuing racing because it was his own passion and hobby.
“I made sure when he was younger that it was is agenda, not mine or anyone else’s,” he said. “Because it’s a challenge to drive these things and you’ve got to want to do it.”
Peterson’s love for racing has only grown with time, and when he turned 13, he graduated to a more powerful vehicle that is capable of going up to speeds of 70 miles per hour. That is fast enough to beat some of the full sized vehicles that take the track at race events, but Moore says Peterson’s race craft has grown with time, and he has been able to win trophies for his finishes in the region.
“He waits on his lights as a racer, and doesn’t leave too soon,” he said. “He races consistently, always races the same and hits his times.”
Even though Peterson is just hitting his stride with his new vehicles, there are already plans in the works for his next ride. The pair have bought a new chassis, and they are in the process of ordering parts to build a car they hope Peterson will be able to drive when he is old enough.
“By the time he turns 16, we’ll have a different car for him to race,” Moore said.
Moore said he enjoys having a passion he can share with his grandson that gets them both out of the house and doing something they really enjoy. For Peterson, the same feeling he felt when he watched cars race in Seattle is there when he watches races locally, and while he loves the feeling of driving, seeing the cars go by is always a thrill.
“It’s only a few seconds that I’m driving really,” Peterson said. “So I really enjoy watching the other cars go by.”
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