WNY Auto Racing: Junior drag racers feel a need for speed - The Buffalo News

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WNY Auto Racing: Junior drag racers feel a need for speed

By Larry Ott

Last Tuesday evening, Morgan Jozwiak was looking forward to playing trumpet in the spring concert for Alden Middle School. Before the 10-year-old musician could play a single note, however, she had another task to take care of.

Just an hour or so before the performance she was on the drag strip and behind the wheel of her Junior Dragster at Elegant Builders Raceway Park in Lancaster. Jozwiak was preparing for a new Junior Dragster season, which begins Tuesday evening at EBRP. Joining her in Tuesday’s preseason test session were fellow Junior Dragster racers Anthony Woodward, Zac Vitez and Ethan Pilote.

For over two decades EBRP has run a Junior Dragster program. Young kids and teenagers get their feet wet driving small scale dragsters in a safe environment under the guidance of their parents and EBRP organizers and race officials. It is these kids’ version of Little League baseball or soccer.

“I started coming to the track since I was 3 months old and I like being in drag racing because I get a chance to experience things that my dad has,” said Morgan, the daughter of four time IHRA Hot Rod national champion Ken Jozwiak. “This is my third year in the Junior Dragsters. It’s gone pretty good. I went to a final four times and haven’t won yet but I’ll keep trying.”

Morgan made two warm-up passes down the one-eighth-mile strip at EBRP on Tuesday and then made a full pass reaching 59.98 miles per hour in an elapsed time of 9.05 seconds. All this was accomplished under the watchful eyes of her father, Ken, and her mom, Stacey Jozwiak.

“From the moment she was born I was hoping that she would like drag racing,” Ken of his daughter. “I’m so proud of her and she’s a very good learner. I’ve been racing for 22 years.”

“One day my uncle, Joe Woodward, bought me a Junior Dragster and I thought it was a cool toy and I started racing it,” Anthony Woodward said. “I think we made the dragster a little faster over the winter. I finished second last Saturday at Empire Dragway” in Leicester.

Assisting the younger Woodward in the shop and pits is his father, Mike Woodward. “It’s a nice sport and keeps the kids focused and going,” said Mike.

Woodward made two nice passes of 78.27 miles per hour in 8.23 seconds and 8.25 at 78.24.

Even before EBRP’s new season starts, Vitez and his father, racing veteran Jason Vitez, have something to both be proud of. On May 24 at Empire Dragway, Zac won the morning Junior Dragster eliminations, and later that evening Jason claimed victory in the Joe’s Transmission TNT Super Series. It was a special day for the father-son team.

When Zac came to the line on Tuesday for his run, the rains came and thwarted his opportunity but the young racer is ready for the new season.

“I like driving to the finish line,” said Zac, 11, of Elma, who attends Iroquois. “It’s fun. Winning with my dad winning on the same day was great.”

“I like that I get to go fast and I think I’m going to win at least once this season,” Pilote said.

“I know it’s raining now but I think the sun will come back sometime another day to let us race.”

“The Junior Dragster program has been at EBRP for the last 21 years and I got involved with the program starting in the second year it was here,” said Sharon Hughes, who along with her husband, Glenn, administrates the program.

“I’ve seen many kids grow up here with the Junior Dragsters, then they went on to race the big cars when they got older,” she said. “Every year I worry when we lose some kids because they outgrow it but new kids keep coming. Last week we had four new kids come out.”

As a bonus, each race night, Robert Bauer and K-100 Fuel Treatment awards the No. 1 qualifier a $75 bonus and a plaque. The Junior Dragster program runs at EBRP at 5 p.m. each Tuesday prior to the weekly test and tune night for the regular race classes.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com

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