Maybe it's the wind whooshing over her helmet or the asphalt whizzing by beneath her. Brittany Butler loves "going fast." For Chris Sullivant, a Nomex driving suit was more than protective gear, it was a statement of who he was for the five years he spent racing in it.
Lots of kids and teens have had a taste of kart racing, and it's a growing sport with karting clubs, one-day expos and driving schools for children as young as 5 years old.
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  • Where to race?

    For a quick racing fix or to join a karting club with your child, try one of these local venues.

    Quarter Midgets of America
    www.sfqma.com

    Endurance Karting
    Offers classes periodically in South Florida
    866-722-3669
    www.endurancekarting.com

    Homestead Karting
    Provides organized races in Homestead.
    305-469-6188

    Moroso Motorsports Park
    For one-day karting schools or practice.
    17047 Beeline Highway, Jupiter
    561-622-1400
    www.morosomotorsportspark.com

    Boomers Family Recreation Center
    For a fun, noncompetitive day or evening.
    3100 Airport Road, Boca Raton
    561-347-1888
    1801 NW First St., Dania Beach
    954-921-1411
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Both Butler and Sullivant started kart racing young with the Quarter Midgets of America, just one of many organized kart-racing associations.
"Kids start as early as age 5 and run until they are 16," says Curt Sullivant, Chris's father and Quarter Midgets' regional director. "Not too many kids go to the 16 cutoff. My son did, and he had to retire."
Although Chris retired from his racing career, his 12-year old sister Mandy is carrying on the speed-karting tradition. The kart motor's stock configuration gives it between 2.5 and 4 horsepower. Modifications, as allowed in the upper classes, permit the engines to reach several times the stock horsepower.
"We race on a 1/20th of a mile, small, oval track," Sullivant says. "A novice is an 8-second lap and bigger engines run a 6-second lap."
A 6-second lap means the experienced drivers are running at speeds of 40 to 45 mph. The oval shape keeps racers at lower speeds because of the nearly constant turn, says Sullivant.


Safety first
If the thought of a 5-year old behind the wheel of a kart screeching around corners worries you, the family-oriented Quarter Midgets have strict safety rules. The organization requires every new driver to take part in a training session for both driver and pit crew, usually a mom or dad. The session is included with club membership fees. The other club members come to the track and teach about the car, flags, racing and rules.
"We get them on the track to get some laps under their belt," he says. "Then more novice kids go out so they can get used to racing with other kids."
The Quarter Midgets currently have 4,500 racers nationwide. The contestants' beginnings were all nearly the same: They came to a promotional day. Days are scheduled throughout the year at different venues.
"It is a 10-lap test drive in a [member's] car with safety equipment and instructions," Sullivant says. "And in our experience we haven't come across a kid yet that hasn't had a blast."
The next step is to buy a car and required safety equipment, costing between $1,500 and $3,500.
After that, finding a racing venue in South Florida can be somewhat challenging. Current race locations in the state are New Smyrna, Tampa and Titusville.
"We are trying to establish a club in South Florida," Sullivant says. "We thought we had a go with one venue but they decided to go another way."
The South Florida club has a few participants willing to drive to the north and central Florida locations, sometimes on a weekly basis, he says.
"The guys that are racing want something to do with their kids," Sullivant says. "We know it would be big; we just need a venue."


Looking for a home
Ronnie Laing, president of the South Florida Quarter Midget's Association, found the sport when his son Tyler, 12, said he wanted to race "something."