For Kort Holbrook, racing is as integral to life as family.
His mother, Jennifer, recalls Kort as a toddler, coming to life upon arriving at the drag strip to cheer on his father, Scott, a veteran of 20 years in the local circuit.
She recalls how his eyes would light up, his energy would spike, and life slowed down for those warm summer afternoons.
Over a decade later, that fire is still very much alive.
Kort, now 14, has parlayed that passion into a District 6 title in the NHRA’s Junior Thunder league — the last step in a young drag racer’s career before he sets foot in a full-size dragster.
The District 6 title is just the latest achievement in the young speed demon’s already storied career.
The Wally trophy is given to the winner of any official NHRA event.
The victory marked Holbrook’s fourth Wally trophy in the five years he’s competed in events.
“Determination and focus,” Holbrook said. “That’s the most important component of any drag racer.”
And for those wondering, yes, drag racing, especially at the youth levels, is about much more than simply having the fastest car for a brief few seconds.
For the youth levels, there are imposed speed and time restrictions based on the age of the driver.
For Holbrook, for anyone, winning a race really has far more to do with throttle control and reaction time than simply having a fast car out there.
It’s a sport of precision, more similar to golf than a simple race.
And much like golf, the communities drag racing creates are as genial as they are competitive.
“Every drag strip is like its own family,” Scott said. “There’s a real sense of camaraderie at every event you go to. You’re not just representing your own family. You’re representing the entire community, and that translates over to national events, too.”
Mrs. Holbrook chimed in, as well.
“Even if you’re not racing yourself, you support the people and the other racers around you, and they support you,” she said. “It really is like a second family to us, and we celebrate every win with everyone we know.”
This family also feels a need to reach out and embrace a larger community.
“What we want more than anything is to be able to share this experience with others,” Jennifer added. “There’s so much about the drag racing community that’s worth sharing with the rest of the valley, and it’s no more expensive than any other after-school activity, which I think is what so many parents get hung up on.”
Now, building or buying a dragster is certainly a bit more pie-in-the-sky, to be sure.
That said, to her point, the NHRA created a new racing class recently to help spark interest in the sport.
The Junior Street class, a class that allows young adolescents to race using street-legal cars that would normally languish in the driveway.
This class is open to all prospective racers between the ages of thirteen and sixteen.
And it should be said, drag racing is not the boys’ club that common perception would lead one to believe.
In fact, no other sport provides such a level playing field, as proven time and time again by renowned champions like Leah Pritchett, Brittany and Courtney Force, and Shirley Muldowney.
There is no prerequisite to making a name for oneself on the drag strip.
As Scott Holbrook said, “a good racer isn’t born, they’re forged through endless practice and determination.”
There’s something to be said for the community aspect of the drag strip, as well.
With the sounds of revving engines permeating the night air in ever-increasing numbers across the valley, letting young drivers cut their teeth in a safe and constructive environment makes as much sense as ever.
Add to that the positive influences of having the support of local families as these kids hone their driving talents, and it becomes as much an investment as a simple extracurricular.
As for Kort, he’s just looking to ride out his racing career as far as it will take him.
If the stars align for him to turn pro, the sky’s the limit for him, perhaps a little more literally in a sport that requires one remain firmly on the ground.
If it’s not in the cards, turning pro wasn’t the point, regardless.
It was, is, and always will be about family.