Longwood seventh grader Lucas Hinton is one of the fastest kids in America
Coming out of the near turn at the outset of the Goldspeed USA World 100 last November, Longwood’s Lucas Hinton had a good feeling about the race that evening.
But that premonition was not to be. The lead car suddenly spun out, causing a chain reaction that sent Lucas’s go-kart airborne, spinning a full 360 degrees before crash-landing back on the track.
“It was a series of unfortunate events,” says the Rock Lake Middle School seventh grader, who came through the mishap at the Cross Roads Motorplex in Jasper, Florida, with only a sore neck. At the fearless age of 12, Lucas dusted himself off, ready for the next adventure.
Spinouts are a big part of go-karting, propelled by karts reaching speeds of up to 63 MPH on dirt tracks. The go-kart’s 6.5-horsepower engine is similar to one that runs a home generator, albeit modified for speed.
Karting now for six years, Lucas, a NASCAR fanatic, truly has a passion for motorsports.
“It’s the adrenalin of it all,” he says about his love for racing. “For some reason, it relaxes me. I’ve just always wanted to go fast.”
Enjoyment is one thing, being successful is another. Lucas has proven he has both the fervor and the knack for the sport. Just last year, he competed in more than 40 kart races, finishing in first place five times, coupled with a multitude of second- and third-place outcomes.
Currently piloting the seventh kart of his career – number six was history after the Goldspeed crash – Lucas competes on multiple Florida tracks including Original Speedway Park in Fruitland Park, Jasper’s Cross Roads Motorplex, Callahan Speedway, New Smyrna Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, and Florida Dirt Motor Speedway in Land O’ Lakes, where he does most of his racing today.
Indeed, the proving grounds for future NASCAR drivers can be found in small towns throughout the country, with a big concentration in the South. Inconspicuous oval dirt tracks host races in which drivers as young as eight race around for fun and bragging rights. The World Karting Association equates go-karting to the Foundation of Motorsports.
While Lucas mainly competes in The Sunshine State, once in a while he travels to go head-to-head with some of the best karters in the country. Last October, Lucas competed in the invitation-only National Championships VII at Thunder Valley Motorplex in Neeses, South Carolina, as part of the Maxxis Kart Racing series. While the results were not what Lucas expected, it was a humbling and positive learning experience.
“We had a hard time figuring out the track with our tires and gear selection,” says his dad Tony, a.k.a. the crew chief. “We kind of figured things out by the second day.”
On day two, Lucas qualified for the consolation race. He found himself in second place near the end, only to spin out after being nudged by another driver.
The opportunities for karters to compete are endless. There are local series races, state events, and national competitions. Some are governed by the World Karting Association, others by the American Kart Racing Association. Classes are based on age and weight. The sport is open to male and female drivers alike, and there are even leagues strictly for adults. At five-feet tall and 100 pounds, Lucas is competing in the Junior 2 class for kids 12 to 14. He is now eligible to move up to a larger series of cars called the Legends, mini-replicas of Fords and Chevys, circa 1930s.
The only child of Tony and Anna Hinton, Lucas was born in Richmond, Virginia, and has been living in the Wekiva Springs area of Longwood since he was a baby. While his dad had an interest in NASCAR growing up, racing was not his passion – until six years ago. Lucas, however, does have racing in his blood. His grandfather on his mother’s side raced cars in Brazil, and he has an uncle who raced motorcycles.
Lucas and his parents comprise the Lucas Hinton Racing Team, which sports number 99. Besides driving, Lucas is responsible for washing tires, changing the oil, and washing his kart after each race. Dad services the car while mom handles the marketing and pitches in with some tire washing (tires need to be cleaned and washed prior to each race).
While Tony and Anna are confident in Lucas’s ability to stay safe, his recent crash does bring safety top-of-mind.
“Lucas loves racing and cannot imagine his life without it,” says Anna. “As a parent, I want to become more involved in the safety aspects of racing so all of the kids are safer. The karts are getting faster and more competitive each year we race.”
And the love Lucas has for the sport is real. This is not just a hobby for him. It never was. He plans to make racing a career.
“My lifelong dream has been to win the Daytona 500,” he says.
But for now, Lucas gets to enjoy his childhood, one that just happens to include kicking up some dirt while chasing that elusive and cherished checkered flag.
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