- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) - The post-race football games with his friends will be a thing of the past next spring - but that’s a sacrifice that Emerson Axsom is willing to make.

For nearly half of his life, Axsom has been driving in quarter midget races. Following a 2016 season that has seen him claim national championships in two different classes, it’s time to move on and mix it up with the big boys.

“He’s got nothing left to learn,” said Emerson’s father, Joe Axsom. “The only thing we’re doing is waiting for him to get bigger.”

In the meantime, bigger cars. Done with quarter midgets after a couple more winter indoor races, Emerson plans to start racing in the Mel Kenyon Midget Series and also competing in Micro Sprint 600s. It’s a big step up from what he’s been doing, but it’s pretty clear that the 12-year-old is ready for a new challenge.

The United States Auto Club (USAC) has 14 different divisions for quarter midgets, each of which have points standings for both pavement and dirt. This year, Emerson Axsom has been competing in four of the toughest classes on pavement - Light 160, World Formula Modified, Senior Animal and Light World Formula.



Axsom claimed national championships in both Light 160 and World Formula Modified while finishing third in the standings in both of the other classes.

Those titles didn’t come easily, however - especially the World Formula Modified crown.

To qualify for a championship, a driver has to finish eight races in a season (six regional and two national). When Axsom went south to compete in his eighth and final race in September, there weren’t enough cars entered in the field for it to count. So he and his parents drove through the night to get to another race in Ohio - and that one got rained out.

Determined to get that last race in, Emerson went west to Las Vegas, flying with his mother, Jenny, while his father drove out. He took second out there in a Sept. 29 race to clinch the season title.

Of the 32 races he ran for points in those four quarter midget classes this year, Emerson won 19 of them and finished second or third in seven others.

One might think that his competition might get sick of getting beaten so frequently, but Axsom counts his racing peers among his closest friends, and there’s a clear level of mutual respect there.

That’s not always the case closer to home.

“It’s easier to go where everybody else is on the same level, and then just beat them and they respect what you’re doing instead of having animosity toward you,” Joe Axsom said.

“The quarter midgets are really neat,” Jenny Axsom added, “because when they’re racing, they’re enemies on the track, and the minute they get off they’re in the corner playing football with each other.”

While he’ll miss that camaraderie and admits he’s “a little nervous” about competing against adults while he’s still enrolled at Custer Baker Intermediate School, Emerson Axsom is looking forward to some new challenges as he continues to grow.

“I want to get into 410 sprint cars and stuff like that,” he said. “I want to be sort of like Tony Stewart, how he drives everything.”

Emerson has been behind the wheel since he was 5 years old, when his father bought a quarter midget car and brought it home. He’s been competing full-time since he was 7 - and it’s been his passion from that point on.

“Once I started winning, I liked it,” Emerson said.

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Source: (Johnson County) Daily Journal, https://pinews.co/2hrt7u8

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Information from: Daily Journal, https://www.dailyjournal.net

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