Casey Starr isnt an average 14-year-old, and the first clue might be her black-and-white checkered fingernails, which are the same pattern as the flags used in car races to let drivers know they have crossed the finish line.
Casey is, after all, a race (kart) driver who lives in Sherwood with her dad Ron and her mom Sommer.
My dad and brother (Chris, 19) have been racing their whole lives, and Ive been around it my whole life, said Casey, who started racing herself about
2 1/2 years ago. I liked everything growing up and went to races with my family. I didnt just sit and play with dolls. At one point, I wanted to drive and my dad didnt want me to, and another time, he wanted me to race, and I didnt want to.
Before turning to racing, Casey wasnt exactly sitting on the sidelines doing nothing - she was a competitive figure skater for 6 1/2 years.
One day, she walked off the rink and into a race car, Sommer said.
Caseys vehicle of choice is Outlaw Karts, and she noted, Theres not really a minimum age when you can race them - if you can walk, you can drive, but its a matter of what size engine you can drive.
Last fall Casey graduated to the 500cc open-class motor karts, which are designated for drivers 16 and older or those who get a waiver.
Casey and her dad are still working on the 500cc Outlaw kart, but she had participated in three races by mid-December. You buy the frame, a motorcycle engine and the other parts and assemble it, she said.
Tricks of the trade include over-boring or changing the piston size and increasing the cubic centimeters.
Casey started racing on a 125cc kart, and the family sold it after she qualified for the 500cc karts (there also is a 250cc kart). In kart racing, the laps are short, and each race is 20 laps long, with several heats scheduled at each event.
They take the points from the first two heats, and that determines your position for the main event, Casey said.
Races are held October through March in Salem at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in the livestock pavilion, and May through September at the Albany Motocross (or MX) track, Willamette Speedway in Lebanon or the Cottage Grove Speedway.
In 2014 we are hoping to go to Montana for the Wild West Shootout and to Idaho for the Topher Classic, Casey said. In the winter, we race about every other weekend, and in the summer, its pretty much every weekend.
Sommer explained that Outlaw cage kart racing is the NASCAR of dirt tracks, referring to the popular National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.
And Casey is far from the only girl racing these days.
There are really a lot of girls now, she said. In the class I moved out of, I was the only girl when I started, and now it is half girls. My new class has about 20 in it, and two are girls.
When she was racing her 125cc kart, she won three times and came in second in the summer championship at Willamette Speedway.
However, Casey lost a heartbreaker of a race and what would have been her first win in her 500cc kart at the last race of the season last year in Albany. She qualified for the main event and was leading when her brand-new $4,000 engine blew up.
There was no time to change it, although Casey noted, We bring along a spare engine and every other part. When we traveled to Topher last summer, we had all the parts for a total new car along with us.
However, her racing career didnt get off to a good start, as Sommer recalled that the first time Casey raced, she went to the hospital in an ambulance with a concussion.
Sommer added, You can watch your husband and son race and be OK with it, but its different when its your little girl in the car. Shes got every piece of safety gear known to man.
The family is grateful to AJs Sports Pub & Grub in Sherwood, which is one of Caseys sponsors, and her kart sports its logo.
Casey, a high school freshman, has lived in Sherwood for the past eight years and attended Archer Glen Elementary and then Sherwood Middle School before switching to Oregon Virtual Academy last year. It is a full-time, online, public charter school for grades K-12.
Its perfect for Casey, Sommer said. The teachers are great, and shes learning a lot more than in a brick-and-mortar school.
And the flexible schedule gives her more time to concentrate on her racing career.