BENTON – The way it usually works in racing families is the younger generation takes over the driving and the older generation moves over to the pit.
It may eventually work out that way for Dawson Hobbs and Eli English.
But for one night, anyway, the youngsters had to sit on the sidelines and watch their dads drive the boys’ racecars.
Veteran racers Steve Hobbs and Dennis English wheeled the sport compact cars their sons race in the High School Warriors class at Paducah International Raceway Tuesday night at the Marshall County A&I Fair.
Their substitute-driver roles were necessary because of a minimum age restriction on events at the fairgrounds.
Dawson and Eli are middle schools students who just completed the sixth grade.
It was a fun thing for the fathers; for the sons, who would really rather have been doing their own driving, not so much.
For one thing, the boys know well how easily a racecar can get torn up in a crash, and how much hard work and money it takes to fix it after the wreck.
For another thing, their own lack of racing experience didn’t keep them from realizing how different the Warrior cars are compared to the full-sized racing machines their dads have driven for many years.
“With a front-wheel drive, when you turn the wheel, it’s going where you turn it,” Eli said, explaining the advice he was giving to his dad before warm-up laps. “He’s used to driving those Vintage cars and they’re rear-wheel drives. It takes a little while for them to adjust.”
Dawson agreed that driving the front-drive, four-cylinder cars is “ “a whole different deal.”
He acknowledged that he has never driven a V8-powered stock car like his dad’s Monte Carlo Street Stock, but he understands the difference from watching his dad race.
As for the dads, they did, indeed, find out that they were in unfamiliar territory in the small cars. Both showed their inexperience in their first laps on the very tight confines of the makeshift fairgrounds oval.
“Snake is like me,” English said, referring to Hobbs by his nickname. “He probably never drove a front-wheel drive fast in his life.”
Their sons’ comments were on target, he added.
“It’s good advice,” English said. “We keep trying to scoot ‘em like we do our cars and let the rear end pull it around. You’ve got to turn the wheel and get after the juice.”
During practice, Hobbs clipped the inside berm and Dawson’s black No. 25 Honda Prelude went up on its right-side tires.
Before the preliminary heats, Dawson had simple, to-the-point instructions for his dad.
“Try not to flip it,” he said.
“I figured if I turned it over, he was gonna be mad,” he said with a grin.
English made it to the finish of the featurem taking seventh place.
Hobbs withdrew shortly after the midway point of the 35-lap feature, and was credited with eighth place.
Neither car sustained any serious damages.
Friday night at Paducah, Dawson was back in his rightful place, behind the wheel of the black Prelude. Eli’s No. 42 Jr. (his dad races with No. 42) was idle at the English Racing shop in Palma because its driver was playing baseball.
But Tuesday night was memorable for the fathers.
“Snake,” English said during a lull in the action Tuesday night, “have you ever had this much fun with your boy?”
Hobbs smiled. It’s been a long time,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed this.”