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A real motor scooter

April 01, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer
  • Quentin Tucker, 9, of Imperial fires up his superlite off-road racing vehicle prior to taking a few practice laps around his track in Imperial. CUAUHTEMOC BELTRAN PHOTO

IMPERIAL — With safety helmet firmly in place and peering over the steering wheel, 9-year-old Quentin Tucker takes practice laps in his desert lite racing machine on his family's property here.

Quentin races cars because it's safer than racing motorcycles, his dad, James Tucker, said.

"I raced motorcycles all my life and started him off on motorcycles for about a year," James Tucker said, but increased race track obstacles resulted in moving Quentin to cars.

Quentin's racing career spans a whole year already, and his dad says Quentin likes the money.

"He likes to race for money," Tucker said. "He tries a little harder when it's for money."

Quentin, a third-grade student at T.L. Waggoner Elementary School, finished in the money last year racing the Thunder in the Valley series of five races held at the Imperial Expo. He finished third overall in points. He also races in the FRT Motor sports Promotions District 38 desert series of 12 races. He was rookie of the year in 2001, racing against all age groups, finishing second in the points.


Though only racing for a year, trying to get Quentin to remember his first race is difficult.

After first saying he cannot remember, he suddenly blurts, "It was scary, because the first track I ever raced in the desert was soft," he finally said.

When asked why it was scary, he said, "With soft ground you can get stuck or fall over."

Despite that he says racing is a lot of fun and a lot of work.

"Oh yeah, we win money," he said when reminded by his father.

Added his father: "He likes to spend money. He likes to shop."

It's not all driving, however. Quentin also helps getting the car ready for racing. He's helped his father change tires, remove a tie rod, add gas and transmission fluid, checks bolts for tightness and puts stickers on what he refers to as "the car."

Quentin doesn't have much competition in his age group, but there's a 13-year-old who also lives in Imperial who Quentin would love to beat.

"He's got a fast car and he's smarter than me," Quentin said.

One of his best friends occasionally races against him when provided with a car.

Les Parsons, an 11-year-old fifth-grade student at Waggoner, said he's only raced a few times. He said he likes the speed and how much fun it is.

"The first time I raced I blew up a transmission," he said, adding the tranny was in a Tucker racing machine. Sometimes he races Tucker's Honda Odyssey, a less powerful machine than Quentin's desert lite. There's a trade-off here, though.

"Sometimes I help them in the pits with gas, cleaning goggles and supplying water," Les said.

When Quentin goes racing in the desert his dad goes along, following him around the course, ensuring Quentin doesn't get stuck on a long, dusty road.

"I won't send him out there by himself," Tucker said, adding some of the courses are 20 to 30 miles long.

The Tuckers have a couple of small practice tracks on their property, and after donning a helmet and firing up the desert lite, Quentin shows off his skills. He's freshly scrubbed, with combed blonde hair and sporting a clean JT Racing T-shirt, ready for the paper's photographer.

He drives circle after circle with the ring-ding-ding of the two-cylinder, two-stroke engine; two-stroke oil wafting in the air from the exhaust pipes. The side of the blue car says "Quentin Tucker." The number 27 in black numbers and white background is near by.

Tucker says the car is capable of 60 to 70 mph.

"He doesn't drive it that fast. He drives it as fast as I want him to," Tucker said.

The car's engine is souped up and has more suspension than the Odyssey.

After a short while, the resultant dust can get a little much, and dad eventually ends the short practice session. When asked if he could drive around the practice track all day, Quentin responds: "I got tired."

He then accommodates the photographer in a nonchalant way as though he's been the center of attention for years beyond his experience.

Race cars are not the only things Quentin drives.

"Around here he drives everything that he has," James Tucker says, as Quentin pulls up driving a golf cart, Les at his side. "That includes automatic transmissions, standard transmissions and tractors.

When asked if he has a fan club yet, Tucker jumps in and says Quentin's fan club consists of those who labor on the car: Larry Wyatt, Larry McCallum and Mike Vogel.

When race cars are not at the center of their attention, Quentin, Les, and a third friend not with them at the time of the interview, like to jump on outdoor trampolines and drive the golf cart. He also has a boxer called Buddy.

Tucker said Quentin is a "fair" student, who puts forth more effort at his studies when told by his parents he cannot go racing.

Quentin recently shared the racing side of him with classmates at Waggoner. Not surprisingly, when he grows up, he wants to build race cars.

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