In September, Teddy Hodgdon, a fifth grader at the AIS Magnet school, won the 2011 Track Championship at the Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, CT. Only one month later, he won his second Championship of the year at the Twin State Speedway Championship in Claremont, N.H.
Every Monday night throughout the summer, 100 to 120 kids and their families meet at Stafford Springs to race their karts. “It's a Nascar track that has a kart track in the middle,” Ted Hodgdon Sr. said. “It is a wonderful family activity, not unlike Little League. It's like a little sub-culture but it is becoming more well known,” Ted said.
Ten year old Teddy walks into the room with the kind of confidence usually associated with successful adults. His fourth grade teacher Jenn Reynolds, said, “He was my student last year, and he is very mature. He has great head on his shoulders.”
Teddy races in the Tiger Sprint A division, for 7-11 year olds. He has been racing for the last four years and the family room wall is lined with his trophies.
Both of Teddy's parents grew up at the race track, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise that Teddy was drawn to the sport. “We went to see the adult races when he was six and he got a loaner kart to see if he liked it," Hodgdon said. "We took it home for two weeks."
“I really liked it,” Teddy Jr. said.
“Teddy could have chosen anything, but this is all he wanted. This was his choice,” his mother, Kathy Hodgdon said. “He played ball for a few years, and he was good at that, too. But this was what he wanted.”
“I atttended the Danbury track when I was a kid,” Teddy's father said. “I grew up in Ridgefield and sometimes I would go with my dad, or my mom would drop me off at the fair. Later, I would walk over to Marcus Dairy and call up my mom to come and get me. It was a different time back then. We would never do that now.”
Little Teddy has had a very good year. The karts, which go 45 to 50 miles per hour, are all made by the same company so that no child has an unfair advantage. “They are even sealed so dad's can't rev them up...because they would,” Hodgson said.
When asked if driving the karts was challenging, Teddy said, “There are so many good drivers out there, and they all take it to the next level,” Teddy said. “I feel bumper to bumber contact when they are trying to pass. When I pass the leader, when I break out of the pack, that's when I can start to breathe.”
The Stafford Track is 1/5 mile and they go around fifteen times. “This year has been the most nerve wracking. The more he wins the more nervous I am,” Karen said. “ When he was in the back trying to catch up, it was not so scary. Now he has to weave in between all the karts and the more he pulls ahead the more competitve it gets.”
The first time his teacher saw him race, he was in a minor wreck. “They put everything back together and he went back out,” Reynolds said.
“When I have a wreck, the car spins around and you don't know if you are going to hit the wall or another kart. If you hit a car, that'll stop you, but if it just spins out you can get right back on track,” Teddy said. Teddy's local sponsors, Ness Auto, Jims Welding, and 203 Motor Sports provide products like metal and body work and even financial support to keep the kart on the track.
“He is a great race car driver. He can start out at the back and in a few laps he gets out ahead. In the classroom he can be a regular, goofy kid, and yet in his races he is so focused. His parents are phenomenal and very supportive,” Reynolds said.
The track is like a second home for the family. Teddy's sister Hanna makes bracelets with her group of friends that she sees at the races. Her parents call her the president of the Sister Social Club. “It's usually me and my friend Morgan, and we wait for the other girls and we make bracelets in the trailer. We also make duct tape holders for iPods. There are about five kids in the group and we sell them and donate the money to Karting for Cancer.
“Hannah takes dance and sings with a chorus, and she has passed up opportunities because she thinks it's important to support her brother,” Kathy said. “I think sports are good for kids, but this is what works for our family.”