MONROE — Tucked into the northwest corner of the main parking lot at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds is one of Snohomish County’s hidden sports treasures.
There, one will find a racetrack with all the bells and whistles found at tracks across America that feature the fastest cars on offer: Control tower, grandstands, concession stand, electronic reader board, pit area, etc.
The difference? This track is a fraction of the size of those racetracks like Evergreen Speedway, which is located just across the street. And it’s designed for racers as young as 5 years old.
Welcome to the home base of the Washington Quarter Midget Association (WQMA), an organization for drivers ages 5-16, and this weekend the WQMA is hosting its biggest annual event when up to 200 miniature race cars arrive for the track’s Region Race.
The WQMA was founded in 1957 and is one of 19 tracks across the U.S. and Canada sanctioned by Quarter Midgets of America as of 2018. The racetrack is a 1/20-mile asphalt track, which is the standard length for quarter midget tracks. It runs cars that are approximately a quarter of the size of a full-sized midget car, with the cars achieving speeds up to 35 mph.
And most of the racers not only don’t have their driver’s licenses, they’re years away from getting them.
“People compare them to sprint cars, just smaller in size,” said Mindy Harriss of Lake Stevens, the WQMA event coordinator whose 8-year-old son, Damien, races at the track.
“Everyone pitches in,” Harriss added. “We have older siblings who come out and help in the snack shack, moms work the tower and dads are out pushing the cars off (by hand). It’s all volunteers who run the day.”
The WQMA offers 14 different car classes based on driver age and engine type. Its season begins in late February and continues through mid-September, with an average of 60-70 cars participating in a typical weekend. But the season’s pinnacle stretches between last Sunday and this Sunday when it holds its two biggest events.
The first was last Sunday’s inaugural Wild Wild West event, a cowboy-themed race that served primarily as a trial run for next weekend’s Region Race. There were 145 cars at Sunday’s event.
Then the Region Race is the biggie. The WQMA is one of six tracks in the Pacific Northwest that host Region Races each year in the area’s premier quarter midget racing series. The series draws racers from across Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. This weekend’s Region Race, which starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and continues all day Saturday and Sunday, is the fifth of the six races in the series. Races in Yakima, Langley (B.C.), Graham and Elma have already taken place, with the final race in Portland on Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
And the racers who call the WQMA their home, most of whom hail from Snohomish County, are eager for their Region Race to arrive.
“I like winning,” said Damien Harriss, who set the track record in the Jr. Honda and Jr. Admiral classes earlier this year and is the current WQMA points leader in both. “I like going fast, too.
“I probably have a lot (of home-track advantage this weekend) because I’ve done it for three-and-a-half years,” Damien Harriss added. “And that’s just the races, I’ve done a lot of practices.”
On this day the Harriss family is getting some practice laps on the track along with the Koroshes family of Kent, whose 6-year-old son Kameren races the Jr. Honda, Jr. Animal and Jr. Stock classes. Kameren is a regular both with the WQMA and Little Wheels QMA in Graham.
“I think it’s great,” Cody Koroshes, who grew up at Evergreen Speedway, said about his son racing at such a young age. “I’d rather have him doing something he likes to do. Our whole family has been in racing since I can remember. So to have him continue the hobby that we all love is good to see. It also keeps him out of the house, keeps him off video games and TV and gets him social with all the kids around. That helps him in school, and it’s just nice seeing him have so much fun doing something other than sitting in the house.”
Cody Koroshes also spoke of the way racing has served as a teaching tool for his son.
“Probably my favorite moment (of Kameren’s racing career) was a teaching moment when he first started,” he said. “We made him sit through the trophy presentations knowing he wasn’t going to get one. It was sad because he cried when it was all over because he didn’t get one. But it just motivated him, and soon after that we saw a light switch go off and he just started going because he wanted to win some trophies.”
And more trophies will be there for the winning this weekend at the WQMA.