For Ellie Musgrave, go-kart racing is old hat.
Musgrave has been a successful racer for nine years. The dresser in the bedroom of her Snohomish home is covered in trophies, plaques and ribbons collected over the years. And those are just a fraction of the awards she’s earned because of her racing exploits, the rest either stashed in bins or given away.
Hard to believe this is all from someone who won’t legally be able to drive for two more years.
Musgrave, a 14-year-old from Snohomish, is an accomplished junior go-kart racer, and this year she’s taken her driving talents to the national level.
“I think I’ve really accomplished a lot this year,” Musgrave said. “Going to the East Coast has really helped my confidence a lot. I’ve really enjoyed this year.”
Musgrave races open-wheel sprint go-karts, which despite their diminutive size are capable of reaching speeds of up to 80 mph. She races on road courses, which means the tracks have twists and turns instead of being ovals.
Musgrave races locally with the Sumas International Motorsports Academy (SIMA), having been recruited to the team by Canadian professional driver Michael Valiante after Valiante saw her race late last year. She’s currently the points leader in two junior (ages 12-15) classes at SIMA. She also races regionally in the Northwest Region 6 Gold Cup, where she’s also a standout.
But the big jump this year has been joining the F-Series, a national circuit that’s had Musgrave racing in far-flung locations such as North Carolina and New Jersey. But despite being new on the national scene Musgrave has fit right in. She finished fourth out of 27 competitors in the season-opening race on March 24 in Morresville, North Carolina, and she sits eighth out of 33 competitors in the points standings after three races.
“I’ve been actually shocked with myself at how well I can learn a track really fast and adapt to it,” Musgrave said. “Even the chassis and motor, that was my first time on this chassis and motor when I raced in North Carolina and I did really well, everything considered.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Musgrave has been successful as a racer, as she was born to drive. She was just three-and-a-half years old when she first found herself in the driver’s seat.
“We bought one of those battery-powered quads,” Musgrave’s father, Tim, recalled. “We called it Dora the Explorer because it had all these bright colors. I put her and her sister on that and they were gone.”
Said Musgrave: “I knew I wanted to go fast, and I really enjoyed competition. I also knew I didn’t want to go around in circles, it’s too slow.”
Therefore, go-karts became the outlet of choice. Musgrave began racing go-karts at the age of 5, and it wasn’t long before she was competing throughout the West Coast. She found success, even though she was often the only girl competing.
Musgrave’s home track had been in Chilliwack, British Columbia, before she joined Valiante’s team this year, which has increased her exposure. She heads to the fourth of six F-Series events on July 21-22 in Pittsburgh, where she hopes to improve upon her previous finishes.
“I think I’m going to do really well [in Pittsburgh] because it’s a high-speed track and I’m good on those,” Ellie Musgrave said. “I hope to get a podium this year, I’ve been super close, so I’m hoping to get that.”
Musgrave may be a karting veteran now, but she’s still a kid. She only turned 14 Thursday and will just begin ninth grade in the fall. Yet even at her young age she already knows what she wants to do.
“I’m hoping to be a national professional driver,” Musgrave said. “I’m not sure where it’s going to to take me, maybe NASCAR or maybe Formula 1. But whatever opportunity opens up for me I’ll take it.”
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