At Anchorage's Kincaid Motocross Track on Sunday, there was everything you might expect at a motocross competition -- dirt bikes flying through the air, food vendors serving up fried food, kids playing in the nearby sand dunes, and the sounds of an army of two-stroke engines propelling their riders around and above the track.
But one thing stood out. Standing just under three feet tall and weighing 32 pounds, Alaska's youngest motocross racer was about to compete in his second race. He was 3 years old.
With the help of his mom, Jessica, and dad, Andy, 3-year-old Chase Andersen suited up and made his way to the starting line. His suit consists of an incredible array of safety gear, from a neck brace, to a chest plate, helmet, goggles, tall boots and various other pads. In all, more than $1,000 worth of safety gear, most of it custom fitted to his small frame.
Some may wonder about the safety of letting such a young child drive a motorbike, let alone race one around a dirt track with 10 other kids, most of them five or six years older. But according to his dad, Andy Andersen, "In the three years we've been doing this, with a group of 11 kids all under 13 years old, we've never had anyone get hurt." Andy coaches Team Valley Rally at a track he built on his property in Sutton, a track he refers to as the "secret ninja training facility."
"It's all his idea," says dad Andy. "Chase really wanted to race, after seeing his cousins have fun with it." Andy was a motocross racer as a teenager, but quit racing when he became competitive in wrestling (he and his brother were high school state champions) before heading off to college. Chase's parents are supportive of their son's ambition. Even though they thought he wasn't quite ready, they took the training wheels off of his bicycle after Chase kept insisting. That was in April, a month before his first motocross race (where Chase managed to make it once around the track without falling).
If he chooses to continue with motocross racing, Chase will graduate from his little 50cc, throttle-restricted bike to larger bikes. The biggest class in motocross is a 450cc 4-stroke. There are no minimum age requirements for any class in motocross, so it may not be too long before we see him riding with the big boys.