At Rocky Mountain Raceway, the youngest driver might be the fastest
May 21, 2018 10:34AM
● By Greg James
Natalie Waters pilots this limited sprint race car at Rocky Mountain Raceway at speeds approaching 115 mph. She is 14 years old. (Greg James/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
Rocky Mountain Raceway kicked off its final season, and 14-year-old Natalie Waters is having an impact already.
“I grew up with racing,” Natalie Waters said. “My uncles are Jimmy Waters and Lynn Hardy (veteran racers at the RMR), so I was at the track when I was about 6 months old. I got into a quarter midget (similar to a go-kart) when I was 6 years old. Then I drove a junior stinger and a focus midget."
Waters is currently driving a new midget racecar and an open wheel limited sprint car. In both classes, she competes against drivers more than double her age.
“I like the adrenaline rush,” Waters said. “I have always thought it looked so cool. It is nice to know that I am doing well. Last year was my first year on the entire track, and I think I have gotten it a little bit. This year I feel I can go as hard as I can.”
She has been fast. Her limited sprint averaged 91.2 mph around the ⅜-mile oval. Her qualifying time was fourth fastest for the opening night racers.
In her midget division, she has raced competitively against Chaz Groat for several years in quarter midgets and now in the focus midgets. Groat was last year’s class champion.
“My family is really close with Chaz’s family,” Waters said. “We both got into this class together and seem to be in the same step in racing. There is a little pressure being a girl, and I am the youngest ever to drive a sprint car in the state of Utah. It is different, but knowing that I get out of the car and beat those grown men is cool.”
Waters has dreams of racing in NASCAR. She has support from several sponsors and a working crew. Her grandfather John Waters is her crew chief and has set up her cars from the beginning of her racing career.
“I have been racing since I was 11 years old, and I have never seen anything like this,” John said. “It is so emotional to see her start racing when she was 6. She told me, ‘All I wanted was a trophy.’ She has so much passion for it. She just finished racing, and she is back here waxing her car to make them look nice.”
In a race last November at the Bullring in Las Vegas, she flipped her car and totaled it. John found another car, purchased it and prepared it for this season. In set-up, John has always prepared the car limiting her on her throttle availability to ensure she could learn the handling of the car.
“I did not want to give her full power,” John said. “I wanted her to drive where she felt comfortable. This year, we are giving her more of the edge. We are close to $35,000 to race these cars this year. It is expensive, but she has learned to work with the sponsors and meet their expectations.”
Seeing her daughter race has been a heart-racing experience for Natalie’s mother, Cassie Waters.
“When she drives by the wall and I can see her face for like a split second, it might make me cry; I can’t believe that she is in control of the car,” Cassie said. “It is just crazy. I am with her every day. I make the oatmeal and do her laundry and buy her makeup. Now, she is here racing at night.”
The final season at Rocky Mountain Raceway continues all summer. The sprint cars are scheduled to return June 16.
“They started racing quarter midgets with the track and with the talent they have I know they are going to do a good job,” Rocky Mountain Raceway General Manager Mike Eames said. “These young drivers have potential, and it is sad that the track is closing because it would be fun to see what they could do. They are respectful, and watching them is one of the favorite parts of my job. I can’t cheer for her because she has cooties and is a girl, but I like good racing and hope she does well.”