BELPRE - Tyce Church is looking forward to the weekend of April 28-29.
On that Saturday and Sunday, the 9-year-old Belpre Elementary third-grader will be making his racing debut on the asphalt oval at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky.
Church, wearing a helmet, fire suit and gloves, will be flooring the gas pedal of a 2011 Bandolero race car, which is owned by Spencer Motor Sports and sponsored by the Washington County Sheriff Departments's "Click It or Ticket" program and Marietta's Auto Teck & Tire Center. He will be competing in the "bandit division," which is for drivers 8 to 11-years-old.
There is also an "outlaw" division for 12-years and older.
"This is going to be fun and a good learning experience for Tyce and all of us," said Dana Spencer, CEO/CFO of Spencer Motor Sports. "We're not expecting to win right away."
Spencer, a NASCAR enthusiast, is also Church's grandpa.
About a year ago, Church - who is an honor student and plays soccer and basketball at Belpre Elementary - attended the U.S. Legends Cars International Bandolero Camp at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. There, he was instructed on how to operate the race car on the CMS 2/5-mile paved track.
Last November, Spencer formed Spencer Motor Sports, a family oriented racing venture, and bought a Bandolero, which was once raced by Trica Mears, who finished runner-up in the 2011 "Better Half Dash" benefit race held before the Bank of America 500 Sprint Cup Race at CMS.
Mears' husband is NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Casey Mears.
A number of today's NASCAR drivers, including Joey Logano, Reed Sorenson, and David Ragen, started their careers in a Bandolero race car.
Many boys and girls begin go-karting as early as age 3, but Church is starting with Bandolero racing, a series created in 1997 by the sanctioning body INEX (short for inexpensive) for entry-level cars. He needs only to be 8, and is not required to pass any safety tests.
According to Spencer, Bandoleros are powered by a sealed Briggs and Stratton, 570cc, V-Twin Vangard motor, producing 30 horsepower, and can reach speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour.
"Bandos are 5/8s scale, full-bodied, fiber glass stock cars with a tubular frame," Spencer said. "They are made for kids and built for safety."
Bandoleros can also race on road courses and dirt tracks, and ovals can vary from quarter to 5/8s of a mile and road courses up to two miles in length, Spencer said.
Spencer Motor Sports and its primary driver Church are planning to compete on a part-time basis this year, "primarily at The Speedrome in Indianapolis, CMS, and Kentucky Speedway," Spencer said.
"We could actually compete every weekend," the CEO/CFO added.
Locally, Church and the Bandolero car will be seen in parades, fairs, and car shows.
Church is the son of Jayson and Amy Church, the vice president/crew chief and vice president of driver management and development, respectively, at Spencer Motor Sports.
"All other family members have been given titles and vice president status," Spencer said. "These positions don't pay much, maybe a T-shirt and ballcap."
The rest of the Bandolero racing team roster includes Kitty Spencer (vice president and grandma), Andy Spencer (vice president race operations, Carolinas region), Martha Cate Spencer (vice president of media and public relations), 5-year-old Blake Church (development driver), and 1-year-old Charley Jane Spencer (development driver). "Spencer Motor Sports is fortunate to have the assistance of several good friends in the mechanical set up and preparation of the race car," Dana Spencer said. "And Spencer Motor Sports and Tyce would like to thank our sponsors for all of their support in our racing efforts."