China Grove Middle student starts drag racing career early
By Meghan Cooke
Mitchell Harkey has won seven drag races this year alone and has been a track champion at Mooresville Dragway for three consecutive years ó and he won’t even be eligible for a learner’s permit for another two years.
The 12-year-old China Grove Middle School student is a racing fiend and has stocked up on trophies and championship titles.
He got it honestly. His dad drag raced for 35 years.
“I made the mistake of letting him see a race,” said his father, Larry Harkey. “That was it.”
Mitchell has been racing since he was about 8. He won his first race at age 10 and hasn’t looked back.
“I wanted to go faster every time until I can’t go any faster,” he said.
Mitchell learned how to drive from his dad, but Larry doesn’t take the credit for Mitchell’s success.
“That kid can just drive a car,” Larry said.
Mitchell competes in local junior dragster brackets against other drivers ranging in age from 12 to 17.
In the Pro Tree Racing Association, he is currently second in his division’s point standings.
Racing on a strip that measures one-eighth of a mile long, Mitchell can reach the finish line in 7.9 seconds at about 82 miles per hour.
The car he drives is half the size of those in the adult division, but his car can go from 0 to 60 feet in 1.6 seconds.
At speeds of up to 85 miles per hour, junior drag racing has the potential to be dangerous, but luckily, he’s never been hurt.
“It’s scary,” said his mother, Gidget Harkey, of Salisbury. “But boys will be boys, and it’s in his blood, so how do you deny that?”
The soft spoken 12-year-old said he simply likes going fast.
When it comes time to get his driver’s license, Mitchell said he doesn’t think he’ll have any trouble passing the test.
And speeding tickets won’t be an issue, he said, smiling and shaking his head at his dad.
“He better not,” Larry said. “He can get his fun on the track.”
Drag racing is his passion, but it’s an expensive hobby.
His dad, who owns L & M Motors and Larry’s Automotive in China Grove, works on Mitchell’s car in a garage he had built behind his home, where Mitchell’s car sits beside the one his dad once raced.
The engine in Mitchell’s car cost $5,000, and they’ve gone through two this year. In a single year, they could spend up to $15,000 to maintain the car.
When Mitchell receives prize money, he turns it over to help fuel his hobby.
Having a sponsor to assist with funding would help, but money won’t stand in the way of the Harkeys’ passion.
“It’s worth it,” Larry said, explaining that racing helps motivate Mitchell to keep his grades up and stay out of trouble.
Mitchell can be found practicing at Mooresville Dragway practically every Saturday.
“He’d probably trade in me and his momma to race,” Larry said, smiling.
But racing isn’t Mitchell’s only hobby. The seventh-grader plans to play football and baseball this year.
Some day, Mitchell wants to race professionally. “I want to do it till I die,” he said.