FENWICK: Spinning Wheels
CONCORD, N.C. — Jake Ruggles has a goal he’d like to accomplish this year.
Unlike most 13-year-olds who spend their spare time playing school sports, video games and hanging out with friends, Ruggles spends most of his time at race tracks. As one might expect, his goal pertains to an on-track accomplishment.
His goal for the year is to win his first Allison Legacy Series race. If he can do that, his father, Steve, has promised to let him take a turn behind the wheel of his Chevrolet Corvette. For some that may seem like a silly goal, but for a young race car driver like Ruggles a chance to drive his father’s Corvette is all the motivation he needs.
The youngster from Kannapolis has been racing since he was 8 years old. He started like so many others by racing a quarter midget.
“One day we just got looking and we found a quarter midget track up in Salisbury, Bobby Labonte’s track,” Ruggles explained. “We decided to go up there one night to watch some racing. We looked around and found out what the prices were and what the quarter midgets were all about.”
Ruggles and his parents liked what they saw and it didn’t take them long to become more involved.
“We ended up bringing back our first quarter midget that night,” Ruggles said. “We found one for sale. We thought about it, called mom a couple of times and came home with a quarter midget.”
Ruggles raced quarter midgets successfully for the next few years, winning 14 races between 2009 and 2012. In 2013, he graduated to the Allison Legacy Series.
The Allison Legacy Series cars are heavier than quarter midgets, plus Ruggles said he has to shift in the Allison Legacy Series car. Beyond that though, he indicated there isn’t much difference between the two racing machines.
The biggest thing Ruggles said he has had to adapt to is racing at larger venues like Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, which is totally different from the smaller quarter midget tracks he is accustomed to racing on.
The higher speeds at the larger venues haven’t seemed to slow Ruggles down. While he didn’t visit victory lane in 2013, he was impressive enough to earn the Allison Legacy Series Rookie of the Year Award.
Ruggles plans to spend the remainder of the 2014 season racing in the Allison Legacy Series, but he and his supportive family already have plans to move up to the next level in racing. His family has already purchased a late model they hope to debut later this season or early next.
“They are a lot faster. You get to learn how to use all that weight in the car. It is a big sluggish car so I’ll get to learn how to drive it and how to brake in the corners,” Ruggles said. “I think there is a Legacy race and a late model race on the same day (later this year) but we don’t have a big enough trailer. Maybe we’ll find somebody who can lend it to us then maybe we can run two races in one night.”