Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's full throttle at 15

This is Kacey's cousin!
It's full throttle at 15
Sophomore at Carroll has her sights set high
By Ben SmithThe Journal GazetteAdvertisement

She has been to Charlotte. She has been to the Brickyard. She has met Kyle Busch and David Stremme, followed with a more clinical eye than most Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin.

You could say Andrea Hans is into NASCAR.

Where it gets interesting, though, is when she tells you she also wants to get into NASCAR.

As a driver. As a competitor. As an equal, maybe, someday, to the Busches and Stremmes and Hamlins and Stewarts.

This is not as preposterous as it sounds, even after you’ve learned that Hans is a 15-year-old sophomore at Carroll who loved NASCAR but never thought about it beyond the spectator context until three years ago, when her dad, Karl, bought her a go-kart.

“I loved it,” she says.

And that led to novice racing in the go-kart. And that led to quarter midgets. And that led to a deal with Team Full Throttle, a program specifically designed to develop young, prospective NASCAR drivers on and off track.

Hans’ dad bought her the Legends car, sort of a mini late-model stocker, from fellow Team Full Throttle racer Thomas Hartensveld. It’s one more step in a journey that has been nothing if not meteoric.

“The difference between quarter midgets and Legends cars is (the Legends car) has a lot of throttle control,” says Hans, who raced from Kansas to Ohio in quarter midgets and won her share. “In the midgets, we’re just used to flooring it the whole time around the track. The Legends cars, we have to roll off the throttle and roll on. And we use the brake. The quarter midgets, we don’t use the brake that much.”

It’s an adjustment, Hans admits, but she’s had a few practice runs at Baer Field and in Charlotte, N.C. She needs all the practice runs she can get, because come January she goes to Lowe’s Motor Speedway to run a road course, her first official Legends event.

Life’s a blur, in other words. In more ways than one.

Her career, for instance, accelerated to warp speed the day Tom Baker called. Team Full Throttle’s founder, Baker brought not only expertise and guidance to the table but connections. He got started 15 years ago in New York state, just sort of informally mentoring young drivers, showing them how to deal with the media and woo sponsors and move up in short-track racing.

A perceptive man, he took one look at the rise of Jeff Gordon – polished, media-savvy, a sponsor magnet – and realized the game had changed. And there were all these kids coming after Gordon who needed to understand just how the game had changed.

Team Full Throttle was the result.

“We’re an independent company, and what we do is cultivate drivers for NASCAR opportunities,” Baker says. “We’re very fortunate in the fact that our company gets probably 20 inquiries a week from drivers who want to be involved. And whenever we’re at a racetrack, we’re obviously keeping an eye out. You never know who the next star is gonna be.”

The program, he explains, does two things at once: train and develop drivers and also manage and represent them. They counsel young drivers on when to move up a class, where to move and how long to stay there.

Hans struck them as someone who was ready to move on from the quarter midgets. She’s the first female driver Team Full Throttle has ever signed.

“She’s an outstanding young lady,” Baker says. “Her parents are top-notch people who add class to anything they do. She’s got a lot of energy, and she’s a very good racer, and she just needs to be developed at her pace.”

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