At Riverside Speedway, a quarter-mile track in Groveton, New Hampshire, anyone 10 and over can race full-powered stock cars. In this far-flung town deep in the Great North Woods, racing is a family tradition, and the median income is little more than half the state average. “Riverside Speedway is probably the only thing in town that’s bringing people in,” says Melinda Kennett, Groveton’s town clerk. Some racers hope that their stock cars will be a ticket out of town. But for most, the track is a reason to stick around.
9-year-old Ariel Switser works on her racing car in the family garage in Vermont. Following in the footsteps of her brother and father, Ariel will be old enough to race this season in the youth division at the track and will be hitting speeds approaching 50 m.p.h. Asked what was the best part of her upcoming tenth birthday she replied, “I’ll be double digits and I can race.”
Sitting in his parent’s kitchen, Pete Gilcris and son Nick strategize over a french fry lunch. They are under the gun to finish Nick’s Camaro for opening day at Riverside Speedway in two days. Pete broke his neck racing in 2010, and son Nick rolled his car over 6 times during his first year of racing when he was 12.
The Gilcris family racing team helps out teen racer Ashleigh Roy, fixing her windshield at their home before a race. For the Gilcris family, allowing Nick to race is an incentive for him to finish high school. His grandmother Rosie Gilcris says, “It keeps Nicholas in school, because if he flunks he doesn’t drive.
Howie Switser gives some last minute advise to 10-year-old daughter Ariel before her first practice run at the Riverside Speedway the day before opening day. Ariel has spent some time with her father learning to drive in a field behind their house. “She knows how to drive a little bit,” said father Howie.
14-year-old Jenna Randall’s car is plowed into during the 200-lap Enduro race at Riverside Speedway. When asked if racing is dangerous father Tege Randall says, “Yeah it’s dangerous, but so is baseball, so is softball. Life is dangerous.” Following the crash Jenna’s radiator was damaged and she was forced to drop out of the race.
For many families in the north country, racing cars is a family tradition that often bonds three generations. Doug Laleme is cheered on by father Douglas Laleme and his racing son Dylan Laleme, 12, sitting behind his grandfather.
Ten-year-old Ariel Switser puts on her game face at the annual car show at the Riverside Speedway the day before opening day. “Ariel’s been waiting,” said her father Howie Switser. “She wanted to race a couple of years ago but wasn’t old enough.”
Ronald Gilcris takes a break from working on grandson Nick’s car to visit with his granddaughter Jamie Kay 19, and his great grandson Payton Pickel when they stopped by the garage for a quick visit. For the Gilcris family car racing is the common denominator. “it’s always been family, always.,” says Rosie Gilcris. “It’s something you can do together.”
The yellow flag comes out after a spin-out during a Saturday night race at the track. Tege Randall insists that with all the safety equipment required to race at the track, allowing his daughters to race is not an act of parental neglect.
l-r A worried wife Janet Smith, and mother Brenda Mitchell, watch a practice run at the Riverside Speedway. Mitchell whose 11-year-old son Cody was on the track says of him racing, “I get sick to my stomach, but I was out voted.”
“Stop! Now!,” Nick Gilcris screams as he restrains his father Pete who was furious at another racer for running Nick into the wall in the final laps of the 200-lap Enduro race. Asked if racing means everything to him Pete replied, “It is to 90% of us that live up here. There’s nothing else.”
Paul Ouellette and his racing family from Milan, NH pose for a photo after his 15-year-old daughter Nicole (with checkered flag), won the women’s all ages division. Nicole’s racing friend, Jenna Randall at right, was asked by the family to join them for the picture. The family watches NASCAR together and Christmas presents are fire suits and helmets.