Three-time Hayden Speedway race champion Matthew Montague is only 14 years old, but after a successful rookie season on the track, Matthew will have a lot to live up to next season after an engine fire shortened his final race of the 2008 season.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Three-time Hayden Speedway race champion Matthew Montague is only 14 years old, but after a successful rookie season on the track, Matthew will have a lot to live up to next season after an engine fire shortened his final race of the 2008 season.

Life in the fast lane

Teenager juggles racing cars and high school girls

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What goes more than 100-miles per hour, dodges moving objects and still watches Sponge Bob Sqarepants?

Who speeds through left turns and rides the drift of another car, while he ponders homecoming dates?

Meet Matthew Montague.

The only person who really knows why the Moffat County High School freshman and 14-year-old dirt track prodigy races cars before having a license is Matthew himself.

But, on this day, you'd be hard pressed to get him to tell you.

You see, although Matthew is a three-time Hayden Speedway race champion, he insists on playing the role of the typical high school freshman.

"I still don't know if I should ask her," Matt wonders, oblivious that the interview is about driving a racecar. "Homecoming's coming up. I have to worry about what girl I'm going to ask. I got to have a date."

The racing season at Hayden Speedway finished Sept. 6, and although he has his eyes newly fixed on high school girls, he still took the time to reflect on his first competitive season of racing on the dirt track.

"I always liked it," he says with a grin. "My whole family has liked it, so it was easy for me to get into it."

But although Matt ached to get behind the wheel, there was an enormous problem staring him right in the face.

He didn't have a car.

So, the 2008 season began at Hayden Speedway without the carless teenager.

That is, until mom came through.

Lisa Chedsey found Matthew a 1985 Ford Mustang.

With a twist of a wrench here, and another there, Matthew was ready to race.

The Speedway has a minimum age requirement of 14 years old with parental consent.

And it's not as though Chedsey was going to buy Matthew a car and not consent to him driving it.

Racing it.

Living his dream.

"I get scared and excited when I see him drive," Chedsey said. "I was worried at first when I heard of it, but racing has always been his dream.

I couldn't say "No" to that.

So, off Matthew went.

He entered his 'Stang in the Sport Stock class, and took off.

He placed third in his first race, gaining confidence on every lap.

So much so, that he won his next race, and the next race, and the one after that.

He wasn't just racing anymore; he was blowing away the competition.

The 14-year-old kid in the beat-up old Mustang.

Was this supposed to be happening so early?

Matthew thinks so.

"My car was running really good for me," he said. "Flying around in it, just listening to the engine as a I go by people and the adrenaline you feel is crazy.

It's like a video game sometimes. I love it."

Driving more than 2,000-pounds of steel around at high speeds on dirt is like a video game?

"It's like the NASCAR video game," he says.

There's that teenager thing again.

All was going well for Matthew - homecoming date aside - as he claimed the checkered flag in three of his first four races.

In his fifth race - the second to last of the season - Matthew didn't win.

In fact, it was worse than losing.

He blew his engine.

"I blew a head gasket," he said. "It sucked."

But, once again, mom came through.

Chedsey helped her son get another engine, and by doing so, she helped get Matt back in the fast lane.

"All the sponsors really got me going again," Matthew said. "We just put a new engine in it, and I was ready to go."

Heading into the season finale, Sept. 6, Matthew was the frontrunner for Sport Stock class rookie-of-the-year honors.

And, why not?

He was 3-for-5 in Main Event heat wins, and he had earned seven heat wins overall, including preliminary rounds.

In his first heat of the season finale, Matthew won again.

Unfortunately for him, the victory would prove costly.

He had pushed the new engine too far.

Running his hot laps (warm-up laps preceding a race), Matthew looked in the gap in his manual transmission box that exposes the dirt track below, and he saw flames.

And, he wasn't wearing his required one-piece flame retardant suit because it was just a warm-up session.

This, Matthew said, was one of the few times he wasn't thinking about girls.

"Man, I was scared," he said. "I saw flames blowing out of the car and I thought, 'I don't have my fire suit on.'"

Matthew got out OK, but the car didn't have quite his luck.

Like the season, it's done.

And along with it was the rookie of the year award.

By his car catching on fire resulting in a spinout, Matthew was yellow-flagged for the second time.

Two yellow flags equal one black flag at the Speedway.

And one black flag equals no postseason award eligibility.

"It pretty much took away my rookie-of-the-year award," Matthew said. "Just like that, it was gone."

He's not injured or burnt, and he has trophies to hold up high from his first season on the circuit.

"I had a lot of fun," Matthew said of his rookie dirt track campaign. "I found out I'm good at it. I smoked a lot of people out there this year."

He smiles a wide smile, and then he looks serious for a moment.

"I think I know who I'm going to ask to homecoming," he says. "Hey Mom, do you think I should ask her? She'll go with me, right?"

Back to girls.

After all, he's just a 14-year old teenaged boy.

Who lives in the fast lane.

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793 or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

Comments

tmblackmaster2 6 years, 3 months ago

The race on the 6th is not all true, yes he did win the heat race but in the main he got lapped and he was on the track the whole time. There was only one caution in the race caused by him in the 2nd or 3rd lap. And he finished the race. He didn't have engine problems on the final race b/c that car was ran in the one of the two exhibition races and did pretty well if I remember. So this story is fabricated at the end so I don't except it.

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