Craig’s Dalton Hatten speeding to big results in dwarf car circuit
September 13, 2018
Standing at six feet, three inches tall, Dalton Hatten’s bodily frame isn’t one that would make anyone think the word “dwarf” would be an appropriate descriptor for any vehicle he drives. But, even crammed behind the wheel of a tiny vehicle, he feels right at home.
Dalton has spent the last several months as part of the dwarf car racing circuit at venues around Colorado and adjoining states.
It’s a sport that he never knew he was interested in until last year when he and his father, Kelly, came across the opportunity to buy a dwarf car in Vernal, Utah. It was after watching friend Mike Bingham at Diamond Mountain Speedway that he thought he’d like to get into driving, and upon learning that a vehicle was up for sale, the seed was planted in his mind.
An unrelated trip to Vernal resulted in the father and son hauling home a racecar, much to Dalton’s mother Joanna’s initial displeasure.
“She was a little upset at first, but she came around to it,” Dalton said.
Maintenance requires hours each week and especially after each race, which Kelly said depends on if the car can be packed up into the trailer without extra dollies or winches. The auto work provides a challenge even for skilled mechanics since it requires specialty parts.
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“We entered into it knowing absolutely nothing,” Kelly said.
Dwarf cars are a modified, scaled-down version of stock cars, with a much smaller frame and a limitation of 1,250 cubic centimeters on an engine. Dalton’s car is powered by a 2012 Yamaha engine with 1,100 cc’s.
“It’s basically a sprint car without wings,” he said.
The car’s original owner was only 5′ 6″, which made it a tight squeeze for Dalton, though readjusting the back end allowed him to fit better in the driver’s seat.
“We had to cut the back support and move it back six inches so I could sit down in there comfortably. We also had to cut the brake pedal and notch it at an angle so my foot has more room inside there,” he said.
Last year, Dalton hit a national race in Phoenix, placing 12th of 67 cars. He also took home an important lesson.
“Everyone said, ‘watch out for the California boys,'” he said, noting that the sport’s popularity in California with many dirt tracks makes them especially threatening.
“With them, you’re bound to get hit and bumped, and they’ll put you in the wall on purpose.”
More recently, a race in Fort Morgan was a tricky one for the 16-year-old.
“We were running third (place), and about two or three laps left, I came around turn four and it started getting slick on me and I spun around,” he said. “I worked my back up from 27th all the way up to 16th.”
The main trait Dalton has learned behind the wheel: patience.
“Patience is king,” he said. “You’re not going to win it on the first lap. You’ve gotta bide your time, and when people make mistakes is when you have to go after your shot. It’s a learning curve; a lot to learn in a short amount of time.”
Dalton placed fourth in points to round out last year’s season and currently sits in second place at Vernal’s Diamond Mountain. The speedway hosts its Crown Jewel Shootout this Friday and Saturday, which he hopes will attract Craig crowds.
“Seeing your family and friends in the stands at the end, that’s my favorite part of it,” he said.