MOUNT VERNON — With every race, Mount Vernon’s Alex Updike furthers the legacy of his racing family.
At age 9, he already has one of sharpest-looking cars on the junior dragster circuit. Not only is the three-dimensional shark graphic design an attention-getter, a closer look reveals that the front wheel spokes are shaped like little sharks, which his dad crafted.
For the youngest member of the racing Updikes, this aqua blue car was a birthday present he will never forget.
“Well, one day my mom said, ‘We got you a little something for your birthday,’ then a trailer pulls up on the driveway,” he explained. “It’s pretty cool. It’s the only shark car out there.”
Alex is in third place in the points standings this year. He might be doing even better if he had been in all of the races. In the meantime, he and his shark car are burning up Pacemakers Dragway Park and beyond.
“I got to the quarterfinals at Bristol (Tenn.), which is really cool because there are 80 cars in the event in my class, so that was really fun down there,” he said.
Joe and Nanette Updike know there is a serious side to their son’s racing career. In fact, like some parents, Joe Updike has given up his own driving to support his son’s racing. As his son’s full-time mechanic, he makes sure everything is safe.
“I raced for a while,” Joe said. “I enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun but, when Alex started racing, I had so much more fun with him that I pretty much hung it up. I enjoy watching him race more than doing it myself.”
“I feel real comfortable in the car,” said Nanette of her racing 9-year-old. “He is very strong and he’s caught on quick. I’m not that nervous. I’m happy for him. Of course, there’s always that fear. Every time I get up on the line I get nervous because this is my child and I want him to do well. I’m so proud of him.”
“I’m in a five-point harness and I’ve got a neck brace and a big, bulky helmet so I’m not really worried,” said Alex.
As a mechanic and mentor, Joe Updike has plenty to do.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating to keep everything working correctly and to keep running the number like you want it to,” he said. “Alex can do a great job time in and time out, but the mechanical problems fall on me and it’s a lot of pressure.”
Alex talks about his car with enthusiasm and the authority of a seasoned veteran.
“I have a five horsepower Briggs and Stratton Raptor motor, a Polar Max clutch and a 33-sleeve down,” he said. “It’s pretty fun. It’s one of the best things I’ve done.”
As the middle member of the racing trio, and son of local racing legend Harlan Updike, Joe Updike may have the best vantage point of all.
“It’s great,” said Joe. “Of course, my dad has been racing since the beginning of time.”
The senior member of the racing trio is still going strong on the track while providing sage advice to a new generation.
“(Alex) has learned a lot in the last couple months about racing,” said Harlan. “He’s already planning on going quicker. We’ve got a couple of deals on building a bigger motor when he gets old enough to go that fast. He’s saving up for one.”
So, it looks like the Updike family isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“I can go 12.9 seconds down the track,” said Alex. “That’s the max I can go. When I get older, I can go 8.9 seconds next year.”