• Kurt J. Kolka

R.J. KORFF: LIFE IN THE FAST LANE AT JUST 13

2017 / By Kurt J. Kolka


LEWISTON – Many young people dream of being race car drivers someday.


Very few, however, get the chance to experience it, especially while they are still young. This is the case for 13-year-old R.J. Korff, who gets to spend his free time at local race tracks, living the dream, competing – not only against others his age but also against adults.

Like many kids, Korff enjoyed watching racing on TV and thought he'd like to do that someday.


One of his friends, Landon, had a father who raced on local tracks in Elmira and Onaway. Landon would follow him to racing events and watch. As Landon's interest grew, his father approached the track owners about letting his young teen son compete in the slower, 4-cylinder races. The track owners agreed.


So, Landon and Korff's other friend, Ezra, began to race locally.


“I went to one of their races. It was the first race of the season. Then, I just wanted to try it out,” Korff said.

At first, Korff approached his mother, Laura, about racing. She told him he had to talk with his dad about the subject, thinking his dad would say no.


After gauging his son's commitment to the sport, however, his father, Richard, agreed to let him race and bought him a truck designed for younger drivers. The truck is equipped with a six-point harness, roll bars all around him, strong bumpers and a fire extinguisher. Added to this, Korff wears a racing helmet and neck brace.


“I just like the thrill of it. Having fun. Going around the track with my friends,” he said.


While he may be having fun, Korff also competes well. Recently, in a race of 15 cars, he came in fourth, beating out some adult drivers.


“It was about a 20-lap race," he said. "On autograph night at Onaway, I pulled my truck up and all the little kids came up wanted me to sign their shirts because I was only 13 and driving.”


Added his father: "He's doing well. He even has these little girls following him around, asking for autographs and wanting their pictures taken with him.


Rich sees his son's racing interest as an opportunity to do something fun with his son and teach him about car maintenance. While Laura, gets nervous when her son races, she's also proud of him.


“It's fun to watch R.J. work through some disappointments and bask in his successes,” she said. “He takes it very seriously and there are a lot of life lessons to learn on the track. He learns one every time he goes out there.”


Korff's three older sisters, Sarah, Alicia and Amanda, are often on hand to watch him compete as well. Some of his closest friends can't even believe what he's capable of doing on a track.


“It's nice, but when they're in the stands and I spin out or crash, they all start screaming and getting scared and stuff," Korff said.


“My friends are all surprised that I actually race. My teachers just can't believe that a kid my age could even drive a car.”


Korff's final race weekend is Saturday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 1 at Onaway Speedway.


He plans to continue racing next year and for the foreseeable future.


“I would love to continue with it," he said. "Once I get older and more used to the track, I'd like to join a faster class, do some competitive traveling and try different race tracks in different states.”


Listening to a 13-year-old say such things would sound like a nice pipe dream to adults. However, with Korff's seriousness and willingness to learn more about this sport as he gets older, it could soon become another done-deal.




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