Cory Midgett, a 16-year-old junior at East Hampton High School, recently finished a season of Charger division racing at the Riverhead Speedway, winding up seventh among 18 contenders in the point standings.
For virtually the entire season, Midgett was the youngest of the drivers at the speedway.
“He’s got a long way to go to become a NASCAR driver, which is his dream,” Cory’s father, Brian, said during a conversation Friday, “but given his age and our shoestring budget, what he did this summer was fantastic.”
Cory raced Go Karts at Riverhead two years ago, and won the Eastern Karting Association championship, his father said. Last year, he moved up to Legend Cars with 1,200 c.c. Yamaha motors. “He raced eight to 10 times, but when he rolled it in the middle of a qualifying race — he wasn’t injured — he didn’t want to have anything to do with that car anymore.”
This season at Riverhead, he drove a Charger division car with a Chevrolet 350 horsepower engine housed in a Toyota Camry body, contending in 20-lap races over the quarter-mile oval at speeds between 50 and 60 miles per hour.
“He had a first-place finish — some people race their entire careers without getting one — a second, a fifth, and seven top-10 finishes,” said the elder Midgett, who bought the car last winter “from a gentleman in Eastport.”
His brother, Michael, and Zeke Forbell were the mechanics, Brian Midgett said. His nephew, Mikey, handled the tires, “and my son, Brian Jr., has been helping too. It’s a family thing.”
Concerning the tires, Brian Sr. said, “They’re slick — no grooves. They run much smoother through the corners and they stick to the track.”
“Sometimes there’d be 10 cars, sometimes 18, sometimes 20,” the elder Midgett said in answer to a question. “How many were there abreast? No more than two. Three abreast wouldn’t work,” he said with a smile. “At Daytona yes, but not at Riverhead.”
Racing — even at the beginning level — is an expensive sport, and in that regard Cory’s father said he wanted to thank the following local businesses which have leant their financial support: Richie Bono Plumbing and Heating; Mickey’s Carting; Fish 27; Springs Hardware; The Seafood Shop; John Ward Plumbing and Heating; Jim Field and Sons; Russell H. Nill Roofing and Siding; Keith Grimes Excavating, and Landscape Equipment Repair.
“All of them — a lot of them are friends I’ve had since I was a kid — have made substantial donations, and they’ve been greatly appreciated. . . . We never could have done this on our own.”
What next? “Next year he’ll race at Riverhead again, maybe with one or two races at other tracks. Maybe Waterford in Connecticut, or Thompson, which is also in Connecticut, though he may not be ready yet for Thompson. . . . I know some people don’t like it, but it’s a good sport, a tough sport, and it’s very hard to get to the big time. He’s working on his car every night. . . . NASCAR racing’s like playing in the N.B.A. or in the Super Bowl.”
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Cory’s father continued, “but my wife, Elizabeth, and I are thinking of moving to eastern Pennsylvania or to North Carolina, where Cory can continue to pursue his dream. I mean how many kids of 16 have a dream?”