Nicholas Carpenter, a junior at Pleasant Ridge High School, recently organized a gas card drive through his auto racing program.

By RIMSIE McCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com

Nicholas Carpenter, a junior at Pleasant Ridge High School, recently organized a gas card drive through his auto racing program. He raised $2,300 for gas cards that were delivered to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City before the holidays to help families with travel expenses. This is the third year of the drive and more than $7,000 has been given to families in need.


The first time Carpenter competed in a car race, he had just reached double digits – not in speed on the track but in age.
The 10-year-old competed in a Junior Sprint event. When asked recently if this event was exciting or scary at such a young age, the now 17-year-old Nicholas replied, “both.”


His first race was not only exciting and scary, it also served as his personal green-flag moment when he knew that he wanted to follow the track to a professional career as a race car driver.
He raced his Junior Sprint car until he turned 12 and then began racing in a full-size modified car.


In the summer of 2017, Nicholas got sick during the racing season.
“We were six hours north at a track in Iowa,” says Nicholas’ dad, Chris Carpenter. “He hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of weeks before that but it was real bad that night. We took him to the doctor the next day and they sent us to Children’s Mercy Hospital. When we got there his blood sugar was over 800 and it is supposed to be between 70 and 120. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes the next morning. We took the next weekend from racing off but then started back up a couple weekends later. He went on to win two more races that year. He now lives with it daily but we have learned to control it.”


The health experience didn’t dampen Nicholas’ passion for racing. But it did lead to a new and different goal.
“We wanted to find a way to help families at Children’s Mercy,” says Nicholas. “We decided to take a group of drivers to meet with the kids but you have to be 18 to do that so my dad takes a group of drivers once a year to meet with the kids and do crafts. So we wanted to find something I could help out with. That is when we decided to raise money for gas cards to help families with traveling expenses. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes we made a lot of trips to the hospital so we know how expensive the gas costs are.”
Mostly through social media, Nicholas has organized a drive to raise funds for the last three years. The first year, $2,200 was raised. The second year, $1,505 was raised. This year, $2,300 was raised.


The staff at Children’s Mercy have been surprised and thankful for Nicholas’ and his friends’ efforts.
“This year they were waiting for us and said that they now count on our cards each year,” says Nicholas.
As a student at Pleasant Ridge High School, he finds time to balance all of his interests.
“I get my homework before I leave on racing trips or have to catch up when I get back. Since we don’t race in the winter, I play basketball,” he said.
The best part of racing for Nicholas is not only the thrill of the speed, but also the camaraderie of the racing community. His dad raced cars when he was young and began taking his son to the races when he was a little boy.


Nicholas is well aware after seven years on the track that having the correct, and best safety equipment is a must for staying safe. As for winning, he says the most important contributors are having a good setup, good equipment and most importantly, staying focused.


“My goal is to be able to race for a living but it takes a lot of help from others and we couldn’t do what we do without our sponsors,” says Nicholas.
His advice for other high school students about following their dreams and being the best they can be is to “Keep at it and don’t give up.”


“Nicholas is very outgoing,” says Chris. “Doesn’t know a stranger and will talk with anyone. He grew up playing all sports – mainly basketball – but racing has always been his passion. When he was 10 his mom, Jennifer, and I decided it was time to get him into racing. Like all sports nowadays kids start at a young age. When he was 12 he started racing full-size cars against people of all ages. It made his mom and I a little nervous but he handled it well and earned the respect of his competitors. Now when we are not racing, he pit crews for other drivers and travels all over the country doing so. He’s been to Las Vegas, Arizona, North Dakota, Canada and Arkansas helping others. He has raced himself in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Minnesota. 
“We couldn’t do this without sponsors. If anyone would like more info on sponsoring in any way they can visit our Facebook page at Nicholas Carpenter Racing.”
Nicholas has made his gas card drive an annual event and has no plans to give it up. He believes the drive is a great way for the racing community to come together and help people during the holidays.


“The racing community always comes together for good causes. That’s what makes them great. It’s nice to help people anytime. Everyone should find some way to help others,” Nicholas said.
For Nicholas, the best part of collecting money for gas cards is knowing that it will give children and families some sort of relief from the stress and costliness of their medical problems. And when it comes to his dedication to helping those in need, there will be no checkered flag in sight.