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News Maryland Howard County Elkridge

Howard siblings compete as race car drivers

Siblings Jack and Sydney Gose will be the first to admit that they get nervous before every race. Their hands shake a little, their palms begin to sweat and the adrenaline starts pumping.

Considering that Jack, 13, and Sydney, 14, are each still a couple years away from obtaining an official driver's license, it's an understandable byproduct of preparing to get behind the wheel of a race car.

But for all the tension that fills those pre-race moments, once those wheels hit the track, they both agree that the jitters have a way of disappearing.

"Those minutes when you are sitting in the car, in staging waiting to go out, you always feel that same way … you can't control it," said Jack, who has been racing since he was 9. "But it's amazing how you don't even think about being nervous anymore once you are actually out there. It's like it all goes away and you just have fun."

For Sydney, who is in her first year racing, the contrast of emotions and ultimate exhilaration of flying around a dirt track upward of 50 mph had her hooked almost immediately.

"It's an amazing feeling … almost like you are in your own little world out there," said Sydney who, along with her brother, has followed in the footsteps of her dad, John Gose, and grandfathers, William Gose and Jack Ness, by taking up the sport at a young age.

"I'm still learning every time I'm out there, but it's amazing how much instincts take over. It's almost as if racing is in my blood," she said.

For the Gose family, who live in Elkridge, racing is indeed a family affair. John Gose, who raced cars himself until 2004, has transformed the family garage into a fully functional motor sports headquarters.

While the majority of the racing occurs on tracks in Pennsylvania, the cars are stored and worked on at home. Jack and Sydney do most of their own maintenance with their father's guidance.

"There's no doubt that the racing brings us together," John Gose said. "We probably spend 10-15 hours a week on the cars together and it's a great learning experience. Sydney is 14 and can already change her own oil, put brakes on the car.

"Then there are the rides up to the track and their grandfather [Jack Ness] comes along, helping work on the cars. It's pretty special that we can share something like this with one another."

As young kids, back when John Gose was still competing himself, Jack and Sydney spent a good deal of time around a track as they and their mom, June, would watch the races. But there was never any pressure on the two to become involved.

Gose said that more than five years ago, when he first purchased a quarter midget car — a vehicle that is a scaled down version of a midget car and specifically designed for children between the ages of 5-16 — just in case either of his children were interested, it ended up sitting around unused for nearly a year.

"I think at first they were a little leery, which was fine with me," Gose said. "My feeling was that at the very least, it was there so that I could teach them about cars and driving safely before they eventually got their license."

Before long, though, Jack decided he wanted to give it a try. He participated in a novice training session in Delaware and soon after was set for his first race.

But it was in that debut competition, as a 9-year-old, that things almost ended for Jack as quickly as they started.

Midway through the race, the car flipped. And while there were no injuries, John was sure that was going to be the end of it.

"We had done four-wheelers, BMX [bikes] with him before that and he would be done when he crashed," Gose said. "So when he flipped, I was sure I was going to go out there and he was going to tell me that was it. But, to my surprise, he was actually incredibly calm."

Jack added, "It was definitely kind of freaky, but I wasn't scared or anything and me and the car were both fine. I just remember telling my dad I wanted to keep going."

And over the last few years, Jack has not only kept going, he's gotten better and better.

Last year, he ended up winning the track championship at Hunterstown Speedway in the quarter-midget division.

It was at that point that the decision was made for him to transition to a full-size car and begin working toward competing in the Junior Road Warriors division for drivers between the ages of 14 and 18.

Spectator to competitor

Coincidentally it was around that same time earlier this year when Sydney decided to make her own transition — from spectator to competitor.

"I had been watching all my life. I think I just got to the point where I wanted to try it myself and see if I could do it," Sydney said.

It wasn't as easy as she anticipated, but she picked things up quickly.

"Watching the cars going around and around in circles, I think you naturally think, 'how hard can it be.' But it's definitely a lot harder than it looks," she said. "But as with anything else, the more you work at it, the more you do it, the better you get … and it helps that I have some great teachers."

Both Sydney, a rising sophomore at Long Reach High School, and Jack, a rising eighth-grader at Thomas Viaduct Middle School, have their own cars. Sydney has a Ford Escort and Jack has a Ford Mustang, both of which have been modified for competition.

Right now, as the two are still learning and getting used to the cars, the idea has been to ease them in when it comes to the level of competition.

As for a little sibling rivalry competition, that's been fair game. With the two in the same division and usually going head-to-head, there's plenty of trash talk and banter on and off the track.

"I have a little bit of an advantage because I have more experience racing, but it honestly seems like we are at the same point because we are both in the first year with a full-sized car. So we definitely have some good races," Jack said. "I think we both know that if we lose, the other one has bragging rights."

Sydney says she certainly isn't about to take it easy on her younger brother.

"I think we have your typical sister, brother relationship. For the most part we get along, but we also fight," Sydney said. "And, out on that track, there are no friends whatsoever. I always tell my brother before the race that he better move out of my way or I'm coming for him."

Having both kids involved has upped the ante for their dad. But, as far as he's concerned, a little extra back-and-forth is a small price to pay for seeing his son and daughter sharing in something he's passionate about.

"I get to hear it all now. Arguing about who's going to win, who's getting the better tires on the car, who gets to start in front. And heaven forbid they hit one another," Gose said. "But in the end, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It may be double the work now, but at the same time it's double the fun."

Since the commute to the Susquehanna Speedway Park — the family's home track — or Shippensburg Speedway takes well over an hour, actual time in the race cars is often limited to once every other week.

Wednesday trips are usually for practices, with each driver getting multiple opportunities at runs between six to eight laps. When they go on Saturdays there is the opportunity for competitions, with Jack and Sydney usually entering 12-lap feature races. This year, Susquena Speedway has had five racers compete at least once in its Junior Road Warriors Division since the season began April 5.

All cars are required to meet a lengthy list of a safety requirements before competition and the drivers are required to undergo an initial training course prior to getting out on the track.

Right now learning is top priority, but before long the focus will be on winning and taking things to the next level. Gose said he'll simply do whatever he can to support them along the way.

"The sky is the limit, all the way up to NASCAR," he said. "And you know, on the other hand, it could end up being as little as racing limited stock cars until they don't want to do it anymore. It's really just as far as the want to take it.

"At this point, I'm just a proud dad who gets to share what he loves with his kids."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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