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Many youngsters have dreams of becoming professional athletes.

Some want to be a baseball player like Cal Ripken Jr., others would like to play football like Joe Montana.

Matt Hainess is no different from other young boys. He has dreams, too.

But he dreams of someday driving a sprint car on the World of Outlaws circuit, and he is working hard to fulfill his dream.

At age 14, the area's youngest auto racer drives micro-sprints at Trail-Way Speedway near Hanover, Pa., every Friday night.

And if you think 14 is young, Hainess started driving at 12. A freak accident temporarily put his racing ambitions on hold, but he came back this yearand in less than two months has been holding his own against driverswith four or five times the experience.

A student at Francis Scott Key High, Hainess started racing go-karts at the age of nine. Suffering from asthma since he was an infant, Hainess had to give up kartsafter a year because of the dust. When he was 11, Matt and his father, Bill, went to watch close friends Brad McClelland and Mike Stull race micro-sprints at Trail-Way.

The next year, at the ripe old ageof 12, Hainess had his own micro-sprint. Because of his age, Hainessdid not start racing but would practice each week at Trail-Way afterthe racing program was over.

Three weeks later, Hainess started his first race at the rear of the field in a trial heat and qualified for the feature race. In the feature, his shifter shaft broke and wasunable to finish the race, but Hainess proved he was ready.

It wasn't long before Hainess won a heat and the youngster was on his way.Later in the year, a near catastrophe almost crushed the young boy'sdreams.

One night in July 1989, Hainess flipped his car. He was uninjured, the car was not damaged and Hainess wanted to continue.

"He wanted to get back out there," Bill Hainess recalled. "He said tome, 'Dad, I can beat these turkeys.' I made sure his belts were tight and everything looked fine. I couldn't say no."

Hainess went back out and was making has way through the field. When he reached out to shift, his arm restraint got caught in the chain and almost tore Matt's arm off.

Hainess was rushed to the hospital and the first thing the doctor told his parents was that he wasn't sure he could save the arm because it was so mangled.

"I never prayed so much in my entire life," recalled Bill Haines.

Matt was in the operating room for three hours. His arm was in a cast for six weeks, but as soon as Matt returned home from the hospital he was out in the garage cleaning the car. He thought that he would be allowed to race with his cast,but his father told him to get the arm straighten out before he could race.

The car was sold later that year. Following therapy, Matt played quarterback on Key's junior varsity football team. An all-around natural athlete, he asked his father after the last game if there was any chance of racing again.

Bill Hainess tried to evade his son's question but finally gave in and bought Matt a new car at the beginning of this year. The chances of the freak accident occurring again are many thousand times less than before.

"There are a lot of improvements on the car," said Bill Hainess. "Everything is enclosed. It is nearly impossible for the same thing to happen."

Returning toracing was a big test for Matt Hainess.

"I was scared at first," he said. "After the race started, I was all right."

Matt Hainess has run seven weeks this year and has qualified for the feature each time. They are still getting the bugs out of the new car.

"We are still trying to get the new car to handle better," said Matt. "I need to get the turning speed better, and I am trying to find the right place to pass the cars."

Matt is making a name for himself in micro-sprint racing, and not on age alone. He is turning heads with his driving ability as well.

"I am pretty proud of myself," he said. "I didn't expect to be this far as young as I am."

Matt has pit help from Dwight Baugher and his father. He owes a lot of his success to Dizzy Dean Renfro, Bob Miller and Leonard Shaffer.

Matt's sponsors include Baugher's Market and Restaurant, Future Antique, The Oak Store, Colonial Auto Sales, U.S. Muscle, B & D Truck Hoist, Becker's Body Shop, and TNT Racing Fabrication.

Because of his age, Matt is not allowed to run at many tracks. This keeps him at Trail-Way, and he said he appreciates promoter Armin Hofstetter for giving him the opportunity to race.

People not acquainted with auto racing may feel Matt Hainess is too young to race, yet the same people will allow their child to play a contact sport such as football. Statistically speaking, Matt is safer in auto racing then many other participant sports.

Matt Hainess has dreams and is well on his way to fulfilling them. His next step will be the super sportsman cars -- a larger open-wheelwinged class that runs at Silver Spring Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. -- then he plans to move to the super sprints.

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