With class numbers on the rise at Vodafone Speedway it is inevitable that there would be a number of rookies. One of those amongst the Midget ranks was 17-year old Jayden Worthington.
Worthington’s family history in the sport is impressive, with Dad Calvin racing Midgets before moving into the position of crew chief, most recently of note with Brad Mosen at BSL Racing. So it seemed inevitable that Jayden himself would one day get behind the wheel.
“My Dad always ran Midgets when he was younger and I’ve been around speedway for a long time, I’ve been going since I was young, so I just wanted to give it a go really and see if I was any good,” says Jayden.
Despite having done such limited mileage, the experience brought to the team through his father is something Jayden is massively appreciative of.
“It’s real good, he knows the ins and outs of the car and how to set them up. He’s been crewing on Brad (Mosen)’s car for the last four years I think so he knows his way around it and he’s got many titles with guys as well with BSL and Seamount.”
In the current day and age, it is not uncommon for young drivers to progress through the Kiwi Kidz field into a TQ or F2 Midget before jumping in with the big boys in the A-Grade Midgets and while that looked like a possibility for Jayden, it never eventuated.
“We were going to run an F2 when I was younger but we couldn’t really afford it and Mum was a bit scared. I just didn’t get into TQ’s as much, but with the Midgets, I’ve grown up watching them and I just like them more than anything, so I kind of just wanted to jump in them and give it a go.”
However, the young driver was not expecting instant success in the Shark Bite/Vertex/All Star Plumbing 63A.
“This season was just a learning curve really, to get going and I just wanted to get seat time and experience. Over the next couple of years, I’d love to progress and get better and better.”
Given his lack of experience, getting track time before opening night became an issue and so it was that Jayden got to make his Midget debut in front of what could only be described as a packed house on opening night at Vodafone Speedway, an experience that will stick with the youngster for many years to come.
“I wasn’t allowed to run because I had to go through the mentor programme, there was a bit of a thing with SNZ (Speedway New Zealand) so they wouldn’t let me run which was a bit of a shame. I hadn’t turned many laps to be honest, if I counted up how many laps I’ve done it was bugger all compared to anyone else.”
“I was overwhelmed really, blown away. The atmosphere was unbelievable. It was kind of nerve-wracking too knowing you are out there with your idols, you see them go around and they are going real quick, you feel so slow because you are just learning. It was exciting, but it was definitely nerve-wracking, I didn’t want to cause any trouble with anyone or upset anyone on the first night, that’s not the way to go.”
Like many of the young drivers in the current era, Jayden grew up worshipping some of the big names of the sport, drivers who have been at the top of their game for better than a decade, but soon learnt that to get to the front, you can’t always be the nice guy.
“Growing up, Brad (Mosen) and Michael (Pickens). Michael is such a good racer and he’s been all over the world, same with Brad. Shayne Alach is another one I’ve looked up to, the way he deals with stuff as well, he doesn’t care. He’s a bit like a bad guy, in the semi-main he full on punted Harley Taylor into the infield, there are some weird things that you learn straight away! You don’t want to muck around with them, if you’re in the way they’ll push you out the way.”
After a hard night’s racing, Jayden came away from opening night pleasantly surprised with how his first crack at Midget racing had gone.
“To be honest I was quite surprised actually, I thought I was going to be a lot worse, I thought I was going to get lapped lots, to be honest. I felt pretty happy with where I ended up, I managed to put it in the wall and that was my fault, but other than that I was stoked with the night, to be honest.”
For Jayden though, one of the big highlights of the season was the chance to share the race track with some of the biggest names in Midget racing worldwide when the international series hit town over the Christmas/New Year period.
“That’s awesome, to know that you can be in the feature with them, even watching those guys as they come past you, pick up some pointers from them and everything. The Yanks do it day and night, so if you are going to learn off someone, the likes of Tyler Thomas or Jerry Coons is not bad.”
We’re sure that with a pedigree like his, it won’t be long until Jayden is mixing it with the best of them.