Marcus Wolfe of Bristow grew up watching NASCAR with his dad Richie, and now at 12, he is on track to one day be a professional driver. Although he only started racing go-karts last year and has been competing against far more experienced kids, he’s already won many races, including the championship in his division last year.
His home track is United Karting in Hanover, Maryland, but he also competes at tracks all over the region including North Carolina, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
“It's just so fun because it's fast and you're always battling with someone else,” says Marcus. “There’s a lot of adrenaline.”
It’s the fast part that makes his mom Brenda’s heart speed up. “He's been talking about racing since he could talk,” she says. “We have videos of him in his crib on the baby monitor asking about going to see Denny Hamlin [American professional stock-car racing driver and NASCAR team owner]. He even dressed up as Denny Hamlin one Halloween. He's got such a passion for it and I'd be doing him a disservice if I held him back. So we say our prayers and just let him be him.”
Marcus’s kart is an LO206 which has the same motor as the ones grown men drive. “These karts are capable of going just shy of a hundred miles an hour, so they put a slide restrictor in the carburetor, which limits the speed for the little guys,” says Richie. “These go-karts aren't beach karts. They have extremely advanced braking systems, tires, engines, and aerodynamics.”
Marcus often gets up to 65 miles an hour when racing around a track, so it’s important he has the proper safety gear. “He wears a fire suit, a helmet, and a neck roll called a HANS device, which is the same thing they wear in NASCAR,” says Richie. “He also wears special racing shoes, racing gloves, and a rib protector, which is like body armor that goes around his chest and ribs. The most alarming thing for Brenda or any mom or parent is that there are no seatbelts in these karts. There’s nothing strapping them in because if they were to overturn, you don’t want them to be trapped inside.”
Marcus understands the dangers well. “You just have to be focused all the time,” he says. “You always have to be thinking ahead and paying attention to your surroundings.”
Brenda says he’s had a couple of close calls with running off the track or getting pushed off. “He gets right back in there though; we're real proud of him. A couple of weeks ago he had a race where his tire would not stay sealed and it kept losing air. He ran a 12-lap race and eight of those laps were with a flat tire. He just stayed in it and still came in second place. The kid’s got heart and it's so fun to watch.”
Racing has become a real family affair. “My dad’s up every night before the races, working on my kart, trying to make it faster,” says Marcus. Richie also packs the trailer, unloads it, and plans the race registrations. Marcus’s 16-year-old brother, Joey, is crew chief of the Wolfe Pack Racing team and also recently started racing himself. And his mom and sister, 18-year-old Taylor, handle photography and social media, pack lunches and cheer him on.
“When I had my first race, my whole family - all my cousins, uncles, great uncles – they were all there,” says Marcus. “There were 20 or 30 people watching me and they all had my Wolfepack Racing tee-shirt on.”
Brenda adds, “My husband’s uncle, Bob Wolfe, lives in Maryland and he's an older gentleman. He hasn't been feeling too good lately, but even he comes out to see Marcus. He says he’s his number one fan.”
LowKey Racing in Hanover has also been amazing, she says. “They’re a race team led by Eric King, Amy Bitz and Ryan Miller III. They took an interest in Marcus last year and asked him to be on their team.” They also taught Richie a lot about go-karts.
Since go-kart racing is an expensive sport, they get other kinds of support as well. “Marcus’s cousin, Joey Pyles, donated a race trailer to our team to haul the kart, which is huge,” says Richie.
Race entry fees alone start at $100 to $200 for local races and can run up to $1,500 for national races, so the family also has sponsors who help them out. “Daniel Beery is an authorized franchisee of Snap-On Tools in Northern Virginia and he's been a tremendous help,” says Brenda.
“He gave us a toolbox with lots of tools and a bunch of tents and coolers,” says Marcus. “He also helps us with race tires.”
Since these tires only last a couple of races, there’s a constant need for new ones. At $200 a set, it can get very expensive very fast. “We have people who are just tire sponsors, which is really helpful and a blessing,” says Brenda. “Simply Home in Fredericksburg has been a tire sponsor for us for a while, and Platinum Auto Body in Sterling and Hoosier Tire East, a national sponsor, also help out.”
A student of Marstellar Middle School, Marcus is active in other sports as well such as motocross, mountain biking and skateboarding. “I love riding my bike with my best friend, Jack McGehee,” he says. “We're always outside unless it’s raining.”
Brenda says they’re a very active family. “We all love to be outside camping or just hanging out in the driveway, watching the kids ride their bikes.”
Adds Richie, “I'm always on a boat or fishing or hunting and the kids have always tagged along.”
Marcus’s ultimate goal is to make it to NASCAR and race for Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's team, 23XI. “I've always dreamed of being a professional NASCAR driver,” he says. Be sure to follow his racing career at Wolfe Pack Racing LLC on Facebook.
This feature appears in the 2022 September issue of Haymarket-Gainesville Lifestyle Magazine. To pick up a copy, visit these locations:
Haymarket Gainesville Community Library, 14870 Lightner Road, Haymarket
Cushing Gainesville Commuter Lot, 7312 Cushing Road, Manassas
Broad Run VRE, 10637 Piper Lane, Bristow
Manassas VRE Station in Old Town, 9451 West St., Manassas
Haymarket Town Hall, 15000 Washington St, Haymarket; Haymarket Commuter Lot, I-66 and Route 15, Haymarket