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09-25-2009, 03:46 PM #1
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- Mar 2005
- City of Salt
There's no stopping Braytons' love for racing
I meet Scott Brayton a couple of times. He qualified for the pole at Indy in 1996 but was killed before the race while practicing. I have a framed poster hanging on my family room wall signed by Scott.
There's no stopping Braytons' love for racing
His uncle died while racing, but Hunter, 10, isn't scared one bit
BY MIKE BRUDENELL
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
Hunter Scott Brayton's go-kart flipped, sending him sliding helmet-first down the track into foam-rubber safety bags.
It was a frightening crash that had his mother, Teri, clenching her fists as she watched from the pits at Michiana Raceway Park near South Bend, Ind.
Hunter's father, Todd, a former International Motor Sports Association driver, wasn't sure he wanted any more of his son's racing career, either.
But Hunter got up, dusted himself off, checked his torn race suit and unbuckled his scraped-up helmet, the visor suffering from a serious case of road rash.
"Stuff happens," said Hunter, a 10-year-old redhead with a winning smile. "Someone got a little greedy, spun, and I got hit. You can't do a lot about that."
This was June, and the next weekend, Hunter made up for the disappointment. He won his first national kart race at MRP, showing he has inherited the Brayton passion for racing, handed down from his grandfather Lee Brayton to uncle Scott Brayton and his dad, Todd.
To be honest, Todd and Teri Brayton easily could have walked away from the whole thing at MRP, and who could blame them?
Todd, 47, was driving to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from his home in Coldwater on May 17, 1996, when he heard on the radio that his brother Scott had been killed during practice for the Indy 500. He had planned to play golf with Scott, who had won the pole position for the race, and had Scott's golf clubs in his car.
"You never forget a moment like that," Todd said this week. "Scott was my best friend, my business partner. He was a lousy golf player, but a great driver and person."
After losing a brother, why allow your only child to go racing?
"I do have a lot of people look at me and say: 'How could you let your son do that -- race?' " Todd said. "But we're not parents who forced him to drive. He just took to it like a duck to water on a pond."
Teri carries a pocket angel -- a metal oval with an angel carved on it -- to Hunter's races, and she won't deny her concern.
"There's a lot of fear and anxiety when Hunter is in the go-kart," said Teri, 46. "I'm his mother, and I'm very nervous when he runs down into Turn 1 at 70 miles per hour."
Lee Brayton, who attempted to qualify three times for the Indy 500 in the early 1970s but failed to make the field, sees it this way.
"Some people consider racing as taking an extra chance in life," said Lee, 76, who ran his race team and a successful gravel-pit business for many years in Coldwater before a slumping economy virtually shut down both.
"I don't think of it like that," he said. "You can be afraid to go to town, cross the street. Scott lived for his racing. It's the only thing he dreamed of doing. I never got in the way of that. I raced until I was 38. Hunter was upside down one weekend, won the next. He's a racer."
Hunter will compete next at MRP in the Mini-Max class Oct. 3-4. He finished third there in his last outing in August during a World Karting Association weekend. He has years ahead of him in karts before he can switch to open-wheel cars, but there's no holding him back.
"I want to be like Scott, Dad and Grandpa," said Hunter, a fifth-grade student at Quincy Middle School. "I like winning. I like the speed. And I like to beat my friends. I'm behind in points right now, and I just want to get better."
Hunter has been to Indy every year of his life with his parents, his first taste of the speedway as a 5-month-old in 1999, sitting in a bouncy chair. It was as a toddler there that he spotted a go-kart in the garage area.
"He pointed it out and wanted one," Todd said. "We waited a few years before buying him a used kart."
Since starting seriously in karts in 2008, Hunter has shown the right stuff to take him a long way as a racer.
At his grandfather's race shop in Coldwater this week, he looked every bit an Indy driver as he sunk into Scott's white Penske PC6 Cosworth, which Scott drove to 16th place as a rookie at Indy in 1981 after running as high as ninth.
"I want to race at Indy," Hunter said. "I want to win an Indy 500 for Scott."
A few miles from Brayton Racing in Coldwater, Scott Everts Brayton rests in a family plot at Oak Grove Cemetery, alongside Cemetery Lake, a pair of crossed checkered flags marking his tombstone.
He was 37 when he died, one of the most loved and admired drivers in Gasoline Alley, a driver who won his first pole at Indianapolis in 1995, when the CART veteran averaged 231.604 m.p.h.
Former Speedway CEO Tony George led the funeral procession for Scott through the streets of Coldwater in a Dodge Viper, while hundreds lined the route from the United Methodist Church to the cemetery.
"I'm sad my uncle died," said Hunter, paying his respects at the cemetery alongside his parents. "But I'm kind of happy I'm with him today."
When Scott died at Indianapolis, Todd said he prayed.
"I asked God for a son," said Todd, who had been married to Teri for 12 years before Hunter arrived.
"When Hunter had his accident, I wanted him to tell me, 'Dad, I'd like to go home.' Instead he said, 'Dad, please don't use this as a reason for us not to come back and race.'
"I won't deny him that opportunity."
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