Maple Grove Raceway launched its NHRA Youth Racing program — also known at MGR as the U.T.I. Junior Street class — on Sunday, April 27. Three teenage drivers signed up for licensing on Sunday: two boys and one girl.

Nathan Hammerle, 13, of Royersford, Pa., was first on the track. Hammerle made his license runs in a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier. Drag racing was not new to him: his father and brother competed on the quarter mile in the past.

“I liked it,” said Hammerle. “I thought it was cool going down the same track as the professional NHRA drivers.”

Samantha Hess, 14, of Mountville, Pa., drove a 2003 GMC Sierra. Like Hammerle, Hess — a Centerville Middle School student — was no stranger to the strip.

Nathan Hammerle was the first U.T.I. Junior Street participant on the track April 27.

“I’ve been going to the track since I was six or seven and I’ve wanted to race since then,” Hess explained. “I liked being out on the track. It kind of prepared me for when I get my driver’s license and it was fun. I’m planning on racing in the bracket series when I am able.”

Fifteen-year-old Robert Weidenhammer of Reading, Pa., made his licensing passes in a 1994 Chevrolet K1500 pick-up truck.

The first U.T.I. Junior Street race will be held on Sunday, June 1 at MGR.

The new Junior Street program was designed by the NHRA to give teenage boys and girls – ages 13-16 – the opportunity to race against their peers in full-bodied street vehicles with an adult co-driver as their teammate. The new program combines racing with car safety and is sponsored at MGR by Universal Technical Institute. The Junior Street racing program teaches teens to learn to drag race safely, in a full-size car, without having to purchase a purpose-built race car. Rules and licensing forms are available for download on MGR’s website,

Now in its 52nd year, historic Maple Grove Raceway is recognized as a leading facility in the National Hot Rod Association. Maple Grove Raceway’s annual NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national event, the NHRA Nationals, will take place Oct. 2-5.

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