CONCORD, N.C. — When it comes to rising stars in open-wheel racing, one of the names that is quickly joining the conversation as a top prospect is 16-year-old Tanner Carrick.
Carrick, from Lincoln, Calif., is a three-time track champion across three different divisions of winged mini-outlaw karts at Cycleland Speedway, as well as last year’s USAC National Midget Championship Rookie of the Year.
He was tabbed to drive one of the potent Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports fleet of Toyota-powered midgets last summer and recently began his second season with the team.
With a passion for all classes of racing, Carrick still returns home to California to race an outlaw kart, as well as winged and non-winged sprint cars, whenever he’s not on the road with the Kunz team.
We caught up with Carrick following the USAC midget season opener at the Southern Illinois Center on March 10 to discuss his background in motorsports, his outlook on the new year and more.
Q: How did you get your start in racing?
Carrick: I started racing go-karts when I was six and then worked my way up into the mini-outlaw karts on the West Coast. My dad was my crew chief and it was just something that the two of us enjoyed doing together; something I’ve always been passionate about.
Once I started winning races in the box stock and 250 (Intermediate) classes, then it was a no-brainer to keep making kind of the similar jumps that Kyle Larson did out here that got his career launched. After I’d found some success in the (premier) Open class for the outlaw karts, last year I got the call from Keith Kunz to come run a midget for him over the summer … and things have continued to build from there.
Q: Talk about what it was like growing up in the mini-outlaw community on the West Coast and what the journey was like from then to where you are now.
Carrick: Man, it’s the West Coast … that’s where a lot of talent in racing is and has been for a long time. Where I come from, just about everyone that grows up in racing out there ends up doing it, and many have moved on to bigger things from there.
You look at the names that have come from the mini-outlaws up into the big leagues of racing — Kyle Larson, Rico Abreu — guys like that used those cars as launching pads and then still come back when they can and try to help grow the sport because they know it’s where they came from and what it means. I always felt that out here and that’s part of what keeps pushing me forward and fueling that fire to do more in the sport.
It’s been a journey that’s been a lot of fun so far, but I know it’s not over … I certainly hope there’s a lot more left to go. I know I’m having fun in racing right now and hope to keep that going for a while.
Q: Was there something specific that attracted you to midget racing or that made that the logical next step for you to take in your career?
Carrick: I’ve always looked up to Kyle (Larson) and Christopher (Bell), and that’s just the route that they went. We were getting ready to run a sprint car here when I got the call from Keith about the midget, and I figured, ‘Hey, it can’t be that bad, right?’
But that pull of knowing that two guys I looked up to had gone in that direction and were successful enough to move on into even bigger things, I think, definitely drew me to it and made me want to go down that road.