By Jacob Mathias
He drives over 120 MPH without a license.
A driver’s license is of no matter to 14-year-old Ben Franklin Jr. High student Gabe Sommers, who was recently awarded Rookie of the Year in the 2017 Midwest Truck Racing Series. He also took fifth place overall in the series, ahead of 30 other racers, even though he was unable to finish three races due to crashes. This year, Sommers had four heat wins and won the feature at Hawkeye Downs in Iowa.
This year was only the second in truck-racing for Sommers and while successful, he is already eyeing another challenge and is now behind the wheel of a super late model car, the premier division of local, short-track asphalt racing. Super late model racing is faster, has a longer season and more racing opportunities.
“There’s not many kids doing it,” said Sommers. “So, it’s a little different than just doing something with kids your age.”
For the 2018 season, Sommers will race in the Automobile Racing Club of America Midwest Tour. The ARCA tour hold races on multiple tracks throughout Wis., Minn., Ill. and Iowa. He hopes to gain more racing knowledge and win rookie of the year in the ARCA series as well.
“For the car, that’s the biggest thing you can do,” said Sommers.
His racing career began at 11 years old when he started driving a Bandolero car, an entry-level race car that can reach speeds of up to 50 mph. Sommers soon advanced out of the Bandolero and moved into the truck.
“Ever since he was little he’s been a gear-head,” said Sheri Sommers, Gabe’s mother. “It’s been snowmobiles and four-wheelers and anything with a motor.”
The family agrees that although safety is always a concern, there is a level of comfort knowing that Gabe wears the same safety equipment as the Nascar drivers.
Sheri Sommers said she does worry, but no more than during any other of her sons’ activities like hockey or farm work.
His pit crew is a family affair and Sommers said he couldn’t race without them. Sommers comes from a family of racers, starting with his distant cousin Rich Somers who, like him, all raced under the number 15.
His crew is comprised of his father Scott Sommers, brother Max Sommers, cousin Dan Sommers, cousin Rick Somers and family friends George Pliska and John Sommerfeldt.
“They just taught me how to run it and it caught on from there,” said Gabe Sommers.
Gabe Sommers Racing’s marketing partners include Kwik Trip, Wysocki Produce Farm, Allied Cooperative, Tasteful Selections, Dave’s Body Shop, Credenz, Coca-Cola, Midway Machine and Equipment Center, Four Star Family Restaurant, Meadowview Farm, B&B Paving, LG Seeds, R. Smith Construction Inc., Wood Street Rental Center and Bushman Electric.
For more information on the Gabe Sommers racing team and schedule, go to gabesommersracing.com.