On a summer evening in Manassas, just a stone's throw from Old Dominion Speedway, the headquarters of the BDE Racing Team is hopping: The talented, young driver -- fresh off a championship season -- and his crew chief are in the garage while the team owner works the phones.
Headquarters, however, is a home; the driver is a 16-year-old high school student; and the team owner and crew chief double as Mom and Dad. BDE Racing is also known as the Elswick family.
Dorain (Mom) owns the team and handles the business side. Bo (Dad) is the crew chief, relying on years of experience as a member of his father's drag racing crew. And Amanda (daughter) is the team's No. 1 supporter.
And then there is son David. The rising junior at Osbourn High School began his first Mini-Cup season last year with expectations of gaining nothing but experience he hoped would lead to racing success. But after 14 visits to the winner's circle in 24 races, Elswick -- to his own surprise -- was the Mini-Cup Future Stars division national champion and the holder of several racing records.
"It completely amazed me," Elswick said. "We were expecting to go out and finish second and third. We didn't expect to win any last year."
The Miniature Motorsports Racing Association (MMRA) Mini-Cup -- now in its fourth season -- provides children and adults the opportunity to race half-scaled stock cars, modeled after Winston Cup race cars. The roof of Elswick's Mini-Cup car is roughly three feet off the ground.
Elswick competes in the Future Stars division (ages 10-16), which requires a restricter on the motor to limit speed. Tonight at 7, he will compete in an adult class Mini-Cup race at Old Dominion Speedway for the first time this season. Last year, Elswick won two races at the adult level.
Elswick's rookie year was the type of season he never imagined possible. Less than a year after the Elswicks purchased their first Mini-Cup car, the rookie driver wrapped up the national Mini-Cup points title with a win in the next-to-last race of the 14-race season. Elswick, who also competes in local races that do not count in Mini-Cup standings, set several track records and holds the mark for most races won in a season. He was named the Mini-Cup Virginia rookie of the year and Virginia driver of the year.
"It didn't really set in until maybe this season," Bo Elswick said of his son's rookie success. "When you look back and see the accomplishments you got, you know it will never happen again because it was the first time [he raced]. As far as the father-son relationship, it grew."
The success paid off for BDE Racing. To help defray the cost of two roughly $10,000 race cars, Elswick landed Popeyes Fried Chicken as a sponsor. He also earned about $3,000 in savings bonds in prize money, plus a Mark Martin tire table and a tent.
Though not off to the dominant start of last year, Elswick is in the running this season. With three races remaining, he trails the leader by just eight points.
Bo and Dorain like to say racing is in their son's blood. As a boy, Elswick would get upset when his parents wouldn't let him ride in his grandfather's dragster during races. After passing the height requirement, Elswick became a regular at the go-kart tracks on family trips to the beach.
"I feel like I'm filling their shoes," Elswick said of his father and grandfather. "I'm following in his footsteps. I feel like I'm completing what they started and trying to get a little farther than they did."
When not sitting behind the wheel of his race car, the six-foot Elswick spends his free time fishing and hunting and making frequent trips to Kings Dominion amusement park with friends. His bio on the Mini-Cup Web site (www.minicup.com) includes the name of his girlfriend, Jami Garlock.
Still, Elswick finds time for school. If he wants to race, he has to. Dorain requires David maintain all A's and B's, and not once this past school year did he fail to make Osbourn's honor roll.
"He had something to look forward to, and he knew if he didn't make the grades he wouldn't drive," said Dorain, a school bus driver by day. "Education is what's most important nowadays. . . . I'll spend tens of thousands [of dollars] on a race car, but he needs the education."
Elswick's parents often find themselves in a tough situation when it comes to his driving. Occasionally, their desire to see David succeed is severely tested during a particularly hairy race.
"I think I'm worse than her," Bo said of watching his son race. "I'm on edge because I know the speeds they go and the weight they're carrying."
But Dorain assures herself the cars are safe and even argues it is safer to drive on the racetrack.
"We have to stop and think that if he is out in the street, he can also get hurt," Dorain said of her son, who drives the family Trans-Am or truck away from the track. "I almost like the track more than the street because there are more maniacs on the street."
CAPTION: Elswick, a rising junior at Osbourn High School, will make his first appearance at Old Dominion Speedway tonight competing in the adult class Mini-Cup race.