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Riverhead driver, 12, graduates from Go-Karts to Legends

Matthew Brode started racing Go-Karts at Riverhead Raceway as a 5-year-old and started winning races consistently a year later. Now 12, Brode is taking on a new challenge.

After dominating karts, Brode is trying his hand in a Legends Car, a class in which every competitor is at least twice his age.

“I just said I would try it, and I liked it,” said Brode, of East Islip. “You’re racing against other people that are very competitive.”

His father Howie, 53, has been a mainstay at Riverhead Raceway for years, and he currently ranks second in the NASCAR Modified class with 259 points. He’s familiar with most faces at the track, and he knows that his son is competing against those with much more experience.

“You’ve got 35-year-old guys, you’ve got 25-year-olds and you’ve got a 12-year-old,” Howie Brodie said. “It’s a big jump in age with different experience levels.”

But don’t underestimate his talents behind the wheel or in the garage, where he said he helps do a lot of the maintenance to his No. 1 car in the days leading up to Saturday races.

His highest finish this season is 17th out of 24, and he said he learns more about himself, his car and the other drivers each time out.

“The handling is different because it has suspension,” he said. “The Go-Kart doesn’t have suspension.”

A natural in the driver’s seat despite still being several years away from getting his learner’s permit, Matthew picked up driving both types of vehicles quickly. He learned to drive a stick “within five minutes,” according to his father, and in his first time in a Go-Kart, he put the pedal to the floor in an empty parking lot.

“It was hard because I took him to a parking lot to let him try it out, and he took off, wide open,” Howie said. “He handled it well, but I was afraid. There were curbs and everything. But he did very well.”

He hasn’t completely abandoned the Go-Kart scene, as he’s won the first three of five races in a go-kart circuit in Poughkeepsie. His future, though, could include running Modifieds like his dad.

“If he really likes it, I’d like to see him do it,” Howie said. “This is a hard sport to get somewhere in. It’s a lot of money, but we’re going to do our best to give him a shot.”

While Matthew isn’t in the conversation for a Legends Car championship this season — he’s 25th out of 34 drivers — Howie is certainly a top competitor for a points championship.

He’d trade his next championship for the success of his son, however.

“I’d rather see him come high in the points,” he said. “I’m on the way out, he’s coming up.”

New York Sports