What could “The Hot Rod Hamster” possibly have to do with NASCAR?
Everything — according to local NASCAR Whelen All-American Series driver Michael Kidd — who is a businessman and parent, as his brother, Kevin, a NASCAR Nationwide Series crew chief.
“If you decide to go into racing, no matter what you do, you will need reading,” Michael Kidd told an elementary school audience on Friday. “Racing requires math and science and to understand either one, you have to be able to read well.”
Kevin Kidd, crew chief for the No. 11 NASCAR Nationwide Series Shore Lodge car owned by Joe Gibbs Racing and driven by Brian Scott, agrees.
“I’m very happy to be able to come home and talk to the children about reading,” he said. “Any occupation is going to require reading skills, and it is never too early for children and their parents to work together to improve those very necessary abilities.”
Both men, along with Larry and Claudine Blankenship, read aloud and talked about the importance of reading to more than 600 Tazewell Elementary School students in grades pre-K through fifth Friday in a room that also included two race cars provided by the Tazewell County Career & Technical Center.
“Reading and Racing” was the program’s theme as coordinated by Tazewell Elementary School librarian Angie Patrick. The school’s faculty and students were very excited about a chance to connect with racers who are also readers.
A standard Nationwide Series car provided by Larry D. Blankenship of Nationwide Insurance in Tazewell also helped the students to have a visual example of reading’s impact on racing.
“I learned this summer that the Tazewell County school system’s focus for elementary schools was the need for parents to read to and with their children every day,” said Patrick. “I wanted to involve NASCAR and the Kidd brothers. I contacted Michael and then our students wanted to contact Kevin via e-mail.
“Our principal, Mrs. (Patty) Grindstaff, worked with us. Both Michael and Kevin graciously agreed to help us and this has turned out to be a great day. Along with several of our faculty, we have parent volunteers working with us today and that is one of highlights of the whole event.”
The Kidd Racing machine is a 2011 Chevy Impala weighing 3,100 pounds with a 350-cubic engine capable of speeds of 150 miles per hour. The 2011 Nationwide Series Ford is a Mustang with a 358-cubic engine with a weight of 3,400 pounds and capable of running nearly 190 miles per hour.
“It’s good to encourage children to read through different avenues,” noted Claudine Blankenship of the local Nationwide agency. “Various sports, especially including NASCAR in our area, attract children, and this is a wonderful opportunity to emphasize that.
“No matter what field a young person aspires to, reading is the fundamental skill toward making it a reality in our society.”
Both Kidd brothers (Michael — who graduated from Tazewell in 1994 and Virginia Tech in ‘97, and Kevin — who graduated from THS in ‘97, and Virginia Tech in ‘01) — have lived their dreams in various ways on the track and in the books.
Now they are parents. Michael and wife Lisa of Bluefield have a son, Ryan, age 5, and a daughter, Jenna, age 2. Kevin and wife Mary Katherine, have a son, Sawyer, and another child on the way at their Mooresville, N.C., home.
“We have both been able to live our dreams,” Michael said. “I’m backing off from the racing a little but Kevin seems to be just getting started and he is the star of the family now.
“Both of us are really concerned about our own children, and all children with their lives, that will help our communities and our country. Reading is the key to their success.”
As for the children, they couldn’t wait to go to the next lap – er, page.