Kart racer Austin Riley will be making an appearance at the MegaSpeed Custom Car and Truck Show as part of Lincoln Electric’s display. The MegaSpeed Custom Car and Truck Show takes place at the International Center from March 21st to 23rd.
Riley has had success in karting to date – including finishing second in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship.
Though Riley isn’t your normal kart racer as he struggles with Autism, a complex developmental disability, that causes people to have issues with non-verbal communication, a wide range of social interactions, and activities that include an element of play and/or banter.
The following is Austin’s story as told by his dad Jason on the Mega Speed website….
To look at my son Austin, you wouldn’t think he is any different than other 13 year old kids. Spend time with him in a school setting and you will see he is going to have a lifetime of struggles ahead of him …he has Autism. Along with this major disability he also has fine motor skill issues packaged with high anxiety levels. We all know school is tough enough when you are a teenager – I can’t imagine what it must be like for him on a daily basis. He is continually picked on, teased and ridiculed while at school. Everyone has heard the saying “kids are cruel” and after witnessing what Austin has to go through everyday, truer words have never been spoken.
To help Austin try and “fit in” we attempted various sports and activities, anything he would be good at or at least enjoy. Everything failed miserably. Then one day we received a flyer in the mail for an ‘arrive and drive’ go-kart program from Goodwood Kartways which was 20 minutes from our house. It took several weeks of convincing but Austin finally decided to try it. Then aged 7, my son sat in a go-kart for the very first time and for the very first time in his life I saw he was genuinely happy. When he left the grid for the first time I remember hoping that this would work and we would find something he enjoyed. It didn’t matter to me if he was good at it I just wanted to be able to give the kid something he hadn’t had in his short life….acceptance. He finished eighth that day but retained a smile for days afterward. Incredibly that was the only time he would miss the podium all year. He finished the season third overall against kids that were four years older than him on average.
At the end of this first season he was given a scholarship from the owners of Goodwood Kartways Dan and Marco Dileo. It was an opportunity to take the next step and enter competitive racing. Austin and I learned a lot in that first year and we both really enjoyed the whole experience. At the end of the first year Dan and Marco provided an opportunity for Austin to try a 2 stroke kart. It was then I really knew he had something special to offer. The faster we made the kart the more comfortable he was. In his first year of Rotax racing Austin won the club Championship in Micromax and finished third at the Canadian Nationals. Austin then made the leap to the Mini Max class.
He struggled the first year against the bigger, older and more aggressive kids but he never lost his smile or drive to continue. He showed flashes of brilliance that first year and I remember one race in particular in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship series where he was shunted off in the pre-final and had to start 22nd in the final. When the dust had cleared, he finished sixth and set the fastest lap in the process. Last year he progressed further. He had a few podiums by the end of the year and was always near the front in bad weather. This past year has been remarkable to say the least. He has won the club championship at Goodwood and at Mosport and he finished second overall in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship – a six race series at various tracks in Ontario and Quebec against Canada’s best. My wife and I have done everything we can to keep Austin in the sport he loves. We have sold our retirement savings, various vehicles and re-located a couple of times. We have depleted all of our resources and we are actively searching to find a sponsor to help Austin continue. We don’t have illusions of Austin becoming the next F1 champion…we are merely looking for someone that can help a kid continue to do the one thing in life that he enjoys.
I would like to thank Lincoln Electric for the courage to step forward and help Austin follow his dreams.
The MegaSpeed Custom Car and Truck Show takes place later this month – from March 21st to the 23rd – at the International Center in Toronto, Ontario. Taking up five huge halls with cars from one end to the other, you can promise that your eyes will drool due to the eye candy. Many race teams and series will also be on hand to talk about their plans for the 2014 season.
The list of celebrities for the event includes some stand-outs like Danny “The Count” Koker and his business partner Kevin Mark from Counting Cars, Rick and his wife Kelly from American Restoration, Quinton “Q” Dodson from Pimp My Ride, Lou Santiago from SPIKE’s show MuscleCar, and entertainment starts Coca & Ice-T.
For more information on the show, check out http://www.megaspeedcarshow.com/.