MISSOULA — What are some activities most 5-year-olds enjoy doing most?
Sports? Sure. Toys like Legos? Definitely.
How about motorsports? Presumably not, but don't tell Blake Weingart that. At that age, he jumped in his first race as a beginner, and from there, a passion for racing began.
"It was great, I loved it," Blake said on Friday at the Big Sky Kartway racetrack. "I just love everything about the car and speed. Pretty much everything about it, really."
Blake doesn't remember much from that first time racing, and who can blame him? But he gave it a shot and away he went.
Blake and his older sister, Kelsey Weingart, are currently following in the footsteps of their father, Wes, who raced when the two were just young kids and picked up their father's passion for it. The family was prepping for this weekend's Wild West Shootout at the Big Sky Kartway, which runs Friday and Saturday.
After starting with box stock cars which are more for beginners and young kids, the duo worked their way up and now compete in outlaw kart racing in the open division, the top flight of competitors.
"I think we were both brought up in a pretty competitive environment, so it's a pretty exciting thing to jump in there and get to experience it for ourselves," Kelsey said. "We're a pretty motorized family so we do the dirt bikes and all sorts of things."
"Watching my dad do it for as long as I can remember, I just always wanted to do it," Blake added. "He's been really helpful from Day 1 just to go faster and faster and being comfortable with the car. He's been a really good help."
The past two years Wes has stepped away from racing, but his children have picked up where he left off. Blake actually holds the track record at the Big Sky Kartway for fastest lap at 8.8 seconds.
While Kelsey, 16, didn't quite start as early as Blake, 14, she still began racing at age 10 with her first race occurring in Salem, Oregon.
"We were just headed there anyway and figured I might as well just run over there. No harm in doing that," Kelsey explained. "I jumped in there and it was very exciting. It was just something I really enjoyed."
Plus, her competitive side came out when she saw how quickly her younger brother was beginning to pick the sport up.
"It was kind of a nudge to go for it," she said with a laugh. "He was doing really good and I was like I can do that too."
The two compete against one another in the open class with Blake earning more of the bragging rights in head-to-head races. Kelsey will be a junior at Big Sky High School in the fall while Blake will be a sophomore.
But for Wes, 37, and mom Kristen, 38, watching their kids follow in what has become a family passion has been special to see.
"It's great. I love to see them put a lot of time and effort into it and to see them go out there," Wes said. "They enjoy doing it so that's the main thing. To see them win a race or anything like that has been really good.
"I'm extremely proud of them both. They both do an awesome job. We're working on the karts on the weekends and after school. It's great to watch them succeed."
Wes raced stock cars for five years and then outlaw karts for eight years after that. The past couple of years he's taken off of racing to help focus on both of his children competing in the top class. He handles the fine tuning which takes up a majority of his time, so he figured now is as good a time as any to veer from racing.
"If a tire falls off, it's my fault and the finger is pointed at me," he laughed.
The family has traveled to Idaho, Oregon and Texas for events but haven't as much this year. Motorheads through and through, the family finds plenty to do around Missoula to keep them busy.
"Anything we do has to have a motor on it," Wes said.
But when Blake originally wanted to race at such a young age, Kristen admitted she was a little worried.
"It was going to give me a heart attack," she said. "I was definitely excited. I was happy to stay local and in Missoula and not be traveling every single weekend. It was a lot to travel. So when they started local and his dad and him could do the same thing that they enjoyed it was nice."
The family used to have to travel to places like Great Falls and Salmon, Idaho, for the closest races but being able to watch Wes and Blake race locally at the Big Sky Kartway eventually made it easier for the two.
Kristen offers support for the whole group and enjoys watching her family unite over a common devotion.
"I definitely like it but it's hard sometimes to watch them, especially if they wreck or something," Kristen said. "But I like to be there for them and support them.
"Just watching them do well and compete has been great. It's neat and I like to watch them and it's cool to be able to see them compete against all of these (more experienced) guys from California and places like that."
Both siblings have competed at the Wild West Shootout as long as they have been able to and say it is their favorite race of the year. They say the preparation for each race is more on the mental side rather than actual practice when they get ready to compete. Plus checking the cars to make sure everything is functioning properly.
"I really enjoy how it brings a ton of people in and how you get to race against a ton of people from all over and it's just a good experience," Kelsey said. "It helps out a lot to be able to race against guys who have gone everywhere else."
"It's great to see all of the different racing styles and everyone else's car and how they work and manage everything," Blake added.
Wild West Shootout
The Wild West Shootout began on Friday and will continue through Saturday at the Big Sky Kartway.
The winner of the open class will earn $2,500 with additional winnings being added and determined by the number of entries with a minimum of $100 payout for qualifying for the main event on Saturday night. Big Sky Kartway owner Shawn Wells estimates the purse will add up to about $6,000.
This year is the 11th annual running of the Wild West Shootout.
"It's one of the bigger races in the country," Wells said. "This is one of the best tracks in the country. All of these guys like to come race on it because they've raced on some junk and this always stays nice."
Wells said about 75 racers were attending this weekend's competition which always runs the same weekend as the Fourth of July. Along with winning money, competitors earn hand-carved bears as trophies which have become a staple of the event. Along with the open class, there will be winners in the sportsman class, 250 class and box stock races.
Wells himself won the race back in 2014.
Friday night there were two races with qualifying races on Saturday followed by the B main event and the A main, which is the featured event.
"It's just neat seeing all of these people come here to partake in our event," Wells said. "At the end of the day they say, 'Great racetrack, that was fun, you guys put on a great show.' To me that's the reward."
After the Wild West Shootout, the Big Sky Kartway will run races through to the end of September with about 10 more nights of racing coming up throughout the summer.