From his perch at the top of the podium, 11-year-old Enrique Jaime was nearly eye level with three women wearing red lipstick who squeezed closely next to him.
He was holding an enormous trophy. They were smiling. The crowd was cheering.
WHO: 11-year-old Medford resident who captured two titles at the International Kart Federation 4 Cycle Sprint Grand Nationals in McMinnville this month. He is an eight-time Southern Oregon Season Points champion and four-time IKF regional season points champion.
up next: Southern Oregon Karters Night Race, Aug. 10, 6 p.m., Jackson County Sports Park (6900 Kershaw Rd.)
Simply put, it was auto racing heaven.
Welcome to the life of Jaime, a bilingual asphalt sprint kart driver who earlier this month captured a pair of national championships to add to his expanding collection of accolades.
After winning two races and nearly securing a third at the International Kart Federation 4 Cycle Sprint Grand Nationals in McMinnville, Jaime stood in the 1 spot on the podium and posed for photographs with admiring women at least twice his age. The post-race scene was a euphoric one, but the Medford resident didn't soak in his accomplishments for long.
"After winning I was like, 'I finally did it. I finally completed the task,'" Jaime says. "And now I have to set a new goal."
He's already thinking about the next big thing: the world-famous SuperNationals held in the parking lot of the Rio in Las Vegas.
Jaime says he has a lot of work to do before the November event. To raise funds for much-needed upgrades like a new motor, he'll put on his finest outfit and approach businesses to ask for sponsorship. To prepare his body, he'll go to the gym and do things like holding up a five-pound dumbbell and rotating it to simulate the act of driving. To get his ride in top condition, he and his team will brainstorm and tinker like scientists in a lab.
In McMinnville, Jaime earned light and medium victories. The classes are distinguished by the total weight of the car and driver, meaning the 78-pound Jaime has to add lead weight on the seat of his kart for some competitions.
His only loss was by .012 seconds in the heavy class.
"The championships are great to win, but the last day was the hardest race because my kart wasn't really working right and I was having to battle the kart," Jaime says. "I was staying right there with (Justin Demars of McMinnville). The last day of the heat and the main we were side by side."
Jaime has been racing since he was 5. He is an eight-time Southern Oregon Season Points champion and a four-time IKF regional season points victor. Jaime finished second and third at the IKF 4-Cycle Grand Nationals in Richland, Wash., last summer.
Jaime, who stands first in the Southern Oregon Karters points standings in the Comer 80 and Rotax Mini-Max divisions, also races on dirt tracks using a 250 four-stroke Outlaw.
He will next compete at the Jackson County Sports Park (6900 Kershaw Rd.) at 6 p.m. on Aug. 10.
When Jaime does look back at his past performances, it is so that he can improve his technique or the hardware, he says. If he doesn't take a corner just the right way, he'll go back and do a mental review. When he's not as fast as he should be, he asks why.
It's no surprise that his team is called CANI Racing, which stands for Constant and Neverending Improvement.
"If my car is a little too tight, we will talk about what adjustments we want to do," says Jaime, who will attend Talent Middle School this fall. "So you might do something to make the kart looser or tighter to adjust your lines. You want to hit it perfect every time."
Andrea says her son's attention to detail has served him well.
"He is thorough and patient," she says. "He never gets to high or too low and he's methodical about learning."
He's also able to speak two languages. One time in Fresno, Calif., he was interviewed in Spanish. Jaime says he loves to speak it and even helps to teach his six-year-old sister Isabella.
Speaking of family, the Jaimes once spent a season racing together.
"My husband (Edrel) raced for three or four years and I raced for one year," Andrea says. "It was good because I got a different feel for what it's like. Sitting in a kart is way different than being on the fence."
When he's not racing or studying, Jaime enjoys wrestling, soccer and "pretty much anything where I can run around and stay active."
It appears the life of Jaime is fast and fun.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org