12-year-old Robert Noaker racing to the top

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It started with a Christmas present when Duncannon’s Robert Noaker was just 5 years old.

“One year, we got him a go-kart to see what he’d be able to do,” said Robert’s father Bob Noaker, who owns an auto body & repair shop in Duncannon.  Bob raced go-karts and his father raced stock cars.  The gene was passed down to a third generation.

After a winter sitting in his go-kart watching TV at home, Robert finally got to drive in the spring.  He took to it right away.  By seven years old, he drove his first car, on his parent’s lap, of course. Soon after that, he was competing in go-kart races. Now 12 years old, Robert leads the national 8-13 go-kart series in points and he’s ready for the next thing.

“I just like speed and adrenaline,” Robert said. His love for driving has helped him focus in ways few kids his age could.  He attends Harrisburg Academy in Wormleysburg which allows him to do a lot of his work on the road when he’s competing in races.

This March, Robert was accepted into the Skip Barber School of Racing. Normally the age minimum is 13, but they made an exception because of his experience. After the four-day course, Robert was cleared to compete. Now, he’s two races into the Skip Barber series driving Mazdas against adults. And he’s beating most of them.

“They are all surprised. They are like how old are you?” Robert said.

“They say they forget that he’s 12 years old, especially when he’s in the car with a helmet. He’ s not a kid anymore,” his father said.

In his first race in Atlanta, Robert finished fourth, then second in a race in Pittsburgh.  Wednesday in Wisconsin, he’ll go for his first win.

Now, as good as this all sounds, you’re probably wondering isn’t this dangerous? His parents know the risk, but they also say there is more control over safety in racing compared to other sports.

“We prefer the cars (to the go-karts). Obviously, they have a five-point seat belt. We have control over all the safety gear that he wears in the car,” his father said.

His mom Katie says her husband was racing when she met him so she’s used to the lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get scared.

“I will put my head down so I can’t see if anything looks a little sketchy. I hide, I don’t look,” Katie said.

But Robert insists he’s not scared. His goal is to race professionally. He prefers road courses, but, of course, he is open to the most popular form of racing: NASCAR. For now, he’s content beating the adults. He’s living his dream as a race car driver.

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