Six-year-old Joey Maffo of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, is man of few words, seemingly focused on the task at hand. "It's cool," the kindergartener noted about taking part in Daytona KartWeek by Cometic Gasket events at "The World Center of Racing." "I like it."
Dad Vince, on the other hand, takes the lead in speaking for his soft-spoken boy.
"We're really excited about what Joey might able to accomplish here," he said referring to his run in the Kids Kart division and despite this only being his second race. "He puts on his helmet and he's focused. He's smart. He knows what to do and is a quick learner."
And learning from an expert certainly helps. His dad, who first visited Daytona in 1982, may be out of the sport, but when he was behind the wheel, he was a force to be reckoned with.
"I grew up in Ohio," he said. "My dad (Joe) raced stock cars and we went to a kart event and I fell in love with it. I got serious through the years and scored several trophies including the Manufacturers Gold Cup."
Maffo also held his own against some of today's bright motorsports stars. As a matter of fact, when he raced "they used to call him 'The Ohio Flash' his dad pointed out. And with good reason.
In 1983-84, he was one of only two karters to represent the United States in an Invitation-only Junior event at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. An event he "totally dominated" and beat the likes of Paul Tracy - 2003 Champ Car Champion; 2003 RACER Magazine Racer of the Year; 2003 SPEED Most Popular Driver; 2003 WorldCom Most Popular Driver and first among active Champ Car drivers in career victories. "I don't think he was used to that," said Maffo with a slight grin.
Maffo hung up the gloves in 2004 and now looks to soft-spoken Joey to pick up the mantle. "He's seen my awards and he wants to be like dad. I told him you have to earn it. He's willing to do that. When we talk and the word go-kart comes up, he becomes a different boy. He pays attention, he's all business."
Joey's "business" began Saturday when the Kids Karts took to the track between qualifying and races in other WKA events. "I'm not nervous. I'm excited."
Tickets to see Joey in action and for Daytona KartWeek By Cometic Gasket are available for $10 at the gate. For more information call 1-800-PITSHOP.