BUCKHANNON – Dirt track driving is so much more than hitting the gas pedal and turning left. Upshur County is the home to a number of dirt track drivers who find themselves at Elkins Raceway week after week.
The story of dirt track driver and flagman Declan Carpenter begins at the early age of two years old. Join My Buckhannon by reflecting on the past, present and future of the CR Motorsports racing team.
“Declan has followed in his brother’s (Blake Runyon) footsteps,” said Patrick Carpenter, Declan’s father. “[Declan] began racing when he turned 6, the earliest he was eligible. He grew up at the track. He lives and breathes all aspects of racing.”
Prior to Declan’s first race in a mini wedge car at Elkins Raceway, he practiced by driving laps in the yard. A wreck into his grandparent’s porch may have been a small hiccup in the history of CR Motorsports that has since become an amusing story.
Last summer, Declan won his first feature race at Beckley Motor Speedway in Mount Hope, West Virginia. Smiling from ear to ear as he spoke to My Buckhannon about that race, he remembers how “awesome” it was to experience such an accomplishment.
“He loves being on the track, but he’s just as happy being at the track with the friends he’s made through racing,” Patrick said. “[Declan] is always there to cheer on his buddies when they have a good night, even if Declan didn’t do so well.”
Looking ahead to the future of CR Motorsports, Declan is interested in racing a street stock car around the 3/8 mile track of Elkins Raceway and other tracks across the region.
“[Street stocks are] just my favorite car because they’re not too fast or too slow,” Declan said.
Patrick confessed his son knows more facts and details about races or even the drivers themselves than he does. If Declan is not at the track, family and friends can find him at home playing with his diecast cars or researching racing videos.
At 12 years old, his love for racing is only beginning. What some fans may not know is that his love takes him to more places than the pits…
“As much as he loves racing, his true passion has become flagging,” Patrick said about his son. “[Declan] has always done it with all his heart.”
A family member bought Declan his first full set of race flags when he was only two years old. Every weekend, Declan would pack up his flags and set up in the bleachers at Elkins Raceway to flag every race. Sometimes, he was granted the thrilling opportunity to flag from the flagstand, under the careful watch of the track’s official flagman.
“Declan is quite the young man,” said Brent Sturdivant, flagman at Elkins Raceway. “I met him when he was four [years old] or so, and he would always be at the racetrack with his flags. I invited him down to the wall to help with flagging, and from then on, he has flagged with me at least one time a year.”
Declan told My Buckhannon that his time in the flagstand with Brent has been amazing, and Brent has been Declan’s “buddy” since he started.
“[Declan] knows more about rules and dirt track racing than people twice his age,” Sturdivant said. “I am a better person because of his attitude and personality, and I hope he continues his dreams with dirt track racing, whatever they are.”
After gaining much experience flagging from the grandstands at Elkins Raceway, Declan and his family made the trip to Anmoore, West Virginia, to MK Speedway to flag kart races.
Soon after, fellow racing fan Paul Wilmoth Jr. surprised him with his first set of professional racing flags. Declan now takes those official flags to every race track he visits.
“While we were at Portsmouth [Raceway Park] a few years ago, [Declan] was offered a job to flag at a track in Kentucky. Last year, he was offered to flag at Natural Bridge if we’d make the trip,” Patrick said. “Then, early this year, while at Tyler [County Speedway], a lady Declan didn’t know recorded him and posted a TikTok video of him flagging that got a lot of attention. It garnered over 23,000 views. After that, [Declan] was ‘a celebrity’ according to him.”
Since then, Declan has had the opportunity to flag at several regional dirt tracks, including Elkins Raceway in Elkins; Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, West Virginia; Ohio Valley Speedway in Washington, West Virginia; and West Virginia Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells, West Virginia.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is when I see other kids bring a set of flags to the track, and I see Declan kind of go and mentor them and make friends,” Patrick said. “I love seeing him on the flag stand doing what he loves. I have no doubt he will be an official flagman somewhere in the future.”
Whether a dirt track racing fan would like to get behind the wheel or find themself in the flagstand, Declan advises them to never give up.