Family foundation keeps Middleton grounded

Penn High School graduate Cameron Middleton is making a name for himself in the world of motorcycle drag racing.

In racing, family often means everything to an upcoming driver.

Famous father's with the surname Unser, Earnhardt, Allison, Andretti, Jarrett and Petty have produced sons – and in some cases grandsons – that have followed closely in their auto racing footsteps.

And while 2019 Penn High School graduate Cameron Middleton is racing on two wheels and not four, family is an important part of his past and future in racing.

Cameron's grandfather Dennis Middleton drove stock cars at local tracks for a number of years, while his son – Cameron's father – was his top mechanic.

But Cameron Middleton's fate may have been sealed at the age of three, when he received his first dirt bike.

"I just fell in love with it,'' Middleton admitted. "I raced it on sand and my dad felt it was the right thing to do at the time. My dad and grandpa knew the racing business and they were obviously the ones making the key decisions.''

Middleton would win 150 races and eight point titles from the time he was three until the age of nine. From there he moved on to motocross, where he won another 100 races, three district championships and two national wins in the Great Lakes Motocross series.

Then things changed again when Middleton turned 15.

After receiving his learner's permit to drive on the road, Cameron also got his first street drag racing bike to begin his new career at the Osceola Dragway.

"Honestly, motocross was really a filler for me,'' Middleton said. "After racing on the dirt bikes, our plan was always to move to drag bikes. You go a lot faster, but it's really a safer sport than moto. In fact, I broke my wrist messing around with a moto bike and that definitely pushed me into the drag bikes.

"I just really wanted to go fast. When I was first on the street bike, Osceola was a great place to start. But now that I've moved up to a faster bike, it's just to violent for the track.''

One of the tracks Middleton plans to race at this summer is the US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, one of the best-known and fastest dragways in the midwest. He will also travel a little further south and race in the NHDRO (the midwest's largest motorcycle drag racing series) and also the King of the Streets racing series.

And the gentleman standing alongside Cameron will be his father, Dennis Jr.

"Honestly, without my dad and grandpa and having that background in racing, I wouldn't be where I am today,'' Cameron admitted. "I didn't start in drag bikes until later in life, so I know the success I've had them has come partially from riding dirt bikes and the rest from my family just knowing the ins and out of racing. My dad is my pit man and helps me in any way he can with everything.

"He's also the guy who handles my schedule, which is a big relief to me. He just tells me where and when we'll be tuning the bike or racing on any given day.''

Middleton's bike is producing 210 horsepower, with another 100 added with a shot of nitrous just prior to the race. After reaching 160 miles per hour in a pass last summer, the Middleton's are hoping to reaching between 180 and 190 this year with a new computer system adding even more power to the bike.

"We're just trying to keep up with the bigger names we're racing against,'' Cameron admitted.

A fan of bike racer Jeremy Teasley, Middleton would like to race for a drag racing team someday. But even if that doesn't happen, he'd love to remain in the sport as a mechanic.

"Jeremy is just so talented and I love watching him race,'' Middleton said. "When I follow the top circuits, I really want him to do well and I'd like to race like him some day.

"No matter what happens, I'd like to stay involved with racing. I already know how to build the bikes, so it wouldn't be a big jump for me to continue to do that in the future.''

Middleton will be heading to Indiana University in the fall to begin his college career. He plans on majoring in engineering.

"By the time I get to IU, the season will be coming to a close and when the second semester ends, it will be time to go racing again,'' Middleton said.

So, what do your former classmates at Penn think of you racing at 190 miles-an-hour?

"They think it's pretty cool, but the also think I'm a little crazy,'' Middleton said. "I know for a fact that I'm the only one that raced bikes from Penn, so that's a pretty cool thing for me.''

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