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9-year-old driver is racing to the top

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With three Utah state racing championships under his belt— 2005, '06 and '08 — and a runner-up finish in '07, Bruno Carneiro might be called a veteran driver.

But the term hardly seems to fit considering he is just 9 years old.

Kid Karts is the classification, and on Oct. 18 at Miller Motorsports Park, the concluding final of a 10-race series found Bruno atop the rankings for the third time in four years.

"To me, the faster the better," he exclaimed, adding his top speed has surpassed 80 mph.

This is his first year in the 80cc class; his previous two championships came in the 50cc class, where 5- to 7-year-olds can only reach top speeds of 45 mph.

Did someone say little league football is too dangerous for kids? And that sport doesn't begin until little boys reach the age of 8.

Bruno has no worries in his sport.

"I have really never been injured," said Bruno, adding that he was T-boned in a spin-out accident in that last race and had to settle for second place, although he finished first overall for the year.

"Even 4-year-olds are competitive," said Bruno's father, Luigi Carneiro, as he explained that, a few years ago, when all the drivers in a competition were awarded first-place trophies, "They got really mad," he said.

Drivers that finished in 10th place didn't want a first-place trophy. It doesn't come to mind that the tots in little league baseball ever turned down a trophy when it was offered. But racing blood is hot.

And although Bruno doesn't come across any differently than the average 9-year-old as he fiddles with a Halloween costume constructed of a cardboard box — he dressed up as WALL*E — his father says: "The goal for next year is to do mostly national events."

This kid has been around for a 9-year-old. Last January, he finished in fourth place at nationals in California. Two years ago in Las Vegas, he met legendary actor Paul Newman and was able to garner a photo opportunity with him.

"I asked him to pull down the shades," said the elder Carneiro, "so we could see the 'pearly blues."'

Born in Brazil, Bruno came to Utah when he was 10 months old. Luigi's parents came to Utah in 1987 from Brazil on a job transfer. Luigi stayed behind because he had his own rock band. (There's that hot blood again.)

Bruno, Luigi and wife finally made the decision to move here in 2000, and shortly thereafter the racing career began. A couple of years ago, Luigi and his wife wanted to surprise Bruno with a trip to Disneyland. They didn't tell him where they were going, and he thought they were flying for another visit back to Brazil, where he has visited three times.

He resisted saying, "I don't want to miss a race." He didn't miss a race as it was a short trip and all turned out well when he met Goofy. There certainly seems to be a future for Bruno in Grand Am and Formula One racing.

His father acts as a coach but says, "I'm trying to step back a little bit. It's getting to the point where he knows more than I do."

As for Bruno's reaction to what he thinks of his father: "He knows how to be a man. If you look under his shirt," Bruno said, "he is very hairy."

Yes, he is still just a 9-year-old after all — despite all his bravado, racing accomplishments and world travel.

E-mail: wjewkes@desnews.com