When Kurt Busch Met Fort Lauderdale’s Brave Junior Racer
Many children pass through K1 Speed’s doors on any given day, but one special child was treated to an incredible opportunity on Wednesday when he participated in a karting race with NASCAR driver and 2017 Daytona 500 winner, Kurt Busch.
Nathan Soren is no stranger to K1 Speed, Fort Lauderdale. The junior racer has visited the location over 40 times and has logged over 100 races in the process.
“Nathan is just one of the sweetest, most polite kids we’ve had here,” says Louie Anderson, General Manager of K1 Speed, Fort Lauderdale.
Nathan’s also a regular participant in the Fort Lauderdale Junior League races, often winning or finishing runner-up in the final standings. Unfortunately, Nathan is also a regular at Miami Children’s Hospital.
Nathan was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that has left him, to put it simply, with half a heart. As a result, Nathan has had over 20 surgeries at the hospital, including 10 major cardiac procedures. Nathan’s chest has been opened four times, and currently has a pacemaker and mechanical valve in his heart. But Nathan doesn’t let these trying times get to him.
“He always tries to maintain a positive attitude and always thanks the nurses and doctors, even if they had to do something that hurt him.” says Nathan’s father, Joseph. “What has really kept him fighting is his love for NASCAR and go-kart racing at K1 Speed. Neither my wife or I were ever into racing before Nathan, so his passion for it is truly pure.”
Nathan typically never misses a race at Daytona and Homestead. However, last November, Nathan was forced to miss the final NASCAR race at Homestead when he required surgery to replace his pacemaker. This devastated the young racing fan – think the Ferrari kid at the Spanish GP last year when Kimi Raikkonen retired from the race – yes, that kind of devastation but worse. Thankfully, this story has an equally happy ending.
It turns out Nathan’s mom is friends with a couple who have done business with Kurt before, and mentioned Nathan’s recent surgeries. Upon hearing Nathan’s story, Kurt and his assistant planned the meeting at K1 Speed on February 7.
“Nathan did not know. My wife picked him up from school early and just told him that someone that heard his story wanted to meet him, so of course the entire ride from Palm Beach County he is trying to guess who it was,” says Joseph. “At one point he guessed Kurt, and my wife didn’t answer him, so he figured it was (Busch).”
Upon meeting at K1 Speed, Kurt was eager for a chance to race against the junior racing hero, so the two hit the track together. A spirited race session followed, with Nathan sticking to the rear bumper of Busch’s kart for nearly the whole race distance. In the end, the two shared equal average lap times, with Kurt just pipping Nathan by several tenths for the fastest lap. At the conclusion of their race, Nathan and Kurt sat down to discuss racing and Kurt offered tips on where more time could be shaved on the track. Throughout the visit, Kurt spent ample time with Nathan and his family, and brought several items to sign. Kurt even let Nathan check out his custom Roush Mustang convertible (Nathan loves Ford Mustangs).
“Kurt was very engaging and friendly and was happy to take pictures and sign merchandise, says Louie. “(Busch) wanted to pay for everything and was very grateful that we gave him an opportunity to race with Nathan.”
The event also had a lasting impact on Nathan’s father.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Joseph. “Cannot thank Kurt enough!”
For more about Nathan’s story, watch this YouTube video from Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation.