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Local Teen Races For Scholarship
Cody Hodgson may not have a driver's license just yet - he expects to get it in March - but the 16-year-old has been behind the wheel for as long as he can remember, driving modified midgets, sprint cars and go karts.

Now, he and his family are headed to Florida, where he will take part in the Skip Barber Racing scholarship shoot out, racing a formula 2000 race car.

"I started with my dad," the Escalon High sophomore said. "When I turned five, he started taking me and I've been at a race track since I was born."

The teen has been around the track all his life and loves the sport, like his father Neil.

"You get such an adrenaline rush when you're in there," Hodgson said of racing.

At the Florida event, he will drive an open wheel Formula car, with a 125 horsepower Mazda engine. All the drivers - some 50 of them from across the United States - will be equipped with the same car and will compete in time trials and course lap work, vying for a shot at a scholarship to pay their way on the racing circuit next year.

"I actually did a school for this race, spent three days in a race car," Hodgson said of obtaining the required competition license.

He'll reach speeds of about 115 to 120 mph on the course in the upcoming shoot out and dad Neil and mom Janesse will be there to cheer him on. Cody also has an older sister, Jaclyn, a 2001 graduate of Escalon High.

Last year saw Cody dominating the Jr. formula 80-shifter class and in 2007, he moved up to the senior rank classes, said dad Neil. He has been racing regional and national classes and has taken some second and fourth place honors, along with four podium finishes in national races and one grand national championship title.

Hodgson will compete for one of five available scholarships in the Florida event, with the top prize being a full ride for a year of racing. The others offer partial scholarships for the various circuits.

"I'm usually in a go kart about every weekend," he said of staying in good driving shape. "We go to a track in Stockton."

Hodgson also is a fan of football but had to forego playing for the Cougars this fall, working on his racing skills instead. He does wrestle for the high school, though, and is trying to fit it all in to his packed schedule.

"It's hard," he said, noting that his racing career sometimes means missing school. He does his best to keep up and often has homework with him on the road.

His family will fly out Wednesday for the Florida competition with the races on Saturday and Sunday.

"There's a few I know that I've raced with before," he said of other qualifiers for the prestigious event. "They're all really good drivers."

Hodgson said he is thankful for the support he has found along the way, both in sponsorship and in those who teach him the finer aspects of the sport. He said he often watches film of his races to learn what he did right - and wrong - and is eager to have a good showing this weekend. But, win or not, Hodgson said there's nothing quite like getting behind the wheel and just getting focused on what lies ahead.

"The speed is a lot of fun," he said. "And going through the turns, you get the feeling you're on top of the world."