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81-year-old Nebraska sprint car Hall of Famer mentors teen driver

Posted at 9:44 PM, Aug 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-31 08:49:17-04

A 15-year-old Lincoln teenager has been racing cars since he was four years old.

Last year Trey Gropp moved up to bigger sprint cars and will compete in the 305 Sprint Nationals in Eagle for the first time this weekend. 

He'll be the youngest driver in the race, competing with over 100 other drivers ranging from 15 to 50 years old. 

"It's my first time out here. I'm nervous but I'm excited to race against people who have been racing most of their lives," said Gropp. 

Luckily for Gropp, he has the support and coaching of a legend. 

81-year-old Keith Hightshoe began racing back in the 1950s. He ended his career at the age of 60 as a four-time Hall of Fame sprint car driver. 

He was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame, the Beatrice, NE Hall of Fame, Denver, CO Hall of Fame, and the Belleville Hall of Fame in Kansas. 

"There's a car in their museum in Belleville that I drove that I won with. It's in their museum. My name is all over that thing," said Hightshoe. "We should've won the Nationals one year over there but my car broke down about eight or 10 laps from me. We were leading too."

Hightshoe now spends many afternoons and weekends with Gropp, helping build his car and giving him tips on racing. 

"My son spends a lot of time with his family and so once I heard about Trey and his racing, I kind of got nosy and started hanging around with him. This is the first year I haven't missed a race," said Hightshoe. 

"Having someone just like him, racing for however long he raced for, since he's been young and still crazy, and he's here helping me, it's awesome," said Gropp. 

Hightshoe now spends a lot of time with Gropp and his family.

"I've been kind of crippled up a little bit and they always make sure I have a place to sit and something to drink. I guess that told me they kind of like to have me around," said Hightshoe. 

"Keith has been involved through the whole building process and he's been coming around a lot more than I expected to see him," said Matt Gropp, Trey's dad. "It's been really fun getting to see them bond and see the passion come out of both of them. And for Keith, to at 81 years old still have that passion and that drive and and make things work is - you can't put a price on that."

Hightshoe said he enjoys mentoring Gropp. He added he sees "true potential in Trey. He's a good kid."

"I'm just happy for him because he's got a good career ahead of him I think," added Hightshoe. 

"Keith is one of those guys where he's no BS. If he thought Trey wasn't taking it seriously or if he didn't see the passion that Trey has, he wouldn't stick around," said Gropp. "Some of the lessons that Trey may learn by making a mistake may be able to be avoided by Keith telling him, 'Oh this happened to me and this is what I did.'"