Like most teenagers, Trey Osborne can't wait to get his driver's license.

But the irony in the 15 1/2-year-old taking driver's-education courses now isn't lost on him or his father, Richard.

After all, there are few places Trey feels more comfortable than behind the wheel: He began driving when he was 7 and, Oct. 6, was crowned as champion of a regional racing series at Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Indiana.

"I'm far more nervous with him being in the car on the road than being on the racetrack," said Richard Osborne of Clintonville.

Despite his age, Trey has proved adept at driving in a midget car -- a small racing vehicle typically composed of a four-cylinder engine, roll cage and open-wheel system. It can reach speeds of more than 100 mph.

In the K & M Tool and Die Mel Kenyon Midget Series, Trey was so far ahead in the standings that he clinched the championship last month, marking the first time in the series' 10-year history the winner wasn't decided during the final event, according to the United States Speed Association, the event's sanctioning body.

At 15, he tied the record for the youngest winner in the event, founded by brothers Mel and Don Kenyon.

The series consists of 18 midget-car races, typically held at speedways around Indiana, and can be a steppingstone to the IndyCar Series or NASCAR, said Eric Bunn, vice president and competition director for the USSA.

Former national midget racers include A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Series organizers have been impressed with the improvement they've seen in the three years Trey has competed, Bunn said.

"You have to have a mindset," the Lima resident said. "Race drivers are like all other athletes: They have a will, a burning desire to win. We've seen that in Trey."

The thrill of competition is what led Trey to racing in the first place, the teenager said.

His father gave him a go-kart to drive in the family's backyard when he was 7, but it was clear that yard fences wouldn't contain the budding driver for long.

Trey's dad took him to the Ohio Expo Center to see some of the indoor quarter-midget races featuring smaller vehicles geared toward kids.

That's all it took.

"I wanted other people to (race) with," Trey said. "I liked the idea of competition."

A crash when he was 11 landed Trey in an intensive-care unit with a broken arm, ruptured spleen and bruised kidney and sidelined him for roughly six months, but the youngster said the incident only fueled him more. Trey moved up to racing midget cars -- bigger, faster vehicles -- shortly after.

He races nearly every weekend of the year and now attends Connections Academy, an online high school, as a sophomore, giving his schedule added flexibility. While he knows it's a lofty goal, Trey hopes to race in NASCAR one day.

"I like the competition, the adrenaline, the rush, the speed," he said. "You never know what another person is going to do. You have to be aware of everything."

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@AllisonAWard