Kids, Karts and Racing

Way back in 1976, I was a scrawny little kid looking for exciting things to do… and when I found out there was some Go-Kart racing happening on the other side of my little home town every Saturday afternoon, I knew I had to do it.

It was literally in the back yard of the Campbell family, and it became known as Campbell raceway. It was a short dirt track that was up hill on one side, down hill on the other as I recall. My neighbor and I pooled some change together we had and bought a used Go-Kart from a local farmer. After a little paint and some work on the 5-horse Briggs & Stratton motor, we were all ready to go racing.

I can’t remember how we did; We took turns driving the Kart, and I recall a couple of other drivers who were really good that we had trouble with. I still have a picture of me leading a race on the Kart. The next year, me and my neighbor spit ways. He got a very fancy custom built Kart made, and I found a little better used one. All spring long we went up and down the dirt road in front of our houses testing, tuning and learning.

When the dust settled at the end of that year, I got the dreaded “participation” plaque. It was a nice way of saying “Thanks for trying kid, now perhaps you want to consider knitting as a hobby?” I still have that plaque and it reminds me that I never wanted to get one of those again… it became motivation to try harder and do better.

So the following fall and winter I built a very special Kart that I was sure could carry me to victory. Unfortunately, I outgrew that machine by the time summer arrived. I had no choice but to sell the Kart, and that was the end of my Kart racing.

I’m happy to say that I never again, in my entire life, had to suffer another “participation plaque”. 😉

Kart racing at Campbell raceway continued to grow until it was too big for the Campbell’s back yard. It was moved over to the fairgrounds, right next to the stock car track, and every Friday night to this day they still have Kart races there.

This past weekend I went as a guest of the National Karting Alliance and Maxxis Mid-Atlantic Dirt Series to watch their race in Swainsboro, Georgia. It was a whirlwind trip, flying out of Denver to Atlanta, then driving almost three hours to the Swainsboro raceway. I took in a day of racing, then raced myself back to Atlanta to catch a plane at the crack of dawn the next day.

Talk about bringing back some memories for me! The Karts are a whole lot better than what we had back in the day, the technology has evolved, but other than that, I remember being on that track, how every bump went from the tire to your spine, and how pushing someone out of your way was basically the only way to pass them.

Here’s a video of the action:

The Mid-Atlantic Dirt Series did a great job. Mackie, Seth, Tonya and Tracy were exceptionally gracious hosts… and they work as hard as they play. It was a pleasure to learn from them on how they run their race, and how Raceday will be able to make the process of setting up and running a race much faster and easier for them and all their drivers. I also spent some time with Matt Bryant of the Palmetto Speed Shop, and he gave me a great tutorial on the history of dirt track Kart racing, and what challenges the sport faces.

I’m no expert on Kart facilities, but I thought the facility in Swainsboro was setup very well. The parking is close, and the staging area is setup very nicely. I loved how the races were pumped out on to the track one right after the other, keeping the action going.

All in all a great day, and I look forward to being a part of it all and help the sport along!