Karts now racing at Mound House
One of the problems with writing a column is that sometimes I do it two or three, or even four days before it runs. So you can forget what I said last week and pull the Lola nail out of CART’s coffin. The British racecar manufacturer has announced that it will not be building cars for IRL next season.
Although Lola had sunk $1 million-plus into chassis design and had verbal commitments from several IRL teams, the series instead selected previously unknown MK Racing, based in North Carolina, for its third chassis manufacturer. The company is owned by former Ford SVO director and NASCAR team owner Michael Kranefuss in association with John Anderson.
Lola, which was in serious financial and performance trouble just a few years ago, is facing another uphill struggle. Loss of the anticipated IRL business, coupled with CART’s chassis regulation freeze, will seriously diminish Lola’s demand curve. Any future designs have been put on indefinite hold, although Lola has expressed its deep commitment to the CART program. We shall see.
Locally, a mini version of the CART/IRL split is playing out, as the Outlaw Karts have left Champion Speedway in favor of the revived Thunderbowl Raceway in Mound House. The Karts and Champion have had a rocky relationship this season, culminating in the rescheduling of the Kart show to Saturday afternoon before the crowds arrived.
“One of the reasons we wanted to be at Champion was because we could put on our show in front of a large crowd,” said Kart Association member Kathy Saburn.
On the track’s part, some of the management team felt that the Karts slowed the overall show down, creating spectator unrest. From my perspective, there were also other factors slowing things down, but last Saturday night the track ran a fast, tight show. It seems that the new officials are now on the same page and operating as a cohesive unit, which should only get better as the season wears on.
I spoke with Champion General Manager Kris Martin, who acknowledged problems not only with the schedule, but also with the physical layout.
“We spent lots of money on the dirt oval for the Karts, and tried three different people to get it right, and we’re sorry it didn’t meet their expectations. We hate to lose the kids, but we have to do what’s best for Champion, and they have to do what they feel is best for their organization,” said Martin. “We still have their trophies from their last race here, and I will see that they get to the racers.”
Of course, some folks were caught in the middle, like the Price and Colodny families, both of whom are heavily involved in late model stock car racing at Champion, and each of whom have two kids involved in the Kart program.
“We grew up here (at Champion), and really wanted our kids to race here,” said Rhonda Price, mother of Kart racers Shelby and Caleb Price.
The Prices plan to race at Thunderbowl, but the Colodnys, whose sons Hunter and Dallas are currently first and third in box stock points, are going to go on the California Kart circuit.
According to Kathy Saburn, the folks at Thunderbowl have been very responsive and have welcomed the group with open arms. “(Promoter) Brian (Starbuck) and (track owner) Charlie (Brandenburg) have told us that whatever we want, they’ll give us,” said Saburn.
Even though you’re reading this on Sunday morning, my deadline doesn’t allow me to report on my visit to Thunderbowl on Saturday, June 8, to watch the Outlaw Kart debut at the facility. I’ll fill you in on it next week. I did speak to Brian Starbuck, who will promote not only Karts, but also motorcycle and ATV races at Thunderbowl on a trial basis this season. Lights are not yet operational at the track, so all races will be daytime events until further notice.
Personally, I’d like to see the Karts race in front of a good crowd, and maybe they can build an audience at Thunderbowl, but it will take some time and effort. Unfortunately, in the meantime, much like the CART/IRL split, those who suffer most are the fans and the racers.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.
Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal motor sports columnist.