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Our most famous beginner, Danica Patrick
visits the place her racing career started
Sugar River Raceway


Danica, along with her Mom Bev Patrick, grant an interview to Marshall Fairman of Sugar River Raceway. Visit Danica's website at DanicaRacing.com
Click on the photo above to play the video.

Check out the posts below for insight into becoming a go-karter

All Go Karting Starts Locally

    What does our headline mean? Click to read more, click again to collapse ...

You're on the 'World Wide Web' and you've found our blog about becoming a go kart racer. If our track and race program isn't within easy driving distance of your home this information is only general. Somewhat representative of how you start go kart racing. You need to hone your search to your local and find out how they do go karting in your neck of the woods. We hope you enjoy our content, but please, don't start buying equipment that we have recommended. You need to find the track you will race at as your first priority. Then find out how they do go karting and what their rules and customs are. We may get to meet some day at a regional or national level karting event, but until you're an experienced go karter all go kart racing is local.

A step at a time. Getting Involved in Karting

    Here is what you need to do. Read more ...

  1. Find your 'Home Track'
    • The closer to the house the more seat time you'll get.
    • You only need one track your first season. Save the regional series until you know what you're doing.
  2. Find a local kart shop to help in your development.
    • Yep, it's cheaper on the internet. But you don't know what you need yet or how to make it work. You need help and guidance your first season.
  3. Get comfortable with what it will cost. You can do a beginner's class on a 4 cycle kart for $2000 to $3000 (kart included) first season. You can spend $20 grand if you jump into the deep end of the pool.
  4. 2 stroke, 4 stroke, circles or left and right turns. None of that matters.
    • Don't be a racing snob, just get involved with the track that satisfies item #1 above.
    • Yep, a 2 cycle kart and a road course sprint track most resembles your favorite series F1, but if you can't get to the track twice a week (minimum) for a practice and race you'll never get good at this game and you'll drop the sport. Suck it up and get involved at the local dirt oval track even though you think all dirt racers are red necks. And if you are the inverse of this example re-read step #1.
  5. Visit the track and see what goes on.
  6. If the track closest to you doesn't have rental karts or demonstration rides find a track that does. Make sure riding a go kart is as much fun as it looks. It isn't for everyone. Don't buy equipment until you've gotten at least a hour of track time.
  7. If 'Too Much Fun' is how you term your rental ride, it's time to get involved.
  8. Time to step on your ego.
    • Plan to join the beginner class not the fastest class.
    • The learning curve will be step enough without F1 type performance
  9. Get the rule book that defines what equipment you need.
    • Make a trip to your local kart shop. If they don't give you a warm fuzzy that they are all about helping beginners in the beginners class then find another shop.
    • The price of a complete kart will be more at the kart shop, but you need a complete kart to compete.
    • Before you land the bargain of the week on Craig's List or E-Bay make sure you've done enough homework to know what you need and what you're buying.
    • We've met way too many new racers who have just returned from a weekend drive three states away to pick up their new kart at the bargain price of $500. $1500 later they have a complete kart that will compete.
  10. Do you like to tinker? Do you like to get your hands dirty? Are you mechanically inclined? Perfect, you're going to like your new hobby
    • You say you're in this to be the next Dale Earnhardt not the next Smoky Yunick? Make sure the kart shop or track you're working with can provide all the service and tuning help you'd like to buy.
  11. Are you doing this as a family? The father & son or father & daughter activity. This may be the only activity in which you actually do it as a team. Baseball, hockey, football, etc. are all spectator sports for dad and some other guy coaches.
  12. How will you transport your new hobby? Where will you store your new hobby gear?
    • If you live in an apartment and drive a sports car you'll need a track with storage for rent.
    • Pickup trucks and enclosed trailers are really cool but aren't free.
  13. Get out to the track and practice, practice, practice.
    • You're going to meet a lot of great people. Ask a lot of questions. The seasoned karters will help you develop a routine to maintain the kart and to work on your driving skills.
    • When you feel comfortable with kart control and are making consistent lap times it is time to do your first race.
    • Don't get stuck in the practice rut thinking your lap times need to be front of the pack before your first race. You'll never get there. You need the race experience to get those lap times.
  14. Don't forget to enjoy your new sport. If like most of life's endeavors you're probably involved so you can learn something about yourself. And then work on bettering yourself. Competition can be sweet or it can bring out the demons.
  15. Once you tame your demons get ready to develop some friendships that will last a lifetime even if go karting is just your hobby for a few years.

We're glad you're on board. We'll see you at the track.

Man, I've got lots of questions. Will you guys at the track answer them?

    If you are surfing the web and have found our site and this information, we would invite you to the track for a race day. Read more ...

This is the best way to get you acclimated to our program and our sport. If you are too far away from Sugar River Raceway (SRR) to become a regular racer at our facility you will need to seek out local racetracks and learn about their programs. Much of the SRR information presented here may apply, but there will likely be local rule and program differences across the country. Know what the local rules are where you will race before you buy anything.

If reading this section is just a part of the homework you've done and your research and reading are getting you a bit of clarity as it regards go karting, you have a next step to take. You need to get out to the track to watch a race and ride a go kart. After that if you still have questions, the SRR staff will be happy to answer them. Call us, e-mail us or ask while you're at the track in person.

If you come out to the track on a race day, buy a pit pass (allows you into the pit area where all the go-karters are, and is also personal insurance) and wander around to see what goes on. Ask questions, as 100% of the people who race at SRR are great folks and will be more than willing to answer your questions. They were beginners once too, and can add some insight to your quest for go-kart knowledge. You will find good information in the pit, and will quickly learn that most go-karters are the best sales people of the sport. They are doing something they really enjoy and will be happy to talk about the sport with you. Just ask them why they are involved in the sport and why they'd recommend that you too become involved. Ask them what they like best about go-karting.

If at this point you still aren't sure if you want to commit your time and money to this sport, then you'd better take the test. Rent a go-kart and try it out! SRR rents go karts by the half hour during open practice days. We have rental karts for drivers 56" minimum height and up. We also offer the 9 HP that is used for our 'Rent to Race' programs. Anyone 18 years and older can select this kart for the hour 'Hot Lap' session, as we call it (current fee is $30 per segment per driver using a 6.5 HP kart or $50/half hour on our 9 HP karts).

What is Go-karting; a Brief History

    Go-karting, most simply put, is the least expensive form of motor sports that exists. Go-karting got its start in 1956 in California. It was a huge hit. Read more ...

It started into the first phase of its life, the fad stage. Everybody had a go-kart (or at least it seemed like it), there was a go-kart track in every little town. Some tracks were no more than a path in a field, others were actually paved. The fad stage lasted through the early 1960s until a combination of cost and disappearance of local tracks and programs reduced the sport to the dedicated few. Why did this happen? There were no sanctioning bodies that cared to control the cost of the racing programs. Manufacturers of go-karts and engines were as numerous as the early days of the automobile industry. Design was changing rapidly, as were parts and engines. What you raced one week was obsolete the next. Local racetracks were operated as hobbies, and as the fad slowed, the number of tracks diminished quickly. In the middle 1960's many European built engines found their way into American karting. In the early 70's kart design evolved to something similar to current day karts with engines mounted on the side rather than the rear. This allowed for better air cooling of engines and positioning of drivers so their knees weren't in their chins! In the late 70's we saw the decline of the dominant American engine supplier, McCulloch (Black & Decker bought the company and phased out kart engines). Briggs & Stratton engines began the long climb to becoming the dominant source of horsepower for American go-karting. We also saw the introduction of the Yamaha karting engine in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, sanctioning bodies started to stabilize with World Karting Association (WKA) east of the Mississippi River and International Kart Federation (IKF) governing west of the Mississippi. Many different forms of go-karting were becoming recognized and formalized. Some different types are, but are not limited to, Oval racing done on dirt, asphalt and indoors in the winter months. Road Racing is long distance high speed racing conducted on sport car tracks. Sprint racing, (the first form of go-karting that SRR conducts) and Street racing or races conducted during special events on city streets. Go-karts are now being used for driving schools and on a rental basis (One time race events for individuals and/or corporate outings). In the 90's the impact of big time professional motor sports hit go-karting. After being exposed to motor sports many looked for a level they could participate in, finding it in go-karting.

Go Karting's Future

    What does the new millennium hold for go-karting? The sport is as popular as it has ever been with continued growth every year. Read more ...

The manufacturers who have stayed with go-karting have added stability. Common sense class structures have eliminated weekly and even yearly obsolescence of equipment. Motor sports in America is becoming (if it isn't already) the most popular of all sports. The national level of awareness of NASCAR, CART, NHRA, IMSA, SCCA, ASA, and local auto racing programs has only added to the popularity of go-karting. Most any race fan would love to be connected to NASCAR racing in some way. Any connection possible, from race fan, to crewmember, to driver, to team owner are all more expensive than being involved in your own racing program in go-karting. We'll get into the costs involved in more detail in a later article, but to illustrate this point, listen to this quote from a current go-kart racer at (SRR). "I used to race radio controlled cars. I spent more money on them than I do a competitive go-kart, and I get to ride along in go-karting!"

In summary, you can expect go karting to always be around either for a place for those with gas and oil in their veins looking for a new hobby, or as a training ground for those who want use racing as more than just a hobby. Whatever your reason for becoming a go karter the sport will remain the most economical way become a race driver.

Who are these people, these 'Go-Karters'

    If you are five years old or older and in good health you can become a go-karter. There is no upper limit, as each year we seem to see older and older drivers compete. Read more ...

Photo12 So far 63 years old is our oldest feature winner! Drivers range from 50 to over 200 pounds. Drivers range from under 4' to 6'6" tall. Some drivers have had other racing experience, but most have no prior racing experience. Some go-karters are back for their second career. They ran as kids and have returned with their kids.

Photo1SRR is all about families having a good time together. In the beginner ranks of go karting families rule! We have fathers and sons and fathers and daughters and mothers and sons as the crew chief and driver. Regardless of the team make up the rest of the family is at the track on race day cheering on their favorite team. There are a lot of jobs that family members must fill on the race team; crew chief, driving instructor, head race strategist, race car hauler driver, sandwich maker, team photographer, etc. Go-karting will build or strengthen family bonds and build friendships that last a lifetime. If you have an interest in motor sports and want to find common ground to spend that quality time, this sport is for you. We have several families participating at our track who have told us that until they found the sport of go-karting they didn't have a family activity that involved everyone. Go-karting offers good behavior incentives also. In a perfect world, parents wouldn't need any leverage to get their kids to do everything they are supposed to. Only certain special activities attract kids with such power that they make certain they don't miss a single opportunity to participate. We at SRR aren't suggesting that a 'behave or you don't go-kart' standard should be adopted, but we have heard that it works very well!

Photo3If you're at the stage of independence, (defined as 18 years old or older) you may not be looking for a 'family sport', but you may feel the need for speed. Racing at 1/2" off of the ground at the national speed limit will definitely take care of that yearning. Yes, racing a car would do the same, but the costs are much higher, and it is the speed and G force that most are after, right? Many professional drivers (stock cars, midgets, sprint cars, sports cars, legend cars, etc.) participate in the SRR 'Rent to Race program and they suggest to us that the eye hand coordination required, G loading in the corner and the kick of wheel to wheel competition are as good as it is in the race car! The only thing missing is the acceleration from the race car. More than one driver has told us that his time on the 'Rent to Race' go kart has made them a better race car driver. Yes, go-karting is a thrilling hobby, but there is another whole subset of people in go-karting who are looking for the training ground to get to the professional ranks of racing. You could analogize that go-karting is like getting your undergraduate degree. Go-karting is the training ground for your life's path, if you would like to make racing your career. You had better be solid in the basics or your learning curve will be steep and very expensive in the big leagues. Some of today's best professional race drivers cut their teeth in go-karting. Let's see, Darrell Waltrip, Alan Kulwicki, Scott Pruett, Lake Speed, Emerson Fittapaldi, Al Unser Jr., Scott Goodyear, Ken Schrader, Jeff Gordon, and all of Formula 1 to name a few (racing in Europe is much more structured than in the States, as drivers must start in karting and progress through the formula cars there). If you can afford to learn to be a professional race driver in a Winston Cup car you can do so, but the odds are stacked against you without the right experience and training (you could shorten your life expectancy). Go-karting has the correct speed and expense ratio for beginners.
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Sugar River Raceway's Racing Program

    At SRR we do a form of go-karting called 'sprint racing'. Sprint racing is typically on a paved road course and the races are short in length or duration (6 to 15 lap races are the norm). Read more ...

Go-karts made for sprint racers have a wheelbase that is in the 32" range for our Kid karts, and the 39" - 42" range for all other classes. Any used or new kart can be set-up to accommodate most any driver. This is accomplished by changing seat sizes and driver/control pedal location. A complete ready to race go-kart weighs about 150 pounds. 6.5HP Honda engines power our beginner's go-karts. We feel we have an excellent beginner's program with our Box Stock Honda classes. This concept is explained in detail later in this article. Other classes use a Briggs & Stratton OHV engine. The rest of the go-karts use a variety of 2 stroke engines with the dominant engine being a 100cc Yamaha, purposely built for go-kart racing. Another 2-stroke alternative that is gaining in popularity is the HPV (Horstman Piston Valve, 100cc) engine and related classes. Both of these engines, depending on the class rules, (intake and exhaust restrictors are used) will be in a range of 8 to 17HP. At the top of the go-karting food chain are the TAG and Shifter classes. Touch and Go (TAG) is an electric start 125cc 2 stroke engine package that puts out nearly 30 HP. The Shifters use similar motors with 6 speed transmissions. We do not run the shifter karts at SRR due to their violent performance (no place for a beginner even if you can easily afford it) and our mainstay of Kid Karts, Box Stock beginners and rental karts; a bad mix on track

The competition is wheel to wheel and great to either participate in or watch. Sprint racing at SRR will reach speeds (measured at the fastest point on our longest straight a way) of 25 mph to 70 mph, depending on the class or engine package. So in summary, what is go-karting? Motor sports for the masses. A program in which any skill level, any age, and most income levels can participate and have as much fun while learning, as the participants in professional motor sports.

What is Box Stock Honda Racing?

    Box Stock racing means beginners and Honda. SRR runs a locally developed class called Box Stock Honda (The Honda engine got its start in our box stock program in 2006 and takes over from the Briggs Raptor engine in 2007). Read more ...

Photo1We ask that all of our new go-karters start in the Box Stock class. Box Stock racing was created because go-karting needed a class that was simple and inexpensive, yet very competitive. How does this class make go-kart racing simple? The rules put limits on the chassis, engine, clutch, muffler, tires, and driver experience. These limits also work to make this class inexpensive.

Photo8Remember earlier when we said that go-karting was the most inexpensive form of motor sports that exists. This is true, and Box Stock Honda racing is the least expensive type of go-kart racing. What makes it the least expensive? We some what limit spending by using a strict set of engine rules. To summarize our engine tech inspection: you must race an engine supplied by Sugar River Raceway that is wired and sealed shut. You may choose your carburetor jet size, spark plug, crankcase oil and gear ratio, the rest is limited either by rule or the wired up engine parts. That may miss a few rules, but not many. You do not need to be an engine builder or mechanic to get your start in Box Stock racing. We've made sure of that with these rules. You say "what about the guy who can figure out how to slip something by the rules?" We hold frequent surprise inspections at the end of the race day. Anything found that isn't Box Stock gets disqualified. With an engine disqualification the all important season championship points also go away for the day. That can really hurt a competitor's chances of winning the season championship.

Photo11Aside form our Box Stock engine rules our tire rule is the other great cost manager. We use a Bridgestone YDS compound slick 4.50" wide in the front and 6" wide in the rear. We have run this tire and tire rule since 1994 and it has been a perfect recipe for use with our track and the speed of a Box Stock kart. It is inexpensive ($175/set circa 2009) wears extremely well, and is extremely consistent.

But the best thing about our tire rule? It really dictates what type of chassis you will run to be competitive. This tire isn't high grip and a go-kart handles through weight transfer. A hard or low grip tire like the YDS needs a kart that gives or flexes a little bit, or transfers weight easily. Do you know what kind of kart does this best? Usually the bottom of the model line up and almost always anything from 1990 to current. That makes for a huge universe of used karts that can be put into service as your first race kart. This keeps pricing low and nearly 85% of our new karters start on something used. Why? Because they know they can win on the less expensive kart. We don't need an exclusionary 'No Foreign Karts' rule because the tire rule eliminates most of them. These karts are built for high horsepower high grip tires and don't usually work the best in Box Stock. So be careful on E-Bay or at the next swap meet. You don't want some motivated seller making you the new owner of something that you can't even bolt a 4 stroke engine on yet alone make work with our YDS tire rule.

So what does all of this mean to the beginning racer? We've developed a class system that negates the need to spend money at a really rapid rate. This is done to allow the natural learning curve to take place without bankrupting or discouraging beginning go-karters. Yes, many people's budgets can withstand much higher cost racing, but the price limits these rules put in place are also closely tied to our desire to limit complexity (i.e., a flat learning curve means fun, not frustration). You don't need to learn how to be an expert engine builder to win in Box Stock. You don't need to have hand eye coordination that could qualify you for 'Top Gun' school to win in Box Stock. All you need is the desire to have some racing fun while you learn to drive and tune a chassis.

Along with our engine and tire limits we also keep the professionals out of our beginner class. We have a system that counts wins and determines when someone must move up to the next class. A racer can not be chased out of the Box Stock class in their first season. If they don't eclipse our 15 race win rule in their first season, or ran less than half of the scheduled races, they may come back to Box Stock with a stipulation. Those with less than of a season get another year of Box Stock eligibility. Those who are over the season rule will then have to leave the class when the win their 15th race during the first half of their second season. They may take their points with them if they wish to go to Super Stock (a Box Stock class for experienced drivers). This leaves one to two seasons for the beginner to learn among other beginners. No one likes to feel like a Christian being thrown to the lions. Get a seasoned go-karter and a beginner racing one another, and betting on the outcome would mean sure money. It also means sure frustration for the new guy. Only the extremely strong willed stay around to become the experienced in a system like that. We find our old and new go-karters much happier when we match skill levels and budgets correctly.

How Much Does Box Stock Honda Go-karting Cost?

    A common question we hear: "If I start at the beginning of a season, how much will I need to budget to race all year?" We'll try to get you in a range. Read more ...

Whether you start with new or used equipment will impact the amount you spend. SRR sells a lot of used go-karts in our parts store 'The Pit Stop'. As a matter of fact we sell far more used karts than we do new ones. This tells us that the majority of new go-karters start with second hand equipment. This is often a good strategy, as a chassis as old as 10 to 12 years (and older in some instances) will be competitive in our Box Stock Honda class. Sometimes you'll find it with a used engine ready to go. A good visual inspection of a used go-kart will reveal many potential problems, but you can't tell what is inside the engine. Once you buy your used kart we can do a free engine leak down test to see if the used Honda needs any engine work. Anything we sell used will have this done and will be at a level good enough to win races.

We also sell new go-karts in our shop. We are factory direct dealers for two different brands of karts, Margay karts that are built in St. Louis, MO, and Coyote karts which are built in Spencerport, NY. Both of these builders offer excellent models for any of the current classes in go-karting.

Let's talk about average costs for these different options:

  1. A five to twelve year old chassis will range in price from $500 to $1,000. This is without engine. The thing to remember is that any kart without engine will be made track ready for approximately $600. This would include a new 6.5HP Honda engine with the needed hardware to get it bolted to the kart and hooked to the drive wheels. If you get a steal on a go-kart without an engine, don't go to your local lawn mower shop or on-line store to get your engine. Although the 6.5HP Honda on your power equipment might be similar, it could violate our rules. All Honda engines are not created equal. Depending on what application the engine was built for determines if Honda uses a different camshaft and/or camshaft timing for torque or for higher RPM (e.g., power washer vs. generator). Summary; you may be able to get your start for as little as $1000 on an older yet competitive chassis. Very nice complete rebuilt or five-year-old karts may run up to $2000.

  2. A two to five year old chassis will range in price from $700 to $2,500. This may include a used engine or it may not. The $700 example is without, and the $2,500 is obviously with an engine, and likely with a new engine. Where the kart falls in this age range will have an impact on price, but let the buyer beware. It is sometimes very hard to tell a two-year-old kart from a five-year-old kart. Some brands have serial numbers on them that may have a date stamp. A couple of places to look are on the brake caliper plate (Coyote) and/or the yoke on the front axle where the spindle bolts on (Margay). If the seller is honest you'll know the kart's year of manufacture. Probably the best way to make sure you're getting your money's worth is to buy from an established kart shop, or base your value judgment on condition and not worry whether you buy a 94 or a 96. You will find vast differences in chassis condition based more on how much it was raced vs. the model year. Many go karts end up sitting in a garage rather than being raced. The owner gets off on some other hobby or pursuit with the intention of getting back to the track. Years later they bring the kart into our shop in very low mileage condition.

  3. New karts ready to race will cost in a $2,750 to $3,500 range. You can learn more about what is available in new karts by coming into the Pit Stop at SRR, checking out our web site, and/or checking out the different go-kart manufacturer's web sites. Where do you find go-karts for sale? At SRR in 'The Pit Stop', in the local want ads, in the pit at the track, at swap meets, or on the Internet. When buying on the web (we know you're patrolling E-Bay looking for that past champion's kart for $500) expect that what you buy will need different tires and maybe wheels, engine, clutch and likely some repairs. Translation; it better be cheap because you'll spend $900 on the correct engine and tires and wheels alone.

Let's talk about the safety gear you'll need

    You will need the following: Read more ...

  1. Current Snell Foundation M2000 or SA2000 (or newer) rated full face helmet. Cost range $79 to $600

  2. Skid resistant (not fire resistant/retarding) driving suit will run from $149 to $600. You could use a skid resistant jacket rather than the full driver's suit and pay in a range of $49 to $150.

  3. You'll need what we call a neck collar, and it will cost $25 to $75 (new neck devices with 'Hans Device' type features are available for $100).

  4. Driving gloves are needed. They will cost in a range of $22 to $100

  5. We strongly recommend a rib vest or guard (it is optional though). These cost from $80 to $150.

  6. Driving shoes are nice to have but not necessary at $99 to $200.

Low to high on safety gear is $245 to $1500.

What Else Do You Need to Start Your First Racing Season?

    You'll end up owning 4 to 5 gear changes by the time your driving improves and you maximize your gear ratio. The cost is: Read more ...

The cost is: $50 to $125. This depends on whether you can find some used sprockets or buy new. Spare Parts: you don't really need any if you race at SRR. We keep everything that you could break in stock in The Pit Stop. Why own it before you need it? The exception to this would be if you found a not so popular brand of used kart that uses some less than standard steering components. We might not have these in stock. So you may want to get a spare set of spindles or steering shaft just in case ($125). You'll need a two-gallon gas can and some gas (we are racing an engine with 8.5:1 compression ratio, so feeding it 110 octane is a waste of your racing budget). You should also have a small toolbox. The smallest of the small will get you by, the type with the lid that opens to reveal a tray wWell, believe it or not there is a charge for using the track at SRR. A race day entry fee will cost in a range of $20 to $40 per driver. This includes the driver's insurance pass, track use fees, and race awards. Practice sessions will cost a driver $20 for the entire day. On race days, anyone entering our pit area will need a pit pass. These are currently in the $10 range. Practice days don't require the pit pass for non drivers. Yearly practice passes are available also. At the time of this writing they were priced at $250. There are some consumables you'll need to budget for. Some of these items are tires, synthetic racing oil, spark plugs, carburetor jets, engine gaskets, and gasoline. A set of tires for our Box Stock class is about $200 per set (sales pitch; buy them in 'The Pit Stop' and un-mounting and mounting is included). Depending on how much practice you run, two sets of tires should last most of a season, but the serious guys that are running for the season championship will replace tires about every 3-4 weeks. The kids in the 8 to 12 year old class will likely get in a season on one set of tires. As kart and driver combined weight increases so does tire wear. If a competitor runs in a 2-cycle class, speed becomes a factor in tire wear, and more tires will be used. It should also be noted that speed costs money, and most everyone who runs in the faster classes accepts this and expects to spend more money go-karting. Synthetic engine oil runs $10 to $15/quart. A Honda engine needs the oil changed every time you spend a day at the track and a quart is two oil changes. Spark plugs are $2-$10 each, jets $6, and gaskets at $2 - $10 depending on type. ith a bit more space below it. Your normal hand tools will get you started. Bring a socket set, box end and open end wrenches, pliers, Allen wrenches, and screwdrivers. Any specialty tools you need are again available in 'The Pit Stop'. These might be special wrenches to use in hard to get at places or a tool to repair your chain; $5 to $30 price range.

The most expensive thing you'll need is transportation to the racetrack. This comes in all forms. Go-karts show up shoved in the trunk of a car, in the back of a pick-up truck, inside a mini van, on a snowmobile trailer, or even in a purpose built enclosed trailer used only for go-karting (you know, the toy box on wheels). These are go-karting's version of a NASCAR's hauler. Don't sweat how you arrive. Just remember you can't have fun until you get to the track and start riding.

What Ongoing or Recurring Expenses Will There Be?

    Well, believe it or not there is a charge for using the track at SRR. A race day entry fee will cost... Read more ...

in a range of $20 to $40 per driver. This includes the driver's insurance pass, track use fees, and race awards. Practice sessions will cost a driver $20 for the entire day. On race days, anyone entering our pit area will need a pit pass. These are currently in the $10 range. Practice days don't require the pit pass for non drivers. Yearly practice passes are available also. At the time of this writing they were priced at $250.

There are some consumables you'll need to budget for. Some of these items are tires, synthetic racing oil, spark plugs, carburetor jets, engine gaskets, and gasoline. A set of tires for our Box Stock class is about $200 per set (sales pitch; buy them in 'The Pit Stop' and un-mounting and mounting is included). Depending on how much practice you run, two sets of tires should last most of a season, but the serious guys that are running for the season championship will replace tires about every 3-4 weeks. The kids in the 8 to 12 year old class will likely get in a season on one set of tires. As kart and driver combined weight increases so does tire wear. If a competitor runs in a 2-cycle class, speed becomes a factor in tire wear, and more tires will be used. It should also be noted that speed costs money, and most everyone who runs in the faster classes accepts this and expects to spend more money go-karting. Synthetic engine oil runs $10 to $15/quart. A Honda engine needs the oil changed every time you spend a day at the track and a quart is two oil changes. Spark plugs are $2-$10 each, jets $6, and gaskets at $2 - $10 depending on type.

Some of our competitors travel to race at other tracks. First year go-karters seldom wander away from SRR. The caveat we always issue is "It costs more money to go-kart as soon as you drive out the front gate of Sugar River Raceway." Why? Other tracks don't run a Box Stock Honda program. They all start with a faster class like the World Karting Association (WKA) sanctioned blueprinted Briggs & Stratton class. These are great classes, and we have them at SRR for our experienced karters. This type of racing will cost anywhere from 2 to 4 times as much to race as it does in Box Stock Honda (Box Stock engines sell for approx. $500, while we've seen ads for blueprinted Briggs engines as high as $1700). Upkeep, complexity, and speed are all greatly increased in this class, making it in our view a poor beginner's class.

Regional and national race programs exist. These series are filled with go-karters with 2 plus years of experience. The cost, of programs like these go up due to the added travel costs. If a weekend of go-karting in Indiana is what you desire then the cost of lodging, travel, and meals will be a part of your race budget. Your go-kart career may take on a "National" flavor, and this is the training ground for the professional driving ranks we talked about. Professional drivers, Alan Kulwicki and Scott Pruett, both won National Championships at SRR. Other go-karters choose to stay around home to spend their racing career. That's great also, as we don't chase you away. We have classes to challenge all skill levels at SRR.

Practice

    So you've got your go-kart purchased and now you need to learn how to get max enjoyment out of it, but how? Read more ...

Check our schedule for practice sessions on our web page, by phone (608/897-2898), or in person at the track. Your next plan should be to practice, practice, and practice. You'll gain more confidence and speed with each practice lap. Soon you'll be looking for those 'pick-up races' that go on during practice. Don't worry about your first race until you are both confident and comfortable with your skill and kart control. These sessions will give you a chance to learn the track, learn your kart, find out what normal maintenance needs to be done, and begin to learn what some of the adjustments to the kart will do.

Some of the things you need to know will make themselves obvious during the practice sessions. Others you will learn from fellow practicers. And still other things will be learned with our help, the staff of SRR. When you buy a kart from a kart shop they say, "Thanks and good luck when you get to the track". At SRR we are both the kart shop and the track, so we are there during your every practice session and can lend help and advice as you learn about this great sport. We can also help get you a good baseline on your kart. We offer scale sessions in which we put you and your kart on the computerized scales to get the weight bias set. Buy the kart from SRR and it is included. We offer follow up sessions at $40/hour, but usually a scale sessions takes 15 minutes.

Your Racing Initiation

    This will be a nervous time, but a fun kind of nervous. This is bigger than your first day of school! You are putting your personal safety and your ego on the line. Read more ...

Photo13The later has a greater potential to be bruised that first day, as karting is quite safe, and you will be the one applying the pressure to perform (unless of course your spouse is with you). You're going to meet a lot of new people. Just remember that they all were beginners a very short time ago. They remember that and will be glad to advise or help you. You will have read about the rules and typical race day procedures by now, but you'll have to start remembering it as things go by at a very fast rate! This shouldn't be a problem just remember to listen carefully in the driver's meeting. When this first day is past it will be bittersweet. You'll be glad that you put it behind you, but you'll remember it fondly as some of the best fun you've ever had.

Photo12We make all of our new karters wear yellow number plates for their first six races. These yellow plates also earn you the honor of starting in the back of the class. This program too has its pros and cons. If you're well prepared for the start of your racing career and are feeling very racy, you'll wonder how you're ever supposed to get to the front when always starting in the back. Yes, that can be a problem. An advantage to those yellow plates and rookie status is using them to lean on like a crutch on some days. For instance, when you have passed your way to mid pack and then execute a major league spin out and finish last, you can just tell everyone, "hey, what do you expect, I'm just a beginner, didn't you see my yellow plates"?

Photo14So what is the big idea of the yellow plates? This signals the other drivers that you are a new competitor, and to expect new competitor type maneuvers. You know, give you a little extra space to execute your cornering. Nothing more needs to be said at this point, as your racing season and career will start to fall into place. Yes there will be some rough days at the track as you chase that first victory. You'll have mechanical breakdowns and mental errors that will cost you that first win, but you will get there. Practice and persistence will pay off.

What Can I Win?

    Racing at SRR, and most of go-kart racing, is done on an amateur level. This means there aren't any cash awards. During the race season at SRR we will have 4 to 5 different race dates on which we will award big trophies to the top five, (or more) drivers in each class. Read more ...

Photo7We don't give trophies each race day due to the high cost. The entry fee mentioned in an earlier section is where the money for awards comes from. We feel our customers would rather keep the entry fees low rather than get a trophy every week. Too many trophies take up too much space, take too much time to dust, and have a novelty that wears off in short order. On regular race days SRR awards Olympic style medals to each of our top finishers. These awards are determined based on the number of entries in each class and finishing position. In our Box Stock junior classes all racers get a medal. Due to the cost of trophies this isn't the case on trophy days. You'll have to work hard to earn one of them.

Each race day there are really two races or two award systems that are being contested. We have a season long point championship in each class that is hotly contested. This point system is closely based on the NASCAR points system (that is the old one before the 'Chase' came around). We run a first and second half season championship in most classes so we can notice our first half winners. This also helps us enforce our 'Box Stock Eligibility' rules. Each class gets one or two throw out races per season half. In 2009 we are running a 7 race series and championship for our Yamaha and HPV classes. A nice set of awards is given at our season ending awards banquet each fall. It seems apparent that the plaques or trophies awarded come in second place when compared to the pride shown, and respect of fellow competitors earned. Accomplishment seems to be the true reward that most competitors relish in.

Other levels of go-karting sometimes do race for merchandise awards. This is typically at the regional or national event level where manufacturers of go-kart equipment donate items as sponsors of the event. There are also events held where a cash purse is awarded. This is also done at levels far above where the beginning go-karter competes. The purses raced for won't usually pay for the day's expenses. This is similar to other levels of racing, where the prize money won't pay for the racer's bills. In major league racing it's the sponsorship money that makes ends meet. In NASCAR the sponsor is someone spending a big advertising budget. In go-karting you're the sponsor. You don't get advertising you get a lot of fun and a form of motor sports that you can afford on a working man's budget. There are exceptions to every rule, and you will see go-karters with sponsors. Most of the time the sponsor is a business owned by the go-karter, and/or a business associate of the go-karter.

What Happens When I'm No Longer a Beginner?

    We talked in an earlier section about kicking you out of the beginner's class after you've achieved a certain level of experience and wins. That's true, but you can remain in the Box Stock class if you wish. Read more ...

Photo9This class has the same in-expensive and simple engine rules. We call it Super Stock. We allow different exhaust systems and other subtle differences to up the performance a bit and then match you against other Box Stock graduates. You can stay here another season or a racing career. The competition is good. When the racing is wheel to wheel and there is a pack of them, speed becomes somewhat relative. But, you still want to go faster, so what do you do? We do support the WKA (World Karting Association) class system at our weekly events. You can move on to the Blueprinted Briggs Animal classes. These classes allow several modifications Briggs engine along with methanol fuel, different clutches, exhaust systems, and tires. The class also brings along the bodywork which makes the karts look like a small racecar.

Photo15Or if you like racing something with a camshaft but want something other than the WKA version of the Animal engine you can jump into several different classes. Briggs Animal is run with a set of local rules that requires the YDS tire rule, and a sealed engine on gas. Or we have an over 35 year old Honda OHV class, called 'Honda Masters'. This too is a YDS tire sealed engine class. In 2009 we will add an over 50 category to this class. And if you want to really melt the asphalt try the new in 2005 Briggs World Formula class. 15 HP and boy does it fly

Photo16We also have different Yamaha classes and an engine called an HPV. These engines are all 2 stroke or 2 cycle engines, and represent the highest performance. The Yamaha classes allow different mufflers/expansion chambers and clutch set-ups. The HPV is an Italian made engine that has a set of rules that will make you think of Box Stock Honda racing. It is a spec engine class that locks in things like exhaust and clutch. This scheme levels the playing field while promoting longevity. There is also a class called TAG (TAG=Touch and Go, which refers to the electric start 125cc water cooled engines in the 26-30 HP range). All of our classes other than Honda are common throughout the United States due to the National Sanctioning of WKA & IKF. Regional and National series are available for those interested.

Racing Rules all Racers and Spectators Need to Know

    Remember the first time you saw a hockey or soccer game? Or better yet an Australian football game. You wondered most of the way through what the heck the rules were, and what these people were trying to accomplish. Well let's take a bit of time to go through some of the rules/standards/norms of go-kart racing. Read more ...

Strangely enough, not all of this information is always written down in any one place. These procedures, rules, standards, norms, expectations of all racers are gleaned from several sources. Rule books, driver's meetings, customs, and from other sports that also practice good sportsmanship. Whether this is new information or a refresher to our readers, we feel it is good to review from time to time. After all, any sporting event is much more fun to participate in or watch if you know the rules.

Race Day Drivers Meeting

    Every race day just before the races kick off we conduct the driver's meeting. This is the time that the race director and flagman will tell the competitors about the days events. Read more ...

The intent of this communication is to express what is expected of both the track officials and race drivers. The content of the drivers meeting is redundant week to week. This is done so that things are very consistent, and to make sure that new competitors get a full understanding of what to expect while competing at SRR. We will also use this time for questions from the racers and to also make any announcements regarding something new or something that we will be watching or strictly enforcing during that race day. Each driver's meeting will discuss:
  1. Race order and format for each class.

  2. Line up sheets, line up grids, and how line-ups for all races will be determined.

  3. Hot laps, pace laps, getting lined up, and the duties of our front row competitors.

  4. Flags; which ones we use, their meaning, and how we will use them to officiate the race.

  5. We strongly stress safety as the key focus to all karters.

  6. We strongly stress our demand for good sportsmanship

  7. We finish with general housekeeping issues around tech inspection and weigh in procedures.

  8. Questions and answers, and any new subjects.

Watching the Flagman

    What do all those flags mean? Read more ...

  1. Green-means the track is safe and the race is in progress, it also signals the start to the race.

  2. Yellow-means caution. Whenever this flag is displayed it means to slow down. During pace laps it is to slow the class for lining up. If displayed during the race it means to slow down and line up in a single row. The yellow flag is used when there is an accident or spin on the track and the lead karts could race back around into unsafe racing conditions. Restarting the race from a yellow flag period will always be done from a single file line-up. We also race back to a caution flag at SRR. This simply means that the lap that you receive a caution flag at the start-finish line from the flagman will be counted and scored. Once a competitor receives the caution flag, they are told to slow immediately due to a likely unsafe condition on the track somewhere. They are also to begin using the starting oval again.

  3. Red-means stop. This flag is displayed when an accident has happened on the track and those involved may need help due to possible injury. We instruct our racers to first raise their hand in the air (signals a karter's intent to slow down or leave the track, to karters behind them) and then make sure that the spot they pick to stop is safe. Once stopped the karter then shuts the engine off. There will be a regrouping of the karts on the start-finish line before the race goes again so the engines are shut off and karts pushed back to this area. The only other time you'll see a red flag is when conditions are no longer safe for racing. This may be if rain occurs during a race.

  4. Yellow and Red (displayed together) means restart. This combination of flags will appear when a problem has happened with the green flag start on the first lap. Your track crew has decided that there is reason enough to have a complete restart. Competitors are told to again take the starting oval and line up in the original positions that they started the race from.

  5. Black means disqualified. You will see the flagman use the black flag two ways. If it is rolled up and pointed at a competitor it is a warning. The track crew has observed this competitor doing something that is breaking a rule; likely something to do with how they are driving. If the flag is presented unrolled then the competitor who received it knows to go to the pits. This black flag could be for a rule violation or it could also be an unsafe mechanical problem. When a person has been black-flagged they are no longer scored, and the points for that heat race are taken away. A track crewmember will have a conversation with the offending driver to make sure they understand what they did wrong. This is to also get confirmation from the disqualified competitor that the offense will not happen again.

  6. Blue or Blue w/Orange Stripe means move over. This flag is displayed when a front runner is lapping a competitor. If a competitor is slow enough to be lapped we display this flag to tell them of the approaching faster traffic so they can allow room for the leader to easily pass. This is done so that slower lapped traffic doesn't weigh into the outcome of the race.

  7. White means one more lap left in the race.

  8. Checkered means the race is over. If you were the first one to the flag, the checkered also means you were victorious. You will see the race winners coming around at the end of the race to receive the checkered flag so they can do a victory lap!

Race Restarts

    deserves a bit more explanation, as we at SRR will use different procedures from time to time, and it may look a bit inconsistent. Read more ...

In the previous section we alluded to some of the flags that would be used to indicate that a restart of a race would be done. This We tell our racers at the drivers meeting that we will reserve the right to use many different procedures as it regards restarts for races. You will notice that most incidents or accidents will happen on the first lap of a race. This is because everyone is close together, and they all want to win the race on the first corner. The laws of physics often get involved (two karts can't occupy the same space on the track at the same time) and you have one or more kart that spins out, runs off the track, run into each other, etc. If the race crew is unable to tell what caused the commotion we are witnessing, (i.e., what or who caused the disruption to traffic flows) we likely will choose to restart the race. This gives everyone a fair chance to win. We tell everyone that they may come around and see different flags based on how we decide to solve our first lap problem.
  1. If at the end of the first lap a yellow flag is waved, karters we will slow down and line up on the starting oval, single file, for a restart. We race back to the yellow at SRR, and these laps count. As the competitors involved in the traffic snarl get back to the start/finish line they are scored and this order determines the restart order. We use this option when we have first lap trouble over a complete restart when one of two things happens. If we feel that a complete restart will get us the same result due to emotions being high among our competitors, we'll think of everyone's safety first, and use the single file restart option. The other instance in which we will use this option involves competitors creating their own problems. Our track crew may feel certain that they saw the people that caused the problem become involved in the spin or accident, and they are the ones who should be penalized with a restart from the rear. This may seem unfair, but at least the people involved in whatever happened are caught up to the rear of the field, as they could have been a half a lap behind had the track remained under green.

  2. If the flagman is displaying the red and yellow flag together we will have a complete restart. This may be the option chosen by the track crew because the melee that ensued involved most of the karts. Or the track crew might not know who was responsible for the problem. It is typical that several small accidents are occurring that turn into one real big one. If you are reading this paper never having seen a race at SRR, please don't get the idea that all we do is crash and injure people. These first lap skirmishes are pretty mild and usually only result in spin outs, or people driving through the grass, or maybe two karts are stopped on the track because they became tangled in a slow corner. We may also know who is responsible for the sudden change in counter clockwise traffic flow, and they have come out with a several position gain, while several fellow competitors have become collateral damage. We may then do a complete restart with the offending driver put to the back of the line-up. We don't always choose the complete restart solution when there is a first lap problem, especially if we know that the perpetrator got bogged down in the mess. We do this because we don't want to be so consistent that someone can build a race strategy based on our restart policy. For example, if we threw a red and yellow restart flag every time that all the karts didn't get through the first lap without any problems, we'd tell some karters that a kamikaze start is okay. If you try to pass the whole class on the first turn and manage to create an incident, no problem, because the flagman will just line us up for another kamikaze attempt. The potential kamikazes in the crowd need to know that they may be left off the track watching the race rather than given another chance to roll the dice. This also leads to safer starts, and a race program that doesn't take all day to run.

  3. If a mid-race incident occurs we will use either the yellow or the red flag in isolation to either slow or stop the karts for a single file restart. If the race is more than half over when a red flag condition occurs, the race may be called complete.

Race Line-ups

    How do we determine the line-ups for each race? There are several methods that could be used on any given race day. Read more ...

If you get to the track early enough you may witness time trials. When we do this we simply time the last practice session. We do this with the computerized scoring system and the karts each have a transponder on them. Most competitors like to time trial as it has some bragging rights attached. Classes that time trial also line up the first race according to who was fastest. If a class doesn't time trial to determine the first heat race line-up, two other methods may be used. On a regular race day the starting position is drawn out of a hat at the registration gate. If we have a special event planned, we often line the first race up according to when the racer entered the event.

You noticed the term heat race used in the preceding paragraph. Most all karters get to race in three races in a regular race day. We call them first heat, second heat, and feature. We run a format where each race and position finished within that race pays a predetermined amount of points. We use what is called the Motto-cross point system to score these events. At the end of the day the racer with the most points is the overall class winner. So the karter who wins the feature isn't necessarily the overall winner for the day. When using this format to line up and score our races, we also have rules governing how we line up the second heat and the feature. The second heat will be lined up by inverting the finish of the first heat if the first heat was lined up according to time trial. If the class drew for position then we simply invert the start of the first heat race for the line up for the second heat. This gives those with an unlucky draw a chance to start in the front the second time around. If we have a first heat start determined by highest season point position, we will again invert the start of the second heat, but we will run the first heat a shorter length when running this format to give an advantage to point leaders. The feature race is lined up with the highest point earner to the front and the other entrants heads up by point total. The only exception to this would be our beginners with the yellow number plates. They will line up in the back regardless until their first six race days are run. In this race format the race lengths are typically eight laps for the first two heat races and ten laps for the feature.

The three-race Motto-cross point format is run until the class entries exceed fifteen karters. At sixteen entries we switch to a race format that is similar to what a local stock car event would run. We do this so that the number of karts on the track is limited (safety), and so everyone has a chance to race to the front. In this format we will break the class into different heat races. If sixteen karts are entered we will have two heat races of eight karts each. If twenty-three are entered we'd then have two heat races of eight and one of seven. We then run the first two heats and transfer the high point drivers to the main event. Those not finishing high enough will be lined up in the semi feature. In this format the winner of the feature is the winner for the day. No points are used to score this format (other than the heat points which determine feature and semi feature line ups). The race lengths in this format are 8 laps for heats, 10 for the semi feature, and 12 for the feature.

Track Etiquette

    We try to teach all new racers what the 'rules of the road' are, because they apply in practice as well as during a race. Read more ...

'Rules of the road' are an outgrowth of both common courtesy and sportsmanship. Strict adherence to the, 'rules of the road', are demanded of all drivers so that a safe place to practice and race exists. Here are a few of them.
  1. Always drive a straight line, don't zig zag. When you aren't driving a straight line you are blocking, and that is against the rules. If you aren't fast enough to keep the person behind you maybe you should let them go by and learn something from following them. Sometimes some unintentional blocking goes on when we have beginners involved. Often our pintsize drivers steer in the direction they look. If another kart pulls up along side, and the pint size racer looks over at them, inadvertently the pint size racer steers in the direction that they are looking. This usually results in a collision. Not typically life threatening, but a good way to bend wheel rims and make mom real nervous! `
  2. No bumping or pushing. In open wheel racing there is casual contact, but intentional contact is not allowed. It is sometimes hard to tell the two apart. This is one of the challenges that the race director, flagman, and corner workers face. If it is determined that someone is bumping or running into someone else on purpose, they will be disqualified, or black-flagged. This is done for two reasons. Most bumping or pushing is an accident waiting to happen, and certainly not a sportsman like way to compete. It is harder and takes more skill to pass a fellow competitor without first hitting him. The good racers aspire to pass in this matter. SRR also has an excellent safety record that we work hard to preserve by keeping the rough driving out of our races. The funny thing is that the two drivers bumping on the track usually aren't nearly as excited as the pit crews get while watching. When a discussion by rival race teams ensues in the pit, diplomacy is usually lost and then neither team has any fun. Another reason your SRR race crew is thumbs down on rough driving.`
  3. When is it okay to overtake in a corner? Experience and good judgment will help the seasoned karter avoid trouble with another competitor in a corner. For the beginner, we try to convince them that unless they are clearly alongside or ahead of the person they are trying to overtake, they should concede the corner to the other person. Now you'll see karters race through corners side-by-side, as SRR is one of the widest go kart tracks you'll find. The rules regarding who has the right to the corner exist to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. If a competitor manages to get his front wheels just past the rear wheels of the racer in front, and then they enter the corner in this fashion, the person in front may never know that he has company close behind. Our two karters turn the corner, if the front wheel and the back wheel of the opposite karts make contact the person in front can be flipped upside down.`
  4. No tit for tat. Human nature says that if you've been wronged you get even, right? Not at SRR. Getting even right there and then seems like a fair enough policy, but the problem is that usually the guy that just rammed you from behind may have had help doing it, or did it completely by accident, or wasn't even the person who did it! After all, the driver fixing to retaliate didn't see what happened in most cases, he just felt it. So the violated driver sets about getting even and the next thing you know someone is run off the track, or the two now engaged in a rolling battle end up on top of each other. This isn't good for obvious safety reasons, but also because we now have good opportunity for someone to get mad, and emotional, and ugly. That's why the race crew makes decisions on who should be disciplined, if anybody.


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