Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
It was almost 8 years ago when I had my first real racing experience at Allsports Grand Prix. At Allsports I not only drove a kart for the first time, I made my first connections in racing, raced wheel to wheel for the first time, learned the fundamentals of racing, spun out for the first time, and of course got into my first argument with another racer over racing room. You could say it changed my life.

In recent years, I hadn't been going to Allsports much, despite living just 15 minutes away during this time. I lamented that the leagues were smaller and not as competitive, about this guy and that guy not racing there anymore, the conditions of the karts slipping, and how after doing probably tens of thousands of laps there, I wasn't really gaining that much by racing and lapping there.

Recently though after not visiting at all since last winter, I began to think about going again. I envisioned just stopping by after work by myself and just getting in the zone, rattling off laps. Then before I even got of my ass and went, I heard the place was closing for good in less than two weeks!

In the closing weeks I did find the time to visit several times. I met up with many people I had raced with for many years, but hadn't seen much lately, and even met some new people. It was great. It felt like old times, when I looked forward all week to having the chance to race in the league. It made me think how and why I got away from such enjoyable, fun racing.

And then that was it, Allsports was closed forever. There's talk of opening a bigger and better place at another location, but as always with racing I'll believe it when I see it! Until then thank you Allsports and all the employees and racers that gave me so many great memories.

For my tribute to Allsports, here are a few videos. First, me driving my TAG racing kart at allsports. I'm not sure if I went faster than an Allsports “superkart” despite having around 3 times more power and being significantly lighter.

Second a typical league race at Allsports. I literally ran several hundred races like this.

08/30/2014: I'm still here...

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
I'm still here... and still racing too. The blog was down for a while due to spam bots. Unfortunately, this means I've disabled comments. If you want to get in touch with me, feel free to email me at mike at the name of this blog. I'm planning to keep this blog up for a while. Hopefully the information on it will help someone. I hope to get back to post again about racing too eventually.

TAG racing is going good. So far this year one wreak, one feature win and some good racing. TAG is still strong here at the club level, even though the national series seem to be shifting to one engine only classes. We have two TAG classes now, senior and legends both drawing a good number of racers, with Leopards, X30, Rotax, Rok TT, PRD all racing together competitively.

Here's some video:

Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
It was a good year of racing in the TAG kart. The kart counts are up in the class, with several new people joining this year. With a vehicle to haul the kart in I was able to race more. The kart ran well and with some seat time I've improved a lot. And I did all this for not that much more than I was spending on rental karting! Here's a wrap up of the year.

After a busy spring, the first race I planned on attending in May was rained out. So in June I had my first race of the year. A good field of 9 showed up in TAG. I finished the heat race 2nd and the feature 4th. Despite being out of the kart for about 8 months, the kart felt good and my pace was close to the guys in front of me. I got some bad starts and the racing was mostly uneventful, except for when someone broke a wheel hub and their wheel and tire came bouncing right infront of me!

My next race after a long layoff including two weekends in California for the sport kart grand nationals was the “money race”. The normal club races at my track don't pay, but for this day, basically the track doubles the entry fee and offers 50% payback for the purse. Not really that great a deal, but at least they paid back 50% positions. The result of this was 7 TAG karts were split into 2 races, TAG and PRO TAG, with some guys opting not to run for money. Things were going fine until a few laps into the second practice. I tried out an adjustment to the carb that didn't work out, I was getting no power down the straight. As I reached down to adjust the needle back, a kart came slamming into my left rear tire. I was very surprised, I didn't suddenly slow or weave. It was practice and people go slow all the time for various reasons. I guess I should have been keeping track of where the guy behind me was. The result was both our karts were wreaked, mine had a bent rear axle and I was done for the day, while the other guy rolled his backup kart out of the trailer! It was a nice introduction to “money” racing for me!

Fortunately I would able to buy a used axle from another racer for cheap, and although I had to buy new axle keys, it was still much cheaper than the $225 Arrow axle. I was able to replace the axle and get back out a month later, for another club race. This time the field was 7 karts. In the heat I finished 2nd. In the feature, I tried to keep up with the leader but he slowly pulled away and I was pretty content with settling for 2nd, until he suddenly pulled off with a flat tire. This put me into the lead, and I had the rest of the field covered and took my first feature win.

In September, I raced in the Maryland Sprint Divisional at Nicholson Speedway. This was my first time ever in my kart at a track other than Sandy Hook. I enjoyed the track, it is even shorter than Sandy Hook but much smoother! The first half is basically a moderate speed decreasing radius hairpin, then a straightaway split up by a high speed kink. The second half of the track I felt was very technical, more so than Sandy Hook. There's heavy breaking into a left hairpin, which leads right into another quick right and left back onto the main straightway. During practice I got up to a decent pace quickly, but the kart seemed to lack some grip. In the heat and the feature, I dropped a few more tenths, but was still a few tenths off the leaders. I finished 4th/ 5 in both the heat and feature. It was a fun day and I'm looking forward to going back, maybe with some setup changes, a shorter gear and some fresher tires.

A few weeks later, I returned to sandy hook for another club race, there was another good turnout of 9 karts, and I again finished both the heat and feature in 4th place in a competitive field. My laptimes were slightly slower then what I'd run in the earlier in the year, which confirmed to me the tires were dropping off a bit.

In October I did a practice day which my friend organized. The track usually only hosts races for karts on Sundays and isn't open for practice during the week, so it was nice to have a practice day to try some adjustments to the kart and for me, let some friends who I know from the rental leagues try out a higher power racing kart. Minus a few spins, the day went really well!

In November I ran the last two races of the year on consecutive weekends. After the practice day, I had around 40 heat cycles on my tires which I'd had since last year, so it was nice to have a fresh set for the last 2 races. For the first race day I drew a high number and was supposed to start 8th of 11. However, several drivers dropped out during practice or opted to start from the rear, so I actually started 4th. On the start I got to 3rd, then a few laps later made the pass for 2nd. I figured I would finish there, but with a few laps to go the leader had an incident with a lapped kart and I took the heat win. In the feature I cruised to the win while my competitors behind me battled their way though the "action".

The last race of the season was pretty action packed. I drew a high number again and started 9th of 12, with several other fast guys starting at the back. In the first turn there was an incident right in front of me with one kart driving onto the rear of another, then another kart getting caught up and catching air. I was able to avoid them but was second to last after t1. Passing is really tough and I ended up managing to pass a few slower karts but then spinning on a pass attempt. Someone got a bad run out of turn one and stacked up a few karts going into turn 2. I tried to take advantage and go to the inside. The kart in front of both me and the kart I was trying to pass slowed sooner than I expected. I braked harder because I thought I might nail him when he turned in and ended up spinning 90 degrees to a stop at the apex of the turn. The guy behind me slid into my side, pretty much doing the same thing trying to avoid me. This was actually my first spin ever in the TAG kart. Fortunately there was no damage to either kart and I got going immediately, actually passing the guy I was initially trying to who ended up having to go through the grass. After all that I finished the heat in 5th.

For the feature there were more incidents, but fortunately I wasn't involved in any. On the start I saw the guy on my outside somehow spinning to the outside of the track on the entry to turn 1 (you can barely see this in the video). I spent most of the race stalking and trying to pass a kart in front of me, who was not making it easy! He eventually spun off with some sort of mechanical issue. At least one guy in front of me got caught up in an incident, so in the end I managed to finish 2nd, on a day where I think everyone had some issue or got involved in some sort of incident.

In the year I finished with 2 wins, 1 2nd in 5 club races, not bad for my second year.

11/02/2013: Tools for karting

Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
Wondering what tools you need to work on a kart? The good news is you might not need much more than basic tools you already have. Almost all CIK style karts have metric hardware, and socket head cap screws are common, so you'll need some good tools to work with those. Here's what I usually bring to the track with some notes:

Basic socket set - A 1/4” sockets were recommended to me to prevent over-torquing, but I already had a 3/8” drive set so that's what I use. My set has metric (4-19mm) and standard (which I never use on the kart).

Additional sockets – I bring a 21mm deep socket for the spark plug, and a 22mm socket to remove the front hubs (necessary if you want to change the front track width.

Socket Extensions – 3 inch and 6 inch, necessary to get to lug nuts on the wheels.

Hex Keys/Allen wrenches – I have 3 sets, which come in handy for different uses, although I don't always bring them all to the track. One is a long handle round ball end t handle set, which is good for speed and hard to reach places. I also have a shorter t-handle set with flat ends which is good for getting higher torque to tighten or loosen bolts, and a L shaped key set with one flat end and one ball end, which is pretty good for both.

Combination wrenches – A basic set of wrenches with one open end and one box end, sizes 8-17mm

Air pressure gauge – one which can measure to approximately a quarter psi is nice. One that only measures to 30 psi or less is also more precise/easier to read.

Tape Measure – Necessary to measure the position of the hubs on the rear axle to change rear track width.

Rubber mallet – comes in very handy for example to remove the rear wheel hubs from the axle, or remove the wheels from the hubs.

Screwdrivers – I just use the screwdriver with changeable heads that came with my basic tool set. The only time I typically need a screwdriver is to take the airbox off to clean it or choke the engine to start it in the morning.

Tape – duct tape and electrical tape

Pliers – one needle nose and one channel lock style

Safety wire and pliers – I've had to redo the safety wire when I've taken certain things apart, for example the steering wheel and brake caliper, although I've never actually needed it at the track. There are special safety wire pliers that help with spinning safety wire.

Flashlight – self explanatory

Multimeter – I bring a cheap multimeter since I have one, I have used it to check the battery voltage at home but have never needed it at the track.

Adjustable wrench – a small one, don't think I've ever used it.

Files – round and flat file. Never used them but might come in handy for something.

The more important/more frequently used tools are at the top of the list. I fit everything in one small toolbag. I also bring a box of spare hardware, and a box of spares parts/lubes/cleaners/rags. If there's something I don't have, I can probably borrow it from someone else, but I can't remember the last time I've needed something I didn't have in this list. If you don't have any tools at all, I think you could buy everything you need here, in a mix of cheap(aka Harbor Freight) and mid priced (aka Craftsman) for a few hundred dollars. You could probably add or remove a few things (especially near the end of the list) as you see appropriate. I also have a few specialty tools like a bead breaker and tire mounting tool which I haven't included here.
Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
This spring I picked up a 2004 Honda Pilot to haul my kart around. I got it after considering all the options for some time. In the end I got the Honda Pilot because I decided I wanted a vehicle that I could store the kart inside (as opposed to a trailer or pickup with an open bed), and the pilot was most suitable for me in terms of size, price, and what I liked. A trailer would just be a huge hassle for me in terms of parking/storage. And a pickup wouldn't allow me to leave the vehicle with the kart in it outside comfortably were it would be exposed to the elements and possible thieves. The Pilot is among the smaller SUVs that can fit a kart comfortably (which means it gets better fuel mileage, I can fit it in my garage, etc) and I find it to be a nice vehicle overall that I can use for other purposes sometimes. It's a nice vehicle as a daily driver, although I still usually drive my Honda Civic which gets much better mileage.

Here is a pic of the PIlot with all the kart and all the stuff I bring to the track normally.
Kart In Honda Pilot

I remove both sidepods, the front bumper, and both rear wheels and hubs before loading. I find this to be the easiest way, although it can fit with the wheel and sidepod on one side, and also probably with the front bumper. To load the kart, I push the kartstand up over the hatch opening and simply lift and slide the kart off the stand and into the vehicle. Unloading is similar. After doing it a few times, it is relatively painless and safe. I then load the kart stand on top of the kart. Lifting the kart stand in and out in the right position is the most laborsome part of the process, and I had to do some experimenting to figure out the position that was easiest and safest, which is seen in the photo. I tie down the stand to a hook on the left side of the cargo area to prevent it from moving around.

I then load the front bumper under the front fairing and the sidepods to the sides of the kart. A small airtank, the rear wheels, two small boxes of parts/spares/consumables, a small gas can and bag of tools fit to the back and sides of the kart. My driver gear, personal items and a small cooler are stored either in front of the kart, in the area right behind the front seats, or the front passenger seat. There's room to squeeze in a few more things in necessary like another set of tires, and I can keep the front passenger seat clear too if I'm bringing a friend to the track. The whole process probably takes 10 minutes.

If I get to the point where I need or desire to haul the kart in a trailer, I could tow it easily with the Pilot. Overall, it's worked out very well.

06/18/2013: Update

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
It's been a while since my last update. Life happens and I have been focusing quite a bit of time and energy on non racing things. But it's not like I haven't been to the track either. Last year I heard about the Skip Barber IndyCar Academy. I was skeptical at first wondering what the catch was. A free entry to a shootout where the winner would win a free ride worth $60,000?? I've been writing for four and a half years on this very blog about how these things don't happen! But I decided the chance was too good to turn up and I entered the program, which required doing the 3 day skip barber racing school. I went in pretty unprepared, not having driven a race car in over a year, and not totally focused. I wasn't that happy with my performance at the 3 day school, but I was invited back for the shootout. I was still skeptical but finally decided I needed to commit to this and give it my all. I knew this was probably my best and likely my last opportunity to make it "legitimately" (I could write a whole book now on what that means and why it doesn't really make sense) into higher levels of racing. I practiced on iRacing seriously, working not just on fast laps but practicing real world technique. I studied video and more than anything, I mentally prepared.

When the shootout came I proved that the preparation paid off. After being pretty disappointed in my car racing endeavors over the past few years, I did well in the shootout. I was in the top 3 of my group for every timed session, I had no penalty points, I turned legitimately fast laps. I was ecstatic to feel that I'd finally just put all the pieces together. I finished 8th of 32 finalists in a national competition to find the best amateur in the country. But only 1st place moves on to the free ride for next season. I did my best, which was very good, but in this competition, not good enough. And I'm totally fine with that. For the first time in 5 years a had a real opportunity, and I am grateful for that. Although not everyone will agree with me, I think to have this chance, along with 3 days of track time and instruction for FREE, makes everyone a winner!!

Read more about my experience here. If you're looking for an opportunity right now, this is the best thing out there, period. I've learned a lot over the years and I'm serious. Skip Barber doesn't pay me to say this. The rules and requirements have changed somewhat for this year, review them here. If you have any questions let me know.

In other news, I finally got my TAG kart back out last weekend, and it is really a blast. Karting for me now is first about having fun rather than as a tool to move up. And I'm having a lot more fun!

Finally I'm flying out tomorrow for the Sport Kart Grand Nationals. I have to thank my team Indo Pratama Racing for their support for this event! I'll be sure to update was much as possible.
Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
Since I got my TAG kart, I'm constantly looking up the satellite views of random tracks when I'm bored. In my research I noticed there was no complete up to date directory of tracks in the country, so over the last few weeks, I decided to attempt to document all active sprint tracks in the United States, (and many inactive ones too). Below is what I have so far, if you notice any mistakes or omissions, let me know. If you're interested in being added as a contributor definitely let me know too. I'd like to document all paved and dirt ovals too, but that's a lot more tracks that seem to come and go frequently so I don't have the time to undertake that on my own.

View Sprint Kart Tracks in a larger map

As of 2012, there are 110 tracks in the United States with active regular traditional sprint kart racing. For fun I did some analysis, using the list of largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSAs).

Regional Breakdown:

It's no surprise that regionally, the West Coast and Florida have the the best sprint karting scene, with virtually every major population center (in the top few hundred MSAs) in these regions having at least one if not multiple kart tracks within driving distance. A lot of top karters, a lot of the karting industry, a lot of big races and a lot of karting history are all from these areas.

The Mountain states have a perhaps somewhat surprisingly good coverage of tracks. Denver, the largest metro area in the region has 3 pretty close in yet is only the 21st largest MSA in the country, with a 4th track not to far away in Colorado Springs. That's way more tracks then many more populous areas. The second and third biggest population centers in the region, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas each have a solid kart track (in terms of size and facilities). Although the upper mountain states cover a lot of area and don't have many tracks, there aren't big population centers here.

Most parts of the Midwest are well covered. Some of the top karting tracks in the country are located in the midwest, such as Concept Haulers Motor Speedway (Norway) 70 miles from Chicago, and New Castle Motorsports Park, 45 miles from Indianapolis. So although several big cities don't have a kart track very close in, from almost all major cities there are several kart tracks within a few hours drive, with a mix of small club tracks and national level circuits. Additionally there are several annual temporary street kart races in the midwest, and even a series of street races based around Indianapolis.

The North East from New England south to Maryland has a decent amount of tracks, but considering the concentrated population in the North East relative to some other parts of the country, I feel the region is still somewhat under served as a whole. For example, New York is the biggest population center in the country and has 3 kart tracks in or near the area, but none are national level tracks that the Southern California and Chicago areas have.

The South (minus florida) has some tracks sprinkled throughout, but with only a few exceptions most are tiny club tracks. Although the two biggest MSAs in the region, Altanta and Charlotte, have recently added major top level tracks, the rest of the region may be active in other forms of racing but sparse in terms of left and right turn sprint tracks.

The Plains states don't have much sprint karting either, with only a few tracks in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, and no active tracks I could find in Nebraska, or North and South Dakota. However, with none of the top 150 MSAs, there are no major population centers in these states.

Most Under Served Areas:

I looked through the list of MSAs and determined several under served areas where a new kart track would make sense.

Washington D.C - The 7th most populous MSA in the United States, it's the only MSA in the top 30 with no kart tracks within 90 minutes from the core city! Two tracks exist outside of Baltimore, but they are small club tracks. The closest major karting is New Jersey Motorsports Park almost 3 hours away. The economy in D.C. has been pretty strong through the recession, the population continues to grow steadily (2.18% from 2010 to 2011, behind only Dallas and Houston among top 20 MSAs) and the ranks among the highest income metro areas in the country. If a track was built in the Virginia suburbs, the track could draw from the rest of Virginia to parts of North Carolina and West Virginia, including 44th ranked MSA Richmond, VA (less than 2 hours away) and Hampton Roads 36th MSA (3 hours away), which are also pretty much sprint karting dead spots.

Nashville - The 37th most populous MSA has only one small club track 50 minutes away, and is near the middle of a huge dead zone for sprint karting throughout the states of Tennessee and Kentucky. A major karting center could draw from places as far as Memphis where there are also no sprint karting venues.

Charleston, SC - It's only the 78th largest MSA but it's growing at a rate of 2.68% (from 2010 to 2011) and does not have any active sprint karting within two and a half hours. It has a growing economy and pretty nice weather for a longer racing season.

Albuquerque, NM - The biggest city in New Mexico, in the fast growing southwest, and 57th MSA in the country had one track for sprint racing, practice and rentals but it's currently closed. I still think there's potential in the area though; neighboring Arizona has built several modern sprint tracks, but these along with tracks in West Texas and Colorado are over 5 hours away! If those tracks in Arizona are successful, I don't see why one in Albuquerque wouldn't be at least worth a shot.
Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
As promised a while back, here is a breakdown of my karting budget. I'll try to attach a detailed budget spreadsheet but below is a summary of the key areas.

Startup costs included purchasing the kart, parts and tools. For the kart I purchased a used Arrow AX-9 chassis ($800) a new PRD Fireball TAG engine package ($1500). I ended up spending quite a bit on parts (many new) and paid someone to prep the kart and mount the motor for me. So the total cost for the kart ready to hit the track was $3300. Tools included a kart stand, tire mounting tool, air compressor, and many other smaller items (mostly karting specific as I had basic tools already) and amounted to a bit under $500.

Entry fees: I've only raced at one track, where the combined gate fee and entry is $50. From my research $25-75 is typical for a day of karting at a sprint track. I brought a friend most times and paid for him, which costs extra. total for 4 races this season was $250

Consumables include things like tires, gas, cleaners, lubricants and spark plugs. I bought one set of Bridgestone YLB tires for $215. I use 100 octane gas, NGK spark plugs, Burris 2 stroke oil, Motul chain lube, all typical for karting. Also need some wd40, brake cleaner, simple green, rags/paper towels etc. Total for 4 races was $285.

Transport is the money to get to you and the kart to and from the track. I don't have a trailer or a vehicle capable of fitting the kart inside, but I have been borrowing one so my only transport costs are the gas to get to the track (90 miles one way). Total was $237.

Repairs/Crash Damage: In 4 races I had no crash damage and one rear hub fail. I replaced both rear hubs for $110.

So not including startup, that comes out to $886 for 4 races or $221.5 per race.

However moving forward I'm expecting some differences. I'm planning to use the same set of tires into next season, I'm planning to get my own vehicle which should save some on transport (better mpg), and I'm also expecting some additional costs, mainly a top end motor rebuild after 10 hours or so (20 club days) which I estimate at $500. So here is my estimated prorated budget for a club race day in the long run:

tires 8 races $27
gas 1 gallon $8
oil 1 qt $4
spark plug 8 races $1
engine wear 20 races $25
repairs/crash damage $20
transport $40
entry $50
total $180

I'll report back on how accurate this budget turns out to be. More competitive races will obviously cost more. If you own a kart and have any insight, feel free to comment.
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
I recently attended the races at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, New York to watch a friend race. He did a great job after suffering a flat tire to come back and pass several cars before the end of the race.

Riverhead is a tiny 1/4 short track. I've also seen the races at my local asphalt short track (Old Dominion Speedway). Since I'd attended the Baltimore Grand Prix just a month or so prior, and also have attended plenty of club road racing race weekends as a participant and spectator, I got to thinking about the differences of road racing and oval racing for the spectator and in particular why local/amateur/club road racing is not a spectator sport, while short track racing is!

Short track racing is quite frankly, just way more exciting to watch. Watching 400HP late models negotiate a tight short track, getting sideways putting the power down, side by side, inches from each other is just a pretty impressive thing to see up close and personal. Watching 120hp Miatas follow each other around a corner of a road course can be interesting sometimes. But it's just not the same as the former. The cars that race on a short track oval are generally just more spectacular to watch and the racing on a short track just promotes more action.

At a short track you can almost certainly see the whole track from any seat in the house. At a road course you can see a good few corners at a time if you know where to watch from. At the short track you can almost certainly hear the announcer from everywhere. On a road course from my experience you can hear the announcer from half the paddock, and no where from where you'd actually want to watch the race from. And that's assuming there's even an announcer. These two things make road racing more entertaining to watch on TV versus in person, with multiple cameras following the cars around the track and commentary from the booth.

At the short track you sit packed in with a few thousand other spectators in a stadium or arena like environment. This gives you the atmosphere of a football game, being a part of the crowd cheering, reacting to crashes, etc. can add to the fun and appeal of watching. At the road course the feel is more like relaxing in a park while race cars fly by you. This is one area where I can see both being more appealing to different types of people.

Short tracks take up a lot less land so for this reason (I assume) they are more likely to be located closer to major population centers. Road courses are typically in the middle of nowhere.

For all these reasons, short tracks typically attract a few thousand fans every weekend, while the road course might attract a few hundred friends and family a few times a year for a club race. The implications of this are huge to the grassroots racer. The road course racer pays $250-400 to race for the weekend, and gets nothing back as the entry fee goes to pay for the rental of the track and other expenses. The short track racers pays the entry fee (I'm not really sure how much but I assume it's cheaper then the road course club race) but then has the opportunity to make back some all or even more of that entry back depending how well the racer does from the purse payout. This is possible because of the thousands of fans, each paying, say $10-20 a head. So it's a totally different financial model that makes the two disciplines work.

So it becomes pretty obvious why one form of racing has more spectators and participants in the United States then the other.

09/20/2012: TAG Karting Videos

Category: Karting
Posted by: Mike
Here's just a few helmet cam videos of me in the TAG kart for my first few races.

The first video is on very old tires with very little grip left, you can tell I was sliding around quite a bit:

The second video was on new tires, I gained over a second and a half!