Utah kart teams seek new track to race on
May 01, 2019 15h09
By Greg James
Local kart racers will not be holding their championship races at Utah Motorsports Campus this season. (Photo courtesy of Utah Karting Championship)
By Greg James | [email protected]
The Utah Kart Championship has had a home at Utah Motorsports Campus in Tooele since the track opened in 2006. This season they are currently homeless.
“At the end of last season I started asking for contracts (to use the track and UMC),” UKC President Scott Clark said. “Because of the sale the track in December it was delayed. The new ownership then lost several top level staff positions. Then UMC announced they are not going to host any UKC events this year.”
After several negotiation attempts by Clark and other UKC officials the track’s offer nearly tripled what the racers had been paying; pushing entry fees near $300 per day for each racer. The karting championship chose to look for other locations to compete this season, two weeks before its season was set to begin.
“Grass roots karting cannot support that. By the time you add tires, a pit spot and fuel, it becomes a $500 to $600 weekend. All that to take your 10-year-old kid racing. They basically blew grassroots racing off their map. That is what is unfortunate because karting is what develops kids into racers on the big track,” Clark said.
The karting championship has over 60 current participants ranging in age from 5 to 70 years. Its membership has dropped in the last few years because of the uncertainty of the track ownership.
“The numbers have fallen off the last few years, just like sports bikes has because we did not know what was going to happen at the track. (UMC was being sold by Tooele County). For three years people have not wanted to invest in new equipment because they were not sure there was going to be a track anymore,” Clark said.
With no home at UMC the karting community has been looking for places to race.
“We have found potential locations. I can’t disclose them because we are in the midst of negotiating contracts with them all,” Clark said.
Large parking lots could be used to design the course configurations the championship needs. Before using UMC the championship ran at Maverik Center in West Valley City, the old Rocky Mountain Raceway facility and Golden Spike Arena in Ogden.
“We will probably race at more than one venue. I hope to have nine or 10 races in this season. We need to make sure the pavement is smooth enough. Our racers have been very supportive. We have sponsors come forth and offer help,” Clark said.
There has been active kart racing in Utah for approximately 70 years. This is the first time the championship has been trackless. They raced in Lehi and had their own track in Tooele called Blackrock Raceway.
“The UMC track is truly the Taj Mahal of kart racing. It is a beautiful facility. We have been very, very happy. It seems that many of the plans of hotels and manufacturing is not happening (at the track),” Clark said. “Amateur racers in the area could all be affected.”
The owners of the track (Mytime, a Chinese-based company) expect to operate a profitable facility.
“We are still welcoming the professional karting community,” UMC Chief Financial Officer Jon Clegg said. “We are exploring the idea of creating UMC karting leagues. We will continue to utilize the kart track for concession rentals (public rentals) and corporate events. Our issue with the UKC was they required what we consider prime times for concession rentals. Our income potential is 80 percent less when they are on the track. We attempted to negotiate new rates and they chose to take their business elsewhere.”
Wasatch Front racers hope to find a place to race closer to home.
“We are looking for a new permanent home, probably on the east side of the Oquirrh Mountains. We have been exploring multiple opportunities,” Clark said.
UKC runs eight different classifications in its racing championship. Open wheel karting has often been the stepping stone for racers to pursue racing careers. Michael Self and Madison Snow, professional car racers, began their racing careers in karts here in Utah.
“You never know who that kid is going to be. Michael (Self) has been fortunate enough to get a ride. There are kids that come out as pros, but most of us are just doing this for the fun of it. That is where 99.9 percent of us land. We do it for the love of the sport,” Clark said.