Go-Karts have been, and continue to be, a gateway into dirt track racing. For many youngsters, it’s a great way to get involved and get experience without having to sell the farm. For the past few years, we have gotten invites from a few of the local tracks and clubs to come and check out their karting programs – and it has been on our “must-do” list for some time. Recently, things lined up so that we could visit the SoCal Oval Karters’ club at the So Cal Fair Speedway on the Perris Fairgrounds, prior to the USAC/CRA Sprint Car race scheduled near the Fairgrounds, at the Perris Auto Speedway’s half-mile oval later that evening.
We checked in and introduced ourselves to the club’s promoter and front-man, Matt Jones. Jones is a younger promoter who is soft-spoken, but obviously, filled with enthusiasm for the sport. Taking a moment to chat with Jones about the club and the day’s racing program, we also got a safety brief. We were given almost complete freedom to cover the race and shoot photos, as long as we didn’t put ourselves or the racers in danger, or interfere with the show.
Enjoy our extensive photo gallery from the SoCal Oval Karters visit:
Surprisingly, we found several familiar faces as we wandered around the pit area. Longtime friend and OneDirt.com contributor David Cardey, was there with his son Drake, the next generation in the Cardey line of racers. David is currently a sales manager at Eibach Springs, and a retired Sprint Car racer with the USAC sanctioning body. He has 9 USAC/CRA wins to his credit.
Brody Roa, one of the younger, up-and-coming hotshoes in USAC Sprint Cars was prepping his, and his wife’s, kart for the races. Roa’s racing career started in karting as a 14-year old driver. He won four straight karting championships. He was crowned the USAC California Ford Focus Midget Champion in 2009, then moved into Sprint Cars where he was named Ventura Racing Association “Rookie of the Year.” Since then, Brody has been a familiar face on the podium in USAC Sprint Car events.
Veteran Sprint Car driver, Mike Collins, was also roaming around while his one-man crew got the #04 kart ready to run. We even saw Senior Sprint driver, Ed Swartz, and former Sprint Car driver and current USAC car owner, Brett Roa, checking out the races and possibly scouting future talent. Needless to say, there was plenty of talent around the facility.
Promoter Jones explained that the Karting program had struggled in recent years as it sought a home track for their crew to run. Former club president, Mike Nigh, had begun the club’s revival, and secured arrangements with other facilities, and eventually, found a permanent home track to operate from. From the looks of things, the program is doing well as there were several karts at the facility.
We walked up to the two beautiful young ladies at the sign in desk and asked what the big story of the day was going to be. “We have mowers today!” exclaimed the pretty blonde. Making a mental note to catch the mower race, we sought out the best spot on the track for viewing and photography. Taking up a position inside the fence behind a bale of straw, we were warned by track announcer Scott Daloisio that the karts were killer on the shins and we should move behind the fence when the mowers came out. This solidified our desire to watch the modified mower race.
The classes (divisions) were a little hazy to us, mostly because of lack of experience with these types of race cars (make no mistake, these are race cars). According to Jones, “We welcome all karters and will find a class for any kart to race, providing it passes a safety inspection.” The rules appear to differentiate nine classes, starting with a learning class for kids aged 5-7 years old – the Junior-Junior class. This class consists of pretty much any kart that is safe and slow enough for beginners.
The Junior 1 class is designed for kids 8-11 years old, and is restricted to karts with engine displacement of 200cc or less. A restrictor between the carb and manifold is also required. Junior 2 class is tailored to the kids 12-15 years old, and built around 196cc AKRA-legal clones. A second Junior 2 class is identified for KT100 with IKF engine rules.
The adults have four classes to choose from: Adult Sportsman, Adult Stock, Adult KT100, and Adult F200d. Each class has their own rules and specs for which drivers need to adhere. For additional information about the types of karts or rules, go to the So Cal Oval Karters online at So Cal Oval Kart Club,or contact Matt Jones at [email protected].
There is almost no limitation to who can race karts. On the day that we visited the club, we found one adult driver who was almost 70 years old, and another driver that was a former University of Washington basketball player that stood over 7 feet tall. They raced against each other.
As promised, the modified mowers showed up four strong. Also as promised, they kicked ass.