Country's Top Karters to Converge on Tri-Cities for IKF Grand Nationals
By Joel Willits
The Tri-Cities will welcome some of the country's best kart drivers when the Tri-City Kart Club plays host to the 2010 International Karting Federation 4-Cycle Sprint and Shifter Grand Nationals June 30 to July 3.
While final entries aren't completed yet, Tri-City Kart Club president (TCKC) Corey Poynor said he expects anywhere from 170-200 racers when the action begins June 28, making the event one of the largest Grand Nationals in recent history.
"This event is a great way for TCKC to showcase the facility we have and are very proud of," Poynor said. "It will bring in people from all over the U.S. and let them see that the Northwest has some of the best facilities and top-notch racers."
TCKC was awarded the race after a 24-month process that began with a bid two years ago. Mike Schorn, International Karting Federation board member, said the Tri-City bid stood out thanks to its track and the surrounding community.
"It's actually one of the better tracks in the Northwest," said Schorn, who will also compete in the event. "They have done a lot of things to make it better. It's going to be a great place to host Grand Nationals."
The TCKC made several improvements to the track in the past four years in preparation for such an event. The club repaved the track, added electricity and running water in the paved pit area, added a new restroom with showers in the pit, revamped all the fencing around the facility and moved it further away from the track as well as added soft wall barriers that surround a large portion of the course and even installed a new public announcement system.
Poynor noted that the track's grandstand area is free and fully shaded.
"We have one of the most spectator-friendly tracks around," he said. "You will see some of the best races ever during this event..."
The six-day event will feature 25 different classes racing for coveted Duffy awards (or national title trophies), named after karting legend Duffy Livingstone. Racers such as Burt Gassaway, Roger and Alan Cathey, Bryan Greene, Tristan Orear, Cory Gwin and more will be among the field when action kicks off
"The competition at this event is going to be very tough," Poynor said. "To win here or probably even get a podium finish is going to be a very tough thing to do."
Also attending the event, although not racing, will be Mike Burris, owner of Burris Racing in Huntington Beach, Calif., a company that specializes in manufacturing and selling karting parts and accessories. Burris, who began racing karts in 1958, has been to "all the big races" and has a good idea at what spectators and racers alike can expect from the event.
"This one here is going to bring most of the better drivers together that are in the United States," he said. "You'll see bigger classes and closer racing."
Burris will be making the trip with three drivers, including his grandson, 20-year-old Zach Burris.
Schorn said the track, one of the only Northwest tracks to run clockwise, will play a big factor in addition to the high skill of the drivers.
"The track is in really good shape and we'll see some passes that you don't normally see," he said. "When nationals hits, people make some moves that you wouldn't think would happen and they execute them well. This track will promote that."
Family ties are a common thread throughout the karting community and this race will be no exception. Several local families will boast entries including David Dean and his 10-year-old son Kellen, just one pair of father-son duos to race in the event.
"My kid just fell in love with it," said Dean, who got back into karting four years ago after leaving the sport in his later youth. "It's a real great experience because the whole family can get involved."
It's not just father and sons either. Poynor's 16-year-old daughter Brooke races alongside her dad in many of the local races, and the Grand Nationals will be no different.
"My dad's been racing for a lot of years and being able to race against him means a lot to me," she said. "He's my dad and I love him and I love racing against him."
The family aspect is a big part of TCKC, Corey Poynor said, and visitors to the event will be sure to notice.
"At TCKC, family is the main thing; it doesn't matter if you are five or 75, we want you here and to have a great time with your family and with all of us," Poynor said. "Racing against Brooke is a blast - to me, it's some of the best racing I do. Racing with her in a Grand National event is going to be a lot of fun, and if all goes well, maybe we'll be fighting it out for the Duffy."
"It truly is a family sport," said Schorn, whose 12-year-old son David will be competing as well. "The young and old both get to enjoy it and have a good time."
Beyond the Track
The event will feature more than just racing, Poynor said. The event unofficially kicks off June 25, and each day following that will feature an opportunity for drivers to pay to practice on the course. On June 29, drivers and families can enjoy a wine tour that leaves from the track at noon or enjoy one of the Tri-Cities many golf courses.
One big draw for spectators and competitors alike will be the exhibitions provided by the Vintage Kart Club of America, an organization dedicated to preserving karting history. President Ernie Fisher of Gualala, Calif., said the club will be bringing 12 hand-picked karts run exhibitions each day with a race on the final day of competition.
Most of us have been karting since the 1950s," Fisher said. "We picked these Karts because they were fast. Everyone can see where karting came from and where it all started."
All of the karts coming up are rear-engine, including Fisher's own 1958 Hovey Hawk, powered by a Konig 250cc water-cooled engine, a kart that was once known as "King of the Hill."
"It's the only Konig-powered kart in the world that is still running to my knowledge," said Fisher, who won the 1967 California State Championship. "It's very, very fast."
Several other well-known karters will be coming up with the vintage club, including Terry Ives, John Grieves and Richard Kennedy, who will be performing his famous "This Side Up" exhibition on Saturday, July 3. During the run, Kennedy drives around the track on two wheels, with one side up in the air. The demonstration has even landed Kennedy in the Guinness Book of World Records.
"He's pretty amazing," Fisher said. "He can navigate right-hand turns, or left turns, it doesn't matter. He doesn't use ramps or artificial means; he just throws it up and keeps the balance. It's pretty amazing to watch."
Several vintage karts will be on display throughout the event, including the kart in which Fisher won his state championship. The club will also sponsor a barbecue after the racing on July 2.
For more information on the Grand National event or the Tri-City Kart Club, visit www.tckc.net.
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