Home Forums General Karting Discussion 2014 Rock Island Grand Prix Reply To: 2014 Rock Island Grand Prix


Roger Ruthhart

I could turn my fingers bloody trying to respond, but here are a few thoughts.

1) We haven’t had many big teams here since the Murley years of SKUSA. There aren’t ANY teams like there were back then. We’ve still done OK.

2) Teams decide where to go based on where their customers want to race. I have principles for what you would consider major race teams who want to come but can’t get enough drivers to commit. Most teams are driven by cadets and juniors because that’s where the numbers are. We don’t  offer those classes; many/most don’t want to do street races or don’t have the quick decision-making skills that are necessary on a street course.

3) We are at the end of the race season and by Labor Day some bank accounts are empty. Also, many racers are back in high school or off to college.

4) There are a lot of spec series that target specific racers. If you run a good series, there is less incentive to add the one-off events to your schedule. Frankly, there aren’t many of us left.

5) We DID have a good number of new racers — mostly in Briggs and Yamaha. As someone said, money is an issue these days and those are the lower-cost options to run.

6) When Modesto happened our phone stopped ringing. Not that many of those racers run here, but it put a pall on street racing throughout the sport. We usually get two-thirds of our entries in August and this year added just a handful. I hope it’s only temporary .. we’ll see with Lancaster and then Lone Star in the Spring.

We continue to be the safest street race ever. We had two red flags this year and no driver was transported. We were within 5 minutes ahead or behind schedule all weekend and finished on schedule.

7) It’s very difficult to make decisions on classes and rules in December for the following September. This sport can change year to year and we can’t react midstream.

8) Karting is still VERY short of racers compared to pre-recession. NO ONE (other than maybe National Karting Alliance) is doing a damn thing to try and work with local tracks to help them promote and build kart counts. That’s clear by looking around the country. Without local racers there are no regional and national racers. I look around the Midwest and only Badger and New Castle are what I would call healthy compared to years past. Yet we keep adding more series without adding more racers. Someone told me Florida now has 11 karting series… if that’s true, it’s crazy. None can have good kart counts.

9) There’s not a lot you can do to alter the course for a street race. We use the best streets available so anything else would seem substandard. We are pretty well boxed in with the streets we can use and still have relatively smooth streets and access to parking lots/pits etc. Some have suggested running in reverse, but that creates a whole new set of problems regarding pavement, barrier placement etc. and we would have to totally flip the traffic pattern in the pits, move the Start/Finish etc. We’ve talked about doing some creative things in some of the corners but racers we have run it by have all been against it… taking a Briggs or even a Rotax through a very slow 180 turn isn’t well supported. So, it’s not that we don’t want to change it up, but it’s not as easy as it seems.

10) For the record we had 92 drivers and 182 entries — our lowest count ever. The event can’t be sustained at that level. We have always done this event for the karters and our community. Rather than trying to bank a big profit we’ve tried to keep the costs to the racers as low as possible. We don’t make you buy tires or jack up cost for fuel (it’s sold direct to racers from VP). That said, there is a huge infrastructure to maintain whether there are 50 racers or 500.  We have over $10K in barrier rental and trucking, $6K in police, $4K for ambulances, $15-20K in purse, $2k for sound system, plus a huge investment in our fencing system, before we even put a kart on the track.

Races with numbers like this year’s are not sustainable. And you can’t do a race every other year and expect retain your date, to be on the racers’ schedules and retain sponsorship and volunteers. We will sit down after the dust settles and sharpen our pencils with an eye to 2015 and see what other options might be out there. I hope we can do it again. But the bottom line is if the racers — big teams, small teams or whatever — don’t support the event, then the decision is made for us.

I still have a lot of post-race items to complete, so can’t get into a big ongoing forum discussion. I want to make it clear that I am not pointing fingers at any other races or programs. There’s nothing easy about promoting races and I have great admiration for others who do it well. I’m just putting facts out there based on issues raised earlier in this thread. Thanks to Rob and David for their support, sharing their experiences racing with us, and providing this forum for discussion. Feel free to email me your thoughts at grandprix@qconline.com, my personal email if you have it, PM me, or post here and eventually I’ll get back to check it out.

Finally, thank you so much to those who did come out and support “The Rock” this year. I think we can all agree that it was some awesome racing once again.