Home Forums General Karting Discussion 2014 Rock Island Grand Prix

This topic contains 44 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  Roger Ruthhart 10 months, 3 weeks ago.

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    David Cole

    Briggs LO206 Masters

    1. Tony Neilson
    2. Greg Jasperson
    3. Jeff Scott
    4. Rob Howden
    5. Ken Williams
    6. Randy Raridon
    7. Al Cram
    8. Tony Munson
    9. James Barnett
    10. Dan Dahlgren


    David Cole

    Open Shifter

    1. Josh Lane
    2. Scott Barnes
    3. Eric Chappell
    4. Alex Conlin
    5. Eric Riggs
    6. John Meier
    7. Garrick Miller
    8. Derek Crockett


    Chris Hegar

    Man that’s a low turnout for this event. Road race is even pulling better numbers than that right now. Might be time to turn that deal into an every other year program. Was the weather a possible problem or were there other event options at the same time?


    David Cole

    It’s a combination of things. Speaking with a lot of driver/teams from just the Midwest area, Labor Day weekend was the only off-weekend for many. Fitting in a full season from May to September is a tough thing to do. Take away the low numbers, it was a battle for each and every Rock, and their was some great racing in every class.


    Chris Hegar

    In the end at nearly every major event like that your always going to have the best runners fighting up front for the win even if there are only 10 karts entered. Congrats to all runners.


    Glenn L Riggs

    Just wanted to thank all the people behind the race as they have a lot of work to do so we could have a good time. Thanks also the announcers did a great job. Look forward to next year.


    Mark Erpelding

    The Rock is my favorite race of the year!   It is late in the year when race budgets are diminished.   I am sure that is why some ppl. don’t come.   However they are missing the Best race of the year.    They need to save their budgets to be able to come to it.   They are missing the Indy 500 of karting…  Roger and his dedicated staff do an outstanding job!  The race is run with precision…   The whole town is behind it and make you feel welcome!   Thank you to the staff of The Rock Island Grand Prix for all of your hard work and efforts…  I realize how much it takes to put this on for “us”     Everything has a on and off year…  I think from talking to some other ppl. they were just not able to come this year due to lack of funds…  If you look at the core of karting ” KT 100 and L206 the numbers were there…   It was the expensive classes to run that were down in numbers.   A Big Thank You again to Roger and the entire staff who makes the “Rock” possible…   If some of the ppl that have never experienced it would come they would understand why it is on my all time favorite list!   Very tough competition!   Bring your “A” game or stay home!


    Tim Koyen

    I’m curious how many new people tried the Rock this year?  It seems like mostly the same racers every year.  Obviously that will eventually run out.  I’m sure the promoters are doing everything they can think of to bring in new racers, but maybe the market just isn’t there anymore.  Perhaps the economics of the race still work at these numbers and it’ll just continue on status quo?

    Does anyone thing the Modesto disaster had a negative impact on RIGP?  Earlier this year, I thought maybe the Modesto race would help bring back the prestige and excitement of the street races.

    I know Rock Island is a cool race, and I know they treat their competitors well, but there are soooo many other options right now, and many of them are just as cool and their promoters treat the racers just as well.


    Shawn Welte

    From the outside looking in, I would like to be optimistic, but I am not so sure about the participation levels and numbers being decent in LO206 and some of the other classes.  Outside of vintage sprint track racing, I’ve not been a sprint track racer/road racer, but an oval racer with LO206 and Clones.  I’m soon going to be changing that as I bought a sprint to put a LO206 on.

    This was the second year that I attended RIGP running the vintage exhibition race and spectating.  The staff run a fine program, and many tracks could learn from them on organizing things.  I know in the past some oval LTOs ran there (likely mostly for fun) and most of those karts were designed with 6-inch tires in mind.  My father and I run our own oval chassis design so 5 or 6-inch does not matter to us as we can make parts for either.  SIRA, I believe is open 5 or 6-inch tires.  Briggs stepped up and fronted some money towards entry fees for running additional classes.  How many were running multiple classes?  From the outside, did any of this make a difference in entries?  Maybe I’m off base…

    Believe me, I want to see this succeed from a participant and spectator point of view.  I think its the coolest thing that I go to throughout the season.  I can only imagine how much work goes into this and leading up to it.  Roger and the crew ought to be commended for that effort.  I think some things could be tuned and hopefully increase the participation.  And for all I know it could have just been a down year.  I’ve gone to many modern and vintage events throughout the Midwest this season and most all of them have been down for whatever reason.


    David Cole

    With maybe 50-70 racers there, I believe there was about 10 new drivers that had never raced there before. Here are some factors that I think impacted the numbers this year:

    1. Same racetrack – For the last few years now, people have wanted to see a change in the layout of the track. After they have raced the same circuit for 10 straight years, people are looking for a new challenge

    2. No 6″ wheels – RIGP did not allow them this year, which I think impacted the Clone class heavily and a few for the LO206 categories.

    3. Too many races already – Talking with a number of Midwest racers, Labor Day weekend was the only weekend not at the race track for the first time in anywhere from four to six or eight weeks. There is a lot of racing taking place during July and August, so people look forward to spending three days at home catching up, or sitting poolside or cruising in a boat. Plus, there was a NESKS and Gearup event in Pittsburgh that probably took a number of possible drivers away. Josh Lane drove overnight Saturday to race in Rock Island on Sunday. That’s why he’s called the ‘Wild Thing’.

    4. Street Racing is not for everyone – Just like road racing, some people in the sport do not have the drive to take a chance at destroying a kart by racing on the city streets. Parents fear the worst for their children, thus on TaG Junior entries this year showed that. Open Sprint was a good attempt to bring anyone in, but that failed with zero this year. Did ‘hearing’ bad stories from Modesto keep a few people away, maybe.


    Dennis Chappell

    Terry Riggins counted new drivers at the drivers meeting and was around 15 or more last I could hear. When he ask new drivers to raise there hands it looked like there were going to be more new then current.


    Tim Koyen

    Glad to hear there was some new blood.  Cole seems to have a good analysis of it.  There is no one problem.  Its a lot of things combined to work against it.  There is another reason that I believe is a big factor in all karting events, and it often gets overlooked.

    So much of sprint karting is based on “Teams” of drivers/mechanics/shops, because so many people buy into karting instead of learning to wrench themselves.  There is nothing wrong with this, but teams and shops put together Programs based on following specific series, where they can attempt to make a profit.  Unless you can convince the big Teams to put RIGP (or any race) on their program, and get them to push racers into it, all you’ll get is the mom and pop guys.  Nothing against the mom and pop guys, I’m one of them, but we’re a dying breed.  Most people don’t want to take the time to learn all the BS in karting that you need to be a winner, they’d rather pay someone to do it for them.  Hence the big teams.  No big teams at your event and IMHO, its impossible to be really successful.

    The series’ that I’ve been associated with, talk constantly about what it takes to keep the shops and teams wanting to participate, because they are the sellers of your event to a large market.  Teams bring racers.  Racers bring more racers.  You can’t have big events without big teams anymore.  I don’t have all the answers on how to keep the teams coming back, but they are the “recommenders” of the sport.  If they don’t recommend to their customers that they participate, and offer to support them, then its unlikely the racers will attend on their own.


    David Cole

    Correct. There was only one karting shop/vendor on hand during the weekend. If you needed a part, you had to look to your fellow competitors.


    Keith Bridgeman

    Tim that was a great observation.  Your right.  I’ve raced the RIGP 8 times and participation from the shops has dwindled to nothing.  Its not on any shops calendar anymore.   Other high profile street races have come up and there are more racing options then there are racers.  But your right for the most part its a do it yourself kind of event now.  Most of all the shifter or TAG guys running a series are part of a large shop or team.

    I was asking myself why I haven’t went the last two years.   One year a job change.  The next is basically having three kids under 8 makes it hard.  This year I decided to do the CES full series.   Other then the team participation I think the fact that the track has not changed and has gotten much rougher is a reason some don’t come.


    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.


    Andrew Coulter

    RIGP is my all-time favorite race to run. Unfortunately, I haven’t ran the RIGP or any other competitive race the past two years due to funding.  For me personally, too many changes going on in personal life right now that need attended to. I did attend the RIGP the past two years as a spectator. I didn’t even enter the pit area this year, just watched from the outside. It was still a blast and the volunteers and spectators seemed to be in high spirits and were having a great time no matter what the entry numbers were.
    I think Dave/Tim kind of hit it on the head. L206 and Yamaha had strong numbers. Clone did not but clone seems to be dying just as fast everywhere in the area. Maybe keeping clone on the schedule was the wrong decision, but last year the two classes were pretty equal on entries around the mid-west.

    TAG and Shifter classes seem to be the main problem. I figured probably 50-70 entries were missing between the TAG/Shifter categories at least. Why that has changed in recent years is the question. Payout, the big team factor and emergence of other series might contribute. I fail to believe it’s street racing in general causing this. The lone star grand prix is still very new and drawing better entry numbers than the established RIGP. The lone star grand prix also draws some of the bigger teams. However, it seems that shifter racing has gained popularity in the south where it has not in the Midwest. I can speak from experience that there were a few years that made it difficult to make the race due to school obligations. The race lands rights around the time college students are heading back. Of course this is easier said than done, but I wonder how entries would look if BIG money is paid out to KoS and Tag Sr. for one year. If you can draw big teams in for that they will most likely run the support shifter/tag classes as well. The hype might draw additional entries to all other classes as well. I do remember this working a few years ago when TAG paid out 10k I believe it was. If you can double entries in these two categories while maintaining entries in Yamaha and L206, entries would be back on target and hopefully give the even a push forward. Too bad Honda and some of the big TaG engine manufacturers are not pitching in to make this happen.


    Roger Ruthhart

    Andrew, we did what you suggest several years ago and threw big money at a few classes. We got a bump of maybe 20 entries. For every top driver/team that we attracted we heard from as many or more who said “I’m not coming because I don’t have a chance to beat those guys.” We’ve been paying $2k to win in KOS for years — sometimes more — yet the numbers aren’t there. That math doesn’t add up. There aren’t more than a handful of shifters in the Midwest … most running CES. As I noted above, the key for big teams is not the money WE are paying but the money their drivers are willing to pay to make the trip and be under their tent.

    What if we did the opposite and offered NO money? I asked at the Driver’s Meeting how many would not come if there wasn’t a purse until the entries numbers recovered. No one raised their hand. Many told me the money doesn’t matter and they would drop other races before ours. Such a move would give us a $15-$20K bump. What do others think?

    Lone Star does have an advantage in that it’s not in the “race season,” there are lots of local clubs/tracks in their area, and there is pent up demand from everyone in the northern two-thirds of the country who haven’t been able to race all winter. Great for them, but we can’t race in March in Illinois.

    The race will always be a blast. Our volunteers have a love/hate relationship with it. Right now we are glad it’s over but can’t wait to do it again.


    Alan Chung

    Roger, you hit the nail on the head about whether you offer money or not. Karting is a hobby, not a profession, for most of the drivers (at least everyone that I know). This is regardless of how they want to twist it, whether they pay a big team to be under their tent, dress in their best suits, have manufacturers stickers on their karts and team suits on, if they are not making a living (paying mortgage, food, college, etc. and are in college or going to work on Monday) from their earnings as a karter, they are a hobbyist, plain and simple. They are not a professional, even if they are home schooled and travel all over the country racing full time, at the track every weekend, want to be in F1, does not matter, they are not a professional karter.

    In fact, the fact that you are now attracting the solo drivers versus the big team can be a plus for the future of the RIGP. In the days of SKUSA Midwest under Mr. Janowski, it was still a lot of solo drivers even though it was called a “Pro Tour”. The word “Pro” should be removed from literally every karting event, even Modesto!

    The difference in the Midwest now, versus then, is that now many of the shifter guys from that era are either out of the sport or are now doing road racing. In those days, the SKUSA Midwest was primarily a sprint series (South Bend, Portage, Commercial Point, Norway, etc.), so RIGP fell right in line with that. Had SKUSA in the Midwest not died out, RIGP would have been huge with solo drivers at least in the shifter classes as it could have been a stop on their schedule.

    Roger, I would say hang in there and look at possibly not paying money or reducing the prize, since it does not make that much difference to most karters (hobbyists), focus on the solo guys and see if you can attract racers from Badger, Norway, CES, etc. to try it out. This would provide a solid base from the Midwest rather than worrying about attracting these “professionals”.


    Mark Erpelding

    We have missed it 2 years due to it conflicting with college move in.   I only was able to make it with another driver in the seat.  I am sure others are in the same position.   It is nice to have a day to recover from traveling though.  I arrived home at 4:09 am Monday slept all day!  How about a jr.  Yamaha class?  maybe even jr. sportsman?


    Roger Ruthhart

    We are willing to offer any classes that drivers want and will support. Historically, Yamaha Jr. classes (most junior classes) have not been well supported.

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