Home Forums General Karting Discussion What or who is next?

This topic contains 27 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  Greg Wright 1 month ago.

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  • #87976

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    I’m very surprised at the lack of reaction to the announcement of the pending closure of Russell Karting Specialties. They are one of the oldest if not the oldest organizations in North American karting.

    In my mind this points out the awful truth that US karting is suffering from decreasing participation. Over the last 15 years give or take expenses have skyrocketed, technical complexity has reached the mind boggling point, and it appears that US karting has forgotten where it came from. Many in the karting industry agree that participation has dropped by over 50% over the last decade and a half.

     

    For decades US karting was doing it’s best to be an affordable and competitive form of motorsport. Now it appears to be doing it’s best to be nothing more than a rung on a mythical ladder to the stars.

    I’ve been bitching about this for several years and mostly have been either ignored or told to shut up. If we as the kart racing community don’t realize that we have been heading down the wrong path for way too long there will be more news like the announcement from Russell.

    What’s it they say about insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

    I don’t doubt that I will get criticized for this post. If so zero kraps will be given.

     

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    • This topic was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  Greg Wright.
    #87990

    Charles Skowron
    Participant

    I might not agree with you completely on what can be done to improve things in karting, but I will agree with you that the situation is pretty messed up.

    And you made the right point; there was such a laser focus by the industry on the top-level they overlooked the base for a long time. I understand that when the economy nose-dived in 2008, the high-$$$ racers was the only recession-proof segment of the sport that karting could rely on to keep afloat, because everything below it was decimated. (And even then, the national series still took a big hit.) That was ten years ago, and a lot of decisions made by the industry since then didn’t seem to take to into consideration how it would effect the sport at the grassroots.

    Sure the Briggs 206 has helped, but look beyond it and things aren’t all rosy. In some cases the 206 hasn’t so much brought growth but managed to save some clubs that would otherwise have gone extinct.

    #87994

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    Charles, You say that you might not agree with me on what can be done, but I didn’t suggest any cures. In fact this may be (but I hope not) like trying to get the toothpaste back in the tube.

    Actually the only thing I’m suggesting is a change of focus.

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    #88015

    Bob Kurkowski
    Participant

    Greg,

    A old dog like you knows that karting has suffered a ‘retention crisis’ since the 80’s and most of todays karters have no idea of Russell’s history because most are new arrivals that will be gone in 3 years just like their predecessors.

    Pipe of the month, Motor of the month, Tire of the month, Chassis of the month that are too complex and too wide to promote any good competition on aging track structures has driven more away then it has brought in.

    I’ve heard a lot of people say over the years “I didn’t leave karting, Karting left me” and who fault is that ?

    Bob K…..old dog too.

     

    #88018

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    Bob K, that’s my point exactly. The question is what can be done!!

    Without a healthy grass roots segment the sport isn’t going to go anywhere that it needs to go. Putting most of the emphasis on “National” or “Pro” racing reminds me a little too much of the term “trickle down”.

     

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    #88041

    bo rougeou
    Participant

    It is unfortunate that Russell Karting is closing.

    From my jaded view, too many of beginning karters are taken in by “snake oil salespeople” when they are naive and starting out.  One such business nearly derailed our karting adventure at the onset.  We recovered from spending on these hucksters,but many never do and quit almost before they get started.

    Russell had to compete against these world class know it alls with slick sales pitches and little else.  I keep my mouth shut in the paddock,but when asked, I try to point newbes in a good direction.  To someone like Russell and others who actually know and care about their customers.

    I’m sorry to see Russell go…such a class act.  They will be missed.

    #88058

    Matt Martin
    Participant

    is there any form of amateur motorsports which has retained, or increased their participation?

     

    I think the crux of the issue is that people’s interests aren’t what they once were – for better or worse.  The other issue is that the smaller the middle class becomes, the smaller those interested in karting become.

     

    I don’t think it’s become too technical – fragmented, perhaps.  Karts are still just a steel chassis with no suspension and a basic carburetor stuck to a dirt-simple engine.

    With that said: yes, people who understand how to optimize those things – through more advanced technology – will always have an advantage, regardless of the simplicity.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by  Matt Martin.
    #88064

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    Bo, Your comments are right on point in every way including how difficult it can be to compete with “Snake Oil Salesmen” that are more than willing to promise fame and fortune for no reason other than to fatten their wallets.

    Matt I disagree with your statement about karts (sprint karts in particular) not having become too technical. Dozens of geometry settings, different axles, different ride heights, trick alloy tubing, hubs, wheels etc. The number of adjustments available can be bewildering to even the most savvy racer.

    Good conversation going on here.

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    #88074

    Morgan Schuler
    Participant

    I’m very surprised at the lack of reaction to the announcement of the pending closure of Russell Karting Specialties. They are one of the oldest if not the oldest organizations in North American karting.

    In my mind this points out the awful truth that US karting is suffering from decreasing participation. Over the last 15 years give or take expenses have skyrocketed, technical complexity has reached the mind boggling point, and it appears that US karting has forgotten where it came from. Many in the karting industry agree that participation has dropped by over 50% over the last decade and a half.

    Where does this doom and gloom perception come from? Every race I went to this summer had great numbers, some the most entries in 10 years. Most series/tracks/clubs are thriving. I won’t speculate on why Russell is shutting down but I’ll tell you this, the days of just opening the shop door or track gate and expecting people to show up are long gone. Shops better have a great online presence and be at the track supporting customers. Adapt, diversify, and treating the racer like a customer are huge.

    Pipe of the month, Motor of the month, Tire of the month, Chassis of the month that are too complex and too wide to promote any good competition on aging track structures has driven more away then it has brought in.

    This is the biggest myth in karting. It hasn’t been that way in a long, long, long time.

    Matt I disagree with your statement about karts (sprint karts in particular) not having become too technical. Dozens of geometry settings, different axles, different ride heights, trick alloy tubing, hubs, wheels etc. The number of adjustments available can be bewildering to even the most savvy racer.

    I agree with Matt. The amount of maintenance and tuning on the current crop of motors/carbs/clutches is minuscule compared to what it once was. Just because the current karts have a ton of adjustability built into them doesn’t make them anymore complex than it used to be. Any good tuner or shop should tell the newcomer not to worry about any of that. I’m glad I don’t have to screw around with pills and have lasers for front end adjustments.

    #88079

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    Morgan, I wasn’t presenting “Doom and Gloom” at all, merely reporting observations made over the last several years.

    No not all is bad, the (local to me) KRA series at NCMP averages 250-300 entries per event and that’s wonderful. Meanwhile other tracks and series in the area are lucky to top 60 entries and often less than that. Note that these other tracks and series in years past often had 125-175 entries.

    I would like you to explain to me how having a nearly infinite number of adjustments doesn’t make them more complex. Sure good shops, tuners etc. will tell newbies not to worry about it but human nature seems to ignore much of that advice.

    You don’t have pills to screw around with? Then why do you need lasers?

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    #88093

    Bob Kurkowski
    Participant

    Matt,

    Drag racing seems to be doing pretty good last time I looked and I’m seeing a awful lot of side-by sides and quads going down the road on the weekends.

    Morgan,

    I was relating to a different time period that I am all to familiar with that has had a very adverse effect on karting however if you look at one of American Kartings standard classes, Yamaha Piston Port that class has been through how many different pipe-can, clutch, and cylinder configurations ? What is the latest kick with this KA 100 also, maybe that will explain why there are so many new or lower hour Tag engines being sold on this site alone.

    As for the tire of the month, in some instances its ‘tire of the week’ and trust me on this one because it happened this summer at a Ohio track where two different organizations scheduled a ‘national’ event one week apart both requiring a different brand of tire.  I might add also that one of these ‘national’ events had such a low number of pre-entries that it was actually cancelled so while you may have experienced great numbers at races you attended that hardly is a reflection of what is going on across the country.

    As for the original topic of Russell’s closing I know for a fact that they were not a shop that just opened their doors and expected people to come.

    Bob K.

     

    #88099

    Walt Gifford
    Participant

    That’s a shame. I don’t know why they’re closing but I can tell you their web site was the worst thing you could ever try to buy something from. I went there a few times trying to figure it out because I was a good customer of Russell at one time but that web site was very hard if not impossible to use. I went right over to Comet Kart Sales, excellent user friendly web site.

    Gif

    FAA certified jet engine and aircraft technician,
    Nicholson Speedway class champion 2001,
    Yamaha KT100 Service Center,
    41 years karting experience

    #88109

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    Bob K, you are correct about drag racing. All forms of racing took a hit when the economy was circling the drain, but drag racing seems to have done better than most. My shop is located adjacent to Lucas Oil Raceway (Formerly IRP) and there are well attended drag races there nearly week in week out. Having said that the Pro Nitro fields are getting thin, very thin but the sportsman categories have held up very well.

    Another thing that hasn’t helped things at all has been the regular obsoleting of expensive imported engines. Overall TAG has been a disaster, example; How much is a racers $3000 Parilla Leopard worth these days? I have little faith that the KA100 is going to revolutionize anything.

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    #88133

    William Martin
    Participant

    It’s probably bigger than just a lame web site, but I agree, that web site is/was lame, Comet is much better organised.

     

    #88137

    Mike White
    Participant

    There are many more ways to race than when I started karting. Chumpcar, FormulaSAE, SAE Baja, Electric Karts, etc, etc. There are also lots of things that are called Powersports where you can have fun with an Internal Combustion engine (side by sides, 4 wheelers, jetskis).  The sport is very fractured (and always has been), which doesn’t help it thrive.

    Mike White
    Former B stock Karter

    #88176

    Rod Hawkins
    Participant

    Being relatively new to kart racing (4 years) but being in my mid 40s and having grown up racing motocross, mountain bikes, BMX, etc…. When I was shopping for a Kart, I was taken back by the, “you don’t know anything, so you aren’t cool” attitude of local shops. The elitism of the shops isn’t helping the sport. I use to work at a bike shop in college (90s) and if I gave someone such an attitude about full suspension bikes and disc brakes because I rode a $5,000 mountain bike (90s dollars) the average Joe would just walk out. Our job is to educate and then sell. This attitude by certain local shops basically forced me to buy used, as if I were going to learn on my own, I wasn’t going to pay double for something I know so little about.

    I was lucky enough to run into Stu Hayner and MDG Karting and the series he helped found. These guys are all about educating, helping and having fun.

    I have a few other series around me and one of the things that prevents me from even considering them is that everyone wants to run different tires, motors, pipes, fuel, or whatever. A kart or 2 is expensive enough, I don’t want to have to have a bunch of extra parts because some series promotor kisses some italians ass to get paid for promoting his product. The whole theory is cash now, BUT very very short sighted.

    As I said, I have raced a few other forms of racing, but the regulations and politics are nothing like what I see in Karting, which is probably why they don’t have nearly the issues.

    On another note. My brother and I have taken about 8 different people out with us to introduce them to karting, none of them have been interested enough to stick with it due to all the confusion and complexity.

    Thankfully one of the series I run in seems to be growing, but I have a feeling that this is only because some of the other local series screwed something up and people are leaving one for the other.

    #88416

    Robert Lawson
    Participant

    Very sad to hear about the Russell Family shop closing.

    Best of luck with whatever you do Jim. You, your Dad, and all the guys that have raced under the RUSSELL name have been an inspiration.

    You are one of the “good guys!

    #88624

    Ray Mcik
    Participant

    Just wanted to add a couple of things, recently WKA has mandated you have to buy your tires through them at the track, while I get they are now a for profit organization now, this hurts the smaller kart shops that support the local clubs  and the racers the attend the Nationals. Take that small kart shop who may only sell 20 – 40 sets of tires to those that go to a national event  , that bit of small profit helps him offset costs  being the supporting shop at the track.  These are the grass roots guys that help local karters take the next step . Even the bigger shops will be hurt by this move, profit is profit these days. IMO Bad move that will hurt in the long run.

    Then lets talk about allowing only one brand of chassis in a certain class for the Daytona race.  Well with this new change, it just eliminated someone like myself from going to Daytona because I am not going buy a new chassis to race  it.  My budget will not allow for that to happen. BTW I pay cash for my hobby which helps me stay racing so I do not go into debt via a huge credit card bill.

     

    #88629

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    What class are you referring to in regards to having to buy a different chassis to race? Hadn’t heard that, maybe I’m not paying attention.

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    #88661

    Clark Gaynor Sr.
    Participant

    I believe Ray is referring to the Margay Ignite only class.  I appreciate what Margay is doing and also support  having a spec chassis/engine/tire combo like that..but!  In addition, I feel, there should also be a CIK LO206 class with any CIK style chassis and body work allowed, with the normal Bridgestone YLC spec tire for the series.  Just my opinion of course.

    I also wonder why there was a CIK LO206 class in Mancup in the 2017 season, but it disappeared in 2018!!  I’m not sure why, unless the ultimate goal is to make the WKA Mancup a IAME series only?

    I don’t want to throw this thread in a different direction, but it does appear this ultra spec, super cheap, low maintenance type of racing may keep karting alive through some touch times.

    As a disclaimer…I have a Margay Ignite and so does my Son.  I’ve been racing karts since 1963, and I/we have run everything from an old Mac 9 on a Dart A-Bone thru a 250 Anderson CR250 super kart.  I’ll be 70 in a few months, and the only reason I’m still road racing is because of the CIK 206 Sprint class WKA started this season in the road race series.

    Again, sorry for going off track, but just my thoughts with my second cup of coffee on a Friday morning.  Have a great weekend folks.

    Clark Gaynor Sr.

     

    #88676

    Greg Wright
    Participant

    Clark, I wasn’t aware that the regular LO206 class had been replaced with the Ignite class, I thought Ignite was an add on not a replacement.

    By the way Clark, I’m already 70 and I’m running a Vintage B-Stock Laydown.

    Greg Wright
    Rapid Racing Inc.

    "When in doubt Gas it, It won't help but it ends the suspense."

    #88683

    Clark Gaynor Sr.
    Participant

    Greg, WKA appears to have eliminated the CIK 206 class, and added the Ignite race.  There is no CIK 206 in the Mancup lineup for 2018.  Goldcup seems to be on hold, so as of right now the only CIK 206 Sprint class in WKA currently is in the road race series.  Seems really odd to me.

    I was running Stock Leopard (currently IAME Sprint) in WKA/WKC road races up until about 3 years ago.  I figured getting on my head at 90+ wouldn’t do me any good, so I figured I slow down at little…like 71 MPH.  Still a bunch of fun, and it gives me a lot more time to work on my Son’s IAME Sprint.  The CIK 206’s are SOOOO easy, it’s almost criminal!

    Take care,

    Clark.

    #88716

    Ray Mcik
    Participant

    Clark is correct, I did not want to name them and throw them under the bus.  They have a good chassis and program going with the arrive and drive etc . My point is this , to eliminate all other chassis does not sit right with me, it hurts the karters who wanted to run WKA  but cannot just because they do not own the spec chassis .

    Just think about the small kart shops that do not sell that brand, they have just been kicked to the sidelines in the WKA 206 program . This cannot be good for the sport in the long run.

     

    #88735

    Bob Cole
    Participant

    Does no one check their info before voicing anything on webs. In the WKA Tech it shows that 206 was replaced by the KA100 senior. The Ignite class is just a once a year option class like they do at RIGP an INDY. It’s like the open sprint class on the big track, it’s not a series point class.

    #89006

    Clark Gaynor Sr.
    Participant

    I suppose I should have replied sooner.  Bob, we understand the Ignite race at Daytona is a one time deal with WKA.  My point was why was the CIK 206 class dropped from the event?  As I stated before, I have absolutely no problem with an Ignite race at Daytona or anywhere else.  I’m just a little confused why CIK 206 was dropped from ManCup.  A year ago as I recall, CIK 206 was a class in Gold Cup, ManCup and road racing.  And if you ran Bridgestone YLC’s, you would only have to change the gear for the different series/tracks.  That’s pretty neat.  Now, if you have a CIK 206 (or any 206 for that matter) there is no WKA series to run it in but road racing.  Just seems odd to me.  And maybe Gold Cup will come back and maybe it don’t.

    Again, sorry for taking this thread WAY off track.

    Clark Sr.

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