Fast Five: Terry Traeder – Quincy Grand Prix of Karting
The legend of the Park returns
Terry Traeder (right) pictured with his father Gus Traeder, looking back at image of 'The Park' (Photo: WHIG - 2016)
If you get a chance to sit down with a group of veterans of the sport, ask about ‘The Park’, lean back and just listen. The 70s, 80s and 90s were exciting times for kart racing in America, as the racing was hard-fought and the sport added to its list of legendary drivers. To gain such ‘legend’ status, you needed to win at the marquee events, and it’s impossible to argue that the ‘Quincy Grand Prix’ wasn’t one of those races. ‘The Park’ was a challenging street race through South Park in Quincy, IL and it attracted the biggest names from the Midwest and beyond. Scott Pruett, Lynn Haddock, Ron Emmick, Vince Puleo, Mark Dismore and Mike Birdsell….the race drew all the big dogs. The park was always packed with race fans and party goers, all excited to join in the annual festival of speed that was the highlight of their town’s sporting calendar. Located on the East banks of the Mississippi River, Quincy always opened its arms to the karting community.
Thankfully, this tremendous hospitality will be felt once again. Late last year, news broke that the ‘Park’ was back and that Terry Traeder was working with a group to bring his father’s crown jewel back to life. Gus Traeder made an indelible mark on the sport of karting in his 58 years in the sport, helping to grow the sport at the track he built on the west bank of the river – TNT Kartways – and through his forward-thinking Professional Karting Association (PKA), which took karting to the people in the 70s and 80s, promoting street races that paid out cash money to the badasses who became his stars.
As a kick-off to EKN’s promotion and support of this June’s ‘Quincy in the Park’ revival, our Editor-in-Chief Rob Howden reached out to Terry Traeder with five key questions to fuel the fire of competition.
eKartingNews.com: Mid-December’s news was exciting…the return of ‘Quincy in the Park’. I expect that the sport’s long-time competitors never expected to see this happen. How about you? When you ran the last event, did you think you’d ever be working on the race again?
Terry Traeder: As you said, the last race was 2001. The track became rough and the reputation in the karting fraternity was that the track was dangerous. Basically, the karters quit coming. It was a bunch of work for Gus to raise money and organize a quality event and he needed 200 entries to break even. The last two years, he lost money on the event. The race didn’t end because of the support of Quincy, it was caused by the low entry count.
Lots of things have changed since 2001 and I can’t count the number of times karters and Quincy people have asked me about the Grand Prix in South Park, how much they loved it and if it was ever coming back. My standard answer was the track is in awful condition and insurance could be a problem.
EKN: With that said, what events transpired to change your answer to that question?
TT: In 2016 and 2017, South Park was resurfaced. They did a beautiful job and it is really smooth and beautiful. In July of 2017, the Executive Director of the Quincy Park District, Rome Frericks, called and asked me if I would be interested in bringing the Grand Prix back. My first reaction to Rome was let’s see if insurance is available before we go any further. After checking with several sources, including our old provider, Fred Cory, it came down to Michael Davis, who handles WKA insurance. We completed the paperwork, described how safe the track set up would be and we were granted a policy.
So, then it was decision time. Several things happened that made me decide to move forward. Foremost in my decision was this was my Dad’s favorite and greatest promotions. He loved it and worked hard to make it the legendary race it became. It basically was his legacy that I wanted to preserve. A couple of other things made my decision. Keith Freber, the owner of Margay, has been a great promoter of the Park and kept encouraging me to do it and he has been great help guiding the event. Mayor Moore called and told me he heard we might bring the Grand Prix back and what a super event it would be for the city. Finally, I was at a fund raiser and a Quincy businessman, Bret Austin, told me he would donate $5,000 if I would bring the race back. That was it, so it became my community project. I believe that is the beauty of the race, it is free for the spectators, so they can have a party.
We formed a non-profit corporation called Quincy Grand Prix, Inc. If the race makes money, we hope to donate to other local charities. So far, Quincy businesses have really stepped up and there is a huge amount of excitement about the race. I’ve also put together a great race committee with several nationally-known people to make this a great race.
EKN: The Park’s roads have been completely re-paved, which is perfect for the event. Are there any other improvements for the location that people will see on their return?
TT: Nothing much has changed except the track is smoother. I hope the next generation of drivers can create memories for themselves like so many drivers before them have. It will be the most beautiful track anyone has driven on. We want to make this more than a race for the drivers and their crews. On Friday, there is blues music festival in Downtown Quincy. Karters will have their own area to go and have fun. On Saturday, we have a Karters Party at one of the new restaurants on the river and many of the bars and restaurants are gearing up with specials for our visitors. As you know, Quincy became known as the ‘Karting Capital of the United States’ because of the way the city opened their arms to the karters. When you came to Quincy, you felt good about being a karter. The local media will be all over the event and it looks like we are going to have a local college doing a live feed. We want the karter to leave our city and say, “Wow, that was fun!”
EKN: We’re just under four months away from the event. Have you locked in the class structure yet?
TT: Yes, and with the latest announcement of the ‘Triple Crown of Karting’ for drivers who run the Quincy Grand Prix, the Riverwalk Elkhart Grand Prix and the Xtream Rock Island Grand Prix, it makes things really rev up. In addition, I think we have a really good mix of classes that will draw from the club and regional racing levels, and we have TaG Senior and 125cc Shifter as well, which offers the invite to all the top national drivers from the major national series. We’ll have the Medium and Heavy weight classes for Briggs 206 and Yamaha, and we have Masters classes for both as well. The Margay Ignite program is exploding around the area, so we knew we wanted them in the event and we’ll run both Ignite and Ignite Masters. As I stated before, the shifters are on the class line-up with 125cc, and we’ll have 80cc Shifter as well. It’s such a great class and has good participation in the region.
EKN: It’s been 17 years since the last race and the sport has changed quite a bit since then. There’s been an increased focus on safety. Can you give us an idea what’s been done to provide a safer track for competition?
TT: Safety has been our biggest concern. We have secured 2 miles of fence, 1 mile of plastic barriers and 500 hay bales. Jeff and JT Miles will be the Safety Directors and have been working on the plan for months. The staff we’ve put together is among the best in the business. Rick Fulks is our Race Director and his experience is tremendous, as a driver, an instructor and an official. Jason Ludwig will be his Assistant Race Director. We’ll also have Jason Burgess manning the flags and Randy Kugler has committed to be the announcer. We’re putting the right people in the right positions to provide the safest and best event we can. We look forward to seeing everybody on June 9-10.
The 2018 Quincy Grand Prix of Karting is set for June 9-10 at South Park in Quincy, Illinois. Complete information regarding the event can be found at www.quincygrandprix.com and updates on their Facebook page.