Quincy Grand Prix of Karting: Thoughts on the Legend – Part 1
The Park’s lore is an intriguing component of karting’s history
The return of the Quincy Grand Prix of Karting has certainly opened the flood gate of emotions and memories for many of karting’s veteran drivers, those who were able to experience this event from behind the wheel or at the helm of a race team. Gus Traeder was a pioneer during his decades in the sport of karting, and among his legacies was the creation of the Quincy Grand Prix of Karting in 1970. Throughout the 32 years, the city of Quincy and the surrounding Mississippi River area welcomed karters from all corners of the country with open arms before the event was finally shut down due to declining entry numbers. Gus’ son, Terry Traeder, is rekindling the magic that once was ‘The Park’ with its return scheduled for June 9-10 on the same South Park streets. The track has new pavement, and there will be an increased focus on safety, all supported by the same festival-type atmosphere to bring together the city with the sport of karting once again.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll present some stories and insight from major players in the event’s long history.
KEITH FREBER – MARGAY RACING
As the third-generation owner of Margay Racing, Keith Freber was a regular at the Park. Margay drivers won dozens of races at the event, and the list includes a number of karting and motorsports legends. Freber, a multi-time competitor at the Park, was part of the Quincy Grand Prix during its early years and through to the end, and is a major supporter of the event’s rebirth. The Margay Ignite categories will be a headline division throughout the weekend, and we’re hearing that many veteran racers will make their comebacks to the sport aboard the famous ‘fast cat’. Keith has countless stories about this great event.
I believe the year was 1980 and we were at The Park not for the traditional Dogwood Festival event in early June, but for the Professional Karting Association (PKA) race later in the year. This was the era when all the best karters from coast-to-coast would compete in the PKA series, which was initially only two classes. All the heavy hitters ran Pro Open. The class rules were pretty straightforward: 100cc maximum displacement, 295-pound minimum weight. That’s it. Fuel and everything else was wide open.
All the players were there. Ron Emmick, Lynn Haddock, Terry Traeder, Scott Pruett, Mark Dismore, Vince Puleo, Scott Sellegren…the best from all over the country, all in the same class. Gus Traeder always knew how to put on a show and this was no exception. First, it was LONG race, I believe it was 25 or 30 laps. For most karters today, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal. That is, until you realize that the track is 1.2 miles in length with over 50 feet of elevation change and it’s surrounded mostly by trees, curbs and walls. Because these guys were running open fuel, so two pit stops would be required for refueling.
There only rules or restrictions on the refueling procedure were that the engine had to be off and the driver had to be out of the kart, which led to some pretty interesting (and scary) ideas. Everyone put their own spin on it to try to gain maximum advantage in the pits. Scott Pruett was never one to be out-planned or out-worked and this case was no exception. It was clear that Scott and his team put a lot of thought and practice into the refueling procedure. Scott made a NASCAR-style dump can and set the fuel tank up with a 3” diameter neck and quick release cap.
Pit road was setup at the end of the back straight and had a 90-degree right hand corner in it. The karts were running close to 100 mph down the back straight and the drivers had to peel off to the left, whoa the kart down from 100 mph, make the 90, kill the engine and get out of the kart. Pruett, of course, did this better and with more style than anyone else but that wasn’t the impressive part…
As he is coming to a stop (again, from 100 mph), he hits the quick release cap on the filler neck, hits the kill switch and comes up out of the seat STANDING ON THE BRAKE PEDAL…WHILE STOPPING THE KART. The kart comes to a stop, Scott is standing with his left foot still on the pedal and right foot on the ground in front of the right tire, the dump can is inserted into the filler (behind Scott, in front of the steering wheel), seven quarts of methanol and who-knows-what goes into the tank, Scott falls back into the seat, the starter is already in the engine, it fires before his butt hits fiberglass, Scott is gone, closes the filler cap as he blends back onto the track and the crowd went nuts. It all happened in one smooth motion and it was over in 4.5 seconds. Oh yeah, they oiled the chain too…
Poetry in motion and not a single trick missed. All of those PKA drivers were really good and worked really hard. Watching Scott that day, it was clear that he was different…
Fun fact about the 100 Pro Opens at the Park…they were running laps in 58-59 second range, which is absolutely amazing…they were incredibly impressive to watch and had to be unbelievably hairy to drive.
ALAN RUDOLPH – ALAN RUDOLPH RACING ACADEMY
In the 80s and 90s, Alan Rudolph was at the top of his game and winning everywhere. The St. Louis, MO resident was a badass on the challenging street circuits and he banked a lot of Gus Traeder’s money. Alan won the SKUSA King of the Streets five times, scoring the win in the second running of the event at the Quincy Grand Prix in 1999. The event moved to Rock Island in 2000 and the veteran bagged four more KoS wins there. Rudolph was a highly sought-after driver in his day, and ran for teams like Margay, PR1, KGB, Trackmagic, RBI and First Kart North America. He’s also part of the community that looks back on the Quincy Grand Prix with fondness and reverence.
Quincy in The Park is a venue like no other. Is it the 20,000 plus fans that start rolling in at 8:30 am with beer coolers in tow to get their preferred picnic/viewing spot? Is it the fact that the fans get to know you, want autographs, and cheer you on, especially when you win? Is it the beer gardens spread out throughout the entire park? Is it the picturesque view of racing through the dogwood trees? Or, is it the pure RAW hardcore most badass track you will ever encounter as a racer? Well, let me tell you, it’s all of those things rolled into the one awesome place, making Quincy Park the most legendary race of all time.
My most memorable moment at Quincy was winning the famed ‘Miller Mile’ race. This was a race that only past winners could run, and it was the most prestigious race of the weekend. The buzz would start on Saturday night, as the Calcutta Auction began. This is where you could bid on the different drivers who you thought could win the race. That year, I was the guy to beat and brought the highest money. The best part was that the highest bid came from Keith Freber of Margay and I was on a Buller kart at that time, so Keith was bidding against his own drivers Scott Evans and Scott Sellegren. Now the pressure was on for me to perform, and I went on to win the race, so Keith made his money back and more.
RICK FULKS – VETERAN RACER AND RACE DIRECTOR
One of the most famous families in the sport of karting are the Fulks. Rick Fulks is one-half of the sibling duo that have won at sprint and road race circuits around the country under the watchful eyes of father Reggie Fulks. Rick is among the 104 drivers on the list of former winners at The Park, earning four victories between 1991-1993 to put him tied for 13th all-time with the likes of NASCAR’s Jamie McMurray and karting veteran Eric Jones. For the past decade, Fulks has become one of the most respected race directors and has the honor of marshalling this year’s Quincy Grand Prix of Karting.
“The Park” race, as it was affectionately known, was both the most eagerly-awaited and concerning race of every season. The challenge of the track, the level of competition and the huge crowd made it the race everyone wanted to win…but few did. It was one of the first races of its kind to bring the race to the people, rather than the other way around. It truly was (and will be again) the Monaco Grand Prix of karting.
In its heyday, The Park was arguably the biggest kart race of the year. Racers from all over the country (that I had only read about) were coming year after year to take on The Park. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to run in this race. The challenges of the circuit and the level of competition at that time were second to none. Winning at The Park meant beating the best at one of the most formidable “race tracks” that karting has ever seen, then and now. My Park wins rank amongst the highest of my accomplishments in my racing career.