Morning Coffee: Back on the Road
The sport’s biggest event heads to its fifth location in 24 years
Just over a year ago, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that I was going to miss my ‘Karting Christmas’. In the fall of 2020, the COVID pandemic was still aggressively rearing its ugly head and it had decimated the tourism industry in Las Vegas, the 23-year home of the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals. SKUSA elected to cancel the event instead of rolling the dice that an on-site issue wouldn’t be a financial hit on everyone involved. The cancellation of last year’s SuperNats was understandable, and from that day onward, everyone looked forward to one day being able to get back to the biggest event in American karting. Faced with an almost identical ‘forced cancellation’ scenario this year, due to developments out of their control, SKUSA has pulled off the impossible and relocated not on the event, but the host hotel as well, in short order. Thankfully, the SuperNationals are indeed back and will be the centerpiece of the sport this coming weekend. With almost 500 entries expected, the energy and enthusiasm for this year’s edition spilling over on social media.
Today, I’ll be heading to the airport for my flight to Vegas and my 24th SuperNationals. This year will present a drastically different experience for all of us involved in the race, from the SKUSA staff through to every team owner, mechanic, driver, parent, and vendor. Yes, we won’t be racing or staying at the Rio. Due to disappointing circumstances that can be delved into later, we’re heading out to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That said, event relocation isn’t really something new. Over the two dozen years of the event’s history, we’ve rolled into four venues to cover this tremendous event. The first five years were held at the Las Vegas Karting Center / XPlex, located south of Las Vegas in Sloan, right off the I-15 on the way into the city. In 2002, we all moved from that purpose-built kart track into the city and the Rio, for what was a monumental shift in the event and in national karting in the United States. The SuperNationals had grown into a must-attend event for shifterkart racers during the first five years out at the XPlex, but SKUSA’s CEO Jim Murley had a vision to take the sport ‘to the people’ and that first event in the Rio parking lot alongside I-15 was magical.
In 2004, after two years at the Rio, the expense of being at the venue was deemed to be too much financially and SKUSA relocated the show for a four-year run at Sam Boyd Stadium, the former home of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels football team and also the former site of the annual AMA Supercross finale. Again, after leaving the XPlex for the 2002 edition at the Rio, we all rolled into a new venue and figured it out. It wasn’t the Rio, but Sam Boyd provided its own uniqueness and plenty of space on the property to lay out a challenging race track. It also produced historic storylines with SuperPro wins by Jason Bowles, Lorenzo Mandarino, and Gary Carlton. It also fueled the arrival of the Italian factory teams, with Marco Ardigo winning his first SuperSunday main for Tony Kart in 2007.
We were on the road again in 2009 to head back to the Rio for another six-year run, until the move to the Strip in 2015 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Yes, it was another new venue with a new host hotel, and everything showed their flexibility and adaptability to conquer the new challenge. Changing property availability moved the event’s footprint only slightly to a newly-paved lot in 2017 in front of the Westgate and the LVCC and the level of the racing remained the constant.
So, after the third extended stay at the Rio from 2018-2019, and a season with no race due to COVID, we’re now back to pushing into the unknown once again after a disappointing issue with the Rio. This year’s SuperNationals will mark the fifth different venue for this storied event. We head north of the city to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leveraging their ample acreage of asphalt. At its core, the SuperNationals became a temp circuit race back in 2002, and SKUSA can truly drop the race anywhere and make it great. I’m pumped to be on the mic once again and David and I are pumped to dive back into our trackside coverage after a year off. I hope that you’ve enjoyed our in-depth preview articles and live OutLap YouTube shows, and we’re more than ready to pick up where they’ve left off when we get trackside on Tuesday. Get it all from the EKN Event Page.
We’ll have five days on paddock and on-track action, all leading up to the best day in North American karting….SuperSunday.