Behind the Laptop: Taking the Month of May ‘Off’
US national karting gets a much-needed break for the top-tier of the sport
It’s been a quick four months since the start of the 2023 season. As soon as we get through the holidays in December, karting is quickly back in action with the annual running of the WKA Daytona KartWeek in Florida. That event has been the traditional start to what is a busy three months in the ‘Sunshine State’ with running of the Superkarts! USA Winter Series, ROK Cup USA Florida Winter Tour and, for 2023, the start of both the United States Pro Kart Series and SKUSA Pro Tour. Add in the West Coast programs, including Challenge of the Americas, RaceRotax US Trophy West, and the California ProKart Challenge, along with the Texas Sprint Racing Series and the Cup Karts North America program hosting a number of events during that time, and you’re left with a schedule to zero open weekends. For many, it’s non-stop from the start of January to the end of April.
Looking back at the schedule, over 20 national and regional events took place in the first four months of 2023. As we reached May with the Stars Championship Series opener at Trackhouse Motorplex, it was the end of a long 18-week run and began a bit of a break for the bigger teams, the engine service centers, and the competitors as well. However, there were still several regional and club races scheduled for the month of May. Route 66 Sprint Series, Texas Sprint Racing Series, IKF Northern California Sprint Kart Series and others hosted events over the last four weekends.
Looking ahead, here is a question. Should we try and limit the number of karting events we have here in the USA during the month of May?
Face it, we are flooding the market with series / events across the 12-month karting calendar. There is no longer the ‘off-season’ that we had in the past where the winter months had limited events. Now with a front-heavy loaded schedule, I feel that we need to find some time in the schedule to allow race teams the opportunity to get their haulers back to the headquarters and regroup. Especially in today’s market with the number of rental powerplants at the national and regional level, not to mention the personal engine maintenance, the engine service centers need time to catch up and continue their development to find that extra tenth for you on-track.
Most of all, we need the racers and the families to not burn out, both mentally and financially.
It’s a common theme that the average lifespan of a karter is roughly 2-3 years. Thankfully, we’ve seen the vast majority of those at the national level continue for years beyond that. However, with the schedule so heavily loaded with ‘must-attend’ events, it pushes some families or drivers to the limit in terms of budget, or just time away from home and school.
If organizations are going to continue to load the first third of the season with events, I believe it is imperative that we try to give ourselves that mid-season break in May to allow everyone to regroup. There are plenty of non-racing events happening during the month of May, including graduations, final days of school, Mother’s Day – which is not a very popular weekend to be racing – and of course, Memorial Day Weekend.
If the month of May were positioned as an ‘off-month’ for national level racing, this would allow June, July and August to be loaded with more high-profile races during the summer months before kids get back to school. Then we’d have the final few major events in September and October before we dive into the Vegas portion of the schedule in November. From Thanksgiving to Christmas is the second ‘break’ on the calendar year before we turn it around and do it all over again.
Maybe we can make the month of May a ‘Back to Your Roots’ promotion where the major teams attend a local club race during the month. Take your top drivers from your team, go to a club race. Make your tent open to everyone to see it, get a feel for what it’s like racing under a big team tent, and answer questions for the local racers.
It’s much easier for karters to compete at events closer to home with regional and club level races during the month of May. I think that this is something the major organizations and promoters can look at moving forward.