The national-level racing is the image of the sport — even in the eyes of most of us. But having enough quality national series isn’t the sport’s problem. What is lacking is one organization (I’d even settle for a czar) to work with the local tracks to develop the sport at the local level (and I’m not just talking about trying to sell them insurance). That umbrella doesn’t need to pick rules and classes etc. but it sure would be nice if we had a national licensing system and maybe some coordination among events from various organizations on the race schedule to avoid serious conflicts.
If local racing is built up, I think the national issues will take care of themselves. In the 1990s when we started the Rock Island Grand Prix you could look around at neighboring tracks (Norway, Quincy, Davenport, Marshalltown, Springfield, etc.) and easily find 400 karts racing each weekend. Today, I’m guessing you will maybe find 150 combined and some tracks are gone forever. Gus Trader’s PKA street race series had over 350+ entries almost every weekend of the summer — now RIGP is the last one left and we are fighting to maintain 200.
Another huge blow to the sport, IMO, was losing the Kart Expo International trade show. Each Feb. all of the manufacturers, importers, series, kart shops, sanctioning bodies, etc. were in the same place. Individual meetings were held in conference rooms and around the bar and many of the issues facing the sport were hammered out. And yes, all of the new products were on display. None of the auto-racing based gatherings have come close to filling that void and our sport is worse for it.
Sadly, we have no central rudder pointing us in any direction. Things at the national level won’t get better until much more is done to promote the sport at the local level … you have to learn race craft before you can race with the best. I have been involved in karting for more than 20 years and while there are some bright spots, this is the worse I’ve seen the sport overall in the US. Rebuilding it must start at the local kart tracks.