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August 05, 2014 10:40 PM

Go Kart Racing Looks To Youth To The Keep Sport Alive

Brookings, SD

Two weeks ago, the Heartland Kart Series made a pit stop in Brookings at University Plains Speedway. Over 250 drivers from all ages competed in a sport that some is dying.

It used to be that every great driver started on the Go Kart track. But with the expense of tires and younger drivers beginning their careers on dirt, Go Kart racing has had a hard time adjusting.

"It is hard to find races, especially with all of the rain this year. I'd like to see it get going again. I'd like a touring series throughout South Dakota, like it was in 2000 and 2010. It's hard to get it going with the tire game," Driver Mark Jacobson said.

A new Kart costs around $5,000 and if you're lucky, you can find a used one for $3,000.  Many older drivers invest that money into stock-cars. However Go Kart promoters, like John O'Neal, are investing their time into the sports future.

"We have to start with our younger racers. We have our Chasin' Racin' kids, which is a program for five to seven year olds. They get as much track time as any of our drivers throughout the weekend. For them, they need to show up and participate, plus it is free of charge. We are trying to educate and teach our young racers. They are our future," O'Neal said.

One of those young drivers is Sam Henderson. He has been racing for three years and says he still gets a little nervous when going 50 miles per hour with several hundred dollars on the line.

"When I go against this many Karts and with all of the money it is worth, it can be nerve racking," Henderson said.

Other drivers, such as Christopher Thram, have only one goal.

"To win the points championship in this series because then you get a leather jacket that is custom fitted," Christopher Thram said.

The Kart community will gather in Knoxville, Iowa, Wednesday night. NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne will join Jeff Gordon on the track to race Go Karts. The event is to raise money for Gordon's Kick It foundation that helps children with cancer.

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