By Riley Harshman
The Karting Classic is one of the nation’s biggest go-kart street races. Every first weekend of August, citizens of Commercial Point, an around the nation come to the small village to take part in the event.
Go-kart races got their start in Commercial Point in 1968 and were originally run by the local volunteer fire department, which operated the race as a fundraiser. From the moment the motorsport events started, it was apparent the town loved the go-kart races. In 2011, the fire department decided to stop running the races.
Some of the residents assembled a committee to organize the races for the town to enjoy every year. One of those locals was Allan Goldhardt, who grew up in Commercial Point. “At the time, the fire department was done, and a group of us got together, there was probably about a dozen of us, and we wanted to keep the races going,” Goldhardt says.
The committee was named the Commercial Point Karting Classic, and go-kart racing in Commercial Point had new direction. Today, the committee consists of people who grew up around Commercial Point and know what go-kart racing means to the culture of the town.
Rick Queen, the race director, grew up racing go-karts in Commercial Point and his son has also competed in the races. Queen is a go-kart savant who started racing go-karts in the late 1960s at the age of 11. “I had one [go-kart] by the time I was 10 1/2, 11 years old, and I’ve had one ever since-and I’m 59 years old,” Queen says.
The top karts driven in the Karting Classic reach speeds exceeding 80 mph and can go from 0 to 60 faster than many sports cars. Butch McCall, president of the racing committee, wants the public to know that these go-karts are serious. “A lot of people you talk to, they still think of go-karts as something you can ride around in the backyard with a lawnmower engine on it. These karts today, they’re about as close to an IndyCar as you’re gonna drive,” he says.
With go-karts reaching high speeds and drivers as young as 8, you might question the race’s safety, and rightly so. “Any time you have an open-wheel racing machine … if you can get to the wheels of the other go-karts, that leads to excitement,” Queen says.
The committee has safeguards in place to make sure the race is as safe as possible. For example, water barrels line the track to slow down errant go-karts and fencing is installed to protect spectators. McCall is confident in the safety of the track, “If our track wasn’t safe, the parents wouldn’t let their kids run it,” McCall says.
According to Goldhardt, 4,000 to 5,000 people visit Commercial Point to watch the 11 different classes of races. Each race has a guaranteed purse, which is rare for street races. The Commercial Point Karting Classic is not just any street race. “We have the richest street race in the country,” Queen says.
People from around the country come to witness and participate in the go-kart races. The committee says it has people from Wisconsin, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee, among others, come race at the Karting Classic.
The committee has Jim Albright to thank for being able to put on the Karting Classic. Albright is responsible for garnering about $25,000 for the races through numerous sponsors. “The race truly wouldn’t be even close to what it is without him,” Queen says.
The weekend of the Karting Classic is one Commercial Point locals look forward to all year. The committee constantly finds itself with an excess of money after the races are over, and it looks for ways to put that money back into the community. “Over our seven races, we have given back to the community over $28,000 back to local organizations, between the schools, just all the way around the horn here, the churches and youth groups.” Goldhardt says.
After the 2018 races concluded in August, the committee met in September to begin planning this year’s race. This cycle has repeated itself each of the last seven years. The members of the committee are dedicated to putting on a show for their town.
Go-kart racing runs deep in Commercial Point. Queen has a son that raced in the event, and eventually his grandson will, too. McCall likes to compare the Karting Classic to another American event, “I always called it the Woodstock of go-kart racing.”