Karting captures racers hearts
Imagine lying flat on your back, screaming around a racetrack an inch off the pavement at speeds up to 115 mph. You have no seat belts, and a dozen other drivers are racing you to the next corner.
That's life in go-kart racing's fast lane, and Portland is a center for it.
The Portland Karting Association offers go-kart road racing at Portland International Raceway several times a year. Recently, some of the top local racers loaded up their trailers and went all the way to Virginia International Raceway to run in the annual U.S. Kart Grand Prix.
Organizers attracted 437 entries by using two of the oldest and most effective prizes in the book: glory and cash.
'The main event is on Sunday, but you have to run the qualifier on Friday and the pre-final on Saturday to be eligible for the money,' Portland's Chris Hegar says.
The payout is $1,500 for a win, $1,000 for second and $500 for third -plus bragging rights and the chance to race at one of the top tracks in the country.
'VIR is such an awesome place. It looks like a country club,' Portland driver Scott Holmboe says.
Prize money is rarely offered in go-karting.
And, as Hegar says, 'We're all in it to see who's the best.'
The Portland racers quickly showed their skill. Holmboe took first in the stock 125 cc class, with Hegar running close behind in second. In the stock class, everything about the karts is specified to make the machinery as equal as possible. The tuning and setup are the only mechanical variables.
'It feels nice when you win, because you know it's the driver and not just the motor,' Holmboe says.
In the open development 125 cc class, it was Hegar's turn to stand on top of the podium.
'When you saddle up and drive from here to there, and you win the race, you feel like you've really done something, ' Holmboe says.
The prize money will just about cover the cost of going to the event, but it can't begin to touch their investment in time and equipment.
'I like kart racing because I can afford it,' Holmboe says. 'The competition's good, and I can fulfill my engineering side by working on the kart until it's just perfect.'
Hegar has a more lighthearted perspective.
'It's just a hobby - something to keep me out of the bars,' he says.
For more about the Portland Karting Association, go to portlandkarting.com.