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The History of Karting in America

Karting has a rich history in America, with roots dating back to the 1950s. The sport was created by a group of racing enthusiasts who wanted a way to race on smaller tracks than the traditional oval tracks used for stock car racing. In the early days of karting, the vehicles were made from whatever materials the builders could find, and races were often held in parking lots or on abandoned airfields.

 

Art Ingels – The Inventor of the Go Kart

Art Ingels

The first kart was built in 1956 by Art Ingels, a mechanic who worked at the Kurtis Kraft Company in California. Ingels used a surplus West Bend two-stroke engine, a small wooden frame, and four wheels taken from a go-kart to create his first vehicle. The kart was incredibly simple, with no suspension and a top speed of only about 60 miles per hour, but it was enough to get people interested in the sport.

 

Karting in the 60’s

Karting in the 60’s

As word of the new sport began to spread, more and more people began to build their own karts. In the early days, the karts were often homemade, and builders used whatever materials they could find. But as the sport grew in popularity, dedicated kart manufacturers began to emerge. The first kart manufacturer was Go Kart Manufacturing Co., which was founded in 1958 by Duffy Livingstone and Roy Desbrow. Other manufacturers soon followed, including Bug, Margay, and McCulloch.

One of the key factors in the early success of karting was its accessibility. Karts were relatively easy and cheap to build, and races could be held on small, improvised tracks. This made karting a popular activity for families and young people who were looking for an affordable way to enjoy racing.

 

A Go-Kart race in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California

Pasadena, California

In the early days of karting, races were often held on improvised tracks in parking lots or on abandoned airfields. But as the sport grew in popularity, dedicated kart tracks began to appear. The first kart track was built in Azusa, California in 1957, and by the end of the 1960s, there were over 200 kart tracks across the country.

 

A 1972 Margay Cheetah Go-Kart

A 1972 Margay Cheetah Go-Kart

In the 1970s, karting continued to grow in popularity, and the vehicles themselves became more sophisticated. Karts now had full suspension systems, disc brakes, and aerodynamic bodywork. The engines had also become more powerful, with two-stroke engines capable of producing over 100 horsepower.

During this time, karting began to attract more serious racers, many of whom would go on to successful careers in other forms of motorsport. One of the most famous kart racers of this era was Mario Andretti, who began his career in karting before moving on to race in Formula One and other top-level series.

In the 1980s, karting continued to evolve, with the introduction of new classes of vehicles and new racing formats. One of the most popular new classes was the shifter kart, which had a six-speed gearbox. The shifter kart was particularly popular in road racing, where drivers would race on temporary courses set up on city streets.

 

Logo of the World Karting Association

WKA

At the same time, karting was also becoming more organized. In 1973, the World Karting Association was founded to oversee and regulate the sport. The WKA created a standardized set of rules and regulations for kart racing, which helped to promote fairness and safety. To this day, the World Karting Association still conducts racing events around the United States.

In the 1990’s and 2000’s racers from around the world started to descend into the USA to race at major events. The SKUSA (SuperKart USA) SuperNats was an event that dated back to the late 90’s and has been held in Las Vegas, Nevada for most races. Michael Schumacher, Max Verstappen and Will Power are some of the names to have graced the streets of Las Vegas in a racing kart.

 

The Las Vegas SuperNationals – America’s Biggest Kart Race

SuperNationals

Today, karting remains a popular form of motorsport in America, with thousands of racers competing in events across the country. While the karts themselves have become more advanced, the basic principles of karting remain the same: it is an accessible, affordable form of racing that provides an excellent training ground for young drivers who hope to move up the racing ladder.

 

Make sure to check out our track guides for America

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