INside Story

Karting track provides gateway for next generation of race car drivers

Central Indiana is home to numerous race tracks featuring racing at every skill level. These tracks provide not only a fun night out for fans and drivers alike but also serve as an anchor for the community.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

WHITELAND, Ind. (WISH) — The sun hasn’t been up for long when the sound of two-stroke engines fills the pits.

It’s another track day at Whiteland Raceway Park, south of Indianapolis in Johnson County. Drivers swarm around their go-karts, checking tire pressures, oil levels and brake calipers. They range in age from barely out of their toddler years to well into their 30s and 40s.

Some are here purely for fun. Others, like 16-year-old B.J. Shaw and 14-year-old Alex Jones, have their sights set on the professional racing circuit

“I think I will want to do this long-term, go into Formula 4, Formula 3,” Jones said.

Shaw and Jones both got interested in racing right as they hit their teen years. After some time with NXG Youth Motorsports, which promotes interest in racing among children and teens of color, they decided to stick with it.

“I love going fast, like the movie ‘Talladega Nights,’” Shaw said. “I love cars. My grandpa was a mechanic a long time ago, and I guess it rubbed off on me.”

Founded in 1958 and currently owned by former IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher, Whiteland Raceway Park hosts track days and races from April through October every year. General manager Kameron Gladish said people come to the track for practice throughout the week, either renting from the facility or bringing their own karts.

“We get a lot more entries in every race that we have in the past,” he said. “Youngsters, adults, everything.”

Gladish said go-karting is the most affordable way to get into motorsports. He said a good quality racing kart and safety gear typically costs from about $5,000 to $8,000. Go-karting has provided the starting point for numerous racing stars such as seven-time Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, five-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Gladish said helping to cultivate the next generation of racers is one of the tracks’ main goals.

“Even if you don’t have the best equipment, it’s still the best kind of experience in karting,” he said. “You can get a lot of experience from it.”

By late morning, B.J. and Alex were running their first heats in their respective classes. They would continue racing off and on throughout the day. The two say they have each won a few races. Asked what advice they have for any new go-kart racers, both teens say patience and dedication are key.

“It’s not going to be straightforward, just wins and wins and wins,” Shaw said. “It’s going to take time.”