Beyond The Open Wheels: Best Part of Waking Up


Taking the Kart to Lost Valley Raceway in Alma, Arkansas

I sit at my desk at work, thinking about where I should be. The kart is not on the trailer, my Trailblazer is not weighed down with my paddock/pit setup stuff. I am missing out on the best part of the day, the morning of a race.

See, the morning before a race, heck the morning everyday on a race weekend, is an absolute magical time. At any moment the silence of people slowly filing in, will be broken by the sound of a crew finely tuning an engine. It’s that moment as you pull in to a track that is the best. Yeah sure, ok, the racing is fun to watch, but it is the deafening silence of the beginning of the day that makes going to the track awesome.

Before the age of 12, my father and I would make the trek north from our home in Illinois, to Road America. My favorite memory of pulling into that track was the morning time. The smell of brats cooking, grills being fired up, and just silence other than a few course workers discussing where they will be at. One morning dad and I got a late start to the track. All was quiet by the Tech Barn, because the field of Can-Am cars where running through the Kettle Moraine sweep down to Turn 12, when all the sudden there was a thunderous roar. From under the Billy Mitchell Bridge (no longer there) the McLaren M8D driven by its former pilot Denny Hulme and the Shadow DN4 driven by Fred Cziska came out at full song heading to Turn 14, than blasting their big bore V8 symphony of power up Road America’s long front straight. After that i was hooked on Can-Am.

Oh mornings at the race track.

In 2013, my wife, our son, and I ventured down to Sebring, Florida to witness sports cars in all their glory for the second time. We drove 17 straight hours, to make it to the track by Friday. Arriving at the track at around 4:30 a.m., no one was up and about. Crept to the same spot we had 2 years before, then slept from the drive. I slept horribly, because all i wanted to do was walk around. Around 7:30, the sun made its appearance in the windows of the car and our son was up and ready to go. My son and I walked across the midway in search of a bathroom, and all those sounds of being at Road America in the morning, flooded my ears. We made our way behind the pit road, and the USF2000 cars fired up and took to the track.

Silence broken.

Pit setup at Lost Valley. My kart (61) and the Bad Grandpa Racing team (15 & 23)

Pit setup at Lost Valley. My kart (61) and the Bad Grandpa Racing team (15 & 23)

Now as I pull into the local kart tracks, I prefer to get there early to make sure my pit set up is perfect. For years I would see the paddock setups, from Level 5 Racing, Corvette Racing, and Peugeot, I could not wait to get my chance at setting mine up. Table has to be organized to ensure complete efficiency for repairs. All tools needed for quick repairs must be found within seconds. Tent needs to be placed right so I have coverage for the table and the kart. I probably spend more time on setup of the pit area than I do prepping the kart at the track. Maybe that is why I am not that good. The transition from being a fan to a racer on race mornings is something I do not regret. I enjoy pulling into a track with a Kart on the trailer, knowing I am part of the days festivities. But, gosh do I miss going to a big track early in the morning.

Keep an eye out for my next story, detailing the boom of dirt oval karting in the Arkansas River Valley.

Ross Fujibiyashi

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