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Clay Ford (53) races his go-kart during the Red River Kart Club Monday night event in Fargo. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE
Clay Ford (53) races his go-kart during the Red River Kart Club Monday night event in Fargo. BRIAN BASHAM/TRIBUNE

The R.R.K.C provides an introduction to racing to youths...on a very fun level

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sports Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

It’s a gorgeous Monday evening at the Red River Fairgrounds in Fargo and the sound of racing engines and squealing tires curling around asphalt curves can be heard emanating through the humid air.

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These are not your typical racing sounds, though, but rather the inflections of potential racing careers blossoming.

And what it is, for sure, is the sounds of youthful drivers having fun.

The racket coming from the short track located on the western part of the fairgrounds is the Red River Kart Club race night and it’s something which is growing and growing in the area.

“It’s a blast,” said Detroit Lakes nine-year-old Tye Wilke, who is in his second year of racing go-karts at the RRKC track.

Detroit Lakes is well represented on race nights, with Wilke, 10-year-old Colby Olson, Clay Ford, Jordan and Taylor Tucker taking to the track this season.

In all, Monday night attracted just about 40 racers, who take their modified go-karts on the smooth asphalt circular track and race against others their skill level.

The opportunity to race go-karts in a competitive atmosphere is the first taste of racing for these youths.

For the fathers who act as the racers’ pit crew and financial backers, it’s a joy watching their sons and daughters sharing a passion with them.

“Tye knows how to drive his kart, he is fearless,” said Tye’s father Travis Wilke. “He started by driving our four-wheelers out in the country. We are both big racing fans and I raced when I was young.

“I would’ve given anything to do this when I was a kid.”

Race night has all the signs of a racing event, with the go-karts painted in flashy colors, with sponsor stickers plastered all over the frames.

Tires are pressurized to the right measurement and engines are tuned by the fathers.

The drivers – who can start at five years old – don their protective gear, including a chest protector, flame retardant jackets, pants and gloves, along with helmets which are very similar to those worn by their hero NASCAR drivers.

“This is a great first step into racing for the kids,” said Warren Skalicky, who is the official gatekeeper to the track.

“This really helps pump up the kids on racing and that’s our goal, to keep it fun and not make it all about winning and losing, because that comes later for them.”

Building a positive racing atmosphere

The RRKC is entering its fourth year of existence and it’s been a slow, but steady, build each season.

Nick Skalicky and a small group of racing enthusiasts decided to give it a shot four years ago to start up the RRKC at the Red River Fairgrounds’ mini-track asphalt track.

“We wanted to keep it affordable for families to race go-karts, so when we started, we wanted to make just enough money to pay the bills,” Nick Skalicky said. “Then as time went on, we started to make more money and we were able to start putting it all back into the track.”

That resulted in new asphalted pit areas and a freshly coated track, making it a smooth ride for the riders.

Also built were a new concession stand shed and storage area.

For each event, it costs $15 per driver and $10 for a wrist band to enter the pit area.

Fans also have had free admission the last two years, in which they line the track, numbering up to 200 per night.

“Our goal is to have up to 50 racers per night, that would be perfect,” Nick Skalicky added.

Cost to buy a go-kart can be as cheap as $800 to $1,000, or if one wants to get more sophisticated, can go up to $3,500.

“A motor can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000, but it’s good for at least three years,” Travis Wilke said. “The body can run up to $225 and then there is cost for tires. For us, it cost a total of about $1,500.”

There are rules which drivers also need to follow, the first being all drivers must have the same tires.

There isn’t any intentional bumping allowed and if there is, the warning flag comes out and the driver is warned.

Karts can also reach up to speeds of 40 mph.

“If you are going to pass, you need to do it without bumping,” Nick Skalicky said. “Obviously it’s for the safety factor, but if these kids are going to race bigger cars someday, bumping isn’t allowed, so we want to teach them at a young age.”

But to win races, one doesn’t need to have the flashy, expensive cart.

“It’s the driver who wins it,” said Olson, who is racing his first season and has finished third and second in consecutive weeks.

Olson is actually driving the kart which was driven by his father, Todd, when he was younger.

For Tye Wilke, he had a six-race winning streak heading into Monday’s event.

“When you have a good driver and understands what it takes, they can beat those $3,500 karts,” Warren Skalicky said. Experience is also vital for drivers and one can witness the improvement of the racers with each division.

“A sign of a good driver is they are hitting their marks and keeping their head in the game,” Nick Skalicky said. “By the time they hit seven years old (if they were racing since five), they are more under control and going faster.”

Having a cool racing name like Clay Ford doesn’t hurt, either.

Ford raced his first race of the season Monday, but has been involved the last three years.

“It’s weird racing on asphalt at first, but when you get used to it, you get better,” Ford said. “You just need to focus on your driving.”

There are not any points taken during the season and every racer will earn stickers and trophies at the end of the season banquet, no matter where they place.

The eight divisions are based on experience, while races start at 6:30 p.m. and run through a 9 p.m. every Monday evening.

For more information on the RRKC, go to their website at http://redriverkartclub.com.

“Everyone here helps everyone, we are here to help people get started up in racing,” Warren Skalicky said. “The quality of racing here is good.”

The RRKC is the first taste of experiencing racing for many of these youth drivers, and the chance to have a “blast” doing it, is just the cherry on top of it all.

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