Our First Experience Go Kart Racing on the World’s Largest Indoor Track
Speed is not a thrill I typically pursue, so I approached Supercharged go kart racing in Connecticut with a fair degree of trepidation.
Supercharged offers two racetracks. One is more compact, featuring a high number of hairpin turns. While some are banked, most are on the flat, requiring a bit of skill when it comes to braking and accelerating, if you’re going for any speed records.
The second track provides more straightaway sections, while still offering plenty of hairpin curves as well as a few less ambitious turns. Both go kart tracks offer elevated sections and plenty of opportunities to try out your racing skills.
Unfortunately, my first heat was on the first track mentioned above, requiring greater concentration on a nervous first run. Sitting in the cockpit of a Supercharged go kart, the helmet seals out the world. Sound fades to the back of your consciousness and a hyper focus emerges, gluing your eyes to the track in front of you.
The flagged entry onto the raceway felt almost anti-climactic. Alone on the track and hermetically sealed into the partial silence of the helmet, I made the first three laps without interference, getting used to the turns and the way the back end of the kart would fishtail if I took a corner too fast.
The funny thing is, I thought I had really gotten it down and was even approaching what my mother must have meant when she used the term “speed demon”. I was rounding the corners with flair, accelerating nicely into the straight stretches and easing gently into each hairpin, even floating wide a little so as not to scrub too much off my speed.
Then, out of nowhere, a go kart passed me on the left, narrowly missing my side bumper. Feeling alone and invulnerable, I had drifted a little too wide on the turn, a popular place for passing.
Giving the driver of the other kart my best mom-glare, I noticed that I had just been eclipsed by my 26-year old son. The mom glare seemed even more pertinent at that point.
However, I had to quickly adjust my expression to a disappointed wife look as my husband bested me on the next turn, soon to be followed by a few unknown individuals who aggressively took the track, and nearly the side of my kart, despite my best wall hugging maneuvers.
This became the trend for the rest of the race as the speed demon in me died a short death, and I remained focused on staying out of everyone’s way for the remainder of the drive. Out of the six racers on the track, only my youngest daughter didn’t pass me, providing me with some really enjoyable moments when it was just me and the track, gliding along at my own personal best speed, and reveling in the experience of improving my performance on each hairpin turn.
Go Kart Racing in Connecticut, We Return
Word of Connecticut’s largest go kart track in the world soon reached the distant shores of the Pacific Northwest, where my son-in-law in Oregon declared, “I have to do that.” He had his chance for go kart racing in Connecticut this last Christmas when the entire family made the trip to Montville, sardined into a rented minivan.
This time, I sat out, joined by my daughter/partner-in-blogging, Ali, who wasn’t feeling well. As the rest of the family entered the raceway, we climbed the stairs to the overlook, found a comfortable seat on the floor, and prepared ourselves for the show below.
The group had booked a semi-pro heat for the first race, so that the two newbie racers could get a feel for the experience. Among the uninitiated, we had my highly competitive and competent son-in-law, who had been driving wheeled contrivances for most of his lifetime. He was joined by Taryn the Intrepid, also known as my middle daughter, the one who has never in her life shied away from a new adventure.
Joining them were the veteran racers, my husband and son-both avid vehicle enthusiasts-and respectful youngest daughter, the one who had given me space on my first race to enjoy the experience. Given the competitive feel on the track, I was interested to see how she would race that day.
I found out pretty quickly as she was waved out onto the raceway ahead of my son-in-law, Mr. Competitive. She took to her lane like a natural and handled the first few curves with aplomb, pulling well ahead of her brother-in-law who was still fishtailing around each corner and losing speed in the process.
She managed to remain ahead of him, nonchalantly blocking him on the curves, until about halfway through the race. Taking one of the corners a little closer than usual, Mr. Competitive, the true speed demon in the family, snaked past her and was in the clear, heading toward his two male in-laws who were easily commanding the lead.
He gave it a truly valiant effort, but never managed to catch up. Coming off the track and checking the scoreboard, it was no surprise to see that Dad and son were in the lead, followed at a respectable distance by newbie, Mr. Competitive.
Taking on the Second Heat at Supercharged
The initial heat was a good first run and served as fuel for the fire heading into the second heat. This time, they were Pro racers on the smaller track, facing multiple hairpin turns, short straight-aways and a few banked curves. They were joined by two other experienced racers, who soon gave Mr. Competitive a run for his money on the scale for aggressive driving maneuvers. This was go kart racing in Connecticut at its best, and we were in a prime position to see it all go down.
Ready to enter the track, the lineup was a little different this time, with our Mr. Competitive ahead of the two girls, but behind his male in-laws. The two non-familial racers took up the rear, non-plussed by the fact that they had just been dropped into the middle of a very real family drama.
Eventually, the flag dropped down, and the drivers began to take the course.
As racers drive onto the track, each kart is throttled down to a cruising speed until all have entered the raceway. Husband and son were nearing the second turn when full speed commenced, with the latter in the lead. As the karts were throttled up, my son’s failed to pick up speed. His dad easily scooted past him and took the lead, setting the competition for the rest of the race.
The cut-throat competitors made themselves visible almost immediately. Mr. Competitive battled the two non-familial racers for position and the right to pass his brother-in law, who easily held the onto the second-place position for awhile despite his delayed start. Gradually, however, as the battle became ever more heated, he managed to make the pass, fishtailing into a curve, nicking the wall, and receiving a penalty that throttled down his kart for the next straight away.
From this point onward, it was impossible to tell who was in the lead, as the highly competitive racers fought each other for passing rights on each curve. During one intense moment, poor Taryn the Intrepid entered a curve with her father on her left and Mr. Competitive hugging his rear bumper. They disappeared from our sight only seconds before we heard the loud explosive sound of go kart meeting protective barrier.
Mr. Competitive came out into the clearing. His father-in-law and Taryn the Intrepid did not.
Gleefully hugging the next hairpin turn, he took what he thought was the lead, receiving a serious finger shaking from the officiant, as other raceway workers extricated the two stalled karts from the remains of the collision.
Soon after the collision, the race came to an end. As each driver passed their last hairpin, their kart automatically throttled down to cruising speed, signaling them to pull back into the pit. It was only seconds now, before the real winner of the go kart race was revealed.
What Really Happened on the Blind Curve
Needless to say, our go kart racers were quite excited to see who had taken first after such a vicious competition. Mr. Competitive was certain that he had taken the lead in this race, but a quick look at the board revealed that he had been bested by his father-in-law once again by a mere hundredth of a second.
Maybe age takes the race on wisdom and speed in this case, though it was hard to say without understanding what had happened on that blind collision that had put Taryn the Intrepid into near last place. As we wedged ourselves back into the rented minivan, it was the first question that Ali and I asked.
Suffice it to say, it included a few maneuvers deemed illegal on a Supercharged racetrack and an erroneous reprimand.
As you remember, the three go kart racers entered the turn with Dad in the lead, passing Taryn the Intrepid with Mr. Competitive hotly on his bumper. After passing Taryn’s kart, Dad maintained his position in the center of the track instead of yielding to his bumper hugging son-in-law. As Mr. Competitive took his first opportunity to pass, father-in-law tried to prevent it, causing the two cars to collide.
Justice came through as Dad’s kart spun out of control into the protective bumper, right in front of Taryn the Intrepid who had no time to stop before ramming into his kart. As Mr. Competitive pulled back into the pit, he received a cross reprimand and a stern lecture, learning that “we don’t race like that here.”
Let that serve as a warning to all seriously competitive go kart drivers who may feel tempted to pass on the turns.
It’s also a good story for racers like me who may enjoy the driving experience but aren’t as enamored with the speed and competition. Keeping to the Semi-Pro heats might make for a more enjoyable race, but more importantly, keep in mind that you’re really racing against yourself. Each driver is timed, and rankings are awarded accordingly.
Of course, there will always be the Mr. Competives on the raceway, so just let each driver take the course at his own speed and focus on improving your own performance. Just like life, it’s the only thing that’s really within your control.