Just after lunch I arrived at Northstar Raceway in Strathmore, Alberta for the first stop of the Alberta Shootout and I quickly became very, very concerned.
While there was an abundance of trailers setup in the paddock, there was maybe five drivers on site, preparing their karts for the race and looking to practice on track. As the time went by, a few more people showed up but after a couple of hours I was so bored of the lack of action that I actually packed up and went back to Calgary for the evening with nothing left to do at the track. I couldn’t believe how few people were there to test for a big race weekend. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I returned the next morning.
But when I arrived at the track on Saturday, still very concerned of what I had gotten myself into, it all changed.
Used karts were everywhere too, some relatively new, some not so much. But they all ran and all were loved and cared for. That’s what I love about Briggs racing.
The place was packed. It reminded me of when I used to race as a kid. Small setups of families racing and everyone doing their part. Every kind of pop-up tent you could buy at Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart and Costco was setup beside a trailer, many of which were small and custom made. As it was Alberta, there were a few toy-haulers and campers as well, as some families stayed at the track after arriving late Friday evening, even with the town of Strathmore literally only a stones throw away from the track. Used karts were everywhere too, some relatively new, some not so much. But they all ran and all were loved and cared for. That’s what I love about Briggs racing.
The Drivers Meeting was packed as almost everyone in the paddock attended. Track manager and race director Fred Causer took control and said what needed to be said and facilitated a loud round of applause for all the drivers who traveled from out of town for the race. It may have been the Alberta Shootout, but there were also drivers from Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan which is about a six-hour drive.
And just as the group was about to break, it was announced that over 125 entries were set to race on Saturday, including 33 in Briggs Senior Lite. Suddenly, everyone with a Briggs kart became very giddy.
No lineups at the track. No tracking down drivers for payment. No fuss. Just racing.
I have to note this as well. All of the registration was done and paid for online through MotorsportsReg.com and prior to race day. That meant that unlike what I see in Ontario and Quebec, everyone was prepared and registered before the morning of the race. No lineups at the track. No tracking down drivers for payment. No fuss. Just racing.
Wandering through the paddock I also noticed there were no ‘karting mechanics’. Sure a couple of the teams had a manager that did the heavy lifting when it came to helping with setup, gearing and such and some families had a friend helping out, but ultimately, it was a low cost deal. On top of it, when something was needed, the big guys in attendance, Team Overdrive, K&K West, Apollo Motorsports, Scott Campbell Racing and Keith Miller Motorsports were always helping and supporting everyone. There simply was no intimidation factor and it felt great.
Like the racing I see everywhere I go, the on track action was much of the same. Some drivers showed their experience and effort to dominate, other races went down to the wire with some great wheel-to-wheel action. There were drivers learning and some questionable actions, but all in all, everyone was competitive and having fun at it, embracing the opportunity to race in groups larger than normal and that’s how it should be.
…the west really wants to feel that they are part of the program across the country and they really want the ASN Canadian Championships to come back for a year.
I can’t stress enough how low-stress of a paddock it was. While I’ve grown to appreciate the professional-first atmosphere I see at many of the big races I attend, this weekend reminded me much of the Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Championship (SRFKC) atmosphere the sport had over a decade ago. It was family and fun time at the same time.
Now, that also leads me into my next point; the west really wants to feel that they are part of the program across the country and they really want the ASN Canadian Championships to come back for a year. Usually I only hear this from the few Canadians that are competing internationally and that’s just not a large enough poll, but whether I was sitting down in a team tent like Scott Campbell Racing or having a chat with a family that has their son competing in both Briggs and Rotax, everyone out west simply wants that opportunity. Traveling to the east is a big burden for these guys, who really just want to witness the event in their back yard, for once. This weekend proved they have the entries to host it and the motivation to prepare for it.
Now I understand the majority of the reasons why the ASN Canadian Championships don’t travel cross-country anymore, and being at Strathmore did show that while the track is one of Canada’s best, honestly, the facility itself wasn’t yet capable of hosting Canada’s biggest race. But that doesn’t mean the club at CKRC (Calgary Kart Racing Club) isn’t trying to do everything they can on the small budget they have to get there and in time it will be. Being all volunteer’s and with only club money, they have only been able to complete so much since the track was built, but each season it progresses.
Finally, the CKRC is a true-blue kart club. Volunteers who actually enjoy supplying their time help the race day and the club run smoothly.
So come Sunday evening when all the racing was complete and the paddock had cleared out, I looked around and determined that this weekend, the West got a win.
A couple of notes from the weekend.
The Shifter class featured sixteen karts and almost as many different engine packages…kidding…kinda. From Stock Moto to ROK Shifter, to ICC and KZ, these guys all just wanted to race and bang gears and that had fun with it….Formula 1 driver Allan Berg was in attendance with his son Alexandre racing in Briggs Cadet; he won on both days…Many drivers pulled double-duty on the weekend, racing a Briggs and a Rotax, but kudos to Alan Haggarty who raced in 4 categories on Sunday and John Kwong who raced in 3 all weekend!…It caught me off guard at first, but when the Briggs Cadet drivers rolled onto the track, so did their fathers. To support the kids and keep them on track, the fathers were able to help karts that go off track or have a mechanical issue get back and racing. I liked it as these young kids need as much track time as possible…I always love the podium presentations in the west. After being presented their trophies and posing for a photo, each driver is given the opportunity to speak, thank their supporters and whomever else they want to. It gets drivers young and old speaking in front of an audience…The track used a lighting system that I highly suggest all kart tracks across Canada look into. It’s very professional and only helps in marshaling and information for the drivers…Finally, the CKRC is a true-blue kart club. Volunteers who actually enjoy supplying their time help the race day and the club run smoothly.
Next up for the province of Alberta is the EDKRA Alberta Summer Challenge at Warburg on July 28-30 while the second and final round of the Alberta Shootout takes place at Warburg on August 19 and 20.