It’s true that the attendance for the Modesto Grand Prix did not approach expected numbers, but that’s less than half the story about what went on over the weekend.
After all, this entire event is wrapped around and based on the 260 drivers and their entourages who spent the last three days in downtown Modesto.
In speaking with dozens of drivers and crew members this weekend, the first impression of Modesto as the host of Superkarts! USA SummerNationals was overwhelmingly positive.
Yes, there were some problems. The lack of track access made for lengthy down-time when a car stopped for any reason on the course. As a result, racing went on until 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and also went beyond the stated finish time on Sunday.
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And some drivers complained that they weren’t aware their families, despite having all-access passes furnished as part of their registration fees, would have to pay the $15 spectator fee to gain access to the downtown area.
From a technical aspect, there were few complaints about the race course itself. The one comment heard most often was that the course was too fast and thus too dangerous, especially for the younger or less-skilled drivers in some of the lower classes.
But more complaints were minor, and the vast majority of those interviewed would like this event to return to Modesto on an annual basis.
Here are some typical comments from the karters and their staff:
Bill Kalivas of Bakersfield serves as a crew chief for his grandson, who races for Nash Motor Sports
“For the first time, it’s got some kinks and bugs, but all in all, the venue and how they have it set up is pretty nice. The one thing difficult for our family members who have come and have an all-access pass is that they couldn’t get into the downtown area without being charged again. It wouldn’t have been a problem had they told us that up front, but people wanted to go in and buy food and wander around.
“I think any first-time situation will have some kinks. They have great sponsors and everybody downtown that we’ve done business with are excited to see us. It’s fun and it exposes people to this niche sport.
“The track is a little sketchy, a little dangerous. There are some spots that aren’t real safe. There always is leftover oil and maybe some antifreeze on road courses. The streets are crowned and you can get off-camber. But it will get better and we’d like to come back.”
Danny Kacic of British Columbia is the PSL West team owner.
“I really like it here. I’ve never been to Modesto. I like the weather and the city seems nice. The whole event is really nice and a lot bigger than I thought it would be. The only thing that could be done better is tweaking the schedule so we don’t go so late into the night, to give us some time to check out the city a little more. We want to check out the restaurants and see more of this place and we spend all day at the track. Those little tweaks will make this place a lot better.
“The track is fine. Street tracks always will be a little more dangerous for the drivers because there’s only so much you can do. If maybe they could slow it down a little bit. The average speeds have been really high, so maybe they could add safer or tighter chicanes to bring the speeds down a little bit. That way when an accident does happen is has less of a chance to be so violent.”
Greg Alvarez of Houston, is a 15-year-old, seven-year driving veteran competing in the S2 class for Team 3G.
“The racing has been really rough for me so far, but it’s a good track. This is my first street race. Here it’s more dangerous because of the walls. If you hit a wall, your car is pretty much done. You can go off (lose traction) on the racing surface, which as a driver you have to clean up. They should show down the track because there’s very little run-off room. If you take a turn too fast you’re going into a wall.”
Andretta Young, also a Team 3G drive from Houston, is a six-year veteran at 14 and races in the S5 class.
“Modesto did really well. We went way past the curfew on Saturday and they were still out there to help us. Everybody has been so kind in the restaurants and everywhere. It’s very friendly here.
“This is my third street course. I love street courses and this one is a lot smoother than the other ones I’ve run. It’s just an easier drive for me. I think they should slow the track down a little because there’s not enough room for all these karts at top speed. That makes it dangerous, and if there was a way to make the course wider that would help.”
Natche Tatikian of Los Angeles has been racing for four years and runs in TaG Masters for Phil Giebler Racing.
“I love the track layout – it’s amazing. The surface of the track is fantastic, and they did a great job. It’s very smooth for a street course. There aren’t many things they can do better track-wise. This is exactly what I hope for in a street race.
“We did get behind schedule for various reasons, but all in all it’s perfect and great the way it is. The second time around, I’d just ask for better weather for the whole weekend. Today is perfect. Friday and Saturday were very hot, but I love the transition from day race to night race and the overall environment. I like seeing the crowd out there.
“This track is one-and-a-half times better than Lancaster. I really enjoy the layout. Lancaster is a little more bumpy than this, and this course is more technical. Overall, the course characteristics here are fast, fast, fast. I like the emphasis on speed.
“I’d love to come back and race here for another 20 years.”