How is karting in the USA?

Hello fellow karters,

My name is Bas,28 years old and I am from the Netherlands. I raced since i was 7 years old in Europe, on a reasonable high level and I am curious about karting in the USA. Here in Europa there is a big shift going on. Older drivers (20 years or older) are less and less common in the sport and the new younger drivers who are in the sport have enourmous budgets. I am following Ryan Norbergs youtube channel and i have to say, the level of drivers is pretty good. So, what is karting like in the states, are the SKUSA races the top tier in karting ? What kind of engines do they use over there ?

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Hi Bas.

I think all karting around the world continues to battle the loss of senior drivers, as kids move up earlier and earlier to cars. However, the fields here are very strong this year in all classes. As we come out of the pandemic, people are very eager to race and in some classes we are seeing the largest fields we’ve seen in years. X30 is our top-level class at the national level, with the SKUSA Pro Tour and the United States Pro Karting Series being the two big touring national series.

Recently, the KA100 engine has become very popular, which has started to pull entries away from X30, as it’s much easier and cheaper to run. Cost is always a big factor here on why people chose one class over another. KA is drawing 50+ at USPKS this year, which is unheard of lately. X30 usually sees a field of 25-40 entries at big events.

Most of our big series are dedicated to one engine make, so IAME is the engine that is supported for SKUSA and USPKS. Vortex has some national-level series as well with the Rok Cup running Rok engines. The national Rotax series has gotten significantly less popular here over the past decade, as Rotax continually introduced “upgrades” and rule changes that made the class very expensive to participate in on a high level.

SKUSA also runs several shifter classes, though their competitiveness and popularity ebbs and flows.

Hey Bas,
Cant speak to the pro stuff but club seems to be alive and well in the USA. We get a pretty good amount of adults racing for fun in the states.

We see a lot of lo206 for budget racing and quite a bit of 125tag, mainly x30 and Rotax in the Northeast. 100cc is not a serious field here yet.

We also have a very small but nonetheless present KZ and shifter in general with our series here in Northeast.

In terms of kids moving up, I am seeing what @tjkoyen describes. I have a pal who just landed in the UK to race cars there for a year. I know of three other younger folks (17-19) also doing formula 1600 and the like.

I’ve noticed this trend too and it makes me sad. Although with the CIK model it was always headed there I guess. The good news in that it it creates and opportunity for someone to fulfill that market of senior drivers.

I’m from Europe too, For karting in the US there’s some cool stuff that we don’t have or have as much in Europe that’s outside the traditional realm of “Sprint” racing as it’s called in the US.

Dirt oval of course is huge. Outlaw karts are especially crazy.

Road racing (long circuit) has some interesting karts that you don’t see in Europe. Laydown karts for example. Many running the 100cc engines from the last, some running two of them.
CIK types run these races as well KZ, X30 etc.

Another great thing in the US is the number of street races. Rock Island Grand Prix, Streets of Lancaster, Quincy GP to name a few.

Vintage karting is also strong here.

So, lots to choose from!

Locally our Masters 35+ classes is larger then seniors

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These posts also bring up a good point… the US is a big country so karting popularity varies quite a bit across different regions.

Interestingly in the UK Rotax is coming back really strong. I think IAME in the USA has benefited from SKUSA’s involvement (just in terms of marketing reach) whereas here the distributors aren’t organising the races and championships so the marketing is more ground level. I guess the same could be said of ROK in America too. UK is geographically a lot different to America and this is a big factor in market dynamics.

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Yes so it’s difficult to say if it is only popular for the south east, or in all the states. In europe,expecially France,Italy and the UK the number of tracks are huge, but I dont know what the density of tracks is in the USA.

And how big is the market for 4-stroke engines ?

Seems to be a big deal on west coast and central. Less prevalent northeast. Typically LO206. There’s some World Formula here and there also.

If I am not mistaken, the entire dirt oval market is 4-stroke. They generally use hopped up Briggs I think.

Rental racing is pretty much all 4-stroke Honda here.

In the Netherlands Rotax is also comming back (mostly juniors & seniors). Mini classes are a bit of everything (Cadet, Micromax, TM 60cc) and 4 stroke had made a comeback, we have a new engine concept backed by a multi-milionaire and a former Moto GP level engine tuner. He wants to spread his concept over the rest of Europe, and probably America too.

Dirt Oval has got to be the most common karting in the US. Mostly on a Local or Regional Level and likely related to the Nascar dreams of the average person. It has a wide variety of engines, chassis and classes. From Briggs, Honda Clones, Two Strokes and Small Block 4 cylinder Car engines.

I think the big pull is because many of the series offer cash prizes to the winners. Most of the Local Sprint-Kart races are mere trophy driven. However at the Regional and National Levels, they do have Cash Purses for Sprint Racing.

Everything is spread out and varies by region, but there is a lot to offer in the way of 20+ year old drivers. Competition is stout regardless of the format.

My local here in Florida it’s mainly x30. We have a few KA-100’s but its all teenagers currently in that class. I’ve never seen an adult on a KA-100 at my local. It would be great if they did, the KA-100 seems like a great package.

What most on this forum and nearly all overseas miss is that road racing puts on some of the biggest if not the biggest kart races in the world.
Many of the races such as Mid Ohio, Pitt Race and Daytona have 600 to 700 entries and this year they look to be even bigger. As of this date the June Mid Ohio event already has over 600 pre entries with 3 weeks left before the race.
Yet most kart racers are barely aware of road racings existence.

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600 entries from a possible 1000 road racers may explain why remains relatively unknown as compared to a big short circuit meeting which might get 300 drivers from a possible 10,0000 short circuit racers country wide. I am guessing the numbers by the way, I don’t know 100% the overall participant numbers. It would explain it’s relative ‘unkownness’.

I do what I can to spread the word, but as they say it takes a village.

The forums are here for road racers to share their stories too…With the forums set to exceed 3.5m hits this year, it’s probably worth their time.

I see Shampine is doing some coverage which is nice to see.

I know road racing gets a ton of entires but how many drivers are there? From what I understand there are like 30 classes and lots of repeat entries.

You can count on anything between 100 and 250 drivers is my observation.

Alan, I don’t know the number either but the guess of 1000 is undoubtedly low. Despite the huge entry numbers there is very little cross over between the west coast, east coast and midwest.
Where I’m confused with your statement is that you seem to think that 60% of the roadracers run the big events but only .03% of the short circuit racers do the same. Your numbers.

TJ, Yes it is very common for drivers to enter 2 classes per weekend, a small percentage enter more and another small group only enter one class.

Road racing where I live ? The government is such a pain, we have to be happy we can keep the current existing tracks.