Questions from a Lifer #1 - Marketing and Demographics

Yeah that’s garbage data. It’s closer to 500/600 tracks. Where did that come from?

I’ve been a motorsport fan my whole life but my family never had the means to get any opportunities racing as a kid. So in my late 20’s after college and my career had been established, I started going to indoor and outdoor rental tracks with my wife and a few friends. I participated in a rental league at Pat’s Acres and that is when I got the bug to get my own kart. I picked up a kart last Fall and this is my first season racing! There is definitely a good handful of us 30 somethings at my track/club! The other largest demographic are juniors who’s parents fund and support them.

Rentals definitely pushed me into getting my own kart!


The article refers to “race courses”. If home slot tracks were included the number might reach 15,000 I’ve never seen a Go Kart market study. Here’s the link

If there wasn’t rentals and you’d have been a motorsport fan your whole life I posit there is a decent likelihood you would have interacted with owner driver karting far quicker. This is how karting functioned at the height of its success. I know I can be disputatious but I am trying to look at this through the lens of a marketer. It’s like neck braces. If someone wears one when they have a crash the brace is almost always attributed to saving their neck. Yet if someone doesn’t wear one and walks away (as I witnessed when Lee Harpham was thrown out of his Superkart at 130mph a few weeks ago) this lack of brace isn’t attributed to the lack of injury. The point is there’s an action bias that can lead to incorrect analysis.

Rental karting, at least to some extent, is competition to o/d karting. O/D karting is fortunate enough that a fair percentage of rental venues are owned or ran by people who happen to have a passion for o/d karting because without that we’d be in big trouble.

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On the Marketing Front in the US, Karting fell out of the public eye in the '90’s. When the National Media stopped broadcasting karting events, it lost interest in the public’s mind. You had other forms of Motorsport gaining traction that distracted the Media from Highlighting Karting. Motocross, NASCAR and Drag Racing all took the spotlight away from Karting. Indy has always been and will always be a thing, no one can dispute that. Its only in the last couple of years you have seen a resurgence of Karting spotlighted in the media, mainly on YouTube thanks to the efforts of people like @XanderClements with Kart Chaser. You have to remember, if people don’t know it exists, they can’t develop an interest in it. The above 3 mentioned forms of Motorsport are Big Business and they make a huge effort in promotion to gather the crowds and attract participants. (I purposefully left F1 out of this statement as it directed more to the US demographic.) Imagine if Karting had that same effort?

As far as current Marketing in the US for karting, I would say that those tracks that survive on Rentals, but run their own Owner Kart shops in conjunction to one another are likely the biggest attractors to new Owner Kart Racers. Personally I come from a Racing Family. I have been around racing since before I could walk. The only form of Kart racing I was aware of, was that of my father and his brothers racing them when they were kids. I had no idea that Karting was still around in a similar form as it exists today. Being a product of my environment, I always felt that need for speed and have always been very competitive. Through the years my brother and I would entertain ourselves at places like Malibu Grand Prix or some Mom & Pop Rental kart track as a form of entertainment, but never was the idea of actual Owner Kart Racing represented.

It wasn’t until decades later that I stumbled across Dallas Karting Complex that advertised Rental Karting, but also had a Pro Race Team based at their facility that I found out about Owner Karting. That lead to me researching the sport and fueling my passion to get involved. I always wanted to go racing, but never really had the budget for Automotive Racing. Karting offered me a way into the sport I loved without braking the bank. Is it Cheap, by no means. It is however affordable for the average person compared to the Automotive or MX driver.

Once people are aware of its existence, I think you will find that the majority of spenders are Gen-X’ers. By that I mean the parents of the kids racing or the individuals themselves racing are from Gen-X. We are old enough to have the disposable income and young enough to still want to follow our passions and/or dreams from our childhood without the physical ailments that come with aging . I dare to assume that many of the parents are living out their dreams through their children. Where have I heard that before in the sporting world?

I think if you want a general demographic to target to get into Karting, us middle-agers are your best bet. Whether its funding our kids or fulfilling our own desires to add meaning to our lives that Karting can provide. Secondly our generation grew up a little more feral than the later generations. We were often kicked out of the house and left to fend for ourselves. If we thought something was worth doing, we kept at it despite the lack of knowledge or skill to do so until we developed it. That never quit attitude is what keeps us going regardless of how difficult something seems. That feeling of satisfaction is the reward when we finally gain some ground in our struggles. X’ers have grown up with Adversity, Diversity and Rapid Change unlike any generation before or after. We are Tech Support to our Parents and Examples to our Children of what it means to Struggle and Overcome Challenges on our own. We personify what it means to be a Racer!

Sorry, I didn’t mean this to be a rant about the generational differences, but part of the original question was directed at demographics and age by nature is included in that. As far as other divisions in racing go, I can say our club has a very diverse membership. It mirrors our society almost perfectly. Within our club, the majority of our Base Members (parents of child racers or racers themselves) fall between the ages of 38 and 55. That is not to say there are not members outside of that range and those that are tend to fall on the older side of that range. Forgive the phrase, they are grand-fathered into the sport from the era of its Hey-Day. If you want to target a group, that is the one to target. You are not likely to enter the sport between the ages of 18 to 30. There tends to be too many other priorities in your life at that age that will supersede any interest you have in Racing. There are always exceptions, but its a general idea that tracks.


Hehe tru dat.

“Be home for dinner at 7.”

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Interestingly the scene at Edison leaned heavily on young folk in their 20s with other friends or on dates it looked like. Having a bit of a laff. Who knows, may stick.

I saw that video of Lee Harpham! I had several friends have big get offs in the 80’s and early 90’s in long circuit with no neck brace and they survived with no neck injuries. I had a big one at the Silverstone kart GP without a neck brace and sustained no neck injury. However i’m pretty sure a couple of years later there was a double fatality at Brands Hatch (my favorite track) both sustaining neck injuries. Who knows if the neck brace would have made any difference :man_shrugging:

How many do you think were new to the sport? I would wager they were introduced to the sport when they were younger and either still have friends or family that are active in it (i.e. second generation of racers or siblings). Were they participants or spectators?

I had another though on the Marketing front. I can recall a time before the internet that we would be walking through the grocery store and go down an aisle that had a huge magazine rack. They covered a wide variety of interests from home and garden, hobbies and sports. If you wanted to find something cool of interest, that is likely the place you would find it. This would be around the early 80’s as I would be old enough to read and still remember the experience. I can recall mags like Sports Illustrated, Better House Keeping, Gardening, Moto-Cross, Sailing, Fishing, you name it, it was there. I can’t say that I ever came across any Karting Mags. I know they existed from reading about them on this forum. Why is that, do you think? Come to think of it at the time, most of the automotive mags were things like Motor-Week or Car and Driver. They would highlight some MotorSport, but mostly about the latest and greatest new cars being made or some Hot-Rod build with the occasional article about some form of Racing.

Today it seems the Print era has passed and most of these same topics are found though Online resources and advertisements. So the question becomes, how do you get your Ad or Post in front of your Target audience. I guess that’s were Algorithms come into play. What Meta-Tags do you need to use to attract your ideal noob. It would have to be something along the lines of “come and play before you pay” sort of message. Ideally offering a gateway into the sport, without fully buying into a Owner Kart Setup. This is where I think tracks that offer Rentals and Owner Karting together can have the biggest influence. “Bring the Family out for some fun at a relatively low cost and while you’re there check out our other Offering if you want to take it up a notch” kind introduction could seriously work. Most of the indoor rental karting places do not advertise about the owner karting world. Like they are afraid of sending their clients away from their business, rather than as a gateway to a larger sporting arena.

Anyway, just some of my thoughts on the subject.

The magazine I worked for, Thrasher, was a similarly niche-y sport. Similar to karting it had a boom and then a “bust”. In the 80s the lawyers started suing and park after skatepark closed. The skatepark/skating craze died.

KT and Fausto and others started Thrasher, if I’m not mistaken as a sort if reboot, changing how it’s presented. They presented skating as something rebellious, edgy, with its own style and scene(s). The biggest thing that changed, that they captured and articulated, was street skating. This was the future of skating, and basically, they gave it voice and direction. It was a good call and pretty much saved skating from going the way of the roller-blade, vanilla, conservative, acceptable, and extinct.

We are utterly reliant on tracks, alas. A comparable ananlogy would be all the tracks closing, nothing we can do about it, but we still race anyways. Our underground racing flies in the face of convention and the law. We race in the urban environment using the architecture of the normies to race on. People dig what we are doing so we start a mag to promote it. Rest is history.

Karting has a different arc and we didn’t find the magical marketing hook that ropes in fashion, music, lifestyle. Skating is also cheap. Karting isn’t.

I got the feeling that these were date night kind of things. Pretty ladies dressed to be pretty as opposed to “I’m going racing” with handsome lads who were also casually dressed but with some attention. They certainly felt like they were casuals, out for a night of fun.

I’ve never noticed folks out with their dates at NJMP.

Motorsport is the death of romance, actually. Maybe there’s passion in the pits, but I haven’t seen it.

I don’t know that the folks younger than us will have known this.

I have fond memories of hanging out at the supermarket magazine section getting a peek at all the cool stuff happening in the world. It really was a hugely important to the dissemination of hobbbyist stuff, pre-intenet. It’s how you knew stuff existed and learned about it.


Moto-Cross sort of took an alternate yet similar path as Skateboarding, but with a higher operating cost like Karting. You got the edgy, cavalier persona as did skateboarding with the thrill and excitement of racing. Trick riding and and acrobatic jumping certainly added loads of flair and spectacle to the events. Where did we go wrong?

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The key difference I see between karting and skateboarding or motocross is the camaraderie. In karting it’s very much all about winning, which is why we probably have so many classes, everybody wants a trophy.

In moto and skateboarding, it’s more about being a part of the community and giving 100%. There’s overlap of course, there’s hyper competitiveness in Moto/skateboarding too, but those are the trends I’ve observed.

From participation perspective, it’s pretty clear that more inclusive activities will attract more people.

So not to belabor the point, but that’s why KartPulse was started…. To try and put more emphasis on effort, giving 100%, doing whatever it takes. Winning is great, but if that’s the only thing that the sport values as a community, then we can expect low participation numbers and umpteen classes.


Our club is using Juice Box electric kart racing to get kids (4 years old) and families involved. Saturday night the local oval track has had a preliminary Juice Box race. They let the kid and two adults in free.


This is the first I’ve heard of it, Very cool!

the camaraderie thing must vary from region to region, because throughout the 3 tracks i’ve spent most of my time, the camaraderie is very strong. i’m in the midwest, though, and the midwest is considered to be a pretty friendly area, in comparison to other parts of the usa.

all i know, is pretty much everyone at the clubs, especially the older classes, get along well and go out of their way to help their fellow competitors.

i hadn’t raced with the OVKA in a little while, and i did their night race over the weekend. i left my camera rolling in the scale lane, and all you hear is everyone laughing and talking about the race they just finished. lots of good vibes.

side note, and i’ve mentioned this to a few others, but the way the OVKA grids up for races really does, whether they realize it or not, help promote and strengthen karting. if you’ve raced there, you know what i mean. basically, they have a shelter with two grids painted out under it. you que up under it. lots of time to socialize with the others in your heat, as there are almost 2 full heats prior to you going out, once you’re in the grid. i usually make sure to try and strike up a convo with new folks, or folks i don’t know, so they feel welcome. most of the other regulars do the same thing. so that hang out time, i feel, is very beneficial for growing the sport.


Truthfully Alan your market analysis is extremely skewed toward what you know and see in your region. The UK and US markets can’t be further from each other based on what you describe.

Truth is that here 9 out of 10 (or more) of rental places have zero tie or interest in the outdoor owner karting business. They are generally amusement/fun park establishments that are run as retail entertainment venues. Some have a loose interest in Motorsports on the whole but I can’t think of one involved in outdoor karting in the entire Great Lakes region (NY, PA, OH, MI, IN, IL WI) - an area roughly 4-5 times the size of the UK with maybe half the population. And maybe 20 outdoor tracks at best.

And there is absolutely zero industry effort to grow the sport at the owner track level. Our lifeblood is the people coming out of the rental facilities at the moment. I’m saying that as a 100% sales data driven fact from a guy that’s been trying to grow karting in my region for 20 years, barely making a dent in racer turnover, until the proliferation of indoor rental tracks.

It’s really cool to see how and why things work in your market and the first hand knowledge you bring to the table in that regard. But it’s like comparing tea & crumpets with beer & pizza - they are just different. Can’t discount our first hand knowledge any more than I can discount yours.

I have a fairly decent knowledge of the US kart scene as I have studied it for a decade or so. It’s such a large landmass that what happens in one state doesn’t necessarily translate to another. My audience also on various platforms is mainly USA and UK with similar viewer share percentages. (about 20% each). So America is a market I have always had an interest in.

I also said more than once that these things are market defendant “All markets are different, so it’s always hard to pin something down but it is just an assumption rentals feeds into o/d”. America isn’t all that different to Europe as a whole by the way. General homogony across chassis with deviations in regions and the odd idiosyncrasy not seen elsewhere. The US’s big idiosyncrasies are probably the small oval stuff and the ultra laydown stuff we see at Daytona etc… We don’t have anything like that here for the most part. Tell a lie, we did have similar looking karts in the UK in the 60s but it’d didn’t progress into what we see in Ameria. I digress and neither of these are part of our discussion.

Having said that is there a ‘dirt oval rental’ scene? I am under the assumption in terms of pure numbers oval stuff is vastly more popular, yet I am unaware of a rental version that penetrates the market to the same degree as the rental stuff does in the sprint kart sector. I am sure some exist, but does oval racing rely upon it in any meaningful way?

My fundamental point is there is a bias with the idea rentals leads people to O/D. The assumption being without rentals we’d be in big trouble, yet Motocross doesn’t have a rental scene, and it attracts new people, alas not quite like they use to, but still that’s there. It’s not a 1:1 for karting, but it’s our closest cousin in the motorsport realm. In fact karting really is the only motorsport with a significant rental counterpart.

Rentals could be seen as a parasite that we can’t remove because it’ll kill us. We never asked to be infected, but now it’s there we are entirely dependent (via access to venues to race) and funnily enough we’ve become the symbiont feeding on the rental host.

We can’t run an experiment now where we have a scene with no rentals and compare it one that has. But karting survived and flourished when rentals weren’t really a thing. Rentals were always going to happen, but I see them as competition rather than something that supplies us with drivers.

There’s a Reddit simracing thread I was reading full of folks 35+ discussing how sim racing is pretty much inspiring them to go racing cars and karts.

This is our market, I think, or at least a good chunk of it.