When you think of go-karts, you may think of an amusement park attraction with tokens and tickets.
But for 12 Tucsonans, it’s something a little bit more serious than that.
These racers have been spending their Wednesday nights vying for the No. 1 spot in Tucson’s Autobahn Indoor Speedway races, which is a part of the inaugural indoor go-kart racing series hosted by the World Karting Association.
The local racers have been competing in a series of preliminary races throughout the summer that have all been leading up to the final set of races on Wednesday, July 18.
Whoever wins the Tucson race series will advance to the national championship in Chicago this August to compete for the title and the $10,000 grand prize.
Chance Stephens, a 23-year-old Tucson native who has been racing karts for over 11 years, sits atop the local leader board.
Stephens, who works at Musselman Honda, has extensive experience with karting and thinks that gives him an advantage against the other competitors.
“My experience really helps … versus the guys here because they may not know how to pass (other racers). I know how to pass without pushing people or anything like that.”
Not everyone has an extensive karting background, though.
The General Manager of Autobahn Joel Lipp said that some of the Tucson racers "are race enthusiasts or maybe customers that want to get involved in something different.”
Erick Heinz, 39, who was also competing in the series but just missed out on clinching a spot in Wednesday's races, has been racing karts for over four years. But while he does have some experience, he's not necessarily racing to become a big-time winner.
Heinz began karting as a hobby and as a way to exercise and get in shape.
It may be surprising that racers need to be in good shape for indoor karting, but for go-kart racing, weight is actually a significant factor. It’s physics: The lighter you weigh, the quicker you can speed up and flow through the track.
“I started exercising more just to do karting,” Heinz said, but then added that he learned he “wasn’t in good enough shape to maintain that level of racing.”
But for serious or armature racers, Lipp is excited that the Tucson group is able to participate in the series.
“It’s neat to have an event … to not only have the pressure, but the opportunity and the fun to host that and have our racers be able to participate in something like that,” he said.
Lipp is hopeful that more events and opportunities like this series will boost the indoor karting communities’ involvement in Tucson.
If you want to see the racers in action, you can on Wednesday, July 18, when Autobahn will host the final preliminary races.