KAM Kartway tops the list again!
by Kelley Engstrom, Track Promoter
According to the official press release, “Voting for this year’s Favorite Track of Fans of Fast survey saw over 600 different tracks recognized by thousands of race fans over a 2 month period, from early October to early December of 2015. Nearly twice as many race fans voted in 2015 as in 2014 with tracks recognized from 46 different states.” KAM Kartway is the only Texas track to make the list, and like last year it is the only Kart track to make the list.
“It is humbling to be listed among such legendary tracks and such an honor to be included on the list of Top 15 Favorite Tracks in America, and we are truly grateful to the racing community for bestowing this honor on us for a second time!” Said Mike Engstrom, Track Owner and Prep guy and adds;
“This has to be a testament to the popularity of dirt track racing that is helping grassroots racing grow into a new segment of competitive racing with Outlaw Karting. Karting is no longer just an “entry-level” sport for youth racing. While KAM has one of the best Driver Development programs with a long history of churning out championship level racers, we no longer have a just a limited purpose. Outlaw Karting is keeping racers in karts longer because it’s a highly competitive class and comparable to Sprint Car racing with the same high power-to-weight ratio. These are real race cars that requires the same technical skill and talent as that of a Sprint or Stock Car driver. The Open Outlaw class has become the perfect option for drivers to pursue their passion of racing without the “Sprint Car” race budget.”
Following is some of the history and events that helped Outlaw Karting’s growth and responsible for getting KAM Kartway on the Top 15 list…
KAM Kartway is credited with bringing Outlaw Karting to Texas when it opened in 2004 as we introduced a new chassis line as part of our store line and branded it with KAM as our exclusive dirt track chassis. The line was already growing and spawning the craze with much success which is the reason Mike chose it after much research as our kart business KAM Karting Supply was expanding into the dirt market from a 10 year history of exclusive to the asphalt Sprint Karting (aka: Flat kart road racing) segment.
As the line grew so did Outlaw Karting and after a number of years, with a short lived regional traveling series, KAM drivers looked for National level events to attend in an effort to grow driver and push them to higher levels of achievement. We had already dominated every class and KAM as well as all the other tracks within a 2 hour drive (about 8 tracks at the time).
Events like the Tulsa Shootout and the Knoxville Outlaw Nationals held at English Creek Speedway in Iowa (made popular as a prelude event to the Knoxville Nationals, aka the Super Bowl of Sprint Cars) became our “must-attend” shows as Texas grew to include the Midwest region of the dirt racing segment. WKA and IKF didn’t have classes that included Outlaw classes which seemed to be why Outlaw Karting grew into its own segment of dirt karting.
The Tulsa Shootout already had an established history and dirt kart classes along with Micro cars at the indoor event held two weeks before the ever popular, and now world famous, Chili Bowl. KAM drivers started attending and requests were made and the Outlaw classes were added to the roster. The Tulsa Shootout became THE annual event that everyone looked forward to and Outlaw racers from across Texas attended and soon from across the country. Our local KAM drivers were racing with NASCAR driver Kyle Larson and two-time Chili Bowl winner Rico Abreu for a number of years until they pulled karts off the roster. Kyle Larson won the last Golden Driller given in Open Outlaws.
The “West Coast Outlaw Kart Nationals” held at Red Bluff, credited to being the birthplace of Outlaw Karting, is another long running event (Home track to Kyle and Rico). Since KAM already won the Knoxville Nations title by 5 different drivers, so when one of our race dads wanted a new challenge as he reached the end of his driver development phase (the Outlaw 250 class being the highest class), and he already had several class titles and track awards to his credit. Points racing gave way to traveling to different tracks and events to increase experiences and a big milestone goal became the West Coast show. KAM was finally represented with Jett Hays in 2015 and his entire KAM Fam was rooting him on and watching the live events feed over the internet. Social Media was going crazy and he became and instant fan favorite at the event garnering lots of mentions by the announcers and camera time during the event and in a nail-biter feature event due to several yellow flags, one of which Jett’s kart made contact and it was being debated, by announcers at lest as to his role in the incident, but he never lost his spot and after each re-start he held strong and finished 3rd. This turned him into an instant celebrity, and was the beginning of what can only be described as his break-out year that earned him a full ride sponsorship in the Open Outlaw class under Outlaw Kart Supply.
Up to this point KAM Drivers have won the Knoxville National Title 5 times since 2011, one coveted Tulsa Golden Driller, in addition to Hays’ Podium finish at the West Coast nationals. Three female drivers have been showcased at Women in the Winner’s Circle and 2 have completed the Lyn St. James Driver Development program with Kaley Engstrom also winning a spot in the Ron Sutton Talent Search program.
The bi-annual “Outlaw Kart Invitational” was hosted at KAM Kartway last year, it paid $3,000 to win in the Open Class and drew racers from across the country from an exclusive list of 100 invited drivers. Several track records were established during this event:
- 1st National level show with drivers from 5 different states represented, also 1st 3-day show we’ve ever done.
- 1st time to partner KAM with a Nationally Syndicated internet Radio/TV Show: The Checkered Flag Talk Show – the deal was a 4 month long series intended to promote The Outlaw Kart Invitational and featuring a KAM Driver every week from Feb thru June, ending the series with host of the show, Ace Nailer as the Official Announcer for the event and all it cost us was the plane ticket to get him from California to Texas! **Use this link to see a list of all the blog posts I did after each driver’s show, they all did GREAT!
- 1st time Kaley Engstom was named an official Race Director
With Kyle Larson’s rise to fame from Outlaw karts to NASCAR super star several years ago and return to dirt events as a Sprint car driver, Midget and even Open Outlaw at what seems like any none NASCAR weekend the sport has gained so much interest and now that there are Special event races with big money purses along with National level exposure that just fuels this steady growth and popularity of the sport. The Open Outlaw class as a bona fide race class being comparable the Sprint Cars. Racers now embrace the class a career choice for competition and not simply part of a development phase, or stepping stone on the way to a Sprint Car career. With technical skill and handling mastery required to be competitive, an Open Outlaw kart has the same wheel to weight ratio as that of a 401 Sprint Car.
This higher level of competition and heightened interest in the world of dirt racing has given way to bigger events like the “Speed Sport Challenge”, held at Millbridge Speedway, and was the first to broadcast a live Outlaw Karting event on National TV two years ago where KAM was represented with 4 drivers.
Inaugural events including Kyle Larson sponsored “Outlaw Showcase” and the “Bad Boy Indy Invitational” are the newest big-ticket events Outlaw racing has spawned, even attracting NASCAR drivers as competitors. KAM had drivers at both events, however most notably a record 5 KAM drivers received exclusive “invitations” for the Bad Boy Indy Invitational, the most from any single track across the country, AND the cap was 42 total drivers per class! (2 were KAM Alumni who raced in the Midget class: Anton Hernadez and Payton Pierce.)
Outlaw Karting tops the list with KAM Kartway
We’re excited about this popularity growth dirt kart racing and proud that KAM is a part of it! The initial goal when we started the track over 11 years ago was to grow and promote karting and along the way it became our goal to develop championship level racers so they would enjoy successful race careers that would take them to the highest level of competition that they desired. For some that big dream is NASCAR, and I am for sure that one day KAM will be represented at that level, while others dream of World of Outlaws and Sprint Car racing is the ultimate goal. I will continue to support and foster those dreams, and Driver Development will continue to be a priority, but it’s exciting to have a new goal: to keep racers in karts longer with an exciting, challenging and high-level competitive racing that drivers want through the Open Outlaw division.
So far we have 3 KAM drivers who all “graduated” out of karts years ago who have returned this past year after they each traded in their race cars for an Outlaw 500 kart (one of each: Sprint Car, Midget and Stock Car). The common denominator was the desire to continue to race competitively and enjoy their passion without the big race car operating budget. It’s a trend that I hope continues with more drivers returning to their karting roots.