Drivers Embrace Karting Motorplex

Photo: Jeff Wackerlin

Justin Allgaier leads Brad Sweet coming out of the 11th and final turn at the Mooresville Motorplex's 7/10-mile track. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

MOORESVILLE, N.C. - Many NASCAR drivers have kept the thrill of racing going in between weekends at the track thanks to the newly built Mooresville Motorplex (MMX).

The state-of-the-art karting facility opened last October but recently celebrated its official Grand Opening with the kickoff of the Racersites Cup, the first series held at the track.

Photo: Jeff Wackerlin"We're just a few months into this deal, but this is the culmination of everything we've worked toward over three years," said owner Justin Marks. "This business has been embraced by the racing community and the local community more than we would have ever dreamed. We have an arrive-and-drive league that's over-sold. We have an incredible field of owners from all classes: Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Truck Series drivers and kart enthusiasts. To see everybody embrace karting, come out here and fall in love with this facility ... and be a part of our series ... is validation for everything we’ve been working for."

Marks grew up in California, where there's a big karting presence. He moved to North Carolina as he was progressing through his racing career in NASCAR and in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. When he arrived in the Charlotte area, he noticed that there was a void for professional karting in the market.

Photo: Jeff Wackerlin"There was a kart track inside Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it was open just a few days a month," Marks said. "Michael McDowell and I sat down and said, 'You know what’s really missing in this community is a proper karting facility.' When we started building this, I drove in GRAND-AM and a year in the Camping World Truck Series. I’m going to be 32 this year and as my racing career winds down, I've found a niche for myself in this facility. I’ll never quit racing and I'll always do some racing myself. But really, my life is this Mooresville Motorplex."

The complex is built on 30 acres and features a lighted 0.7-mile, Grand Prix-style kart track that is based on the historic Kartdromo Parma in Italy. There are 54 sold-out garage stalls that house karts for a large group of NASCAR stars including Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Justin Allgaier, Scott Speed and Kyle Larson.

"There are not many kart tracks where you can rent a kart or drive your own kart at night," Allgaier said. "They stay open every night so people can come out and do this. As far as the racetrack goes, it’s fun. It's just big enough so you can carry some good speed, but it's technical enough that you can really work on what your kart's doing and make it handle better.

"They've done a great job of coming up with something that's not only family-friendly but a state-of-the-art facility. The guys that race karts for a living come here and say, 'Wow, this is really cool.' We're fortunate that it's in our backyard."

The five-week Racersites Cup - which features TaG Senior and TaG Masters classes, in addition to a Lite and Heavy rental kart class - just completed its third round this past Wednesday where Speed recorded his second win in TaG Senior. 

"The most popular class in karting is called the TaG class," Marks said. "There's a ton of different chassis manufacturers and engine manufacturers around the world, but it’s all based on one class. We're getting top speeds approaching 70 mph on this track. What’s impressive about these karts is that they're so low to the ground, so light and so wide. The G-forces these things pull in the corners are second only to Formula One cars."

Denny HamlinJust like on the weekends in NASCAR, the competition is tough out on the MMX track and the garage area is busy with drivers working hard tuning their karts in between runs. Prior to last weekend's last-lap accident in the Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway that sidelined him from racing action for at least the next six weeks, Hamlin won the TaG Masters opening round but not before an eventful day that saw him change three engines.

Larson, who finished second in the Senior Round-1 race, comes out to the Motorplex often to race his personal kart.

Photo: Jeff Wackerlin"It keeps me in shape and active," Larson said. "There are a lot of us that come out here and race. I've been out here a lot with Denny (Hamlin) and both of us have gone at it just by ourselves."

Brad Keselowski Racing teammates Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain drove MMX's Sodikart RT8 390cc karts in the Rental Lites class in the first and third round.

"I don't own my own kart, so that's something Ryan and I are working on," Chastain said. "This is an awesome place. Justin (Marks) and Michael (McDowell) have done a good job building this place. When they first told me about it, I didn’t know what to expect. But it’s turned out way better than I thought it would."

"I think it’s a great series," Blaney said. "I love that Mooresville Motorplex put this together. It gives everyone from drivers to crew members a chance to come out, have a good time and race together."

Photo: Jeff WackerlinIf Blaney and Chastain decide to purchase a kart, they won't have to go far. The Motorplex is also home to KartSport North America’s kart shop.

"We have a full pro shop on-site here that has service and parts, Kart sales and advice," Marks said. "We do tuning and engine rebuilds. For someone interested in getting a start we invite them to come out, get in our rental karts, experience the track and the sensations, and then visit our pro shop to see what the options are for investing in the experience."

The track plans to run additional mini-Cups to go along with its season-long MMX Karting championship that started March 17 and runs through November. Special events coming to the Motorplex include the United States Pro Kart Series (April 26-28), U.S. Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals (July 31-Aug. 3) and the World Karting Association Manufacturers Cup season finale (Sept. 27-29).

Photo: Jeff Wackerlin

Photos: Jeff Wackerlin (follow on Twitter @JWackerlin)

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