Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 7, 2003

Checkered flags waving at Stockholm Karting Center

By Troy Feltmann

Stockholm Karting Center is off to the races in its first full season.

The kart track is located just east of Cokato on Highway 12 in Stockholm Township.

Jaime Laughlin of Chanhassen, John Miller of Edina, and Craig Mandery of Spicer are the owners of the karting facility.

In 1985, 20 guys wanted to start racing. Kenny Venberg, the kart track's race director and announcer, started the Northland Region Karting Association (NRKA).

The problem was we didn't have a home to race. Cantebury and Raceway Parks would allow us to race in their parking lot," Laughlin said.

In 1991, Brainerd International Raceway (BIR) allowed the NRKA to build a kart track in the infield of the race track.

"BIR got sold and we felt vulnerable. We needed our own facilities," Laughlin said.

It took the group awhile to find a home for the kart track. They found land in Glencoe, but it wasn't zoned for their purpose.

Next was Buffalo. The group found land by the airport, but the residents of Buffalo were against the idea. They were afraid of a possible noise problem.

Wayne Murphy of Edina Realty contacted the group and they obtained the land east of Cokato.

"We are very happy with the way it turned out. The Cokato area has been great. They have been very supportive," Laughlin said.

The karting facility cost about $1.1 million to construct.

"We have used almost all local contractors. We also urge the racers to support the local communities," Laughlin said.

Races are every weekend starting around 11 a.m. One weekend features a six-tenths of a mile road race. The next weekend is one-fifth of a mile oval track race.

There are 14 different classes broken down by motor, and then age and weight.

"There are many different styles of karts to race. Briggs and Straton engines are the most common. They are basically a 5-horsepower tiller motor. They have restrictor plates on the engine to reduce the speeds for kids," Laughlin said.

The electric start motor kart is popular with most of the dads. This kart does not take much maintenance. "This is great for the father because he is fixing on the kid's kart.

Another kart is the Shifter kart. It has a dirt bike motor in it.

The last type of kart is for the younger kids. The motor is like a weed whip motor.

"It is great for the little kids. They don't really race. The kids think they do. At the award's ceremony, they all get a first place trophy," Laughlin said.

The track has about 200 racers for the road course race. About 80 of those racers are kids and close to half of the kids are girls.

"It's great! A lot of the time the girls whip the boys," Laughlin laughed.

Racers come from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Canada. "We have one family that comes down every other weekend from Thunder Bay," Laughlin said.

Dan Roe, one of the racers, has been racing with his dad since 1981.

"It is a cheap, competitive sport compared to other racing. It's very family-oriented. My dad and I get to spend a lot of time together doing something we both enjoy," Roe said.

You can get started racing for around $2,000. "It's like anything else. Yeah, sure you could spend $10,000, but it is the cheapest form of racing, Laughlin said.

The biggest misnomer of kart racing is that it is not real racing. Laughlin disagrees.

"It is very competitive. Most people think it is like going to Valleyfair to race karts. They are totally wrong," Laughlin said.

Safety is number one priority out on the track. "Karts can go fast, but most of the bumping goes on around the curves. Drivers are going about 10 mph on the curves," Laughlin said.

"Over the years, I remember six broken bones. Not very many," Laughlin said.

Right now the oval track racing is not as popular. Most of those racers prefer dirt tracks. There are only two tracks ­ here and in Eau Claire, Wis. ­ that have asphalt.

"Dirt racers and asphalt racers are like NASCAR and Indy racing. Basically the same, but different attitudes. Dirt guys have bumper stickers that say dirt is for racing, asphalt is for getting there. We are confident that we will win them over," Laughlin said.

Future plans are to build a park or ballfield area for the kids. They also want to add more sheds for garages and pit areas.

If you are interested in racing, it costs $30 per race day and $10 for an insurance pass. The race season runs from May to early October.

If you are interested in watching competitive racing, it is free to the public.

More information is also available at the center's web site at www.stockholmkartingcenter.com

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