By Kristen Miller
With their adrenaline pumping and a drive to win, the Leprechaun Karting go kart team headed out west to compete against nothing short of the best racers from across the country.
Robin Hillmyer, 50, Dave Cole, 52, and Killian Keaveny, 9, all from Cokato, make up the Leprechaun Karting team, which is sponsored by Kelly and Deb Keaveny.
With the season coming to an end at Stockholm Motorsports Park, the team decided to compete one last time in the 2007 TAG Racing International, at the IMI Motorplex just outside of Denver, Colo.
There, 120 go karts from across the US and Canada (16 from Stockholm) came to compete for this year’s TAG World Championship.
“We competed against the best of the best,” Hillmyer said.
After five years racing go karts and placing second in total points for his class at Stockholm for the year, Killian finished the TAG race in fourth the highest of the Stockholm racers.
“My favorite part was the speed,” he said.
At a larger race track, Killian’s average speed was 54 miles per hour; at Stockholm, he averages 50 mph, he said.
Killian might have even won first place if it hadn’t been for the dust storms, which made it darker and harder for him to see while racing.
With this race being a yearly event, Killian can’t wait to go next year.
Cole, on the other hand, won’t be returning next year. This was his last race as he has decided to retire after 15 years of racing to concentrate on his family commitments, he said.
“It’s not because I’m too old,” he said.
Cole, along with Hillmyer, race in the TAG Master’s class of racers age 35 and older.
He will miss the camaraderie and the competitiveness of the sport.
“You meet a lot of different people with different backgrounds, yet with the same love affair,” Cole said.
Cole worked with professional racers such as Jerry Knapp of Cokato. For two years he was a mechanic for race car teams. He has been on the Cokato Fire Department for 20 years and worked on the fire and rescue squad at the Brainerd race track.
Cole currently works for North Central International, Glencoe, a heavy truck dealership in the parts department.
He described the track in Denver to be quite a bit faster that the Stockholm track.
“The slowest speed was 20 mph faster than it would be at Stockholm,” he said.
The fastest speed on the straightaway for Cole was 85 mph.
Cole finished in 14th place out of 20; just two seconds behind the winner.
“We just couldn’t come up with the right combination to come up with the extra speed needed to win,” Cole said speaking of his race team.
Although he would have liked to have done better, “You can’t always be at the top of the ladder,” Cole said.
As he retires from racing, Cole advises other racers, especially young racers like Killian, to follow their dreams.
With only two years of racing under his belt, Hillmyer knows it takes practice in order to win.
“You have to treat it like a job you have to if you want to win,” he said.
Since this was the TAG World Championship, Hillmyer knew racing in Denver would be a challenge.
“I went to survive,” he said.
Hillmyer finished 15th, right behind Cole. What made it difficult was having to adjust to the conditions throughout the day in order to make the kart faster, he said.
Adjustments to the kart could be changing the air pressure in the tires, realigning the front tires, or adjusting the frame, according Hillmyer.
“Whatever it takes to make it faster, better, and quicker,” he said.
For the Keaveny family and for many others, go kart racing is much of a family event.
They all work together to keep the karts running Mom provides the fuel by cooking (and sometimes racing), and the dads most of the time are the “wrenchers” or mechanics, according to Kelly Keaveny.
“Killian has already assured us we are going again next year. He wants to beat the kids ahead of him,” Keaveny said.