Competitors gather for first-annual South Texas State Fair Challenge

photo by Kevin King

Southeast Texas fairgoers had the opportunity to witness the first-ever South Texas State Fair Kart Challenge on Saturday, April 5, as the YMBL partnered with Golden Triangle Race­way Park to feature up-and-coming stars in the world of kart racing at the Ford Arena.

First-place winners for each class for Satur­day’s race were: Junior Novice (5-7 years old), Lane Franks; Junior I (8-10 years old), Hunter Wyble; Junior II (10-12 years old), Corey Neil; Junior III (13-15 years old), Cody Babbitt; Ani­mal 206, Colton Audilet; Predator Pro, Jay Aldridge; Pro Clone, Josh Ferguson; and Run What You Bring, Ryan Hatthorn.

With steady hands, raw horsepower and nerves of steel, drivers pushed their karts to the limit on the Ford Are­na’s dirt track — slightly smaller than the standard one-eighth mile track normally used for the motorsport.

The event was free with admission to the fair and Hen­ry Gaus, Young Men’s Busi­ness League arena activities coordinator, said he was pleased with the turnout for the race.

“It’s not going to do anything but get big­ger,” Gaus said.

Racers of all ages and from states including Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi competed Saturday for trophies, pride and just to have a good time.

Seventy-five racers including 10-year-old Corey Neil Jr. and Clayton Whatley, 9, both of Bridge City, gathered before the race to chitchat about racing strategy and the love of the sport.

Neil said he caught go-kart racing fever at the age of 5, while Whatley started competing at the age of 6.

“My favorite part is pass­ing everybody,” Whatley said with a smile and eyes full of anticipation.

Kart racing isn’t just for the boys either, as Layla Franks will attest. The 9-year-old has been racing karts for two years and said she loves to prove to the boys that she is not to be taken lightly. Franks even helped her father design the graphics on her No. 115 pink and black zebra-striped kart.

The Cain family of Ned­erland possesses a 40-year go-kart racing tradition, one that 24-year-old Tiffany Cain continued Saturday by entering her No. 26 go-kart. Tiffany, who has been racing since she was 7, said the motor sport gives her an adrenaline rush like no oth­er.

“It’s a family tradition,” said Tiffany, who followed in her father Arthur’s footsteps.

The family travels to places like Tulsa, Texarkana and Tyler to compete, and even has a Harley Davidson mascot ted­dy bear that they strap to the front of their go-kart for good luck.

Gaus said he personally hopes that the challenge will become an annual fixture at the South Texas State Fair. The YMBL will discuss the suc­cess of the event and make that decision, he said.

“When we do new events, what we look at is how many people did it involve, how many people did it affect, how many people did you get out. We’ll have to sit down … and figure out if it is some­thing that we want to do again. We’ve already got some things in mind that we can improve. I hope it is something we will continue to do.”

Sponsors for the race included: Best Little Hair Place in Texas, Beaumont Tractor, Gulfco Industrial Rentals, Showtime Signs, Rail Works Track Systems, John­son’s Shell & Automotive, and Gary Watson Racing.

Golden Triangle Raceway Park’s regular season starts April 19. Races take place the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month from April until Octo­ber. Gates open at 5 p.m. and races start at 7 p.m. Full con­cessions are available. Golden Triangle Raceway Park is located at 16583 U.S. 90 in Beaumont. For more informa­tion on local go-kart races, including a schedule of racing events, visit www.motora­ or call (409) 752-7200.