After spending years away from the sport, former kart racer Matt Cramner decided to return to racing, but with different priorities and motives. After reflecting on his short “career” racing at local tracks, he found that kart racing wasn’t just about speed and competition. The racing community was and is an awesome place to foster growth within hands-on trade, common sense, responsibility, networking, and relationships, just to name a few.
In February of 2016, Matt called upon a kart racing legend and his wife, Jerry and Marilyn Solt. On a chilly evening after work, Matt arranged a time to meet them and formally introduced himself and the vision that he had for the racetrack that was tucked away in the Solt’s backyard.
The Solts’ dirt track was built in the mid to late 90’s era. Using Jerry’s wisdom that had been accumulated through 40+ years of kart racing, he designed the track to be competitive and fun to drive. A wide 1/8th mile track with a decent amount of banking suggest that this track wasn’t just thrown together. It was designed and built to be a successful racing facility. The flagstand, grandstand which includes a scoring booth, and plenty of acreage around the track screams potential for hosting some amazing events.
With no doubt, the track has a history among the karting community, but Matt’s goal was and is not to resurrect the past. His vision is broader and more purposed than that. Matt recognizes that kart racing is a platform that can be a tool to change people’s lives. Why or how? First, let’s take a moment to recognize the need of our community.
Matt is concerned about what he is observing among his community. As he interacts with people, he sees broken families that are struggling financially, relationaly, and morally. With a lack of forward thinking, children or young adults are being raised in homes that depend on schools, coaches, government assistance, and churches to raise their children while the parent races off to work (if they go to work) or the next recreational event. From the down trodden to the over achieving, the issues affect all types of people!
Meanwhile, area businesses are struggling to find workers that can pass a drug test, show up for work everyday, let alone being on time and perform a task. The generation that has carried the businesses with their dependability and skill in trade are retiring and the hope for replacement workers are grim because our educational system (with the support of parents) has pumped out college bound grads that move away and sit behind desk with a computer for a living. This is not to suggest failure, but to help recognize a vacuum that has been created by our current system and methodology. Students that fail to meet the ‘College Bound’ criteria have received less attention at schools despite advancements in the last decade. As for influence within the home and preparing students for careers or even families, it often seems lacking as priorities seem to be off center or upside down. And that is not even touching the issues with drugs, sex, or alcohol.
Is our society a complete failure? NO!!! An honest look into our community would also reveal many individuals as well as families that have aspired to great accomplishments and healthy lifestyles. It is the stereotype above that has a growing prevalence that plagues our future because we all need to be contributors to society in some way, shape, or form.
How is a kart track going to fix this?
The kart track won’t, but people will! Let’s set the racing aspect of the kart track aside and focus on the finer details that often get overlooked when the general public thinks about racing. When you consider something like a sport, you will ponder what makes it great. For instance, football. What makes it great? Is it just a bunch of big smelly boys running around a grassy field with a pigskin while grunting and smashing each other. Hardly. One would say that it is a team sport that revolves around strategy as much as technicality and skill. The sport builds camaraderie, teamwork, character, physical physique, a family dynamic, and can draw a community together on a Friday night. If a player were to advance their football career, they may receive a scholarship or be drafted into the NFL. Yet, for those that do not advance in the sport, what are they left with but memories, life lessons, and a possible knee replacement in their near future.
Does the gridiron or any other traditional school sport offer a realistic future in a career? Does a sport or skill go on a resume when looking for a career? The reality is that hundreds, if not thousands, of hours and dollars may go into an athletic sport, and when the season of the athlete turns into a typical career short of the NFL, there can often be a void in common sense or skill that was never taught because of the commitment to an athletic sport or similiar. Is it a crime to be engaged with a sport you enjoy. Not at all. Short of taking shop class in school, is their any skills or trade being invested besides recreational entertainment?
Admittedly, it is easy for most of us to go to something that entertains us before we engage with a “classroom experience.” If it is a classroom, there's probably a drive or a purpose for being there. Therein lies the ‘key’ to how the track is an excellent platform for not only recreation, but teaching skills.
Consider what it takes to be involved with racing karts. No weight rooms, but a garage with tools, not a field, but a dirt track with equipment operators, hands-on skills that understands “righty-tighty lefty-loosy”, less with planned “plays” and more mathematics including how to read a tape measure. Troubleshooting real issues on the kart that could easily translate to anything from the lawn mower at home to the factory down the road rather than taping an ankle because of an injury. How to be a responsible driver that makes good reactive decisions when needed to avoid a crash. As if that isn’t enough, what about budgeting the expense of the kart. Seeking sponsorships and learning how to market teams as well as individuals. How to network with business partners as well as family and friends.
As a business owner, your ears may have just perked up. You just read things that involved tools, operating equipment, hands-on skills, mathematics / measurements, troubleshooting, driving, bookkeeping, and marketing. That doesn’t include other aspects that would include paint, tires, gears, lubricants, fabricating / welding, clutches, engines, graphics, transporting, and other needs of kart racing itself. We could also look at different aspects of the track and recognize that it could offer opportunities for youth programs that could get students involved with introductory levels of security, fire and rescue, hospitality, building and grounds, media, etc. To summarize, the kart track is a “playground” for tomorrow’s careers. A playground that we can allow people to engage with small introductory levels of skills or trade that would at least give them a “taste” of the bigger careers that are available.
Admittedly, most people do not have all of the skills that I just mentioned. Therefore the thought of entering into a sport that may demand so many different skills and tooling could be overwhelming. It is easy to compare racing to farming. Unless your father or grandfather was a farmer, the odds of you becoming a farmer are slim to none because you did not inherit the skills or the no-how, the equipment, or the land to farm. Therefore, your career would naturally take another course of action. So how do we overcome this issue in the world of racing? It takes people. People that have achieved and have acquired the skills or trade and are willing to impart what they know into the next generation. No one individual may be able to provide all that is listed above within the kart racing community, but if a group of people could collectively bring their profession to the table and invest into the people that are willing to be involved, there is no reason that the current trends cannot be shifted within our own community.
Solt Speedway is looking to network with businesses and technical educators to build skills within the students that are excited to be part of this recreation. The youth are going to be excited to show up to have fun, but subconsciously learning trade to advance their competitive nature. Business could take full advantage of this by being involved and helping to develop strategies that would at least introduce them to a trade or their very own business.
For churches and mentors, this opportunity will allow you to partner with individuals or families that need guidance. It is the perfect excuse to work with families through the week for a season and get involved with coaching and helping people to potentially share understanding of anything from healthy family principles, budgeting, or even marital issues. Racing is a family sport and it requires healthy families and relationships.
The track is simply a platform that is being established to unite and network spheres of influence that make up our community under one mission. A mission that will benefit us all through investing into people that they may in turn invest back into their own families, the workplace, and the community in general. This is a call to anyone that is interested in fixing the issues our society faces. Would you please consider what your part would look like? Each of us are unique and gifted by design. Therefore any of us could bring something unique to the table, each of which could be tailored into the ‘big picture’ of our united mission. How can you contribute? Call or email Matt Cramner, promoter of this project, and discuss how your piece of the puzzle might fit into the vision. (See Contacts)