Auto Racing

South Park comes alive with return of the Grand Prix

John Lynn, of Quincy, competes in the Yamaha heavy division Saturday during the Grand Prix of Karting at South Park. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 10, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Jun. 10, 2018 10:39 pm

QUINCY -- Welcome back, old friend.

The Grand Prix of Karting's triumphant return to South Park probably could not have gone much better on a breezy and sunny Saturday.

And there is more to come Sunday. Much, much more.

Three champions were crowned late Saturday afternoon -- including Quincy driver Jeff Scott -- with 11 more finals scheduled Sunday, starting at noon.

The biggest winner of the weekend may have been Quincy itself.

Quincy Park District representatives and event coordinators estimated Saturday's turnout at around 6,000. That number might increase Sunday.

"When I pulled up to South Park on Saturday morning and heard the ‘ying-ying-ying' of the kart motors, plus the smell of the engines in the air, I have to admit ... I got a little misty-eyed," said Bob Gough, president of the Quincy Park Board.

The Grand Prix had enjoyed an original 32-year run that ended in 2001. Seventeen years later, one of the sport's most treasured events returned in all its glory, thanks in large part to Terry Traeder and a dedicated staff.

Traeder is the son of the late Gus Traeder, who founded and nurtured the original Grand Prix to its coveted position in the sport's history books.

Gus Traeder, who died in 2016, is buried across 12th Street from South Park in Greenmount Cemetery. His grave can be seen from the winding 1.125-mile course, and on Saturday a huge checkered flag adorned his grave site.

About 290 karters from 15 states and one foreign country -- Bermuda -- were on hand, offering a combination of praise and thanks to the city and the Traeder family for resurrecting the Grand Prix.

"What a great tribute this is to the city of Quincy and the Traeder family," said Randy Kugler of Wadsworth, Ohio, who handled most of the announcing duties. "I have been to a lot of karting events, but I have never seen an atmosphere like this."

Veteran driver Pete Vetter of St. Louis was one of many whose emotions were evident in their remarks.

"This is a very special race, and I'm so glad it's back on again," said Vetter, who after he won the Margay Ignite class finale, got on his knees and kissed the finish line.

"The Park Board cannot thank the Traeder family enough for helping bring back one of the greatest events in this city's history," Gough said. "To see this come back to life is really special. This course is so unique."

Scott's victory came in the Briggs 206 Heavy class, dominating a strong field that included runner-up Bill McLaughlin of Mooresville, Ind.

"I was hoping for a top-five finish," the 47-year-old Scott said. "A lot of thoughts were going though my mind during those final laps. I just tried to run my line."

Vetter, who had a history in the original Grand Prix, picked up his ninth career win in Quincy, tying him for sixth all-time behind Terry Traeder (27), Scott Evans (27), Scott Sellergren (15), Mike Birdsell (13) and Rod Stewart (10).

The other first-day winner was Michael Dittmer of Davenport, Iowa, in the Yamaha Heavy division. He outdueled Vetter and Arie Venberg of Dallas, Texas, for the checkered flag.

"You have to be patient here, and let the race come to you," Dittmer said. "You can't let the lead group get away from you."

South Park opens Sunday with practice at 8:30 a.m.