Weekly Roundup: The Weighting Is The Hardest Part

The USAC banner was flying over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jim Cornelison sang “Back Home Again In Indiana”. The winner chugged milk and took home a brick. But this wasn’t the Indy 500 — it was the USAC “Battle At The Brickyard”, and your humble author was in the pack that rushed past the sportcoat-clad starter in search of a win at America’s most venerable racetrack.

It should be noted that this was my first kart race. Like, first kart race ever. I had an outstanding ride — a brand-new Ignite K3, prepared by Margay and maintained on-site by a dedicated mechanic. I had two great teammates — Larry Webster and Hagerty’s only former WKA competitor, young photographer and autowriter Cameron Neveu. Most of all, I had the ironclad and completely ignorant belief that I could parachute in and race head-to-head with people who weren’t just famous as kart racers but well-known in other motorsports as well, like multiple SCCA Runoffs and pro series winner Keith Scharf.

Naturally, I won it all. Okay, that’s a lie. I didn’t even finish in the top half. In the fourteen-lap main event I took a 23rd place out of 33 non-disqualified karts in the final, ahead of just four other karts that were still running at the end of the thing. Not exactly Days Of Thunder material here, boys.

Now here’s the thing. I didn’t get passed in corners. I defended my positions pretty well. After lap one of the final, I was somewhere between 10th and 15th place, having started in 29th. I even made a couple serious and successful moves on highly experienced competitors, some of whom took podium positions in the various heats and pre-finals. Why’d I get stomped so bad? Let me, ahem, push myself away from the buffet table and explain.

Ignite Masters is a 370-pound class. That means you and your kart must weigh at least 370 pounds at the end of qualifying and at the end of the final. I never saw anyone finish in the top ten who weighed in at over 374 pounds. Once I heard a competitor weighed at 382 and he said, “Thank God I have ten pounds of ballast on the kart to remove before the final.”

My kart and I were… 424 pounds. Running the 8.8 horsepower 206cc Briggs&Stratton engine, that meant I had 48 pounds per horsepower compared to the 42 of my competition. To put in terms normal car people understand, I was driving a Corvette Stingray and everybody else was driving a Corvette Z06. My top speed was 58 miles per hour; Larry Webster was hitting 65. All but two of the turns at the IMS road course are taken flat out. This was a problem.

Over the course of the three-day event, we worked on ways to counteract this. I learned to tuck like a monkey behind the wheel and steer using my palms against the wheel with my knuckles on the insides of my legs, which was intensely painful in fast corners but was worth perhaps 1.5 miles per hour. We raised my gearing ratio until I could match the acceleration of my competition at the green flag, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to stay with them once the field opened up. Sure enough, I made hay at the start, but ended up being passed by plenty of karts. On lap 12, I was caught by the three leading racers; on lap 13, two more showed up. Oof. I can’t remember the last time I was lapped in a club race.

How to fix this? Well, I could lose fifty-four pounds, which would put me at 195 even. I haven’t been that light since I was 28 years old. Back then I ran four miles a day, five days a week, and often rode twenty miles on a bike after running. In theory, I could do it again. Somehow. If I thought my son would die if I didn’t scale at 195 by next July, I could do it. Can I do it for the purpose of placing fifteen spots higher in the order of a spec-series kart race? Probably not.

Brother Bark does a much better job staying thin than I do, to put it mildly. At the moment I’m pretty sure he can do twenty pull-ups and bench half again his actual weight. I don’t have his discipline in that area, and I’m constructed fundamentally differently. So I think it would be better if I stuck to club racing and didn’t go full Karen Carpenter in 2021.

That being said, if I lost twenty pounds I would only be fifteen pounds above the minimum for the Briggs 206 Heavy class for next year’s Battle At The Brickyard. A fifteen-pound disadvantage is much better than a fifty-four-pound disadvantage. And I have a year to do it. On the other hand, my local Ruth’s Chris just reopened. There are two wolves inside me, as the proverb goes. One of them wants to win a kart race. The other one wants to have Tim Horton’s for breakfast, every day. Which one will win? Why, the one I feed, of course!

* * *

This week, for Hagerty, I wrote about potential Boxster purchases and imaginary Escalades.

I would also encourage my readers to read Sam Smith’s examination of what happens when a spouse, and mother, is lost.

24 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: The Weighting Is The Hardest Part”

  1. Avatar-Nate

    Hm ;

    And here I was all prepped to buy that $8,000 Boxster with new paint at the BH, PH lot….

    Or, maybe not .


    • AvatarDisinterested-Observer

      Several years ago I really was about to buy that $11,000 Boxster. Thankfully several things got in the way, including an email that I sent to our illustrious author, the reply to which was basically a first draft of that article.

  2. AvatarJoe

    So I would have 45-50 pounds of ballast, and am pretty low profile, I wonder how tall the gearing could be and still be quick off the line, sounds like a blast

  3. Avatarroamer

    So…you suffer from the Paul Tracy’s problem racing against the likes of Jimmy Vasser. I remember seeing the drivers gathered before a race back then and thinking that if this were a boxing match PT would have no problem taking on the lot of them together. Or a pie eating contest.

    You can lose the 35. I’ve lost sixty pounds in the last 14 months. Of course, I was incentivized by open-heart surgery… And you can have steak every night. You just can’t have the baked potato that goes with it, or that great bread you get as soon as you sit down. Once you lose the weight, you can eat them again, just not every night.

    It ‘s a sacrifice, but think of it this way…it might help you keep up with your son next time you’re on a BMX track together. For a while, anyway. Entropy is the house, and the house never loses.

  4. AvatarJohn C.

    On the 77 Escalade, I see you had the artist do the one change that would have guaranteed it’s success in the eyes of the still uninterested import buyer. The fillets around the tail fins are chromed steel. That that makes the tail fins look more tacked on is irrelevant. The legion of American import buyers really just didn’t like the size and brashness of upscale American cars, but realize going on about it makes the listener wonder why the talker so resents the style of his own country. Cracking body color filets while the car was street parked by the third owner allowed the import buyer to get his bile out.

    The real problem of course is that a 77 Escalade would do nothing to comfort the high stress life of the successful 1977 Cadillac driver. When he had people in it and it was loud and uncomfortable he would be embarrassed. While his friends tried to figure out how to climb in without getting greece on their suit pants leg or nervously lower their legs to the far below unseen ground to get out, they would be embarrassed. Riding around lording so high over the cars around blocking views to better imply the life of a pig farmer would only be thought of as making an ass of one’s self. No sale.

  5. AvatarNoID

    I see you included a plug for your nascent brand of clothing and accessories, FYBY.

    Unless that was an actual Cadillac tagline back in the day.

  6. AvatarMike

    Losing a bit of that extra baggage would also make you far likely to survive an attack of the Wuhan Flu, should you become unlucky enough to contract it. Fat kills you slowly, until it doesn’t.

    I’m 5’10”, 43 years old, and have been hovering around 180-185 since high school. Since the pandemic-induced quarantine I’ve been doing more projects at home and eating a little better. I pretty much only have beer on Friday now. I weighed myself at the Y yesterday (was there letting the kids splash around in the water, not for my benefit) and clocked in at 177 in my soaking wet bathing suit and swim t-shirt.

    • Avatar-Nate

      Damn Mike ~

      I dream about getting down to 200#, I managed to drop 20 # but that’s it it seems .

      I’m 6′ and medium to large build, the entropy comment is bang spot on dammit .

      I too enjoyed the Sam Smith link .


        • Avatar-Nate

          Sobering and scary too .

          I like to snack on veggies and fruit, our Foster boys don’t .

          Our 4 year old grandson was curious as to what I’d be nibbling on as I read a book or did my E-Mails so I was able to get him into this habit too, he often comes to me as soon as he wakes up and asks for carrots, celery or other tasty & healthful things ~ neither his mother nor father are remotely heavy so I hope he has good genes that will do him well through life .

          ? Have you read “Fast Food Nation” ? an eye opening book .


  7. AvatarKen

    Thanks, been awhile since I “LOL”ed (literally) from an article. Just about spit out coffee from the line:

    “Somehow. If I thought my son would die if I didn’t scale at 195 by next July, I could do it. Can I do it for the purpose of placing fifteen spots higher in the order of a spec-series kart race? Probably not.”

  8. AvatarScottS


    You can get rid of 25 lbs by next year and it won’t even be hard. You can still eat at Ruth’s Chris, but you have to avoid the sugar and carbs. Red wine in moderation is OK too. You won’t be hungry all the time if you do this the right way. Trust me!

    Sam Smith’s article resonates with me. I think I can speak for the readership here at Riverside Green in sending our thoughts and prayers.

  9. AvatarRL

    I enjoy a Tim Hortons coffee as much as the next person, but they have the worst breakfast food! I don’t understand why they are incapable of melting a piece of cheese, or why their bagels often come with just the slightest whisper of cream cheese. Maybe just a donut? No, they haven’t had the maple dip or Canadian maple donut in years.

  10. AvatarCJinSD

    I have memories of being very fast in Malibu Grand Prix cars and various go-karts as recently as…25 years ago. About two years ago, I had the opportunity to go to VIR’s kart track on a vendor’s nickel. He rented the whole track and their fleet of karts. It felt natural to be on the rail again, scouting the karts being driven in other heats to make sure I had a quick one that wasn’t being sand-bagged by its driver or flattered by having a kid driving who weighs a third what I do. There were at least three of us(all from my company) taking things way too seriously, and we all might have gone home telling ourselves that we were the best based on selecting races where we had good karts and dismissing ones where he had bad karts. The only problem is that some cretin brought their twelve year old son, who didn’t need to know a racing line from a starting line to put over a second a lap on each of us.

  11. AvatarAcd

    The ‘What Ifs’ are a hoot, it took me a little way through the Cadillac to see what was going on and then I went back and read the other two and they were also good. This must be one of those ‘Bronco’ pieces you wrote about trying, I’m a fan.

  12. Avatarhank chinaski

    Losing extra weight is seldom a bad thing, even before WuFlu. Carrying around 20# of $hit in a 10# bag is hell on joints, the spine, and ticker especially past 60, and difficulty scales up with weight in titanium and steel acquired along the way.

    I may not have clicked on Smith’s piece without the mention. Death by brain tumor is it’s own particular indignity, as the tumor and medical establishment race to outdo one another in lobotomizing a loved one. The resulting economic issues he touches on are the groin kick when already down.

    • AvatarCJinSD

      I’m not carrying an extra forty pounds. I’m prepping in case Biden gets elected and collapses civilization. I can survive off my stored energy while I figure out the best way to go full cannibal. Can you get more multi-cultural than feeding on the strength of your enemies?


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