Full disclosure: I like racing. But going fast in a car? Not so much.
My 14-year-old son calls me Mr. Slow. So the day he came home with the fastest lap from a birthday party held at a go-kart track, the challenge was clear. Mr. Slow needs to quit putt-putt-puttering around and pick up the pace. Luckily, Joe O’Gorman offers a solution.
The 1986 communication arts graduate is a racing enthusiast, self-confessed “serial opportunist” and the owner of Full Throttle Indoor Karting, an indoor racetrack designed to satisfy those with the racing bug and a need for speed.
But abandon all preconceptions of a mom-and-pop roadside kart track. Full Throttle proclaims itself as “Go Kart Racing Like You’ve Never Experienced.” Built in a 50,000-square-foot structure originally designed as a candy factory, it now satisfies an insatiable speed tooth. Or, as O’Gorman tells me, “We have everything you need. Just arrive and race.”
Watch as author Michael Shaw takes a lap around the track. Slowly.
And while 95 percent of customers just show up for fun, many professional drivers now get their start behind the wheel of a kart. “Sam Hornish Jr. was up at the Kentucky Speedway for a charity event. NASCAR invited a lot of the press here to run a challenge against Sam. He was pretty quick.”
So who gets behind the wheel? Birthday parties, leagues, aspiring Formula 1 drivers, boy’s-night-outers, even just someone just walking in off the street. “Our customers run from someone who has never done it before, casual customers who love go-karting, to semi-pro and pro drivers.”
The expertly designed, 14-corner track can accommodate all the skill you can muster behind the wheel. The karts can also be remote-controlled by a transponder, so if you’re naughty and get black flagged—racing lingo for disqualified—someone will flip the switch and literally park you. There are three flag stands located throughout the course that allow employees to get to customers quickly, usually to turn a kart around after a spin or perform a tire-wall extraction.
O’Gorman offers me a little rookie advice: “Passing usually doesn’t happen through the straightaway. At the narrowest it’s just over16 feet and it’s possible to go three-wide at any point.”
The secret to speed? Being smooth and finding “the fast line.” I’m informed that the fast line is not always obvious to a beginner but becomes apparent after a few sessions. Plus my propensity for slowness comes from a sense of self-preservation, which is not usually a bad thing, except for a racer. But these karts are fast, small, precise and designed to be driven full-out. The 270cc Honda engines can hit 40 mph.
Up to 10 karts can race at a time making for a pretty full field. And it doesn’t take long to get lapped—or at least it didn’t for me. Basically, the driving technique lives up to the name “full throttle,” with only three or four turns where braking is needed (and even then only optional). “Make sure you get some heat into your tires. And have fun.”
So that’s what I’m doing. Zipped into my racing suit, helmet strapped, gripping the wheel at two and 10, Mr. Slow takes off. As far as my lap time? Hey, what’s a fast time really matter when you’re having a good time?