Steve Eighinger

Rebirth of Grand Prix of Karting enters year two

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 6, 2019 12:01 am

The Grand Prix of Karting returns to Quincy this weekend, but my immediate thoughts about the event are tied to something beyond the hairpin turns and thousands of people who will flock to the storied South Park course on Saturday and Sunday.

I can remember the looks on the faces of the late Gus Traeder and his son, Terry, early in the summer of 2001. The 32nd and final -- at that time -- Grand Prix had just ended. It had been the swan song of an event that had become synonymous with Quincy, but times were changing in the world of karting.

Gus and Terry had decided to pull the plug on the Grand Prix, which at its high point attracted 625 racers from across the Midwest and beyond. The 2001 finale had brought in only a small fraction of that figure.

The end was not only near, it had arrived for the once-glorious Grand Prix.

At the conclusion of the 2001 competition, the Grand Prix of Karting had officially become a memory. For the Traeders it was like losing a child, and Terry, in particular, always kept a hope that somehow, someday it might be resurrected.

That someday came last year when he announced the Grand Prix was returning. The world of karting had come full circle, and events like the Grand Prix in Quincy were again popular with racers.

Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive when told months in advance by Terry about what he was planning. I wasn't certain Quincy would embrace such a comeback. I was hopeful. Just uncertain.

Heading into Grand Prix weekend a year ago, I had been impressed with all of the planning, associated events and the sprucing up of South Park.

But I was still concerned, however, as race weekend neared. The true litmus test would be tied to how many people showed up.

It was one of those dreadfully hot Quincy weekends, with a threat of showers at anytime. I was keeping my fingers crossed that all of the hard work of Terry and his staff would pay off.

When I arrived at South Park for the Saturday portion of Grand Prix weekend I couldn't help but smile. There were people everywhere, and on Sunday -- the main day of the event -- there were even more.

Quincy Park District officials, who did a magnificent job helping prepare for the influx of patrons, estimated anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 were in attendance at different stages. Acquiring an exact head count is virtually impossible. The event is free, and there is considerable coming and going during the course of both days.

One of the first things I talked with Terry about several days after the Grand Prix, once everyone had a chance to take a collective deep breath, was how proud Gus would have been to see such a spectacle come to life again.

Gus died in 2016 at age 90, and his funeral procession took a lap around the South Park course before his casket was lowered into Greenmount Cemetery, which is fittingly positioned just across the street from South Park.

Terry was certain his dad was watching last year when the Grand Prix was reborn. When he mentioned that after the 2018 event, we both nodded our heads and smiled.

And I'm pretty sure Gus will be watching again this weekend.