QUINCY — Devon Smith-Harden understood the significance of his accomplishment.
“Knowing the history of this event, and to be at the top of the list is ... great,” he said.
The 20-year-old Smith-Harden established a new track record Sunday at South Park, and is now regarded as the fastest driver in the long and storied history of Quincy’s Grand Prix of Karting.
Oh, and Smith-Harden also won three titles — in dominating fashion, no less — to further accent as close to a perfect weekend as there has ever been at the Grand Prix, an event that dates to 1970.
Smith-Harden’s record-setting lap around the 1.1-mile cavalcade of corners, twists and turns came during the Pro Shifter 125 finale. His fast lap of 59.786 seconds was the quickest of three sub-minute circuits during the race, and the first time in Grand Prix history there had been a recorded lap in under one minute in any event.
Smith-Harden’s record lap time equaled an average speed of 66.2 mph — with a high of more than 74 mph at one point — around the challenging South Park course.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” Smith-Harden said.
Smith-Harden, who made the trek to Quincy from Nashville, Ind., also won the Pro Shifter and Shifter titles. His combined margins of victory was an impressive 45.4 seconds.
“This all just feels great,” Smith-Harden said.
Big day for Neilson, too
Tony Neilson of Delmar, Iowa, also enjoyed a banner performance. Neilson, 39, matched Smith-Harden’s three victories by taking the checkers in the Briggs Medium, Briggs Masters and Briggs Heavy divisions.
Neilson also won three events in the 2018 Grand Prix and has seven career victories at South Park, tying him for eighth on the all-time Grand Prix list.
“(Winning three races) again is unreal,” Neilson said. “I’m on cloud nine. Hopefully, this feeling will never go away. Just to be in the win column in Quincy is a big thing.”
Neilson’s most exciting win may have come in the Briggs Medium when he was part of a three-wide scrum coming out of the final turn heading toward the finish line.
“It was pretty exciting from my point of view,” Neilson said, with a wide grin.
Coincidentally, one of Neilson’s crew members is Scott Evans of Des Moines, Iowa. Evans and Grand Prix director Terry Traeder of Quincy, are tied for the most career wins in the event with 27. Both Evans and Traeder are retired from active competition.
Double their pleasure
A pair of drivers, Ethan Arndt of Salado, Texas, and Matt Krechel of Pacific, Mo., each won a pair of championships.
Arndt won Pro FK-100 Sunday and the FK-100 on Saturday. He ran into early trouble during Sunday’s race, but worked his way through an 11-car field to secure the victory.
“I don’t know what happened (at the start),” Arndt said. “My motor just bogged down and I lost five positions. I really had to push it.”
Krechel won Sunday’s Margay Ignite Masters to go with a Saturday triumph in the Briggs Heavy.
Rounding out the winners
The remaining Sunday winners Avery Schwalm, of St. Charles, Mo., won the Pro Briggs division, with Jeremiah Davis, of North Liberty, Iowa, claiming the Ignite Heavy class, and Gabe Sessler, of Burien, Wash., racing to victory in the Margay Ignite competition.
Ten titles were decided Sunday, following championship runs in four events on Saturday.
Unser Jr. praises Quincy
Al Unser Jr., the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who was a special guest at this weekend’s Grand Prix, had some parting words for Quincy before he left late Sunday afternoon.
“This weekend has been great,” he said. “I couldn’t have imagined a better time. South Park is a brilliant track inside a beautiful park.”
Unser also had some words for the competitors prior to Sunday’s first green flag.
“Racing is racing, and it doesn’t matter what kind of car you’re in — when the race starts, it’s on!” he said.
— The three-year total of Grand Prix entries since the event was reintroduced in 2018 is 982: 362 this year, 319 in 2019 and 301 in 2018. There was no Grand Prix in 2020 due the pandemic. The overall event record is 625, established in 1994.
— Drivers from five states won weekend races: Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Indiana and Washington. Drivers from 19 states were in the pits.
— Two huge checkered flags adorned the grave of the late Gus Traeder on Saturday and Sunday. Gus Traeder, who is buried in Greenmount Cemetery, located just across 12th Street from South Park, founded the Grand Prix and served as its director from 1970 to 2001. Terry Traeder is Gus Traeder’s son — and a former world karting champion — who resurrected the Grand Prix in honor of his dad.
— The Rev. Tony Metz of Luther Memorial Church in Quincy delivered Sunday’s invocation, followed by Rajah Maples of KHQA television singing the national anthem.