One down, one to go.
This month showcases two of Quincy’s most popular summer attractions — the just-completed Grand Prix of Karting and the upcoming Quincy Derby.
The past weekend’s karting extravaganza, staged on a twisting, 1.1-mile blacktop course, tucked away within the confines of tree-shrouded South Park, provided another marvelous experience for spectators and racers alike.
Karters were on hand from 19 states and big crowds converged on the park both Saturday and Sunday.
“I love this place, I love this town,” said racer Matt Kreuchel of Pacific, Mo.
That seemed to be the general sentiment of all the out-of-town karters and the fans they brought with them.
And they weren’t alone.
Al Unser Jr., the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who has a pair of IndyCar championships atop his racing dossier, offered kind words about our city all weekend. Unser was in town Friday through Sunday as a special guest of Grand Prix director Terry Traeder.
“I could not have imagined a better weekend,” Unser said. “This is a brilliant track inside a beautiful park.”
Traeder has done an incredible job breathing new life into the Grand Prix, an event he helped bring back from the dead in 2018. The Grand Prix had been dormant since 2001, the plug pulled during a downturn in karting’s overall popularity. The sport is now riding an all-time high in public acceptance, a resurgence Traeder felt was in the works a few years ago. Obviously, he guessed right.
Traeder also reintroduced the Grand Prix to honor his late father, Gus Traeder, the man who founded the nationally recognized karting challenge in 1970 and built the event into one of the sport’s premier tests. There were massive checkered flags by Gus’s grave in Greenmount Cemetery, located just across 12th Street from South Park.
“I’m pretty sure Gus was smiling down at us this weekend,” Grand Prix announcer Randy Kugler said.
I’m pretty sure he was right.
The Quincy Derby, once known as the Quincy Soap Box Derby, will unveil its 17th running June 18-19 on the 18th Street Hill near Bob Mays Park. The derby has blossomed into a major event since its inception and now attracts more than 200 kids, plus their families.
The Quincy Optimist Club has nurtured this race from its humble beginnings in 2005 to an incredibly well run and satisfying adventure for local kids, including a special division for those youngsters dealing with physical and emotional problems. They’re the Super Kids.
“The derby has become a story about relationships,” said longtime event coordinator Ray Wilson. “So many go above and beyond to help make this event a success that it’s just phenomenal.”
There’s another part of the derby Wilson is proud to talk about.
“Last year we had out first second-generation driver,” he said. “And more will soon be on the way.”
One final aspect of the derby that Wilson loves to talk about is “once a part of the derby, always a part of the derby.” Each year past competitors come back to assist the derby, particularly to help out in the Super Kids class. They take turns serving as drivers for those Super Kids who are unable to drive, and there is never a shortage of volunteers.
“A lot of people don’t know about those kinds of things, but it’s just another reason why this event continues to grow and why it’s so very, very special,” Wilson said.
If, for some reason, you were unable to take in any of last weekend’s Grand Prix of Karting, mark down the Quincy Derby.
You won’t regret it.