When it came time to upgrade its fleet of gas-powered karts, Lehigh Valley Grand Prix President Mike McCreary had to make a decision.
Should he go for the maximum speed the karts could hit and attract the growing number of racing professionals that visit the facility for fun and practice? Or should he keep the venue accessible for the corporate team-building events, social gatherings and private parties that also make up a major chunk of the Grand Prix’s business?
Ultimately, McCreary came to a conclusion.
“This is an entertainment venue,” he said.
And while he said the Grand Prix is always looking to enhance the experience of its customers and provide a better product, he had to balance excitement with accessibility and safety.
As a result, the Allentown indoor kart-racing facility has upgraded its fleet of gas-powered karts to Super Karts.
At a cost of about $1,500 for each $10,000 vehicle, Grand Prix replaced the existing 6 ½-horsepower engines with 9-horsepower engines on 20 of the 30 vehicles at the track. The remaining 10 are the smaller karts geared toward junior drivers.
The new engines will increase speed to 50 mph, making them the fastest indoor concession carts in the country.
Because the new engines improve the torque and handling of the vehicles – especially for larger drivers – the karts are now faster but safer, McCreary said.
Lehigh Valley Grand Prix is now one of just two facilities on the East Coast where people can drive Super Karts without having to pass pre-qualification standards. The other is in North Carolina.
He said keeping the vehicles accessible to the non-hardcore racer was an important part of his business plan.
“Most people wouldn’t have the opportunity to try something like this if we didn’t provide it,” said McCreary.
He said the investment seems to be paying off.
“We’re getting a lot of regulars that we haven’’ seen in a while and it’s attracted interest from a lot of the other karting facilities in the region who want to see what it’s all about,” he said.
The venue’s first big public event featuring the Super Karts will be held Feb. 24. The Lehigh Valley Grand Prix 500 is being held in conjunction with the Daytona 500. The race is already sold out, but fans attend to watch the kart race and the Daytona 500 in the Grand Prix’s bar.
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