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Article : Unser Racing Denver, CO
Facility NewsOne of the really great new indoor kart tracks out there is Unser Racing, the unique
look of the building and the excellent owner / management Team of Scott Sutton and
Anthony Sclafani make for a must trip for those that live in the Denver, CO area and
for those karting fans visiting. We received great insight into the dream, start up and
the expansion going forward from Owner Scott Sutton.

After 15 months of operations, the Unser Racing indoor karting facility in Denver, Colorado is getting ready to expand. “We’re excited to add some much needed improvements to our existing facility, said Unser Racing’s President and CEO Scott Sutton. The upcoming expansion will add a trackside bar, restaurant, coffee shop, improved viewing area, on track viewing, new and improved conference and event spaces, a rooftop outdoor track, and a new grand entrance featuring items from the legendary racing career of business partner Johnny Unser and his uncles Bobby and Al Senior.

Unser Racing opened for business in late October of 2010 with what Sutton describes as phase one. The first phase included one indoor 1/4 mile track, conference and event space, and a small game and arcade area. They originally purchased used karts from Dromo 1 before adding a new fleet of Sodi GT5’s a few months ago. “We had no outside funding which gave us a pretty limited start-up budget and were only able to utilize about a 1/3 of our facilities space, Sutton said. “We found this really unique location which was a shuttered Toyota car dealership with more space then we could afford to finish so we came up with a phased approach. We got the first track open and were able to create some nice corporate space while we worked on the funding to finish the rest of the building and complete our business plan,” Sutton said.

After securing an SBA backed loan from a local bank, construction is scheduled to begin on several of the additional spaces in March with a planned completion date in early June. Sutton said that since the building is only partially occupied, the upcoming construction will have no effect on current business operations.

Unser Racing has also recently added some exciting new business components to the mix. The Unser Performance Division was launched this month which adds a full performance kart shop to the business. They will be selling the full line of Sodi Karts, karting gear and parts, a full service department, and are a Rotax Certified Dealer. “Our Performance Division will be pretty unique in this market,” Sutton said. “Greg Welch who has been involved in kart racing and the karting industry most of his life will head our full service division. We are sponsoring several Colorado based racers on the newly formed Unser Racing Team as well as providing a full service offering to customers who just want to get some track time with a high performance race machine,” Sutton added. Welch’s family owned and operated Shockwave Karting for several years.

Greg Welch said he is really excited to grow his division as an extension of a high traffic entertainment venue. “There aren’t many performance kart shops that have the opportunity to capitalize on a business that drew nearly 40,000 new kart racing customers and 350 new businesses in it’s first year of operation,” Welch said. Every customer will walk by a full Performance Division display when they enter and exit the facility. Welch said that even though they don’t have the display up yet they have already sold several karts to customers who have come in to race the indoor track and found out that they were pretty good and wanted to try the next level. They schedule a time on one of Colorado’s outdoor tracks in one of the companies full race karts and the rest is history. “It’s all about exposure and lowering the barriers of entry into the sport,” Welch said. “Our process is pretty simple. A customer looking for a unique and exciting racing experience comes in and races on our fast technical track in our rental karts and wants to go faster. We get them on the outdoor track in one of our performance karts to experience the next level. We then tell them that if they purchase a kart that we will handle all of the logistics. We will store, transport, tune and maintain their kart and if they want to race or practice they just give us a call and tell us when and where. When that customer shows up at the track their kart is sitting in the pits with the engine warming up and all they have to do is get in and enjoy racing or practicing, they’re hooked,” Welch said.

Unser Racing’s Karting Team has already been mixing it up in Florida and Tucson and will be attending races in Phoenix and California before the snow melts and the Colorado season gets underway. Welch said that the first year is a building year and expects the team and the performance division to grow each year. “We’re excited at the early interest in the division and team and expect to get bigger and better each year,” Welch added.

Unser Racing’s unique facility in Denver will see a late spring or early summer addition of an outdoor track on the roof of it’s current indoor track. Sutton said that the section of the building that their current track is in was a parking garage utilized by the car dealership as showroom and inventory storage. They installed a wall system and windows in the second floor open parking structure and turned it into a full indoor track. The proposed outdoor track will be on the top level of the parking structure which Sutton believes may be one of the most unique outdoor rental tracks around. “It’s three floors up and has unobstructed views of the Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains,” Sutton said. “We’re going to have a nice patio and viewing area with full service from our bar and restaurant where our customers can enjoy a half mile outdoor track and the great spring and summer Colorado weather with million dollar views. It doesn’t get much better than that,” he added.

Like most small businesses, Unser Racing has struggled with securing any outside funding to aid with expansion and growth. Sutton said that he has been working on securing funding for the past two years with no success. He and his partner, Johnny Unser, tried most of the traditional methods with outside investors and traditional funding sources like banks. “I’ve been turned down by every conceivable funding source out there and after two years was finally able to get a bank to back an SBA loan so we can add some more revenue generating components to our business,” Sutton said. “I’m glad that we were able to land some sort of additional funding to support some much needed facility additions and improvements,” he added.

Sutton drew up the original business plan to open an indoor karting facility in Denver and through a mutual friend was introduced to Johnny Unser. Besides providing the signature name to the business, Unser is an integral part of the operations lending his experience and expertise to every aspect. From track design to kart selection and tuning, Unser keeps the team focused on providing a memorable and safe racing experience for every customer. “I want everyone from our youth racers to the business professionals to the race enthusiasts to feel as if they have joined the most professional and polished race team in the world,” Unser said. “I’ve been around a lot of professional race teams and in my day Roger Penske ran the best and most professional team on the CART circuit. The team at Unser Racing strives every day to emulate the Penske Team professionalism and organization,” Unser said.

Unser is a technical consultant for Cooper Tires and has just accepted a position with the Izod IndyCar Series as one of three new Race Stewards and will be sharing duties with Arie Luyendyke and Gary Barnard. Newly appointed President of Competition and Race Director Beaux Bartfield appointed the three to act as liaisons between race officials and drivers and to assist with driver safety.

Johnny has a storied career in racing and is the son of the late Jerry Unser, the first Unser to race at the Indianapolis 500. Jerry lost his life at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1959. Johnny’s uncles, Bobby Sr., and Al Sr., and cousin Al Jr., continued the tradition, compiling a total of nine wins at Indy. Johnny began his racing career full-time after completing his education at California State University where he obtained a B.S. degree in Education and a teaching credential. On his way to competing in the Indy Car series Johnny had success in a variety of cars. He won the 12 Hours of Sebring and competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona many times with several top finishes. He finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and raced throughout Europe and the US. He has won the grueling Winter ALCAN 5000 mile road rally three times and competed in the Baja 1000. Johnny is a veteran of five consecutive Indy 500’s and raced in the Indy Car Series through the year 2000.

After completing the upcoming expansion and improvements, the company plans on opening additional locations in other markets. “We are working hard on completing this location and then plan on investigating the viability of new facilities in other markets,” Sutton said. “The first one’s always the hardest and the experiment. We’ve spent extra time on our business plan and playbook expecting that we would pull it out and implement it in another market in the very near future,” Sutton added.

With Unser Racing’s plans on expanding in Denver and in other markets in the U.S., look to see this young company grow the sport of karting and providing high speed entertainment for a very long time.

For further information on Unser Racing visit their web site at www.unserracing.com .
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