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Test Driving Lehigh Valley Grand Prix's Super Karts
Facility NewsSometimes fast isn't fast enough. You have to be faster. And you do whatever you can to make it happen.

That's when you have caught the speed bug.

You add power. You add lightness. You work on your driving, choosing new lines to go around corners, shaving seconds off the clock.

And if you're lucky, your dad doesn't ask what happened to the station wagon.

The speed bug can be costly, however. Safety and financial concerns make racing an exclusive club.

That's where kart racing comes in.

At Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, you can walk in and, for less than what it costs to put dinner on the table, get a taste of the action.

I had an opportunity to test drive the facility's souped-up karts Tuesday at their indoor track in Allentown.

New Honda engines boost the gas-powered fleet of karts from 6.5 to 9 horsepower, giving them a top speed of 50 miles per hour. Touted as having the fastest indoor concession karts in the country, LVGP says it is one of just two places on the East Coast where you can arrive and drive super karts without having to prequalify. You just sign in with your Facebook account, pick up a ticket, watch a tutorial, get your gear and go.

And boy do you go.

Weighing in at about 300 pounds each, it doesn't take much to slingshot the karts around the quarter-mile track. A beefed-up 14.1 footpounds of torque produces low-end power that rockets you through numerous turns as you sit just inches off the ground.

Test drive at Lehigh Valley Grand Prix James Moening tests drive the newly souped up karts April 2 at Lehigh Valley Grand Prix.
Striving to lower my lap times, which were posted on a screen visible from the track, I imagined I was at the BBC's "Top Gear" test track and asked myself, "What would The Stig do?"

I tried braking as little as possible to maintain speed by taking the corners wide. Then I tried braking hard to cut them as close as possible.

As I got the hang of it, my numbers dropped from about 50 seconds to a more respectable figure in the high 30s. A printout at the end of my session detailed how my performance compared with others, some of whom have managed to break the 30-second barrier.

Track maps with advised lines of travel show how to go around the course, and feedback from the crew lets you know how you're doing.

Talking to the staff, I got a sense that renting a kart is good first step for aspiring racers to test their skills.

When I talked with co-owner Michael McCreary afterward, he shared the sentiment.

Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and other big names began their careers racing karts, he says. " the ideal platform for anyone looking to get into pro motoring.

Parents can let their kids try out racing without having to go broke on a car and equipment.

It's the same route taken by Nazareth Area High School junior Sage Karam, who last month placed third in the Firestone Indy Lights series, the second-to-last rung before IndyCar competition.

Karting isn't just for would-be pros, though. It's easy for anyone to get hooked on the fun.

"Its like golf,"€ McCreary says. "With each round, you're cutting that stroke,"; looking to lower your lap time. "is where the addiction comes in."

I know the feeling. Later in the day I checked LVGP's website and watched my name moving down the week's leader board as others posted faster times.

I wanted to go back and do better.

I had the speed bug.



Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, 629 S. 10th St., Allentown, is open seven days a week. In addition to its track, the facility has a bar, kitchen and viewing area.

Pricing: $24 for an adult, 8-minute race, $22 for a junior. Members save $5.

Events: Lehigh Valley Grand Prix hosts competitions, corporate events and parties. Up next, the facility will host a five-hour, four-race All Star Shootout on May 19 to coincide with the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race weekend.

By James Moening | The Express-Times

Information: 610-432-7223 (RACE),
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