The wheel deal
Grand Junction 10-year-old Tristin MacLeod showing his skills in kart racing
Tristin MacLeod is a natural.
The Grand Junction boy took to kart racing so quickly his dad, Jim MacLeod, didn’t believe it.
When Tristin tried driving a kart for the first time in Denver four years ago, the track owners were impressed.
“The guys were, ‘Oh, he’s a natural,’ ” Jim said. “I thought, ‘Yeah, yeah. You’re trying to sell me a kart.’ It wasn’t until later — I’d seen some kids go out and looked like they barely moved — I realized he was going to be good. We got into racing karts after that.”
Tristin started racing four years ago in kid karts. He raced in the Touch-and-Go Cadet class for a full year last year for the first time.
“I thought this is fast,” Tristin said. “I’m going to have a lot of fun doing this. At first it was kind of scary, but once I realized this was fast, I wanted to go even faster.”
This year, the 10-year-old is racing national races, including the Superkarts!USA (SKUSA) SummerNationals this weekend at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway.
The SummerNationals are the third and fourth rounds of the SKUSA Pro Tour. The SuperNationals are in November in Las Vegas.
More than 200 drivers arrived Thursday to register. There were 185 drivers at the SKUSA SummerNationals two years ago when it last was at Grand Junction Motor Speedway.
The public can watch the races for free in the spectator area or purchase a pit pass for $15 per person for one day, $20 for two days or $25 for the weekend, beginning today.
A full day of practice is scheduled today. Qualifying begins after a drivers meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re totally out of space (for pits),” SKUSA CEO Tom Kutscher said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Grand Junction Motor Speedway co-owner Stacey Cook said the speedway has 320 pits, but it had to create an additional 65 to accommodate all of the drivers. Many drivers are on teams with several drivers and take up more pit space.
“This is terrific,” Cook said. “SKUSA is the elite series in the United States. People (drivers) are standing in line to get to SKUSA events. The final is the biggest kart race in the world. We’ve already booked drivers from Australia and Brazil to race in Vegas. It’s that big of a deal.”
Drivers range in age from 8 to 50 and older. Many race for fun, while others look to work their way into the highest levels of open-wheel and stock car racing.
Former Indianapolis 500 winners with connections to kart racing include Buddy Rice, who owns a kart team, Bryan Herta, whose son races a kart, and Parnelli Jones, whose son, P.J. Jones, is involved in kart racing.
Tristin MacLeod dreams of racing on the European F1 circuit someday, but he knows that’s a long way and many dollars away.
The MacLeods moved from Denver to Grand Junction to be on Cook’s CRG-USA team. They are looking for a sponsor to help Tristin pursue his dream.
“I was looking to bring him here so he could race with his team,” Jim said. “When we put him in this new chassis with a bigger motor, he got a first, third and a fourth (-place finish). Stacey said you really need to be here and race with the team. The Cooks are great. It was a good place to come and have him run with them.”
“He’s a great kid,” Stacey Cook said. “He’s extremely intelligent and dedicated. He has a great future.”
Tristin could move up to TAG Junior next year, but he’s already getting excited to race shifter karts.
He has to meet certain age and weight requirements.
“You’ve got to have so much money these days to have a chance,” Jim said. “You’ve got to be realistic as a parent. As long as he’s interested and having fun.”