The Grand Prix of karting came back in a big way June 5th and 6th 2021. South Park in Quincy, Illinois once again played host to the race that is the nation’s crown jewel of the sport after being forced to cancel the 2019 event due to restrictions on public events. The event is put on by Traeder’s TNT and TNT Kartways.
Terry Traeder, 69, a former world karting champion himself, with 13 various national titles and a combined 27 Grand Prix of Karting races said, “The South Park course is the Formula 1 of karting. It’s not just a karting race…it’s an event!”
Among the guests of honor were former IndyCar driver Al Unser Jr. and Pittsfield, Illinois native Mike Lashmett. Unser won two Indianapolis 500s, while Lashmett was a longtime employee of several top-line IndyCar teams and now coordinates the IndyCar registry of vintage cars.
“It’s fantastic, just unbelievable the interest this is attracting,” Traeder said.
Drivers from 19 states were in the pits this year. Drivers from five states won races this weekend.
20-year-old Devon Smith-Harden of Nashville, Indiana, established a new track record Sunday and is now regarded as the fastest driver in the history of the Grand Prix in Quincy. Harden won the Pro Shifter, Pro Shifter 125 and Shifter titles.
Tony Neilson of Delmar, Iowa also enjoyed three wins, taking the trophies in Briggs Medium, Briggs Masters and Briggs Heavy divisions. Neilson had also won three events at the 2018 Grand Prix and now has seven career victories at South Park.
Ethan Arndt of Salado, Texas, won a pair of events. He won the FK-100 on Saturday and the Pro FK-100 on Sunday after overcoming an 11 car field in front of him.
Matt Krechel of Pacific, Missouri, also won two events at the Grand Prix this year. He took the Briggs Heavy on Saturday and the Margay Ignite Masters on Sunday.
Grand Marshall Al Unser, Jr., had this to say, “This weekend has been great. I couldn’t have imagined a better time. South Park is a brilliant track inside a beautiful park. Racing is racing, and it doesn’t matter what kind of car you’re in…when the race starts, it’s on!”
Since the race returned in 2018 the number of entries continues to climb every year. This year reached 362 entries, still shy of the all-time record of 625 established in 1994.
The Grand Prix was originally started by the late Gus Traeder, who is the father of Terry, the store’s current owner. At Greenmount Cemetery, located just across 12th street from South Park, two huge checkered flags adorned the grave of the late Gus Traeder on Saturday and Sunday. Gus directed the Grand Prix from 1970 to 2001.