Start your engines: go-kart racing returning to downtown Elkhart streets

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Racers from the 1994 race (Photo supplied/Elkhart Truth)

It’s been 20 years since downtown Elkhart featured on the fledgling ESPN2 for its go-kart races. But like many things considered “retro” nowadays, those races are coming back.

Mayor Tim Neese announced Friday that the Elkhart RiverWalk Grand Prix will take place from Aug. 11-13, 2017. The race will feature karts from the United States Auto Club, according to the Elkhart Truth.

Elkhart was home to go-kart racing from 1989 to 1995. Attendance for the 1994 event was estimated to be higher than 40,000, and the 1995 race drew over 600 go-kart entries.

A lawsuit by one of those drivers put a stop to the races, however. The driver had been seriously hurt in the crash, and liability issues arose.

USAC race director Mike Burrell says those issues have been solved. Not only will there by hay bales along the course, but also barriers to protect both racers and fans. The barriers will absorb the impact of a kart should one crash instead of the kart ricocheting off.

The track won’t go down Main Street like before, though. Concerns from business owners on Main Street mean the track is shifting a short distance from the heart of downtown. Now, the race will start at NIBCO Parkway, cross the Elkhart River twice along NIBCO Water and Ice Park and Kardzhali Park, and down Waterfall Dr.

The Elkhart City Council is funding $50,000 towards the races. Mayor Tim Neese also says he’s working on bringing in food vendors, and is also working on live music and a street party along Waterfall Dr.

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