Grand Prix ready to rumble through South Park’s concrete canyon

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Flagman Jason Burgess puts on a show when the winner take the checkers at the Grand Prix of Karting.

QUINCY — Gentlemen, start your engines.Ladies, too.

Quincy’s fabled Grand Prix of Karting will fill South Park with both fans and excitement Saturday and Sunday as the longstanding Quincy summer tradition charges to life for a 36th time around the twisting, turning 1.2-mile concrete canyon that sits across the street from Greenmount Cemetery.

The stage was set for what should be another memorable weekend with a Friday night gathering at Revelry in Downtown Quincy. The pre-race get-together brought together a variety of Grand Prix and local luminaries to both relive the past and anticipate the arrival of Saturday’s future.

“The Quincy Grand Prix means the world to me,” said Randy Kugler, the lead announcer for the Grand Prix who lives in southwestern Ohio.

Kyle Moore, former mayor of Quincy and current president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, emphasized the importance of the Grand Prix to the region.

“This event means so much to our community,” Moore said. “The city of Quincy appreciates everything the Traeder family has done.”

Gus Traeder’s resting place, across from the park he made famous, the coveted “Gussie” and Gus himself.

The Grand Prix was founded in 1970 by the late Gus Traeder, who was laid to rest in 2016 at Greenmount. Gus Traeder’s son, current event organizer and former world karting champion Terry Traeder, has said time and time again that his dad will forever watch over the Grand Prix from his Greenmount resting site. Gus’s grave, which is usually adorned with a checkered flag on race weekend, can be seen from near the South Park start/finish line.

Traeder helped build the interest to bring back the Grand Prix in 2018, and has oversaw ensuing editions of the race in 2019 and 2021. The pandemic wiped out the scheduled 2020 Grand Prix. The trophies that are now awarded to Grand Prix winners are called “Gussies,” and bear the founder’s likeness.

Racing gets underway at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, following day-long warm-up, practice and qualifying sessions starting at 8:30 a.m. On Sunday, racing begins at noon. Opening ceremonies, including prayer and national anthem, will start at 11:30 a.m.Six classes will race on Saturday, 11 on Sunday.

“We have a great staff that has done a great job getting ready for this weekend,” said Traeder, who was a nationally recognized karter for 37 years (1958-94), winning numerous major championships — including 27 Grand Prix titles that tie him for first all-time on the event’s storied list of champions. 

Traeder’s Grand Prix titles were divided between the former course spread across downtown Quincy and the modern-day South Park layout. Seeing the Grand Prix rise again has been rewarding for Traeder. When the event was discontinued in 2001 its list of entries had dwindled to 130 after a high of 625 in 1994 for its 25th anniversary run.

“The Grand Prix is a special event,” Traeder said. “More than any other major karting race, Quincy is all about the fans, which is shown in how they support the races — and that’s what makes the South Park event special.”

Somewhere between 350 and 400 entries should be the final tally for this weekend’s racing, which will be a high since the Grand Prix’s return in 2018.

“None of this would have been possible without what Gus and the Traeder family has done over the years,” said Adams County Board Chairman Kent Snider, who has been involved with the event since its 1970 inception.

Grand Prix notes:

  • Safety continues to be paramount for Grand Prix organizers, utilizing more than 1,300 safety barriers, plus more than 700 bales of hay dispersed at strategic points around the South Park track..
  • The Grand Prix is the table-setter for a month-long celebration of racing in Quincy. Following the Grand Prix will be the June 17-18 Quincy Optimist Club Derby, the event formerly known as the Quincy Optimist Club Soap Box Derby. Due to legal restrictions, the race can no longer use “Soap Box” in its title. More than 200 kids between the ages 8-17 will be involved in the derby, which is run on the 18th Street Hill near Bob Mays Park and Quintron Way. Punctuating the local racing trifecta will be the June 22 UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour at Adams County Speedway when some of the leading late model drivers in the nation come to town for the annual duel on the dirt.
  • The Grand Prix, which is a rain or shine event, charges no admission. There are admission requirements for some areas of the Grand Prix layout, such as the pits.

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