WEST QUINCY, Mo. — Reg Rowsey’s hair is much grayer than when he first started karting, and he doesn’t have much of it.
The infectious smile, however, remains the same. So is his desire to race.
“It’s as much fun now as it was then,” Rowsey said.
“Then” for Rowsey was in the 1960s when he began racing at TNT Kartways. He was on hand when the facility opened in June 1961.
Rowsey, a Quincy native, was back at TNT on Friday for the 20th edition of the Vintage Karting Olympics, which brings together veteran karters from across the region and nation. More than 70 are on hand this year, representing at least nine different states, ranging from Colorado to Florida to Ohio.
Rowsey, 75, races in about 15 vintage events a year. It’s a chance to renew old friendships with fellow racers and machines alike. Most of the karts on hand go back to the 1960s and 1970s.
The oldies-but-goodies feel to the event fits Rowsey just fine.
“I’m a vintage guy myself,” he quipped.
Rowsey left competitive racing for several decades before “getting the bug” again four years ago when he was 71.
“That’s also the number on my kart,” he said.
Most drivers on hand this weekend are age 60 and older. Many have raced at TNT in the past.
Rowsey applauds the work done on the half-mile racing surface, which features a twisting, nine-turn layout.
“The track is much different than back when we started,” he said. “For one thing, it’s much smoother.”
TNT Kartways is in the midst of a $200,000 renovation that will be completed in 2022. The pits will be expanded, and storage units for racers’ karts and other equipment must be built. About 75 percent of the on-track renovation and resurfacing is complete.
TNT Kartways has been owned and operated by the Traeder family since its 1961 debut. It has hosted numerous national events. The late Clyde “Gus” Traeder oversaw TNT’s construction and development, with son Terry now doing the same.
“This is the first major renovation since 1973,” said Terry Traeder, who also owns TNT Golf Car and Motorsports in downtown Quincy and is the director of the Grand Prix of Karting each June in South Park.
James Kammueller, 72, of Peoria is participating in his fourth vintage weekend at TNT. He says his interest in karting dates to 1959 when he got his first kart.
“And I still have that kart,” said Kammueller, who races competitively from May through October.
Lorenzo DiBacco of Darien, Ill., 64, is in his first full year of vintage racing. His karting career spans more than 40 years.
“Vintage karting is more low key, more laid-back,” DiBacco said. “It’s not win at all costs … but we’re out there definitely trying to win.”
Racing resumes at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and will conclude early in the afternoon. An awards presentation will cap the festivities.
A tribute to the late Faye “Ladybug” Pierson will also be part of Saturday’s schedule. Pierson, a California native, recently died at age 92. She was a Vintage Karting weekend regular for many years and raced into her 80s. She was known as the “Queen of Karting” and received numerous honors during a career that began in 1957.
Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?
Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.Purchase Story