Go-Kart Race Takes Over Downtown Inverness

By on November 25th, 2013

After his preliminary race at the debut Inverness Grand Prix two years ago, Michael Sachs died in front of his best friend.

The 52-year-old suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, where he stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating. His friend thought Sachs was gone.

Emergency medical technicians brought him back to life and rushed him to Citrus Memorial Hospital, where doctors repaired two blockages in his artery.

Two days later, he was released. Months later, Sachs was back to racing go-karts.

“When you’re a racer, it’s in your blood,” he said.

On Saturday, Sachs, from Jacksonville and now 54, finished what he had started by racing at the third-annual Inverness Grand Prix and Motorsports Festival, the first time since the incident.

Once a year, the city of Inverness closes its roads and holds a go-kart street race through its historic downtown, the only event of its kind in Florida.

Although karting didn’t directly cause Sachs’ cardiac arrest, this was the first year the event was certified by the World Karting Association, making it safer and more legitimate.

Certified officials were responsible for overlooking technical aspects of the race, including the go-karts’ weight, timing and safety measures. The new certification also gave drivers more incentive to participate because they could earn points for their series.

Seventy drivers from around the country raced this year, the biggest turnout yet, said city special events director Sharon Skeele-Hogan.

Racers came for the unusual track and to entertain the nearly 2,000 spectators.

Getting more racers and growing the event means more tourism and business for the city, Skeele-Hogan said.

This was also the first year the city managed the event. To keep money in the community, all the profits benefited the Boys and Girls Clubs of Citrus County.

The race is part of a two-day festival, with a concert and car show on Friday and the races on Saturday.

Josh Richardson, owner of The Ice Cream Dr., a family-run ice cream shop in downtown Inverness, came up with the idea of the race.

After becoming friends with drivers of a local go-karting club and driving a go-kart himself, he thought a street race through the town would make an interesting fundraiser.

He approached the city with the idea, and they approved it. The first two years it was only he and his friends orchestrating the race.

Every year they refine the logistics of the event, and this year has been the smoothest, he said.

Now since the city manages the event, Richardson has taken on the role of race director.

“We try to wake up the town for a weekend,” Richardson said.

The racers range in age from 6 to 70 years old.

Their karts can reach top speeds anywhere between 60 and 80 mph.

It was the first Inverness Grand Prix for Davey Hazard, a 16-year-old from Jacksonville.

Hazard has only been racing since January, but the idea of a street race inspired him to register.

He said he practices every other week, but his biggest fear is not being good enough.

“I’d love to make it a career at some point,” he said.

It was also the first Inverness race for Randy Albany, a 22-year-old from Ocala, who has been racing for two years and has participated in more than 30 events.

Though Albany considers himself an experienced racer, the Inverness course was his first street race.

He said the track’s roughness and unevenness made it difficult for inexperienced drivers. Bumps, manhole covers and brick crosswalks on the track were all obstacles capable of causing a driver to lose control.

But the track’s speed made it fun, Albany said.

“Don’t be afraid to go fast and push your cart,” he said. “You just have got to be smart, drive fast and drive smart.”

Ken Wackes traveled from his home in Crystal River to see the races.

“I like to smell the gas,” he said.

It was his first time watching a go-kart race. He said he liked the speed of the go-karts and holding the race in the middle of town for people to watch.

Labeling the event “small town awesome,” Skeele-Hogan said next year the city plans to expand it to three days.

“It’s just absolutely off the hook,” she said.

Erica Hernandez contributing reporting.

This entry was posted in Arts and Entertainment and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • racer

    great story will have to catch it next year


More Stories in Arts and Entertainment

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre put on two productions of “Banned!?” Saturday, a play that discusses children’s books that have been banned. Displayed above is the re-enactment of “Where The Wild Things Are,” which has been repeatedly challenged for “romanticizing anger” to children.

Book Lovers Celebrate Banned Books Week

Annual Banned Books Week from Sept. 27 to Oct. 3 was celebrated at UF in the Plaza of the Americas on Thursday. Students read literature aloud from different authors who’s work has been challenged in public schools. The goal for Banned Books Week is to celebrate the liberty to read.

Art Exhibit Featuring Florida’s Springs Opens at Thomas Center

Gainesville’s Thomas Center Galleries are hosting the exhibit AQUIFERious: Enter the Springs starting October 1. The exhibit features art, photography and map’s of Florida’s springs from various artists.

Lake Butler resident Stephen Spitzer is the author of three fictional books recently published through Amazon's CreateSpace. His books draw subtle influences from his life and combine dark, twisted plots with humor.

Lake Butler Resident Publishes Three Books In A Month

Lake Butler resident Steven Spitzer published his first three books in September. Inspired by a series of events in his life and the lives of his friends, his books contain twisted and dark humor.

The Harn Museum is celebrating its 25th birthday. Both artists and instructors discuss how it has benefited them and UF.

Harn Museum Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The Harn is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an exhibit, opening Friday, that will encourage visitors to discuss the works across time periods and cultures. The exhibit will run through Jan. 3.

Buddy Schaub, Less Than Jake’s trombone player, plays a song while toilet paper flies out into the audience at the High Dive on Saturday night.

Gainesville-Based Band Draws Fans For Annual Hometown Show

Less Than Jake, a Gainesville-born punk-rock band popular since the ’90s, played their annual Gainesville show on Labor Day weekend. Fans came from across the state and across the country to see the band.

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments