ST. GEORGE — The energy at the Ridge Top Complex was palpable Friday morning as racers and pit crews alike prepared to participate in the 17th SkyWest Mini Indy charity go-kart race.
Sponsored by SkyWest Airlines and with support from the city of St. George, the Mini Indy is a fundraising event that benefits United Way Dixie.
In its 17-year history the Mini Indy race and surrounding events have helped to raise over $1 million for United Way Dixie and its 15 community partner agencies, Dan Drown, United Way Dixie board chairman, said.
United Way Dixie helps facilitate fundraising for its partner agencies, all of which work to benefit the community, Drown said. The Mini Indy is one of the largest fundraising efforts for United Way Dixie.
This year they hope to raise around $100,000 said Mike Thompson, chief operating officer of SkyWest Airlines.
In addition to benefiting United Way Dixie the Mini Indy also helps provide scholarships for SkyWest employees and the children of their employees, Thompson said.
“It’s just a fantastic event,” Thompson said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to bring employees together, to bring the community together, we have over 500 volunteers from throughout the community for what it takes to pull this event off.”
Approximately 30 teams from all over the United States and a few international teams came to drive their go-karts and test their skills on the track nicknamed the “Ridgetop Raceway.”
Racers and their crews were divided into two divisions — the “Bristol” division and the “Daytona” division. Each division participated in four qualifying heats which consisted of 10 laps each. Throughout their heats the teams, which were fielded by various corporations associated with SkyWest as well as community organizations, had to make two mandatory pit stops and have at least two drivers.
Many of the teams have participated for many years in the event and have their race strategies down to a science, said Layne Watson, spokesperson for SkyWest.
Watson said most teams will use the same two drivers which are usually a combination of their lightest or most agile team members and their best overall driver.
Though the go-kart racing action is extremely competitive it is in the pits where the races are really won or lost, Todd Young, vice president and general manager of customer services for Bombardier, said
“You can lose a lot of time in the pit change, with the tire change,” Young said, “so we use the same crew for all the races for that.”
Bombardier manufactures aircraft and has participated in the Mini Indy for all of its 17 years, Young said.
Because of their long history with the event, Bombardier has become a formidable team on the track but Young said the real objective of the race is to have fun.
“We are very competitive but of course we’re here to have fun first and we’re here to support SkyWest and the United Way,” Young said.
Besides being fastest on the track, teams were also judged based on the design of their go-karts, many of which featured colorful and unique body designs and paint jobs.
SkyWest fielded three teams, all which bore a Lego theme complete with matching T-shirts which showcased Lego characters designed to look like their human counterparts.
“We have three teams, we’ve got The Ninjas, The Pirates and The Knights,” Ian Walters, a captain on a Canadair jet based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said.
Walters made up part of the pit crew for The Ninjas whom he said were obviously going to win.
But win or not, Walters said he was happy to be part of an event that was so well-organized and that supported such a great cause.
In addition to go-kart racing action guests and participants of the 17th annual SkyWest Mini Indy were treated to an exciting opening ceremony that featured skydivers, a patriotic posting of the colors, and stirring rendition of the national anthem performed by singer Josh Larsen after which the Mobil 1 stock car opened action with a lap around the “raceway.”
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