Local business offers go-kart equipment, parts
By Ben Coley / The Dispatch
Posted Oct 10, 2017 at 11:00 AM
Updated Oct 11, 2017 at 9:02 AM
For some, family tradition may be farming.
For others, it may be a restaurant, a clothes shop or a jewelry store.
For the Klutz family, it’s all about go-karts.
Competition Karting, located at 2111 Gumtree Road in the Midway community, is a one-stop shop for go-kart needs. The business contains a parts department, engine technicians and a showroom filled with racing accessories. The business also manufactures its own racing chassis frame called the LASER.
The shop is owned and operated by married couple John and Wendy Klutz, who met in the early 1980s when they both raced go-karts. The business is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Friday.
“We’re one of the few kart shops in this area,” John Klutz said. “There’s actually a lot of engine builders in North Carolina. But as far as complete kart shops, there’s three or four.”
Competition Karting owner John Klutz (right) and retired founder Dan Klutz standing next to a restored 1968 Model J Sprint kart in the showroom of the company's new karting manufacturing facility located on Gum Tree Road (Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)
The business started with John Klutz’s dad, Dan Klutz, who began servicing kart engines for Doss & Sons in 1959. By 1973, Competition Karting Specialties opened as a division of the company. In 1978, Dan Klutz and his partner, Lewis Dowell, purchased the division and called it Competition Karting.
The business was located in Winston-Salem up until the late 1990s when the go-kart business owners bought property on the backside of the Richard Childress Racing Complex. In 2012, Competition Karting was turned over to John Klutz and Dowell’s son, Mike Dowell. In 2016, John Klutz bought out Mike and moved the business to its current location.
John and Wendy Klutz said that on weekends, they pack up trailers and travel to a variety of racetracks — mostly in the Southeast — to sell their go-kart parts and equipment. Some of the locations include the Tri-State Pro Series in Carnesville, Georgia, Thunder Valley Speedway in Neeses, South Carolina, Patriot Speedway in Blacksburg, South Carolina, Liberty Raceway Park in Staley and several more.
“Most people have someone that goes with them,” said John Klutz, regarding go-kart competitors. “Some of the guys who get more serious about racing actually pay somebody to help them. A lot of times, it’s just a buddy volunteering or two guys that are racing together. It depends on what kind of level they’re racing at.”
Go-kart racing is usually done on oval tracks with either a dirt or roadway surface. John Klutz said some local Saturday night races may have 100 to 125 entries. Some bigger events may attract 250 to 300 racers. John Klutz noted that Thanksgiving Thunder, a three-day go-kart racing event, pulls as many as 1,600 entries.
He said he knows of go-karts that can reach 155 mph.
“You realize how fast you’re going, but the karts are good enough that it’s not much different than running down the interstate,” John Klutz said. “The acceleration is the big thrill.”
John Klutz added that most dirt races are 15 to 25 laps, and road races are timed events. On a dirt track, 20 to 25 go-karts may race at one time, while 50 to 60 may race on an roadway surface at one time.
John Klutz said the go-kart business is economically driven like most industries. He referred to it as more of a pastime and hobby because very few can make a living by racing. Some racers utilize sponsorships, but sometimes that may not be enough to offset all the costs.
“There’s a lot of competition for entertainment these days,” John Klutz said. “It’s a little tougher to sell because of that. So many younger people look toward computer games and quick and easy.”
John Klutz said a fabrication shop down the road builds chassis frames, and then Competition Karting assembles them in the shop.
They can build a go-kart and have one ready to go to the racetrack.
“Once we get it here, we can finish a dirt kart in a day,” John Klutz said. “Roadway chassis is a little more involved. To get one race ready, it’s going to take three or four work days.”
When John Klutz speaks to people who are familiar with racing and the go-kart business, he said they are impressed that he runs his own go-kart business.
But there are plenty of times when people aren’t quite familiar with the fact that go-karts can also serve as a family business.
“Some people ask me, ‘well what do you do?’ John Klutz said. “When I say go-karts, they think about, ‘Oh we rode one of those at the beach one time.’ They don’t realize the competition level of karting.”
Ben Coley can be reached at (336) 249-3981, ext. 227 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Ben on Twitter:@LexDispatchBC