Just off an inconspicuous industrial side street, kids as young as 5 and adults as old as 80 don helmets, strap on seatbelts and zip around like something out of a video game. They’re racing …
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“Go out and have a good time. Slow into corners, fast out of corners — that’s how you get the best race.”
— Nichole Sarno, assistant manager at K1 Speed in Highlands Ranch
“Just have fun. Because if you’re not enjoying it, why would you do it? (If you’re using your own kart,) find some friends to go with. It’s hard to go by yourself … definitely get involved with the (karting) community on it.”
— Christian Obrecht, a karter from Denver
• Unser Karting & Events Denver, 7300 N. Broadway, unincorporated Adams County (Denver mailing address)
• Adventure Golf & Raceway, 9650 N. Sheridan Blvd., Westminster
• Action Karting, 3051 S. Rooney Road, just outside Morrison
• K1 Speed, 8034 Midway Drive, Highlands Ranch (Littleton mailing address)
* A kart track at Centennial Airport in the central Centennial area closed in summer 2018 but may open again if a new operator is found.
Just off an inconspicuous industrial side street, kids as young as 5 and adults as old as 80 don helmets, strap on seatbelts and zip around like something out of a video game.
They’re racing go-karts at K1 Speed in Highlands Ranch, one of a handful of places in the Denver metro area where impassioned drivers, beginners and fun-seeking groups can test their skills on winding tracks.
“Karting is definitely a little different than your regular pool day,” said Nichole Sarno, K1’s assistant manager.
Christian Obrecht, a 47-year-old from Denver, built up a love for karting near Bandimere Speedway, a professional drag-racing track just west of Lakewood. And although Obrecht wasn’t racing full-sized cars, renting karts proved to be a lasting passion for him — eventually, he bought his own wheels.
“I started up just from actually watching a commercial one time, and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I kind of want to get into this,” Obrecht said.
Once he came back to a track with his own kart, he found a “super open and friendly” community.
“I didn’t even know how to get the thing off my truck. I was standing there — it was like my first day of school,” Obrecht said. “This guy was just walking by like, ‘Do you need help?’ Those are the guys I hang out with now to this day with kart racing.”
Obrecht now hopes to get his young son into racing, too, which won’t be difficult with the metro area’s options. Action Karting, an outdoor track at the Bandimere Speedway near Highway C-470, touts itself as kid-friendly and an ideal place for first dates. K1 in Highlands Ranch sees events such as young girls’ birthday celebrations and bachelorette parties, Sarno said.
Male drivers are a bit more common than females at K1, Sarno said, but they’re not far off in numbers.
“Our fastest is a 17-year-old guy; the next fastest is a 13-year-old girl,” said Sarno, referring to K1’s speed records.
Adult karts can reach about 45 mph, and manual — or “shifter” — karts can reach about 55 mph, while junior karts for kids run about 25 to 30 mph, Sarno said. And on tracks that allow personal, non-rental karts, Obrecht’s vehicle can reach about 100 mph.
Despite the high-energy atmosphere of karting, what Obrecht enjoys most is the mental clarity the repetition of the turns can bring.
“It’s all you’re thinking about when you’re doing it,” Obrecht said. “You’ll have a favorite turn, a not-so-favorite turn … My wife makes fun of me because she says, ‘You’re just going in a circle,’ but that alone clears your mind.”
Sarno’s favorite part is “the thrill of it” — as an employee at K1, she often drives the karts — but watching others speed around is satisfying, too.
“The excitement they get from it — a little girl beat her brother, a kid beat his dad,” Sarno said. “Watching people grow and find passion in karting is my favorite thing here.”
On an evening in late July, Anil Kumar Somala, 44, came to K1 with his children, Pratheek Somala, 10, and 12-year-old Bhavagnya Somala. The father from Highlands Ranch wanted to give his kids driving experience to be more comfortable on streets one day.
His daughter, Bhavagnya, came to K1 before with apprehension, but she stepped up with more confidence this time.
“In the first round, it was pretty scary, to be honest, because I’ve never driven anything, but I felt safe on second lap — but it was fun,” said Bhavagnya Somala, adding she plans to keep karting in the future.
It’s the kind of experience Sarno likes to see.
“People of all ages develop a passion for it,” Sarno said. “The light they get in their eyes is amazing.”
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