What is an Outlaw Kart? -A.K.A. Sprint Kart, Sprint Dirt Kart, Sprint Go-Kart, Outlaw Sprint Kart, Winged Spring Kart, Caged Winged Sprint Kart, etc.. etc..
So you want to race a Sprint Car with the World of Outlaws but your budget can’t afford one. Or maybe you have a youngster that can’t wait any longer and wants to feel the thrill of running wheel to wheel in a winged sprint car look-alike. If you are in either category, then your need can be met by a very real race car called an Outlaw Sprint Kart.
The QRC caged kart concept began in the early 1980’s and was based solely on the need to go oval kart racing in the safest possible manner. As the first manufacturer to mount cages on karts some things were improved upon by trial and error. What started out as a rigid cage bolted directly to the lower frame soon changed to what is now called the floating cage. Movable receivers were added to the frame allowing the cage to rest on springs thereby freeing up the kart to flex. All cages and frames are built to be the safest in the industry using 4130 chromoly steel tubing. Cages come in a variety of configurations and are available in downtube or non-downtube design. Cages are also constructed in different heights based on each individual driver.
Highback racing seats are the standard, even for the smallest drivers, and five point seat belts are installed on each kart. Sprint car type side headrests or head nets are common on many karts and all drivers must use a neck collar and arm restraints. Wings were added to the cages right from the start as an additional safety measure and to protect the cage area in the event of a flip. Wings feature the same curved belly design as used in sprint car racing and are available in different sizes, based on the class.
QRC Outlaw Sprint Karts are based on the same basic designs while utilizing different offsets to suit driver preferences. The only real differences (besides the need for C & R radiators on the motorcycle engined karts) of the Opens, 125/250’s and Box Stocks are the overall size of each kart. All of the karts now come equipped with rear axel adjusters that can lengthen or shorten the wheelbase. By sliding the bearing carriers front or back Open karts become adjustable from 40”-43”, 125’s 38”-41” and Box Stock’s 35”-38”. This allows for quick setup changes while going from longer or shorter tracks and makes these karts adaptable to many surfaces and track conditions.
Another item on these karts that distinguished them from the beginning is the body pieces that give the karts the unique look of a sprint car. QRC offers a variety of hood designs while using the traditional tail cone in the rear. The hoods come in a couple different widths to accommodate the various cage sizes for Box Stocks through Opens. The tail cones are neatly mounted directly to the sprint car type bumper that provides protection to the rear axel area of the kart. Burris dirt tires are installed on each kart. Dirt slicks are usually the tire of choice in the box stock class as they seem to grab the tracks better due to the lower horsepower and less wheel spin. For the 125/250’s and Opens treaded tires are the chosen method for hooking up to the racetrack.
For the first couple of years a 2-stroke 250cc became the maximum engine displacement of the outlaw kart. But by 1987 the engine in the top class had been opened up to be unlimited in size as long as it was a motorcycle engine. The Honda 500cc 2-stroke became the engine of choice and still is today. Along with that came an engine that put out 85-100 horsepower on a 265 pound race kart. As a comparison, a Nextel Cup Car generates about 800 horsepower on a 3200 pound race car. As you can see, an Open Outlaw kart nearly doubles that in horsepower-to-weight ratio and is in all respects a real race car.
Luckily for the youngsters there is still a line of progression to that amount of power. In 1999 the box stock formula began to allow porting, decking, milling of the head and improving the flow of the carburetor while at the same time holding each area to very specific measurements. Aftermarket billet rods were allowed as long as they maintained the stock length. Controlled float cams were also allowed as long as the profile was maintained while degreeing the cam. So what essentially started out as a 5 horsepower engine now produces over double that on a 160 pound chassis.
Also that same year the Red Bluff indoor winter series introduced a purple restrictor plate class that used the same kart and engine as in the box stock class, but maintained the lower power of the original box stock concept. This new class helped by giving kids aged 5-8, with little or no experience, a chance to win as the original box stock class had became ultra competitive with 8-11 year olds.
Usually around 10 or 11 years old drivers move into the 125/250cc Intermediate class. Although the 125 2-stroke had been the engine used in this division for years the 4-stroke 250 engine has now become the engine utilized by most racers. Most of the 125 powerplants that are left are Honda’s but there are a few Yamaha’s in competition. The opposite is true with the 250’s as the Yamahas are the dominant brand. The horsepower of a 125 or 250 is about 40-45 while mounted on a 250 pound kart. Although the displacement size and horsepower is significantly less the engines produce about 4000 more RPM’s than the 500’s and are usually turning lap times just a couple of tenths off what the Open class does. Also, it is not unheard of to have a 125/250cc be the fastest qualifier at any given meet.
At about the age of 13 or 14 racers move into what is called the Open Intermediate division. This class uses the same kart as the Open division but it allows these maturing drivers a chance to get a handle of the power before moving into the super competitive open class populated mostly by adults. This division works as a way to season the early teen drivers although some that have quickly proven their ability are allowed to move up to the Open division sooner.
While Outlaw Sprint Karts are available in many regions of the county they have really taken hold in the Northern California area. From those early days of not so long ago at the Red Bluff Indoor Winter races, which was the only track running these type of karts, the car count has exploded as has the number of tracks running Outlaw Karts. While Red Bluff draws 150-200 cream-of-the-crop karts to each of its dozen or so races on the 1/10 mile bullring inside of a horse arena, Cycleland Speedway outside of Chico attracts virtually the same cast to its high speed purpose built raceway for races from March to October. The 1/6 mile clay oval has speeds unseen at any other track. Open karts approach nearly 80 miles per hour on the straights while even the box stocks top out at almost 60 mph. Also, the top racers run a series of events that began in 2001 called the All Star Tour. The Tour usually runs a total of about 8 or 9 races at Red Bluff, Cycleland, Stockton, Lakeport, Carson City, NV, and Medford, Oregon. The All Star Tour is the Outlaw Kart’s answer to the World of Outlaw sprint car tour and has quickly become the most prestigious title to win each year. And now, to crown truly national champions, the Outlaw Kart Nationals are held during the daytime each year at English Creek Speedway in Knoxville, Iowa, the same week in August the Sprint Car Nationals are contested.
Over the years many drivers progressed from the karts to the sprint car class at nationally known Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, home of the Gold Cup Race of Champions race for the World of Outlaws. One of those is Sean Becker, who still races outlaw karts when he can. Becker is a multi-time kart champion and the only driver ever nominated for the National Rookie of the Year in both the 410 and 360 cubic inch sprint cars in the same year (2002). He started racing the karts at the age of 12 in the 125cc class before moving up to the Opens at 15 and becoming the dominant driver. As to the similarity of the kart versus the sprint car, Becker says, “They are absolutely similar. The power-to-weight ratio is very close. Karts are a little easier to muscle around but other than the differences in suspension they race very much alike. I hope to run these karts for fun for a very long time, even if I reach my goal of racing with the World of Outlaws.”
Article by Mike Larson