Sox check out go-kart races

Sox check out go-kart races

CHICAGO -- Standing on the pavement across from U.S. Cellular Field, Tadahito Iguchi wasn't spending time admiring the historic home plate of Old Comiskey Park, but rather enjoying watching 15 black-and-white go-karts go screaming by the landmark.

Iguchi was just one of the spectators on Saturday afternoon to watch the racing action in the first Go-Kart Grand Prix outside U.S. Cellular Field.

Fifteen teams took part in the inaugural event, held in the parking lot across the street from the field. The grand prize was a $15,000 paycheck, with $5,000 for second and $2,500 for third.

Companies had the chance to sponsor a team and their own vehicle for $7,500 or could spend $10,000 to purchase their own go-kart.

Watching the go-karts go screaming by, Iguchi couldn't help but smile while taking in the racing action. With a passion for cars, it was no surprise that Iguchi was anxious to try racing himself.

An idea that manager Ozzie Guillen quickly nixed.

"He wanted to jump in one but I said 'No you can't,'" Guillen said with a chuckle.

Iguchi and Guillen were just two of the White Sox that headed across the street to watch the championship race. Time-trial heats took place earlier Saturday morning and helped designate the pole positions for the finishing race around 1:30 p.m.

Guillen was impressed by the nature of the race and by how serious many of the teams took the competition. Some drivers even wore racing suits and all were decked out with helmets as they barreled around the orange-cone-and-tire outlined raceway.

"They were speeding around so fast it was hard to keep track of who was winning," Guillen said. "I really enjoyed watching it, though. It seemed like everyone was having fun and getting into the event."

Team vice president of marketing Brooks Boyer came up with the idea of the race as a way to try to integrate other sports with baseball. Auto racing seemed the perfect sport to draw in other fans.

"Brooks came up with the idea and it came from the fact that maybe there is a race fan out there that hasn't experienced baseball," said Bob Grim, senior director of business development. "Looking around at the excitement generated by all those taking part in the race and those standing on the sidelines cheering, it seems to be a success."

The team of Waukegan Tire walked away from the 40-lap championship race and the $15,000 grand prize. The excitement exuded as plenty of high-fives and hugs awaited the team's pit crew and four drivers at the race's end.

Steve Nerheim was the head of the team and responsible for getting them into the race. Besides just winning the big purse, the team also got to drive their go-kart onto the warning track prior to the White Sox's game against Seattle.

"When we first heard about the event we were a little reluctant to sign up but we are very glad we did," Nerheim said. "Look at all of this going on around here, it's great. It's been an unbelievable experience."

The activities surrounding the day weren't just limited to the main races. Show cars from the Indy Racing League were on display, as was the original General Lee car from the "Dukes of Hazzard." Fans could also participate in the Richard Petty Driving Experience by sitting in a real race car and testing their skills with the Indy Car Series Pole Position simulators.

Some of the best competition of the afternoon, though, may have come in the celebrity race between members of the local media.

Local TV anchors including Antonio Mora of CBS 2, Dan Roan of WGN, and William Jackson and Gail Fischer of Comcast SportsNet competed in the race and did more than their share of trash talking before getting to the starting line. Roan came away as the big winner and joked that much of his victory had to do with a little bit of help from Jackson.

"We couldn't get past William, he was so slow," Roan joked about lapping Jackson. "Really it was great, a lot of fun. I had to bide my time and wait for my crack so I could slide though there with two laps left. But I had a really great time."

Though the media was able to race, Guillen wasn't about to let himself or any of his players take a crack at racing in the speedy little vehicles. The skipper himself would have loved to have gotten into one of the cars, but said that if his team had their own race there would be no question in his mind as to who the winner would be.

"Iguchi," Guillen said. "I don't think I would have driven that good but Iguchi he seems to be good around fast cars."

Kelly Thesier is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.