Lehigh Valley Grand Prix races to support the Autism Society’s LV Chapter
By Lori McFerran | Special to Metromix
MetroMix Cover – April 2009
The fast and the furious, Allentown-style!
Sunday, April 5 was a day at the races but a day unlike any other. It was the first time the 6.5 hp Honda engines inside the GT3 Proline karts at the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix race track revved up for much more than pure, fast fun. This day, however, nine corporate teams competed in a threehour, relay-style heat that rendered financial support for the newly formed Lehigh Valley chapter of the Autism Society of America.
“We wanted to give something back by aligning ourselves with a good cause,” says Chris Cooper, who along with Mike Mc- Creary, founded the innovative Grand Prix racing enterprise in Allentown almost two years ago.
The Grand Prix has hosted fundraisers in the past for others, but never one if its own. The track is often used for birthday parties for a 10-15-year-old age group, and especially attracts adults ages 20-45 who simply like the sensation of speed. “They’re just big kids,” says Cooper.
For Sunday’s race, the teams each put up $500, with a portion of the fee going directly to autism information, research and referral. While the Lehigh Valley chapter of the ASA is brand new, the organization itself has a history dating back to 1964 when it was started by author Dr. Bernard Rimland and a handful of parents. ASA is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and medical professionals.
The race was designed much like other events on the track, as a three-hour test of endurance. Each team has four to six drivers and each driver does a 15-minute stint behind the wheel, then pulls into the pit for a quick driver exchange. Not only does the race require excellent driving skills at top speeds (well, 45 mph feels fast in a gas-powered Sodi competition kart), it also calls for a supersmooth in-and-out of the vehicle since time is of the essence in this exciting race. The team that finishes the most laps in three hours wins the race.
“It’s a position race against a running clock,” explains Cooper, who says that all nine teams are able to gas it up on the 10-track course at the same time. They can eye their progress via a 160″ projection screen mounted above the track that updates and posts standings throughout the race.
Meanwhile, friends, colleagues and the other team members cheer the drivers on from the sidelines in an adrenalin-charged atmosphere hardly experienced anywhere outside of Indianapolis.
Cooper explains that each lap on the track equals ¼ mile, and in the course of a three-hour race, drivers could cover about 300 laps. “That’s about 75 miles,” he says.
Speaking of “big kids,” Cooper admits that he and McCreary occasionally slip into the karts themselves and race each other. “We do that quite a bit. We used to do it a whole lot when we first opened the track,” says Cooper. “We’re very competitive.”
Source: The Morning Call / MetroMix – April 2009