Salty Dog’s Grand Prix and the Future of American Racing

Stephen Cox Blog Presented by McGunegill Engine Performance

I started late. I didn’t drive in my first professional auto race until age 21. Before that, I was addicted to go kart racing. No, not the World Karting Association or the National Karting Alliance. I’d never heard of them.

My karting career began by paying $5 for 10 minutes of track time in a five-horsepower, 25 miles-per-hour fun kart at tiny, tourist-driven venues during our family vacations. We stopped at go kart tracks from Virginia to Utah. Any track, anytime. It wasn’t real racing, but it was the only racing I had.


American Muscle

The tracks were minuscule. The karts were poky rent-a-wrecks. Sometimes they didn’t even require a helmet. My first races were on tracks like the Salty Dog Grand Prix against other vacationing kids, most of whom never realized they were locked in bitter competition with a teenager and his visions of grandeur.

Several days ago, while returning from my entirely unsuccessful run in the Super Cup Stock Car Series American Racer Twin 50’s at Jennerstown Speedway, I stumbled across what appeared to be an abandoned rental kart race track. The sign said it was “The Salty Dog Grand Prix” of Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. I parked the Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions van and started walking. The track was closed at the time but the gate was open.

It had apparently been closed since 2015, though information has been hard to come by. The property was well kept but a sign in front of the track advertised karts for sale, which means they probably have no intention of re-opening soon, if at all.

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that little go kart tracks like the Salty Dog are perhaps the canary in the coal mine for American auto racing. I’ve made it clear many times why I believe the average age of race fans continues to get older and older. Kids are losing interest in automobiles, and those who don’t care about cars will never pay to see anyone race them. Until the automobile is again viewed as a teenage ticket to mischief, personal liberty, speed and late-night fun, interest in cars will continue to decline and the snowball effect on motorsports is inevitable.

I hope the property can reopen because it’s tough to see time move on from places like the Salty Dog Grand Prix. The asphalt is still good. The tire barriers are solid. The pit area and outbuildings are nicely maintained.

Yet people just don’t flock to these venues as they once did. The world is too full of I-gadgets and screens and distractions. And lame superhero movies.

And cheap milk shakes masquerading as status symbol coffee drinks. And discredited evening news programs that claim everything else is fake. And social media that’s not.

The more hear from Bruno Mars, the better I like the smell of gasoline.

Long before I landed my first sponsor or won my first race, I looked forward to the simple purity of racing a cheap go kart on tourist tracks. No qualifying. No mandatory autograph sessions. No driver’s meetings. Go kart racing was all fun and no pressure.

Go find yourself a kart track this weekend. No, it’s not “real” racing, but for millions of Americans, it’s the only first-hand motorsports experience they’ll ever have. And that’s surely better than the alternative.

Stephen Cox

Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions

Driver, Super Cup Series and EGT Championship

Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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Stephen Cox is a racing driver in the Electric GT Championship, the Super Cup Stock Car Series and the World Racing League endurance sports car series. He is also a television host and CEO of Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions. He is currently in his 10th season as a co-host on NBCSN’s Mecum Auto Auction. Stephen also serves as producer for the Super Cup Stock Car Series telecasts on MavTV and other programming on Fox, Outdoor Channel, Velocity and more. His past television work includes hosting: Champ Car World Series Indianapolis 500 NASCAR Winston West Barber Dodge Pro Series Paris-Dakar Rally USAR Hooters ProCup Stock Car Series Mid-American Stock Car Series ARCA Truck Series Stephen Cox is among America’s most versatile professional racing drivers. Few drivers have competed on both asphalt and dirt. Fewer still on both road courses and ovals. Fewer still in both open wheel and stock cars. And virtually none can add the elite division of off road desert racing to their resume. Stephen has not simply raced in each of these divisions – he has scored championships, wins, poles or top ten finishes in every single category, and in 2017 he adds the international Electric GT Championship sports car series to the list. From ARCA ovals to SCCA road courses, endurance racing to Rolex GT sports cars, from Tecate SCORE Baja Trophy Trucks in desert sands to the Hooters Pro Cup Series and Super Cup Stock Car Series on America’s famous southern ovals… Cox has driven them all, and won. Track record holder at Midvale Speedway (OH USA) Track record holder at Gingerman Raceway (MI USA) 18 career wins 17 career poles Mitsubishi factory test driver 2004 GT Challenge Series champion 2004 Championship Motorsports Association Rookie of the Year As a writer, Cox has authored: L&M PORSCHE; the story Penske’s 1972 Can-Am championship SHELBY LEGEND, TRANS-AM WINNER; the 1966 Ford Mustang Group 2 SCCA Racer AGAINST ALL ODDS; the 1970 24 Hours of Daytona Cox also authored the Small Team Sponsorship Guide for beginning sponsor-hunters, the classic book and seminar that redefined the way entry level teams attack corporate sponsorship.

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