Drive. Race. Live.: Karting With Shift

Yesterday we were treated to an experience of a lifetime. Our friends at Shift invited us up to Northern California’s Infineon Raceway to participate in a shifter kart driving school prior to this weekend’s San Francisco Supercross. The outing was put together as a way for Shift to bring their friends from two different disciplines together. Moto fans are very familiar with Shift’s presence in the motocross industry, but many of you may not realize that they’ve made themselves a big presence in kart racing as well. To celebrate and to help introduce more people to the sport of karting, Shift’s Brian Price gathered a group of kart and motocross professionals and journalists from both disciplines to participate in a day of karting. “We like to do things that bring our athletes together,” according to Price. “Building relationships beyond the normal contract stuff is what makes us more of a family, and that’s the vibe that Shift has always been about.”

The Shift crew on hand at Infineon consisted of Brian Price, Rob Salcedo, and Brian Butler; all of whom went out of their ways to make our experience the best possible. Joining their crew was Travis Preston, Ryan Mills, and Billy Laninovich of the Amsoil/Chapparal/Factory Connection/Honda team; karters Juliana Chiovitti and Ryan Phinney; Racer Magazine’s Rodney Wills, Raelyn Powell and their photographer Brian Konoske; and from TWMX, myself and Marc Fiore.

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Here’s how the day shook down…

First thing in the A.M. we arrived at the raceway to a beautiful view of the surrounding valley. Infineon Raceway, formerly Sears Point, sits in the wine country of Sonoma County. I tried to capture the moment with this photo, but my poor photography skills didn’t do it any justice!

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After some quick instruction from the Jim Russell Karting School instructors, we suited up into our custom-fitted Shift Jet Kart suits, complete with our names on the back and the whole nine, and took a closer look at the karts that we’d be piloting for the day.

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Once we were underway and the first session hit the track, it was made quite clear who would be the drivers to beat. While Ryan Mills was busy spinning off into the grass, Billy Laninovich was hauling ass and setting some pretty quick times right out of the gate. He claims that he has no former shifter experience, but I don’t buy it! “I’ve driven some indoor karts a couple times, but nothing like this,” said Laninovich. “This is a blast though!” It was a blast and Billy went on to set the fastest laps of the day. Well, that’s with the exception of Juliana and Phinney who were in a league of their own.

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Others looking good were Price, Fiore, and…not to pat myself on the back…but, me. I was rockin’ the second fastest lap of the day right up until the last session when Price out-drove my time by just a couple tenths of a second. I unfortunately had to sit out the last session because of a last-second mechanical problem, but I think I’ll have something for Brian the next time out. Speaking of Brian, he took delivery of his brand new Trackmagic Racing Kart at Infineon, and that thing is badass. Much like a kid in a candy store, Price had a Kool-Aid smile on his face all day long.

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The final session was an actual race-style format, and it was the first time the entire day that we were all put on the track at the same time. During our parade lap I experienced a mechanical problem and had to come in with a broken seat bracket, so I quickly climbed out of my kart to watch the mayhem that was about to ensue. Our boy Fiore jumped out to a good start, but Price, in his cheater kart, blew by him on the second straight. Once things got sorted out, the quick guys made their way up front and the battle began. After Price and Laninovich spinouts, and a Fiore mechanical DNF, we ended up with a surprise winnner; Preston. Travis wasn’t exactly lighting the track up with blistering lap times, but consistency paid off in the end, and TP drove her home and took the checkers.

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All in all we had an absolutely amazing day. We all left the track with huge smiles on our faces and immediately began talking about putting another event together. Marc and I would like to personally thank Brian, Rob, and Brian Butler from Shift for treating us to an epic day. Thanks guys!

For those of you interested in some the coolest karting and motocross gear available, Shift can be contacted at   1-888-SHIFT-IT, or check www.shiftmx.com.

And for an amazing karting experience of your own, the Jim Russell International Karting School can be reached at 800/831-KART or www.russellracing.com.