Nevada Kart Sport is the effort of owner Cole Nelson and his business partner Rodney Rivera. For Cole, karting has been part of his life since he was very young.
"I got started when I was 3-years old and got my first go kart during Christmas," he said. "My dad Jeffrey Nelson and his dad, Gary Nelson, manufactured Invader karts back in the early 70's."
Nelson said his first race was probably when he was around 7-years old.
"I remember my first race like it was yesterday," he said. "It was everything I expected as I did a lot of driving before my actual first race. But with my dad being a kart shop owner and being one of the leading American manufacturers at the time, I was in it hot and heavy at the time.
"It's my whole life, being a race car driver and it started when I was seven."
As the years passed, Cole won 10 national championships earning three in his last year competing. Then, around 2005, when he was 17, he took a break and moved into Formula racing.
During his time in the open-wheeled races, Nelson ran some shoot offs; a season in the Jim Russell series then the next year, the Skip Barber National Series. Then he took a little break until he was around 19 or 20.
"I got back into karting around '07 or '08 when I started wrenching for some guys," he said. "In 2006, when the economy went downhill, my dad closed the doors on his shop and I was wrenching, just being a mechanic."
He thought about going back to school but that didn't pan out. Then local kart racer, Jess Peterson, gave him a call and asked that he become his mechanic.
"I actually moved up here so I could be closer to him. I grew up in San Jose then when I was 12, moved to Atwater. There was a track right there and it was real close," he said.
Arriving in Reno, Nelson met Rivera as they were both helping Petersen.
"That's when the kart shop here wasn't doing very well so we got to thinking that we need to open up a kart shop and that's how it all got started," he said.
Nelson and Rivera took over the old Motor Machine Shop as that business was going to close its doors in September.
"We bought all their inventory and opened it back up," he said. "All the karters in this area were very overwhelmed and excited because we provided services that were never around."
While most shops normally sell parts, Nevada Kart Sport is a full service operation. They will build parts, store customer's karts, the even have a "arrive and drive," program where the customer just has to arrive at the track and their kart will be ready to race.
"On top of that, I build karts," he said. "Anybody's frame gets cracked, I can fix it, and things like that."
Nelson has revived the Invader kart brand and is now building what his father used to manufacture.
"It's been branded since 1970 so it's a pretty good name with a lot of creditability behind it," he said. "Me and Rod are planning to carry that name on and we're doing a good job so far."
Over the past few years NNKC has suffered, just like the economy, with diminished kart counts. And while that's improving, Nelson feels he and Rivera have had a part in growing the club again.
"People have a place to come where they are welcome and they can ask questions. We have memberships and it's totally beneficial to have me and Rod here," he said.
The shop also has formed a racing team that spans the Sierras.
"We've got about a 10-man team that's growing, half the customers are in California and half are here," he said.
As a result, this last season Nelson and Rivera were in Reno for eight NNKC events before going over the hill for another eight races in California. This next season he expects they'll do at least a dozen races in places like Salina, Atwater, Redding, Stockton, Dixon, Prairie City and Davis.
"In the heart of the season, we're racing almost every weekend," he said.
With so much time on the road, they use a trailer to not only haul karts to the track, but also offer service in the pits.
"It's fully-loaded with parts to try and service all the karter's needs out there," he said. "With chains, spindles, tie rods, tires, rims, axels, we try to load it up as much as possible so if someone breaks down, has an emergency, we're there for them.
"We go to the track, support our team and that's what we're there for. But anybody else can come and show up as we're not going to turn anyone away."
He added local karters were slightly overwhelmed and surprised when they began to show up at NNKC events.
"They didn't know a kart shop could operate like we do. It's the same thing in California as they love it."
Looking toward the future, Nelson sees a hopeful rise in participation. He feels it's due to the next generation of youngsters discovering karting.
"And the introduction of a Clone motor, which is the cheapest motor package ever brought to karting," he said. "And a lot of kids can afford it and it's bringing some of the karters back as well. It's a passion for racing and if you want competition that's at a high, high level, then karting is where it's at for a low amount of money."
He compared sports car racing at a club level, where the competition really isn't that stiff, to kart racing at the club level, where the competition is fierce.
"Everyone out there is fast and that's a big attraction for many drivers," he said. "Karting is a great plateau to start your career on, that's where you learn race craft, you learn how to pass, about tuning the kart, you learn everything, all the basics. That's what karting is good for," he said.
About the business he said, "We definitely growing, every year we're doing better and better. I'm very optimistic, as long as we can continue to grow the club and our series in California grows, our kart shop should do really well," he said. "We're getting more and more people involved in the club so the future for our shop looks great."
Next year he and Rivera plan to take the next step and expand their racing to include some high-profile events such as one in Oklahoma and the Super Nationals (run every November in Las Vegas).
Those wishing further information about the shop or the "arrive and drive," program are encouraged to check the website www.nevadakartsport.com.
•The Northern Nevada Kart Club hosted its annual awards banquet Saturday evening at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. Special awards and championship trophies were handed out and this year's Karter of the Year, Todd Thompson.
A list of winners is in the results section of this article.
OTHER RACING NEWS
•If the mild weather continues through the weekend, Livfast Exit 28 motocross track should be open for practice from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
•At November's SKUSA Super Nationals in Las Vegas, former NNKC president Jess Peterson raced to 4th place in TAG Senior, making him the highest finishing American in that field.
Northern Nevada Kart Club - Dec. 14
Championship and Special Awards for 2013
•Class getting Championship Cups:
Jr 1: 1. Jake Guzelis, 2. Josh Chassiang, 3. Lucas Morgan, 4. Austin Hawkins, 5. Sami Martinez
Sr. Clone: 1. Milas Mills, 2. Dave Schilt, 3. Mike Arnold
Tag Masters: 1. Steve Ryckebosch, 2. Mike Ryckebosch, 3. Brian Rivera
Formula 80 Senior: 1. Cody McKinney, 2. Steve Dow, 3. Ben Fisher
Formula 125 Stock Moto: 1. Alex Gray, 2. Todd Thompson, 3. Mike McGarffey
•Classes Getting Championship Trophies:
Jr. 2 Clone - Jeremy Holm
Tag Jr. - Turbo Sombatsiri
Tag Novice - Kelly Morley
Kids Karts: 1. Matthew Sifiling, 2. Ryan Beeler, 3. Dani Martinez
•Special Recognition Awards:
Karter of the Year - Todd Thompson
Jr. Rookie of the Year - Jake Guzelis
Sr. Rookie of the Year - Mike Faker
Jr. Most Improved Driver - Turbo Sombatsiri
Sr. Most Improved Driver - Mike Ryckebosch
Hard Charger - Taylor Uchytil
Comeback Drivers of the Year - Lucas Morgan and Bryce Berry
Volunteers of the Year - Mike McGaffey and Mike Arnold
Special Thanks Awards - Mike Botelho Jr., Dave Brant, Shari Dow, Sandy Diederich and Chelsi Wagner