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AURORA -- Over the past 10 years, David Kalb Jr. has climbed to the top of the go-karting world, but this year he's going to mix in some dirt with the concrete surfaces where he's dominated.
He said he's planning to try racing a "dirt modified" car in the Rush Sportsman Modified Series for the first time, which involves cars racing on dirt tracks, which he said will be a new challenge.
"In karts, it is always about being smooth," said the 15-year-old Aurora resident, who attends St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. "You always want to avoid sliding because sliding kills your momentum."
On dirt, controlled slides are part of the strategy, particularly on turns, he said.
During the past several years, David Jr. has won about 30 races and three national championships, including two WKA Gold Cup titles and a WKA Winter Cup crown.
"Each season, there are about four or five race weekends in a national series," he said. "This year, I lost only one race."
As he explores racing on dirt this year, David Jr. also said he plans to race in at least two go-karting national series, which he said is manageable because they usually don't overlap.
Like race car driving, he said there are different classes in go-karting for drivers of different skill levels.
"I first sat in a go-kart in 2005, and we went out and bought one in 2006," he said. "I started racing at the club level, which isn't all that competitive."
The club level is for drivers just entering the sport. He said there are also regional and national level competitions, as well as different classes, which permit go-karts with different top speeds.
"As you move up in age groups, you move to something faster," he explained. The slowest vehicles may travel 15 mph; faster go-karts may top out as high as 80 mph.
David Jr. said the sport has been a source of bonding for him and his father, David Kalb Sr.
"He actually had nothing to do with racing," said David Jr. of his father. "He would actually flip through it on TV. He had no interest in it."
Tom Kalb, David Jr.'s late uncle and a NASCAR fan, is the one who got them both into the sport. Now, he said he and his father spend many weekends and hours in between training and tuning his go-kart.
Usually, David Jr. said he and his father spend four to five hours a week on the car, and that's just a routine week.
"If we have an engine failure, we could end up working much more than that," he added. "It's a lot of fun. My dad really enjoys it, too."
David Sr. called go karting a "great sport for families to get into. Karting is a pretty well-kept secret."
David Jr. said he used to play basketball and baseball but has given them up, adding he "just really doesn't have time for it." He advises people just getting into go karting to throw themselves in.
"Find out as much as you can about the sport, keep learning new things, and try to get to know a lot of people," he said, adding the community that develops around the racing weekends is a friendly and helpful group of families.
Now that David Jr. is 15, his father said he's setting his sights on the future and racing full-size cars. "He is continuing his driving career and setting his sights on some day running in NASCAR," said David Sr.
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