To many people, go-karting back memories of the 1950s when a number of American motor sports legends started their racing careers as kids in go-karts. By providing all the fun of racing in a less expensive alternative to race cars, the sport is now seeing a resurgence. So what’s a nice, clean cut 25-year-old openly gay man who is used to racing in Camaros and custom built cars doing racing go-karts? He’s having fun!
Meet Derek Archer. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, he came from a family hard-bitten by the car racing bug. So it’s no surprise that he grew up at one track or another in the state, from Phoenix, to Casa Grande, Tucson, Stafford and back again. But as time went on and family members decided to retire from racing, Archer was left to go it alone.
In 2008 he started dirt racing with an owner who had six cars. Unfortunately, in 2010 the team owner had a heart attack and died, leaving Archer one of the cars in his will. Discovering that it cost him $16,000 just to run the car, Archer took a break from racing in 2011 and decided to go to school to be a firefighter. But just as he was finishing, the job market for firefighters tanked.
Remember, however, Archer is a competitor, not a quitter. So he got a job working in the banking industry and began an on-line degree program in business management at Southern New Hamp- shire University. At this point he has almost com- pleted his requirements for a B.S. degree in business management.
And perhaps the best thing is that Archer has started racing again. But this time he’s racing go-karts on a dirt circle track kart division in Phoenix through the AZ Karting Association that was formed back in 1987 as a non-profit to maintain and promote the family sport of kart racing.
While he says that a go-kart handles differently than a car, Archer couldn’t be happier with the resumption of his racing life, saying that he’ll always have the racing bug. Riding about an inch off the ground with little to no padding, he says you also definitely know you’re on a dirt track.
He’s managed to purchase his own kart for about $2,500. And while drivers wear jeans and closed-toed shoes without lots of other protective gear, he still has his three-layer fireproof suit and shoes that he wears. Karts use VP racing fuel which is high octane but with a two-stroke engine, it uses a mixture of fuel and castor oil. And you get about four races on an engine before you need to give it a “touchup.” While that isn’t cheap, it’s a lot cheaper than replacing an engine you haven’t kept in top working condition.
So while this form of racing is less expensive than racing cars, for right now Archer wants to keep it as his hobby. Although he does see himself moving up in the sport over time, even moving to asphalt racing which is akin to a NASCAR race but on a smaller, less expensive level.
Archer started racing as a closeted man but decided to come out in 2011. He says that racing is a very conservative sport and that he lost some crew members initially. But over the last five years it has gotten more open and accepting. Even though he’s part of such a small community, he says everyone is very supportive of him now.
The track operates most of the year with a summer break during July and August. Spectators are admitted free of charge for all races and a pit pass for admission to the race pits is $10 for those aged nine and over and free for those under eight. It’s a great way to have some racing fun up close and personal. And when you see Derek Archer, cheer extra loud for him as he Competes!