In 2001, the Quincy Grand Prix in South Park hit a bit of a speed bump. After 31 years, race promoter and creator Gus Traeder decided not to bring it back for 2002. Declining karter numbers coupled with a deteriorating track made for the tough call.
“The event has become financially impossible to conduct, due to the high cost of everything involved in running and organizing an event of this caliber,” the Quincy Herald-Whig quoted Traeder as saying. “I feel sad. This has been a big part of my life.”
The race, which drew thousands of spectators each year, indeed was a large part of Traeder’s life. He helped found the race in 1970 as a tie-in to the Dogwood Festival. For all those years, hundreds of racers would compete for thousands in purse money. Karters, their families and audiences from coast-to-coast would descend upon Quincy’s South Park to watch what stretched into a weekend of fun.
The decision made by Traeder’s son Terry Traeder to bring back the Grand Prix of Karting to South Park after a 17-year pause was two-fold. Gus Traeder passed away after stroke complications in 2016. Terry Traeder, a former national and world champion karter, knew his dad had always wanted to see the race brought back to life.
The Quincy Park District resurfaced South Park with the last few years, and Traeder knew the Grand Prix could be resurrected. After talks with the District’s Executive Director Rome Frericks, Traeder cleared his first major hurdle by securing insurance.
“This is one of the best public service things I could do,” Traeder said. “What else would reach 10,000 to 20,000 people at no cost to them.”
Since the Grand Prix ended, Traeder has been asked “more times than I can think of,” when the races were coming back. Traeder hopes the revenue brought to the city via hotel rooms and restaurants will have a positive economic impact.
The Quincy Grand Prix was once known as the longest-running street race in America. Its roots could be traced back to 1958, when Gus Traeder was the manager of Quincy’s Montgomery Ward. A supplier brought a kart to the store, and Traeder bought Quincy’s first. He often told stories of how he raced – and was thrown out of – store and school parking lots. That prompted Traeder three years later to build his own race track in West Quincy, Missouri.
Gus Traeder, who hung up his racing gear to become a well-known racing promoter, founded the Professional Karting Association in 1978. Terry retired from racing himself in 1994 but continued to work with his dad on the Grand Prix. That first race in 1970 saw 73 drivers in five classes compete for a purse of $1,000. At its height, there were nearly 600 entries.
This year, Traeder hopes for 200 drivers in 15 amateur and professional classes. There is no purse money, but drivers will compete for trophies and prizes. And the 1 ¼ mile tree-lined course will be the safest to date. There’s two miles of fencing, 500 straw bales and 900 plastic racing barriers. Proceeds from the nonprofit event are being donated to charity.
Traeder thinks his dad, who is buried across the street from South Park in Greenmount Cemetery and whose funeral procession took a park lap, would be ecstatic the race is revived.