NASCAR has the “The King,” “The Intimidator” and “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville.”
The Idaho House has “Fly Boy,” “Ace” and “Speedy Reedy.”
The fastest lawmakers on four wheels gathered Wednesday for the 10th annual Idaho Independent Automobile Dealers Association go kart races – culminating with the much-ballyhooed House-Senate championship.
On the line were 365 days of bragging rights and a traveling trophy.
Until Wednesday night, House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt displayed the fastest lawmaker cup in his office.
That’s how I found out about this whole deal: the trophy and a mention of “Speedy Reedy” on the House floor.
I was hooked.
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I’ve always enjoyed go karts. My dad, brother and I bought a racing kart and would stomp on the gas and throw it into corners at asphalt tracks in the Kansas City area.
I never raced the thing, but easily logged 500-plus hot laps.
I’ve hit 160 in a slightly modified NASCAR stock car at Kansas Speedway while covering racing and a high-performance driving school for a weekly paper.
Surely I had more experience than any of these lawmakers.
The average age of a legislator is closer to 100 than zero, but I was nervous – and I had to wait a whole year to see what this was all about.
Here’s what happened:
A cocktail of burnt rubber and fuel singes your nostrils the minute you walk through the lobby doors leading to the track at Fast Lane Indoor Kart Racing.
Inside, it didn’t take long to spot DeMordaunt and Reps. Wendy Horman and Kelly Packer.
There were 20 of the 105 lawmakers all together.
Mat Erpelding, James Holtzclaw, and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle.
Jim Guthrie, Jim Rice and Joe Palmer.
Sheryl Nuxoll, Brandon Hixon and Steven Harris too.
Most brought their families, and there were easily 100 people hanging out in the Target-sized building – lounging trackside, nibbling at bites of pizza, taking pictures of their spouses and children.
Republicans and Democrats, Hatfields and McCoys alike.
“In terms of fun factor, nothing beats this. This is awesome,” DeMordaunt said. “We’re all very competitive. I want to win. It’s all in good fun, but you want to win.”
Once it started, each of the lawmakers entered the races under a team name.
I entered as Team Ed News, and Horman was representing ’65 Mustang.
I told her my first car was a ’65 Mustang.
It didn’t look like much when we bought it, but it ran.
And my dad and I restored it nicely.
Hers was a baby blue ’65 and she worked on it with her dad.
Her family is a Ford family, she got the Mustang after her parents drove it and moved on.
Up until 10 years ago, the car stayed in her family.
“It almost broke my heart,” Horman said.
After a race, DeMordaunt mentioned scuba diving. We both marveled about how relaxing it is, dipping below the blue ocean surface and floating weightlessly among coral reef and exotic fish.
After the green flag waved, lawmakers smashed into each other, the tire barriers and walls, often leading to small chain reactions along the course.
It was rare – but pulse-poundingly awesome – when all the karts made it four or five laps without a crash or a yellow flag. Either would put the brakes on the action, as staff slowed down the karts to clear an accident or a spin a kart back around.
But during those four or five laps of racing, your heart quickens and you attempt to will your kart ever closer to, around and finally past the driver in front of you.
If you’ve got the nerve, you might throw a glance toward the overhead scoreboard and catch a glimpse of your time.
The front straightaway section is short and these Honda-powered performance karts hit 40 mph.
Your hands cramp up and your forearms tighten from torqueing the steering wheel.
Your sides are sore and your shoulders ache from hurdling through corners.
But it’s worth it.
A well-executed pass feels as good as a home run or a touchdown.
The first corner beyond the start-finish line is a hard right-hander, and I was quick – nearly able to run it flat out during good laps.
But I struggled with the next curve, a right-hand hairpin that I could never quite negotiate.
DeMordaunt proved he deserved last year’s title, finishing with a time of 23.114 seconds.
Erpelding burns rubber too, clocking in at 23.416.
I was within eight-tenths of a second, at 23.886.
But Moyle’s son, Preston, the 17-year-old “Country Kid,” won the race.
Preston won both races that I ran, and, I think, every one that he ran.
DeMordaunt and Erpelding (“Merp”) qualified for the all-lawmaker House-Senate Championship.
So did Moyle, “Slow One.”
Palmer, “Fly Boy.”
And Jason Monks, “Ace.”
All of them – the 10 drivers in the championship – clambered around the teenagers working at the track and vied for any available advantage before climbing into the driver’s seat.
Allegations of bribery, of course, surfaced.
For 10 minutes they raced, with Palmer – no wonder he’s chairman of House Transportation – setting the early pace, followed by Monks, DeMordaunt, Moyle and Hixon.
Aggressive passing, and a hard crash or two marked the race.
In the end, the House smoked the Senate.
The top three spots all went to representatives – Palmer, then Monks and DeMordaunt.
Based on track times, Brenda Dudley of the Automobile Dealers Association said Moyle was crowned Grand Champion. Monks, Palmer, Guthrie and Dan Johnson were recognized for race performance.
Now that the checkered flag has waved, the trophy is being engraved and will stay with the House.
And I need to shave more than a second off my lap time to catch the majority leader’s son.