Living Their Best Lives at 50-Plus Miles Per Hour
Are you typically more reserved at work but when 5 p.m. strikes, you’re ready to put the pedal to the metal and live your best life? Perhaps you should try kart racing! Now before you shake your head “no” and flip the page, let us introduce you to Carmel residents James “Jim” Enney and his wife, Erin Rake.
By day, Enney is a CPA, CFO at Central Indiana Hardware and Rake is a dentist at My Dental Care in Fishers, but after hours they are team Dancing Dragon Racing. They are also parents to three adult children.
How Their Love for Kart Racing Got Started
“We started thinking about reliving our youth and doing the things we wanted to do when we were younger but didn’t do, and this was one of the topics,” Enney shared. “We both wanted to be race car drivers when we were kids but never had the opportunity, and we thought why not [be race car drivers] at this age? Neither of us had any expertise in terms of a mechanical side or had even worked on our own cars per se, but we decided that karting might be a good option.”
The duo went out to New Castle Motorsports Park (NCMP) to check out the kart-racing scene, and they fell in love with it. NCMP is their home base and where they have a year-round garage for their karts.
“We both looked at it and said this was something we can do and acknowledged that it was going to be a steep learning curve,” Enney admitted. “We bought carts in 2015 and had no idea what we were doing and bought a bunch of tools that we had no idea what they were called. It was a challenge because we were fish out of water.”
Rake and Enney explained that there are different engine platforms from “slow and easy” to “insanely fast.” They began with two “slow and easy” karts, and with all the safety equipment, accessories and tools, the pair bought into their new hobby with an initial investment of around $18,000–$20,000.
“There was a lot of research, especially when you just jump into it,” Enney shared. “There are options if you want to get into for as little as $5,000 if you buy a used kart and go with a less expensive engine platform. The ‘slow and easy’ platform or Briggs LO206 has a top speed on a straightaway at Newcastle of 55 mph. The next step up, the X30, is a two-cycle, water-cooled platform, and it will push 70–75 mph. The top-of-the-line shifter cart is also water cooled and is a six-speed transmission that puts you between 82–85 mph, and at IMS, some have done over 100 mph.”
Crushing the Steep Learning Curve
The pair had the rare opportunity to have a driving coach come out to NCMP when they first started—IndyCar driver Pippa Mann. Rake and Enney had tweeted out that they were getting into kart racing and that since they had no idea what they were doing, they were going to hire Mann. To their surprise, she replied and accepted the challenge.
“She [Mann] agreed to come out,” Enney said. “She’s a driver coach [for kids], and we told her that we were adults and she agreed to come out anyway. Her enthusiasm was fantastic! She gave us a lot of written instructions and even showed us how to carry our helmets ‘the right way’ for pictures. We’ve had other interactions with other IndyCar drivers out there. They’ve all come up through karting, like many of the folks we race with, and for us having all that help has been huge.”
As the pair has gained more on-track and pit experience with their karts, they have become more confident about driving them, having learned more about what feels right and when it’s time to pit.
“A big example of that is Jim used to be our ‘wheel’ guy and make sure the wheels were on, air pressured and the hubs were on the karts,” Rake shared. “We’ve had some excitement with lug nuts getting loose and wobbly wheels. This year, I’ve been trying to do it myself so that I know when it happens, I can feel it and fix it.”
Racing at New Castle Motorsports Park
Enney explained that the races last 12–15 minutes per race, depending on how quickly you get through the course, and Rake added, “It’s a mile or a little over a mile long for each race, depending on the course configurations.”
While each driver races as an individual, the couple thought it would be fun to create a team with all the fun merch and accessories that go with a racing team.
“We thought it would be creative to come up a name, logo, colors and outfits,” Enney said. “It was more for us a tongue-and-cheek thing. Some people take it very seriously.”
There are several different classes to race in based on engine platforms as well as weight and age classes.
“These are fee-based entries at New Castle,” Enney explained. “It’s regional club racing, so it’s $40 or $45 per entry, which isn’t bad for what you get out of the experience.”
As the years have passed, both Enney and Rake have improved their skills tremendously both in the garage as well as on the track. They both attributed a lot of their growth and success to their friend John Martin, an iconic IKart Indianapolis builder/creator who passed in July. Coincidentally, the weekend before he passed, Enney won his first medals.
“John passed away that following Wednesday, so to me, it was a cool experience because he was there with us and that weekend will always be special,” Enney emphasized. “John was a huge influence and helped us become better drivers and mechanics. He had been driving since he was a kid and knew how karts worked, so having his expertise to navigate us through our learning curves was huge.”
Both Rake and Enney encourage anyone who might be interested in kart racing to come out to NCMP and check it out. Feel free to ask questions, and you’ll find the people at NCMP are very welcoming and willing to help. But once you meet on the track, you’d better hit the pedal, or you’ll be left eating someone’s dust!
Rake concluded, “It’s a fun hobby, and we have met some really great folks along the way!”