Karting brings Verhagen family from Connecticut to Mooresville

Six months ago the Verhagen family packed their belongings and moved from Richfield, Conn., to Mooresville for one reason: to be more centrally located for their sons’ kart racing.

In Connecticut, it was a 1 1/2-hour drive to the track where the Verhagens could race their own karts. Multiple school days were missed to attend national events.

Neil, 13, and Alex, 10, both have aspirations to one day showcase their driving talents in Formula One. The family lived in a Mooresville apartment for a summer to let the boys participate in numerous kart sessions. The family returned to Connecticut with the idea that moving to North Carolina was the correct direction to go for their karting endeavors

Now, the brothers are focused on Mooresville’s GoPro Motorplex and competing for KartSport North America. Based in Mooresville, KartSport is owned by Justin Marks and Eric Jones and is the exclusive North American importer of Arrow Racing Karts.

“When we started karting, mom and dad were doing it,” said Lynne Verhagen, the boys’ mother. “Dad was the tuner; he was wrenching for the boys and stuff. So when we got the opportunity to work with KartSport it’s the support the team can give you. Coming here, you can show up, get your kart here, your engine, you can get everything and they will take care of you and take you to the races that you want to do. For us, their guidance has been beneficial.”

The brothers both developed an enjoyment for karting after visiting an indoor kart track in Mount Kisco, N.Y. Neil started racing six years ago, participating in one of the facility’s rental leagues before moving to outdoor karts.

Alex tried a kart for the first time about five years ago. The boys’ father, Ken, an investment banker, had participated in an event his BMW club had conducted at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and afterward he invited his younger son to join him at the Mount Kisco facility. Since then the brothers have turned their passion for karts into victories and championships.

Last year, Neil won the GoPro Motorplex Mini Max championship while Alex took the GoPro Motorplex Micro Max title. In 2012, Alex was named the World Karting Association’s Yamaha rookie champion. The last year they participated in the Concord-based WKA, they competed in the sanctioning body’s Road Race Championships at Daytona International Speedway.

“We raced in WKA for three years,” Neil said. “I don’t think I drove as good as I probably should have, but we came home with some top-5 finishes overall.”

This year, the boys moved from WKA to the 2-year-old United States Pro Kart Series, which held its season opener at the Mooresville facility. The four-round touring sprint karting series that features eight divisions will also visit New Liberty, Ind., Beaver Run, Pa., and New Castle, Ind.

“The days aren’t as stressful in the United States Pro Kart Series as they are in WKA,” Neil said in explaining why they switched racing series. “In USPK, you race one class and in WKA you have to race in three classes and they’re back-to-back.”

When not competing at a USPK event, the boys participate in club races. That translates into about 30 events annually. This year Neil is competing in the Tag Junior class and Alex is in Mini Max.

Both boys admit there is a sibling rivalry and it’s especially tough when one out-qualifies the other by a ten-thousandth of a second. However, they like competing against each other in the same race.

“When it comes to the actual race, you have someone to trust that will not make a stupid move on you or do something to take you out,” said Neil, a Lakeshore Middle School student. “It’s always nice racing with someone you can definitely trust.”

Alex, a Lakeshore Elementary student, notes the two are “super, super close” and work together when passing their fellow competitors. However, if something happens during an event between the two, Neil says “you can’t get too upset. Racing is racing.”

They also enjoy the adrenalin rush and the family environment the sport provides.

“We’ve raced all over the United States – from Las Vegas to Florida to New York to North Carolina,” Neil said. “We’ve raced so many places it’s hard to name all of them. We plan to go to Europe to race in maybe a couple of years.”

Pressley victorious at Hickory

Kannapolis resident Coleman Pressley scored his first X-1R Pro Cup Series victory April 5 in the Catawba Valley 250 at Hickory Motor Speedway. It was just the fourth start in the Mooresville-based series for Pressley, whose day job is serving as Mackena Bell’s crew chief in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East.

Pressley said he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to compete in the Pro Cup event until late in the week after he completed his work at the K&N team’s Concord shop.

“My dad (former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Robert Pressley) was able to help me get the car together and it all came together,” Pressley said.