NY Race Complex helping to develop future racers in Morristown

Posted 6/17/24

MORRISTOWN -- For Marco Oldhafer racing isn't just a hobby, it is a lifelong passion that eventually led to him purchasing the New York Race Complex in Morristown.

The New York Race Complex …

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NY Race Complex helping to develop future racers in Morristown


MORRISTOWN -- For Marco Oldhafer racing isn't just a hobby, it is a lifelong passion that eventually led to him purchasing the New York Race Complex in Morristown.

The New York Race Complex isn't your average racetrack though. Oldhafer said the complex is a top level facility designed for CIK/FIA style kart races, ranging from “Touch and Go” karts to shifter karts that utilize motorcycle engines and transmissions.

"We have multiple divisions, each growing since we took over seven years ago," he said.

Oldhafer said this isn't the first time he has undertaken such a task, growing the racing community at his former track in New Jersey years ago.

"We had upwards of 120 racers at that track. We had some serious competition down there with a lot of racers taking part. But that was very different because we had such a large population base to pull from," he said.

Now in his seventh year of ownership, he and his wife Michelle are growing the kart racing community in the North Country the only way he knows how.

"We want this to grow organically, to have people invested in the racing and to help build a community of like minded people," he said.

That approach has led to a number of new racers joining the ranks over the last two years, he said.

"When you tell people that we have, I would say, arguably one of the top-10 karting tracks in the country right here in Morristown, people just give you a strange look," he said.

The style of racing, known to be the breeding ground for future Formula One world champions in Europe, is gaining in popularity in the United States as casual and serious racers alike look for cheaper alternatives and different challenges.

"We have a number of dirt ovals up here but this is the only road course in the area with this type of racing," he said.

Racers flocking to NY Race Complex

Oldhafer said when he first took over the track numbers were much lower.

"We were focusing on our 2-stroke program, in particular our shifter karts," he said.

But the steeper learning curve, coupled with higher expenses to run such karts meant limited growth. In some cases, races would feature 10 to 12 drivers, he said.

In the case of shifter karts, Oldhafer said new drivers find them to be too fast when they start racing.

"They can go 80 to 90 mph. They can be really fast and can be very intimidating to new racers," he said.

Enter the ghost riders.

No, not Nicolas Cage but rather a group of racers who wanted to participate on a lower budget.

Oldhafer said his friend Jim Brewer, who can be found at the track on any given weekend helping drivers tinker on their karts, suggested an alternative to save money.

"Now we use Ghost kart racing engines. They're Predator engines you can get at Harbor Freight for about 300 bucks," Oldhafer said.

Compare that to the few thousand dollars racers can invest for a shifter kart engine and it becomes clear why so many racers are getting involved in the division.

In Brewer's honor, the division is known as the "JB4 Ghostriders."

"It's cut down costs, it's brought more drivers and created some really close racing," Oldhafer said.

With costs lowered, Oldhafer said he has seen a big jump in numbers in the last year.

"That division has around 30 racers or so right now. We'd love to get them all on track at the same time in the future but just to have that many people invested is a big accomplishment," he said.

Now new racers can get into the sport for about $2,000, he said.

"You can buy a used cart and a ghost motor for about $2,000 to $2,200. With your suit, helmet and gloves you can start for about $3,000 total. To run a race it's about $90 for a weekend. You can't race any cheaper than that," Oldhafer said.

Though the Ghostriders do not shift, Oldhafer said the karts can still break the speed limit.

"Some are pushing about 60 mph. It's a great division to get started in, especially for adults, but it offers great racing," he said.

Karting school offered

For those who aren't quite sure if they want to dive in and spend a couple thousand dollars right off the bat, Oldhafer said one alternative is to try the race complex's kart school.

"It gives people a good look at what a faster kart can do. These aren't like the ones in Alex Bay that you have to stop every lap for," he said.

The karts offered through the school are much faster, he said.

In the case of potential racers who want to rent a kart, Oldhafer said they can do that pretty much any day of the week.

"You can go out in 10 minute sessions and really test things out. They perform really well, they're surprisingly quick," he said.

All equipment is supplied for those who wish to test, he said. Racers simply have to call ahead to check for availability and show up to the track.

“It’s a great way to get your feet wet. That’s how a lot of people first catch the racing bug. They start out renting a kart and eventually want to go faster,” he said.

Local racer plying trade in new division

That's how it all started for Megan Ashline, who was testing her own kart when North Country This Week visited the race complex.

According to her father Jayce, who helps Megan as a mechanic and crew chief, the duo first attended NY Race Complex late last year.

"She started out with an ice race in Batavia last year and won both heat races and the feature. That was a cool event because she was able to do it in front of family in a racing community," he said.

Not long after those victories, the Ashlines drove from Plattsburgh to Toronto to pick up a kart chassis.

"We got everything setup, put an engine on and started to test," Jayce said.

Despite a setback from a broken collar bone sustained in an accident last year, Megan said she's ready to mix it up in races this summer.

"It's a great group of people with some great drivers. Everyone tries to help each other out. We're all here for the same thing, we love to race and love to be at the track," she said.

Despite the long trek, the Ashlines say they can't wait to get to the track.

"We have to be out of the house by 5:30 in the morning at the latest to get here in time for the races but it's worth it. It's so much fun," she said.

If spectators have questions, both Ashlines said any racer would be happy to answer.

"There are a lot of great people here who enjoy racing and want to help. You couldn't ask for a better group of people," Jayce said.

The NY Race Complex is open every Sunday and Monday, as well as Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with races typically scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays.

Round two of the season is scheduled for Saturday, June 8. Gates open at 8 a.m., with practice beginning at 9 a.m.

Admission is free, however a small fee will be charged for pit access if spectators wish to get closer to the action.

For more information call (732) 850-1893 or visit NY Race Complex on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NYRaceComplex or on Instagram.