Mississippi College Alumnus Lake Speed Triumphs as World Karting Champ
January 6, 2009Retired at age 50 from a successful career on the NASCAR circuit, Lake Speed is back in the winner's circle as a World Karting Association National Champion.
A 60-year-old Jackson native and Mississippi College alumnus, Speed competed in more than seven major go-karting events. It took him from the Daytona International Speedway in Florida to the Road course in Atlanta. Stops at the Mid Ohio Raceway to the New Hampshire International Speedway were among the races in-between for the Mississippian over the past year as he returned to his roots.
His championship win is based on accumulated points from the annual race schedule that he concluded in November 2008. He's the reigning 2008 champ for the Spec 125 TaG Class and Speed has no plans to slow down in 2009. "I look forward to racing at the Carolina Motorsports Park March 20-22, a challenging park that suits my style,'' Speed said. "I like the harder to drive tracks more than the just flat out tracks.''
An estimated 100,000 Americans are passionate about karting as a recreational activity and Speed, who lives with his family in North Carolina, is certainly one of the ring leaders. It's a hobby that quickly fascinated him growing up in the 1950s in northeast Jackson when he had nobody to play with in his neighborhood off Meadowbrook Road.
"Mom and dad got him a go-kart in the driveway and he went 40 mph and that scared me silly," recalled his older brother, Leland Speed, a Jackson businessman and MC trustee. "He's got a very competitive streak in him."
That was true when Lake Speed suited up for major races from the United States to Italy and France and today on World Karting Association tracks. The go-karting circuit has grown to 10,000 active members competing on 120 sanctioned tracks nationwide.
As a youngster in Mississippi's capital city, Lake Speed was truly part of the national go-kart craze taking off more than five decades ago as a fun and economical form of motorsports.
Karts now are typically 72 inches long, 50 inches wide and weigh about 150 pounds minus the driver, says the World Karting Association web site. Engines vary from five to over 30 horsepower. Famous race car drivers like Tony Stewart got started with go-karting. Organized events are open to children as young as five-year-olds.
Lake Speed's passion for fast cars never really caught on with Leland Speed, the former Mississippi Development Authority executive director and longtime leader in the real estate business in Jackson.
"Different strokes for different folks," Leland Speed says. But he does manage to get away− even as far as Italy− to see his younger brother perform amid checkered flags at race tracks everywhere. Leland Speed is an avid fan of his brother.
In between go-karting and race car driving, Lake Speed pursued an education and devoted time to family and the business world. A 1966 high school graduate, Speed began his college studies at the University of Mississippi. After a year at Ole Miss, he transferred to Mississippi College, lived at home and commuted to the Baptist-affiliated university in Clinton. During his three years at MC, Speed went to work for his father in the real estate business. Whether racing go-karts in the Carolinas or raising four children, Lake Speed is a non-stop achiever.