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The race is on in Mercer County, where Viola's new go kart track has kicked off their summer season

Illinois officially reopened on June 11th - 447 days after it first closed. In Viola, that means bigger crowds and more drivers at the brand new go kart track.

VIOLA, Ill. — Mercer County can expect a lot more dust... noise... and speed this summer, now that the Viola Boyz Backroad Speedway is officially open. 

The dirt track is hosting go kart races every Friday night, to fill a void co-owner Chad Kinsey first noticed a few years ago. He was so dedicated to the project, he even built the ten acre facility in his own back yard. 

"We decided to build it and we just had so much support. It was just overwhelming the support we've had from everybody," he said. 

Races at Viola Boyz begin with hot laps at 6:30. There are 11 different classes of karts available, with drivers as young as four years old hopping behind the wheels. 

Admission is $10, with concessions available upon arrival, and free parking. 

RELATED: A new dirt race track to open up in Viola, Illinois

The track officially opened on June 4th, and saw nearly 300 spectators come out to cheer on the 50 drivers. But after Illinois officially re-opened on Friday, June 11th - 447 days after first shutting down - both officials and fans are hoping to see even bigger crowds coming out each weekend. 

"It's a good time to come to the races and check it out," said Kinsey. "We don’t have to worry about enforcing signs and putting all that stuff up. This is built on about 10 acres so there’s plenty of room for people to spread out if they still feel the need to." 

And Kinsey is hopeful the weekly event will generate business in the rest of Mercer County as well, at bars, restaurants, gas stations, and more. 

"There’ll be people here from two to three hours away," he said. "There’s local guys here in Aledo and Viola that race to Des Moines, Wapello, the Quad Cities, Orion, Sherrard, they just kind of come from all over. They’ll stop at the gas station, get supplies and stuff – it just brings people out."

We spoke to one local business who's thrilled about the new raceway, here

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Nick Maxwell, a driver for the past three years, says having another go kart option in the area is a win for racers. 

"It's good, gives everybody a chance to race whatever night they want, whatever they can afford, and go out and play and have fun," he said. "It’s all speed. It’s adrenaline rush. It’s always something to experience."

Something to experience - no matter how old you are. We spoke with six-year-old Charlotte Weimer, twelve-year-old Bradley Dugan, and nine-year-old Madelynn Eriksen: just a few of the young racers at Viola Boyz on Friday night. 

They all said they not only love to race, they love the competition and they love to go fast. 

"Being in my kart and then racing other people to be competitive is fun," laughed Madelynn. "My dad said when I get on the track I'm just like a natural and I can turn around corners easily." 

And for fans of the races, having Illinois reopen means an experience that feels just like 'normal.' 

"I feel great! I feel good about it. It's nice to come out and not have to put a mask on," said Pat McNally, a fan out at the speedway on Friday. "You can walk up to somebody and talk to them. It's nice. As long as you got your shot! Gotta have your shots!" 

THE RACE IS (almost) ON! 🤩 Mercer County has a brand new dirt racing track and expects to see around 80 go-karts every single Friday night. Read the full story here: https://bit.ly/3tVjPdG

Posted by Shelby Kluver on Monday, May 17, 2021