What has four wheels, an open cab and is ridiculously fun to drive? If you’re picturing go-karts you’d be on the right track. Unlike your average go-kart, these karts can go up to 140 miles per hour, putting real pedal to the metal.
“Every race car driver starts racing in karts,” says Edmond resident Caleb Hallman, 18, who has been kart racing since he was 12. “It’s just like any sport. Naturally when you start you won’t be the best at it. You have to work and work and do more and more racing to get really good.” His dad, Dave, does the mechanic work for his karts and “loves it just as much as I do.”
Hallman races at the Oklahoma Motor Sports Complex in Norman, along with 19 year old Tyler Fling, of Edmond. The complex holds one of the top kart tracks in the nation. Advancing through local, regional, national and even international races, both Hallman and Fling quickly found a sport they could excel in.
Fling began racing around age 10. He and his father, Mike, found some rental karts and decided to take them out for a spin. Even though the karts only went 45 miles per hour and they never intended to start competing, Fling says, “My dad went around once and then went out and bought one.”
From there, both Fling and his dad began to race. With Fling progressing more competitively, his dad became his manager. “I get to spend a lot of time with my dad,” he says. “It’s great father-son bonding. My dad pushes me to work hard to get somewhere in life and he showed me that through racing.” As a Junior Pro, Fling has won two National Championships and placed fourth in World Finals.
Both Hallman and Fling are in the TaG Senior class, one of the top classes of karts, but they have also begun racing formula cars – the cars that are one step away from the Indy Racing League (IRL). “Indy cars are the highest class of racing,” Fling explains. “If you make it to Indy car, you are one of the best racers in the world.”
Unlike NASCAR stock cars, IRL cars are what are called “open-wheel cars” – meaning that you can’t ever bump anyone on the race track, or else you’ll have a car go airborne, according to Fling.
“Some people say you have to be stupid to do it,” laughs Hallman, “because you’re in this tiny little thing with no protection. But it’s addicting.”
Safety gear for Hallman includes a pricy helmet, a neck brace, and the proper suit, gloves and boots. Even with having some pretty bad accidents, he comments, he’s never broken a bone.
Despite the danger, it’s a fairly safe sport, Fling says – just one that demands respect. “In all my years of racing, I’ve never really seen anyone get hurt,” he adds. “I’ve seen more injuries on the football field.”
While Hallman plans to continue racing karts and formula cars for a while, he also plays baseball for Edmond Santa Fe High School and plans to continue to develop his career in baseball. “Racing has always been something I’ve loved,” he says. “It’s hard to break away from because it’s so much fun to do.”
To all aspiring kart racers, Hallman only has one warning, “If you want to compete competitively, it’s going to be expensive. But, if you’re debating just trying it out for fun, you can’t go wrong.”
Fling, on the other hand, plans to make Indy car racing his career – whether out on the track, or on the sidelines as an engineer or manager. “One way or another,” he says, “I want to be around Indy cars.”
At age 16, Fling quit racing karts and advanced on to formula cars. This winter, he plans to race in the Star Mazda series as the first step in his plan to ultimately make Indy car racing. It’s a plan that is not without its challenges. Fling will need $700,000 to make it into the Indy Light series. Their hope is to secure sponsorship.
A national corporation is currently working with the Fling family to potentially create a sponsorship. In the meantime, Fling will continue racing. “Getting the chance to race means a lot,” he says. “The adrenaline kicks in… it’s exciting.”