Kart Life

The Ashe Racing team serves as a perfect microcosm for thousands of similar karting operations around the country. The kids are the wheelmen, while dad calls the shots. The family team, based in Atoka, Tennessee, competes primarily at the 1/8-mile dirt oval known as Atoka Raceway Park in their hometown.

Ashe Racing

Franklin (27) and Elliott Ashe (72) practice at Atoka Raceway Park.

Nineteen-year-old Franklin Ashe can be found behind the wheel of a Prowler chassis competing in Stock Super Heavy and Clone Super Heavy classes, while younger brother Elliott, 17, campaigns his Phantom Triton chassis in Stock Light and Clone Light. Both utilize AKRA (American Kart Racing Association) Clone power plants built by Enik Engines.

Franklin has dreams of one day competing in IndyCar, while. Elliott looks to karting more as a hobby; however, he also serves as track announcer, scorer, and even sings the national anthem. The team is headed by the brothers’ father, retired Navy man and current Department of the Navy employee, Frank Ashe.

“It’s a cool sport, and I think it’s better than taking your kid to soccer or football or baseball,” he says about kart racing. “With the stick-and- ball sports, the family is up in the stands cheering the kid on, but they’re not interacting with him. They don’t practice with him. With kart racing, it requires the parent to be interactive with the kid.”

Ashe grew up in Virginia attending races at asphalt tracks like Southside Speedway and Langley Speedway, before getting into karting himself with money he saved from his paper route. After a stint overseas in the Navy, he raced and worked on karts as he bounced around the country from Virginia to California to Maine and, ultimately, West Tennessee. In fact, on his very first date with his wife, Amanda, he laid out the fact  he was a racer. Luckily, she stuck around.

Franklin (left) and father (Frank) discuss strategy.

Franklin (left) and father (Frank) discuss strategy.

Frank passed his love of motorsports down to his two boys, who have now been heavily involved in the karting for the better part of a decade, collecting various wins and championships along the way. They also have a younger sister, Molly, who relishes the time to herself while the men of the house are in the garage.

Ashe is a karting jack-of- all-trades who uses his wealth of knowledge to make the minute technical adjustments required to make a kart fast. Prepping tires, making cross-weight adjustments, and finding the right front-end alignment are just a few of the exercises needed to find Victory Lane.

Clutches are also an important part of the setup, and the Ashe Racing team has relied on the Tomar brand for years. Each kart utilizes a Tomar TD44 clutch, designed with the Thermal Dissipating technology, allowing them to run cool at high stall speeds. Franklin’s heavier kart utilizes a three-disc option, while Elliott’s features a two-disc variety.

“We were not getting good starts, we just weren’t getting the launch that everybody else was because we had the same thing everybody else did,” Ashe says. “[Tomar] is not the mainstream clutch, but it’s a better clutch. It costs a little bit more, but in racing you get what you pay for. A lot of people don’t want to pay a little bit of extra money. We’re not talking a lot of extra, just a little extra. Man, when they tell them to drop the green, this thing doesn’t take off, it launches. “

Elliott Ashe agrees.

“Those clutches, they kick some serious tail,” he says. “I love those things.”

Kicking tail in kart racing is a springboard for many drivers into the upper echelon of motorsports. NASCAR Sprint Cup star Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got his start in Atoka, while Formula One World Champions Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, and Sebastien Vettel are among those who began their careers in karting, and many of the world’s top drivers keep their skills sharp by competing in karts to this day.

Elliott Ashe checks tire pressure in the pits.

Elliott Ashe checks tire pressure in the pits.

“With as light as the karts are, they’re really finicky,” driver Franklin Ashe says about the benefits of kart racing. “They get us a little squirrelly, and you’ve got to know how to handle it.”

He notes racing on dirt is equally important to learn car control.

“On pavement, on ovals, obviously you’re going to have the marbles that make their way up the track and everything, but if you get moved to the outside of the track, you can typically hold it,” he explains. “But on [dirt] you get the groove run in and if you don’t have the second groove worked in for a kart to be on the outside, you’re just going to slide right up to the wall. There’s no traction whatsoever.”

Whether a driver’s goal is to move through the ranks to the pinnacle of the sport, or just to have a good time, karting is an ideal outlet for a cost-effective challenge.

“I kind of like staying in the karts,” Elliott Ashe says. “It’s just kind of a fun Saturday night thing, and you don’t have to put nearly as much money into it as you do those big cars.”

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  • Gary says:
    July 9, 2016 at 8:36 am

    please send newsletter .


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