By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ALEXANDRIA — They’ve been buddies forever. Alexandria’s Mayor Jack Woods and George DiRuzza of Orestes go back about 40 years when they were both on the high school wrestling team.
This weekend, the two will put the pedal to the metal as they get right in the thick of it at Alexandria’s second Grand Prix, an event the two were instrumental in bringing to the city.
This will be the first time the mayor rolls through the downtown streets of Alexandria in his high speed go-kart. DiRuzza raced in last year’s inaugural event.
“He talked me into buying a kart,” said Woods. The mayor said his kart gets up to about 80 miles per hour on its 4-stroke engine.
“It’ll get out and run. If I have a wreck, I’ll know it,” said Woods. He's racing in a different class than his best friend. Woods noted, "That's good, because he's too aggressive for me."
DiRuzza has been racing close to 33 years. He took a break from racing for about 15 years, and got back into it three years ago when his son, Lew, got interested. That year, DiRuzza helped Lew get ready for a race in Hagerstown and wound up competing against him.
“He came home with a first-place trophy, I came home with broken ribs,” said DiRuzza. He said it was still worth it, and now he and his son run about half of the circuit of Southern Indiana Racing Association races. “I love racing. It’s the cheapest way I know how to go fast."
Woods and DiRuzza were out testing and tuning this week at the New Castle Motorsports Park, getting ready for the big race that they worked to bring to Alexandria, the revival of an old tradition.
“It was here back in the seventies,” said Woods.
This year’s two-day event is the seventh event in the Southern Indiana Racing Association Midwest Champion Series that kicked off in May in Anderson. Woods said there will be about 120 drivers running in heats determined by age groups, motor sizes and weight. Kids as young as age 5 up through mature adults get in on the racing action.
The racers will run a rectangular course along Church, Harrison, Washington and Clinton streets.Last year, about 600 spectators turned out for the event. Chamber of Commerce director Jeff Bryan said he expects to see an even bigger crowd since other attractions have been added to the lineup of weekend activities.
On Saturday, things start warming up in the morning with practice runs. Racing kicks off after opening ceremonies at 1:30 p.m.
On Sunday, racing gets underway about noon after a driver autograph session and sponsor karts in the morning. Both days, karts will have practice time before racing commences, and the races run until 5 p.m. Awards follow the last race.
When you’re not glued to the racing action, there’s plenty of other fun to be had.
On Saturday, look for no less than a zipline traversing the area from Harrison Street at Main Source Bank heading north toward Cox’s Supermarket.
The kids’ zone will feature “big, fun activity for the smaller kids,” said Bryan. That means inflatables, games and prizes.
There will be no shortage of food and drink, with about 10 local vendors offering edibles and even a beer garden hosted by the Curve Inn.
The Chamber Village will feature vendor booths with participating members in the parking lot behind Huntington Bank.
Saturday night, about a half-hour after racing wraps, head over to Church Street Commons for the Pole Position Party where Fender Alley will kick out the jams in the streets with a free concert.
On Sunday, Picture Perfect Autobody hosts a car show.
Alexandria’s buzzing with all the excitement.
“It’s a big event for a little town like us,” said DiRuzza.
For more information about the race, call 724-4633.
Like Nancy Elliott on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ NancyElliott_HB, or call 640-4805.
Alexandria Grand Prix Saturday, Aug. 24 11 a.m.- Chamber Village opens 12 p.m.- Zipline opens 1:30 p.m. Opening ceremonies 1:45 p.m. Heat racing 5 p.m.- Racing over for the day 5:30 p.m.- Free concert/Pole Position Party at Church Street Commons featuring Fender Alley Sunday Aug 25 10:30 a.m. - Sponsor karts 11:15-11:45 a.m. - Driver autograph session 12 p.m. - Racing introductions, warm-ups, Chamber Village opens 12:30 p.m.- Feature racing 1 p.m. - Car show 5 p.m. - Racing ends, awards