ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS — Planning is underway for the 29th running of the Xtream Rock Island Grand Prix kart races, the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2024.
The downtown Rock Island street race is coming off its biggest spectator turnout ever. According to Visit Quad-Cities, the local tourism organization, the Grand Prix attracted more than 17,000 spectators over the two-day event in 2023, more than 4,000 over the previous year. Numbers are crunched for them by Datafy, which tracks mobile devices and uses geofencing to gather data on visitors age 16 and older. A majority of the Grand Prix spectators come from Illinois and Iowa but there were fans from 25 states. It attracts race teams from coast to coast and had 2023 winners from Bermuda and Latvia, raising foreign winners to 19. The race had a local Economic Impact of $1.17 million, according to Visit Quad-Cities.
Visit Quad-Cities recently announced that total local visitor spending for 2022 topped $1.3 billion. Thanks to the Mississippi River, cruise ships, 3 Interstate highways, a well-serviced airport, and many unique attractions and activities year ‘round like the Grand Prix, tourism is a leader in economic development in the region. It also supports local government through hotel/motel taxes which in October 2023 showed an 18 percent year-over-year increase and totaled $7.7 million.
“We are glad to be a part of this growing trend,” said Roger Ruthhart, president of the Grand Prix. “We know it’s challenging because it’s a holiday weekend in the states, but with continued help from our media partners, and as more businesses in Rock Island and the Quad-Cities understand the opportunity the event offers for sidewalk exposure, music, and other entertainment and special promotions, these numbers will continue to grow.
“This year a new Cruise-In replaced the car show and attracted more than 40 vehicles. An earlier promotional start in 2024 should see those numbers grow. That, and the booth, mascot, and street hockey activity provided by our professional hockey team, the Quad City Storm, are just 2 examples of non-racing activity that helps attract and keep people downtown during race weekend,” Ruthhart said.
“From this study, we also know that the largest portion of our fans, 31 percent, are ages 31-44 which is the family demographic we are hoping to attract. Among our fans, 36 percent earn under $50,000 and 34 percent earn $75,000-$150,000, which are also great demographics for our free family-oriented weekend,” said Ruthhart.
“There are few places here, or overseas, where kart racers can experience racing in front of 17,000 people,” Ruthhart added. “At ‘The Rock’ racers can bring family, friends, sponsors and enjoy not only great racing but the many highlights of this region of close to 400,000 people straddling two states.”
Ruthhart also noted that the Xtream Rock Island Grand Prix is one of the few major karting street races remaining, and the largest in the world. He doesn’t expect new ones to be added to the schedule in the U.S. due to new insurance mandates. Rock Island attracts more than 200 race entries with other remaining street races less than half of that.
“For people who get into karting to learn basic racing skills, where else can they get the experience of racing through the streets than here?” Ruthhart said. “Rock Island is where Scott Speed learned street racing before going to Formula 1; Graham Rahal, Conor Daly, and Nelson Philippe before IndyCar; Alexander Sims before Formula E and his team’s GTP championship; and Michele Bumgarner before the Pro Mazda Championship Series, among others. We’re seeing more professional street races with Chicago and Las Vegas added by NASCAR and Formula 1 this year and five on the IndyCar schedule. Even if they never turn pro, once karters can manage a street course with different pavements, crowns, shade, and sun, and, yes, bumps, it makes racing on a kart track seem that much easier.”
Race teams can again expect a full range of 4-cycle, 2-cycle, gearbox, and Vintage race classes at Rock Island. The full slate will be announced after the holidays.
Many things are under discussion for the 2024 event, but none more exciting than the city’s plans to rebuild and pave streets on a sizable portion of the track this year. “The concrete pavement should improve much of the racing surface for the next 25 years or more,” said Ruthhart.
More race details and announcements are planned for early next year. National Karting Alliance rules and supplemental Rock Island rules will again be used. Watch the Xtream Rock Island Grand Prix website, racerockisland.info, and social media for more details.
A room block for racers has been set up at the Holiday Inn in Rock Island.
Rock Island is located in an area known as the Quad-Cities, west of Chicago and equally divided between Illinois and Iowa, with a metropolitan population of just under 400,000. It is home to the Rock Island Arsenal military base and corporate headquarters for John Deere in Moline, Ill. It is served by the Quad-City International Airport and is at the intersection of Interstate Highways 80, 74, 88, and 280.
Sponsors for the event include: Mediacom, National Karting Alliance, Briggs & Stratton Racing, Bally’s Quad-Cities Casino & Hotel, Hoosier Kartsport, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Modern Woodmen Financial/ Joe Schurr agent, C&W and Sons Trucking, Baker Street Creations, Group O, Moon Print Shop, Simpson-Bjerke Racing, Factory Kart East, Halligan McCabe DeVries Funeral Home, Eagle Concrete Construction, Illinois Casualty Company, Shaw Electric, Lincoln Welders, Miller beer Euclid Distributing, CBS TV4 / Fox 18 and CW, the local iHeart radio stations: Big106.5, Fox Sports QC, WOC and WLLR, QCSportsnet.com, Schurr Power Racing Engines, Johannes Bus Service, RLV Tuned Exhaust, Holiday Inn Rock Island, eKartingNews.com, Hiland Toyota, Courtesy Car City, Gas & Electric Credit Union, Rogan Scale, Triple E Sales, Sunbelt Rentals, Fastenal, Duncalf Racing, 61 Kartway, RIGP Corner Workers, Hughes Tire, and others.
For more information on the race, please visit racerockisland.info