ST. GEORGE — The sun broke free of the clouds Friday morning just as a skydiver bearing the American flag made his way toward what is affectionately known as the “Ridgetop Raceway” – former location of the St. George airport – to open the SkyWest “Mini Indy” charity go-kart racing event.
Now in its 18th year, the Mini Indy brings together SkyWest employees and industry partners with the support and partnership of the city of St. George in an effort to raise funds for United Way Dixie.
In its 18-year history the event has raised over $1 million for United Way Dixie, which then distributes the funds to its charity partners, including The Learning Center for Families, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Utah and Switchpoint Community Resource Center to name a few.
Overall, funds raised from this year’s event will go to 15 different charity partners in Southern Utah, said Rebekah Pectol, executive director of United Way Dixie.
SkyWest, which is headquartered in St. George, started the event nearly two decades ago with a desire to give back, CEO Chip Childs said.
“We wanted to give back to the community, particularly local charities like United Way and others that may need funds,” Childs said.
Each year, SkyWest invites all of its major business partners, vendors and manufacturers to participate as a sponsor and race a go-kart in the competition.
This year almost 30 cars lined up to participate in a race that traditionally gets a little competitive – even though the go-karts only go about 20 mph. However, the racing action had a more high-powered start, as the engine of the Mobil 1 race car normally driven by Nascar racer Kevin Harvick revved up. A driver from the Mobil 1 team took a beginning lap and even spun a few donuts before the heats began.
The race is divided up into two divisions – Bristol and Daytona – of approximately 14 cars each. Each division races in four heats of 10 laps each. During each heat the racers must make two pit stops that require the pit crew to remove one wheel and put it back on, Layne Watson, SkyWest spokesperson said. Additionally, they must change drivers at least once.
Each of the go-karts contains a timing mechanism, and race times are tallied and averaged on a computer. The fastest 15 cars throughout the day race in the final event for the championship.
Other competitions take place throughout the Mini Indy event as well. Prizes are awarded for the best looking car, the best theme, best uniforms and fastest pit crew.
SkyWest fielded three teams made up of employees from across the country who were nominated by their co-workers to be able to attend. The three teams carried a theme of “decades,” with cars sporting designs from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. SkyWest car number 86, the ’80s car, won for best looking car.
“We’re doing amazing,” Maddie Dougherty said. “Our drivers are fierce, our pit team is amazing and we’re doing pretty good out there.”
Dougherty, a SkyWest flight attendant from Atlanta, Georgia, was part of “team ’80s” and was nominated by her peers because of her SkyWest “spirit.”
“I kind of think they also look at your driving record when they do it too,” Dougherty said with a laugh.
The Mini Indy event marked the first time for Dougherty to have visited St. George, and she said she thought it is so beautiful.
For St. George, having SkyWest headquartered in the city is a powerful community partnership, said St. George Mayor Jon Pike.
“It is a boon to our economic development,” Pike said.
Besides having jet service to four major cities – Salt Lake City, Denver, Colorado, Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, California – Pike said having a company such as SkyWest make their home in St. George helps to entice other businesses to come to the area.
“It’s very humbling for us as we have (the event) here in a great place like St. George, to see all the people who really are having a big impact on the success of our company all in one place with a charity event,” Childs said. “By the time we’re done today, we build stronger relationships, which is what really having a good business here in St. George is all about.”
At the end of the race, the team representing Walmart Distribution were race champions and teams representing SkyWest and AAR Landing Gear tied for overall champions. The overall champion title takes into consideration the team’s race performance as well as how the team’s scored on car design, team theme, team uniforms and how they performed during the pit stops, Watson said.
Ed note: The story was updated to reflect that a Mobil 1 driver was driving the Mobil 1 car and not Childs.
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