Meet Johnny West
Johnny West started his superkart career in 1983 at Road America. After watching a driver named Joey Grubs run a Rotax Twin, Johnny spoke to Franklin Motor Sports in Wisconsin, and that gave him the opportunity to have a test drive. They were to bring one to the next race, but the next day, they backed out, telling Johnny that he was not able to run it. Hearing about this, a guy named Sandy from Dino Superkarts said he and Tony Smith were Dealers, and Johnny could drive one of theirs. He took the Dino superkart out for a practice session. Johnny remembers that day clearly. “I came back to the pits, puked, wiped my chin, and wrote a check for a new Dino with a Rotax twin.”
Johnny took delivery of his new superkart at the Mid-Ohio race, and in his first official race, secured a solid third place finish. From there, it has been onward and upward, winning the WKA Superkart Series the very next year (1984).
As one of the sport’s veterans, Johnny gets a great deal of good-natured teasing from friends and colleagues about his tenure in Superkarting. “I have been very lucky to run up front. David Cole from SKI Magazine calls me the “Godfather of Superkarting”, because I have stayed with it since 1983.”
By Johnny’s side since his start in 1983 is Scott Fiesler. “Scott has been my right hand throughout my racing. He is one of the few guys that really knows Johnny West. He has taught me welding, fabricating, and most of all, patience. He helps me look at other ways to approach a problem.”
Among one of Johnny’s most memorable races is his recollection of going to California to run in a race at Fontana. He shipped his kart in a crate and pulled off the win. He was also nominated for road racer of the year. While he didn’t win the award, Johnny was honored to have been nominated.
In addition to having Scott invaluable assistance along with the respect of his fellow karters, Johnny was fortunate enough to have Eddie Lawson fly out to run one of his karts. Johnny describes the experience as being simply “great”. “We ran Mid-Ohio, and he broke the record. We ran Road America, and he broke that record. For me, I was just happy because I was able to run the SAME EXACT LAP TIME as he did.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Johnny or his team, West Racing. “Going to Laguna for the first time was a real eye opener. I had a lot of problems at that race.” Immediately afterwards, Johnny sold everything he had and contacted Brian Stockman in Australia. It was through Stockman that Johnny bought a Stockman chassis with an RS Honda engine. He even went so far as to hire Brian to come to his house to teach him about the Honda. Johnny has run an RS 250 Honda ever since. “Laguna is a "black cloud for me. I just cannot get that track down. I guess I will give it a go again some day.”
Johnny shares his experience and knowledge both on track and off. Over the years, he has been the go-to guy for many who have questions or need an engine they can rely on. Some of the sport’s current drivers who have benefited from Johnny’s engines or kart rentals are: Jim Brannon RS250 Honda, Ron Kuhn CR 250 Honda, Bill Riley from Riley and Scott Race cars Rotax 256, Sid Swift CR 250 Honda, Scott Lowenstein CR 250 Honda, and Cory Simpson RS250 Honda.
Despite his success over his 20+ year career in superkarting, Johnny is still very humble about his accomplishments. “I don't feel I lead the field by any means. I am just an average guy with a passion for this class.”
“I just love the sport, and the friendships I have made with people from around the world.”
To see the recent highlights of Johnny West's racing career, click on the trophy above to be taken to his MyLaps.com page.