More Than a Racer - Kara Merritt
Welcome to More Than a Racer, a blog series brought to you by GBC Motorsports exploring the lives of professional and amateur ATV and UTV racers across the country. The sport of ATV/UTV racing requires intense commitment and dedication. It is an investment of time, money and energy, but the rewards reach well beyond the racecourse. Today, we would like to introduce you to GNCC racer and Ohio native Kara Merritt.
“I recently got into mountain biking,” Kara explains when asked what she likes to do in her free time. “Initially it was for training, but I’ve come to really enjoy it. It’s a good workout, a good stress reliever for me.”
“I also have a year-and-a-half old chocolate labradoodle. She’s sleeping next to me on the couch right now. We like to go to the dog park-- she just opened her eyes when I said that.”
The truth is, there’s not a lot of free time in a typical day for Kara Merritt. The Akron, Ohio native has a lot on her plate at the moment as she balances school, work, and the 2017 GNCC Racing season. But when confronted with the challenge, she says she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s never known a life without riding or racing.
“My dad used to race 3-wheelers back in the day.” At age 3, Kara and her older brother each received 4-wheelers to ride around the yard. “It’s been a part of our lives basically as long as I can remember.”
Kara has been racing in GNCC events for more than a decade. “About 13 years ago, Walker Fowler talked us into coming to try a GNCC event. That was our first one, the John Penton in Ohio, and I’ve been doing full seasons pretty much ever since.”
She started her racing career on 90cc ATVs, and by the next season made the jump up to the Women’s amateur class. “This was not a big class at that time, and I felt like I wasn’t getting challenged. Now the Women’s Novice class is getting 12-20 riders each race, it’s crazy how big it’s getting.” Making the jump to the Women’s class (now called WXC) proved to be the right move, as Merritt has been finishing in the top 5 in the class consistently this season.
Now the challenge lies in managing a career racing at a professional level while going back to school to become a nurse. “It hit me in the face. It’s an accelerated program, in and out in 15 months. So it’s basically a full-time job, I’m there from 8am to 5pm every day. It was a bit of a shock at the beginning, but it’s under control now.”
Once on the course, the stress disappears. But it’s not just the racing itself that makes all the hard work worth it. Kara stresses the importance of the GNCC community and the relationships she has made over the years. “GNCC has been such a big part of our lives. We know pretty much everyone that works there, the gate workers, track workers, you name it. The year goes so fast for me because I look forward to every 2 weeks, when I get to go racing. It’s a big part of our lives, no doubt.”
In fact, it was one of these relationships that led her to a longtime partnership with GBC Motorsports. “I was introduced to GBC by Johnny Gallagher. For as long as I’ve been running a Yamaha I’ve been on GBC Motorsports tires. I’ve never even thought about changing.”
As she reflects on her journey, Kara offers some words of encouragement to other racers who might be struggling to decide whether to keep racing when they go to college. “I’m complete proof that it’s possible. I did four years living away at college, came home just about every weekend to practice, work on the quad, or race. It’s completely possible to do both, it just takes time and dedication.”
“Really you just have to set a schedule.” That schedules goes something like this: morning workout at 6am, go to school for the entire day, work on the race quad in the evenings and off weekends, go racing. “My brother helps me prep the quad for races, so family support is huge and something I’m very grateful for.”
Follow Kara Merritt:
Instagram: @karamerritt215 | Facebook