SCARBOROUGH – The most important thing about supervising a high-speed go-kart race, Zach Comstock was telling me, is to never turn your back on a go-kart.

Never.

Just as he tells me this, a kart driver at Maine Indoor Karting slides into the tire wall and gets stuck. Comstock flicks on the yellow warning lights to slow the other drivers, while fellow track supervisor Adam Ruetty runs out onto the track to right the stuck kart, so that the driver can get back in the race.

Ruetty then runs back to safety as the karts begin roaring again.

“Those karts can go about 35 miles an hour, they weigh about 300 pounds, and they’re just about ankle high, so you’ve always got to be concerned about getting hit,” said Comstock, 25, of Portland.

“In this job, we’ve got to make sure the drivers are safe, but we’ve got to make sure the other track supervisors are safe, too.”

So, being 46 and not particularly fast even when I was younger, I decided that in my stint as a track supervisor, I’d stay off the track.

There was still plenty to do. When I got to Maine Indoor Karting — which includes a 1,100-foot track with 11 turns in a cavernous former window and door factory — Comstock was preparing to give a pre-race safety talk to a bachelor party group of seven young men from the Sanford area.

Only one had karted before, so Comstock showed them how to properly wear a neck brace. He told them to slow down immediately when they saw yellow lights flashing, and he warned them against bumping.

His talk lasted about 10 minutes, after which he sent them to get dressed — arms and legs must be covered by racing jackets and pants — and to get their helmets and neck braces.

When the group came back, Comstock said our job was to help them into their karts and then get them started. So, as drivers sat in their karts, I walked up and down the line making sure seat belts were fastened and neck braces were on.

The lever that adjusts the seat on the karts is in an awkward place — for the driver, anyway — so I bent down and tried to help one driver who needed to push his seat back.

“OK, push back as hard as you can,” I told the driver as I fiddled with the lever. After a few minutes, Comstock came over and did the adjusting for me.

The starting flag can’t wait forever.

To start karts, I switched on the 6.5-horsepower engine by turning a red button. Then, as Comstock instructed me, I moved the choke lever to one side with two fingers while pulling the gas lever with another finger and then pulling the starting cord — like on a lawn mower — with my other hand. It was more dexterity than I usually display.

The first time I did it, I moved the choke back too quickly and the engine fell silent. I tried again, and I got the engine roaring.

At the next kart, I couldn’t get even a little roar. Then Comstock showed me that I’d never turned it on.

Once the racers hit the track, they had a practice lap followed by a race of eight minutes to rack up as many laps as they could. Then they’d come in, have pizza, and go back out for their final eight-minute race. For $55 per person they get two races, all-you-can-eat pizza, drinks and dessert, and trophies.

I got to wave the checkered flag to signal the end of the first race. Even though I got it a little tangled up, the drivers still saw it and obeyed.

As the races progressed, Comstock could see the times on his computer screen. Each driver would get a printout of his times after the races.

During the race, I watched for bumping, a big no-no. When it did happen, Comstock recognized it first and waved a “no bumping” sign at the offender, just to let them know they were being watched. None of it seemed intentional.

“This has been a good group,” Comstock said at the end of the second race. “Some guys try to push the limits, but these guys followed the rules and they still seemed to have fun.”

And they made Comstock’s job that much easier.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]