Just like when he was growing up, racing is a family business for the McKarnses.
“My wife, Angie, handles everything outside the wheel fence. She’s in charge of the staffs, payroll and all of those things. In addition, she’s in charge of the concession stands and various other tasks,” McKarns said. “We have a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old and there is a lot that goes on in keeping their lives in order, too. She handles all of those things, which allows me to concentrate on the racing aspect, the promotions and the sponsorships.
“If I do my job, I don’t have to do much on Friday night at Madison. I try to have everything ready to go so when my staff shows up we can hand them the wristbands for the pit gate and the schedule events. Obviously, we pitch in where needed. If a tech man is running late because he had to work late, we’ll help run the scales. If we are having a hospitality party and we need to light the grills, we’ll do that. I’m not in one role on Friday and that allows me to talk to the fans, walk the pits and talk with the competitors, and tackle the unexpected that comes up on a race night.”
McKarns’ goal for each event is rather simple.
“Our primary goal is to put on the best show possible. That sounds cliché, but that means everything from having the most cars possible, the best drivers possible, running a show that’s on time and having a show that’s well officiated,” he said. “We hire the best folks possible to officiate our events and I think our staff does a good job. We have what we call Team McKarns, and if you’re part of Team McKarns you’re probably working Friday night at Madison, Saturday night at a touring show and you might get asked to come work a Tuesday night street drag at the Milwaukee Mile. All the folks who are on our team are trained to have that right attitude to deal with the competitors, deal with the fans and just create that fun experience where people want to come back and do it again.”
As for that goal of being named Auto Racing Promoter of the Year, McKarns said: “My parents have been gone for nine years and RPM was very important to them, and they made that an important part of my education in the business. I’ve been going to the workshops for quite some time.
“In 2000, (family friend and colleague) Chuck Deery was named Auto Racing Promoter of the Year, and I set a goal that by the time I was 40 I would earn that award,” McKarns continued. “It was very humbling and quite the honor. It’s also awesome to have our family name recognized for the dedication and efforts put toward the sport, not just during my time but also before my time.”