Laukaitis Racing was established in 1985 by Gene and Kent Laukaitis, but Kent got his start in the business a couple years prior in 1983, while working for Ollie Runion, a family friend, in the machine shop at Runion Racing Engines.
Kent learned the business from the bottom up, cleaning greasy car engines until one day Ollie said, “Kent, I need you to put that engine together.” His reply came, “Um…what?” before getting his hands dirty and learning the mechanics of engines on the fly.
Then, some people might say, Fate walked through the door dressed as a man with a go-kart in the back of his truck, looking to have it worked on. Kent heard about a race at the Decatur Civic Center soon after and went to watch. Little did he know, he would leave with a kart he bought right at the racetrack, and Laukaitis Racing was born.
In 1985, Kent worked full-time at Runion’s, and then went home to his parents’ two-car garage to work on go-karts into the wee hours of the morning. Naturally, as you might imagine, Kent’s parents Nancy and Gene wanted to park their cars in their own garage. Fortunately, they didn’t give Kent and his burgeoning business the boot. Instead, they proposed building a 24×30 garage with the money they had saved for his college fund. Of course, Kent readily agreed, and a few years passed working in his “home office.”
The business continued to grow. By 1991, Kent decided to make Laukaitis Racing his full-time gig while his wife Kathy worked full-time at the bank. When his dad passed away in January of 1994, Kent decided it was time to really make a go of the business, to grow it, and to see what happened. In his mind, if it worked out – great. If it didn’t, they were still young enough to start over.
Laukaitis Racing broke ground on its first 6,000 sq. ft. building at 3775 Cundiff Road in the winter of 1994-1995, wondering, “What are we going to do with all this space?”
They filled it quickly enough, though, and the business took off. Kent and Kathy invested their time in attending and participating in races, and doing well while they were at it. As Laukaitis Racing continued to perform well, people came over and wanted to know everything: “What are you doing? What’ve you got? Who’s doing your engine? What kind of kart do you have?” Then they started asking, “Would you be interested in doing my engine?” Kent’s answer came in one word, “Sure.”
News of Laukaitis Racing spread strictly by word of mouth; they never spent a dime on formal advertising (which only proved to Kent and Kathy that they had something special on their hands). The company continued to grow so much that 5-7 years later they expanded, added an employee, and built a second building on the property. A few other employees came and went over the years, including a couple that were raised in the business.
Laukaitis Racing was a family business from the start, and the tradition continued when Kent and Kathy’s sons Matthew and Jordan started racing at age 5. They both grew up in the business, but Matthew’s interest stayed close to the track while Jordan’s interest veered into other sports.
In 2010, Kent and Kathy’s oldest son Matthew came to work part-time for the family business while he attended Millikin University. He started work in the shop doing inventory, parts, and tire prep. He even started his own branch of the business – Razor Edge Tire Service – as of 2013. Matthew graduated in December 2014 and joined Laukaitis Racing full-time in January 2015 as the Day Manager, running the front end of the business.
The future of Laukaitis Racing is looking bright and everyone is looking forward to seeing how it will continue to grow and change with each year.