Zigaitis, Edwardsville’s Post 199 feel the need for speed


EDWARDSVILLE — A local veteran is chasing his racing dreams while bringing attention to the veteran community.
Matt Zigaitis, a 43-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from Collinsville, races a go-kart at the Gateway Kartplex at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison.
This season, his kart is being sponsored by Edwardsville American Legion Post 199 through donations from three post members — Edmond Brown, Larry Miller and Dave Schindler.
“As long as we’re together as veterans and experiencing the camaraderie that we had while we were in the service, whether it’s at the racetrack or somewhere else, that’s what I want to do,” Zigaitis said. “I also want to celebrate the military and what it’s done for our country over its history.”

While in the Navy from 2003 to 2008, Zigaitis served aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74; a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier) in San Diego and the Pacific Northwest. Brown and Zigaitis served together on the Stennis.
“When I came home and started settling into the area that I’m in now, I was pleased to learn that two of my shipmates from the Stennis lived in the area as well,” said Zigaitis, who works in St. Louis. “We had not only served in the same command, but we were in the same department, the same division and the same team.
“One of them ended up moving to Indiana, but Edmond and I stayed in touch and about a year ago he started reaching out to me a little more actively. He told me more about the American Legion and I joined him for some drinks at the post.
“That is when he introduced me to Post 199’s Sergeant-At-Arms, Larry Miller, and that led to what we’re doing now.”

Combining two loves

Zigaitis, who was born and raised in Fenton, Mo., finished his enlistment in the Navy, met his wife, who’s also a Navy veteran, and moved to Illinois with his son. His love of racing, though, began long before that.
“I’ve always been a racing fan and I used to catch the races when I was a kid,” Zigaitis said. “Even when we were deployed on the carrier, some of us would race go-karts anytime we made a port visit. We had so much fun racing karts from Hawaii to Singapore to Dubai.
“When I came home, I heard about the Gateway Kartplex, and they had this rental kart league. I thought it would be fun to get into, but I was a little strapped for cash. I watched the league races for a couple of seasons to study it and bide my time until I could afford it.”
Zigaitis eventually entered the league, known as the iDrive Rental Series, as a driver. Each year, he set new goals for himself, and he continued to improve.
In 2021, Zigaitis won the spring regular season championship and the series championship shootout.

“When you win the iDrive championship shootout, you are awarded a Margay go-kart scholarship from Margay Racing in St. Louis for the upcoming season in the Ignite Series, and I immersed myself into the world of karting,” Zigaitis said. “I met some great friends, including my current business partner, Bobby Krug.”
In 2022, during his rookie year in the Ignite series with the Margay kart, Zigaitis had a strong season, putting himself on pole position for a couple of races and winning a couple of races. He finished the season second in points.
Zigaitis’ success at the Gateway Kartplex, along with his membership in the American Legion, led to his kart being sponsored by Post 199.
“My brother and I both served in the military as did our grandfather, and I always knew him to be a part of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in the Kirkwood area,” Zigaitis said. “He was really involved with those posts and their initiatives for the community.

“He set a high standard of giving back and he was a source of inspiration for me. When I talked to Edmond and Larry, I mentioned my go-kart team as being veteran-owned. It was an opportunity for me to bring a bunch of veterans around, share the camaraderie that we had when we were in the service, and serve my community like I did my country: with distinction and honor.”
The conversation with Miller resulted in Zigaitis joining the American Legion, and Miller offered his support as a sponsor for Zigaitis and his racing team.
“One thing led to another, and I’ve been with the Legion for some time and, for the first time this season, I’ll be driving the American Legion Post 199 go-kart,” Zigaitis said. “I’m proud of what the American Legion stands for, and what we’ve been able to accomplish so far, and we haven’t even started the season yet.”

Camaraderie among drivers

Another veteran-owned business, Regal Wear LLC at Scott Air Force Base, is also a sponsor for Zigaitis’ racing team.
“They’re a proud custom apparel company who understands my mission and that was a chance meeting,” Zigaitis said. “I was in the market for someone to do some graphics on my suit and I talked with them and forged a relationship. They have been producing my T-shirts and suits and the suit for my business partner Bobby Krug, who also races.
“Bobby is a man of many hats: a great friend, my crew chief, my technical adviser, and my mad scientist. He’s one of those natural-born racers and we share the passion for racing.
“He was the Margay karting champion in 2020 and he’s been trying to get onto the actual professional racing circuit. He is on Skip Barber Racing School’s marketing team, had a successful time in the seat as a driver in their Formula Racing Series, and is going into business for himself with Bobby Krug Racing Services.

About the author

Olivia Wilson

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