Route 66 Sprint Series Battles Tough Competition and Weather in New Castle
Great photo finishes highlight on-track action for Round Seven and Eight as series closes on finale weekend
The 15th anniversary season of the Route 66 Sprint Series ventured to the New Castle Motorsports Park on the August 14-16 weekend, presented by Verde Speed Resources, for rounds seven and eight of the championship. The New Castle, Indiana facility provided another great challenge for the near 300 entries on the weekend. In addition to the tough 1-mile circuit the weather in the area was changing by the minute with a mix of sunshine and rain. A wet track opened up Saturday’s round of racing and brief rain showers during Sunday’s main events shuffled up the racing orders.
Collin Griffin became the third different winner in the RLV Yamaha 100 Senior category on the season, earning his first victory on the year while championship leader TJ Koyen triumphed for the fourth time. Saturday qualifying was led by three-time race winner Brandon Lemke on a wet track. With the surface dry, Griffin was able to demote the top qualifier for the Prefinal win. The main event was an epic battle with three drivers fighting. Lemke was shuffled down the order on the opening lap, with Cal Stewart joining Griffin and Koyen at the front of the field in his first series start. All three took turns at the point with the victory coming down to a photo finish. Griffin edged out Koyen by just 21 thousandths at the line for the top step of the podium, as Stewart was just 82 thousandths back in third. Colton Ramsey, also making his first Yamaha start of the season, drove to fourth over Danny Corcoran.
Griffin remained at the top the following day, posting a fast lap in Round Eight qualifying of 1:12.086 to clear Koyen by two tenths. Lemke jumped ahead of both to earn the Prefinal win, starting P1 for the feature. Contact however in the opening lap dropped Lemke down near the tail of the field. The young driver continued charging forward in the 12-lap event, as a handful of drivers, including Griffin, Koyen and Patrick Olsen fought for the lead. Lemke joined them with a few laps remaining, with he, Griffin and Koyen making it a three-wide photo finish. The margin was just 46 thousandths between the three, with Lemke crossing the line first. He would be penalized for the opening lap contact with Cal Stewart, moving him to the tail of the final result, giving Koyen his fourth victory of the season. Griffin was classified second with Olsen third. Adam Crepin and Alec Evers were a close fourth and fifth.
Two local drivers stole the show in the Franklin Motorsports Leopard Senior category with Sam Cate and Billy Lewis emerging as the victorious drivers. Michael Geringer emerged as the fast driver in the wet qualifying session Saturday, clearing the field by two tenths. Contact on the opening lap dropped Geringer down the order, allowing Josh Hotz to score the Prefinal win over Cate and Colton Ramsey. The Final opened up with a hard wreck involving Ramsey, who suffered a broken wrist among other minor injuries. Once the race resumed, Kindra Hurlbert led until Cate took over the second half of the race, pulling out to a 1.1-second advantage. Geringer fought back to second, pushing Hurlbert to third ahead of Abby McLaughlin and Hotz. Cate continued the momentum into Sunday, landing on the pole position in qualifying. After falling back to fourth at the Prefinal start, Cate fought back to edge out Lewis, Hotz and Geringer for the win. Once again, Cate was shuffled down the order when the Final began, leaving Geringer and Lewis to fight for the win. At the line, Lewis scored the victory by 91 thousandths ahead of Geringer. Cate rebounded to third over Hotz and Hurlbert.
It was a clean sweep for Alex Bertagnoli in the Junior ranks, earning four victories on the weekend. Bertagnoli earned his fourth and fifth wins on the season in the CKT Racing Engines Leopard Junior division. Nicholas Nufer broke up the perfect score for Bertagnoli, stealing the fast time in the wet qualifying session. Bertagnoli went on to win the Prefinal and Final Saturday, ahead of Porter Weisensel and Sam Paley. Sunday was a clean sweep, outrunning Weisensel and Paley once again. It was similar results in the Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha 100 Junior, as Bertagnoli doubled up in the win column. The Saturday qualifying session was the only blemish on his Yamaha scorecard, with Elliot Budzinski setting fast time as Bertagnoli was third in the order of 18 drivers. The Prefinal win was just over one-second ahead of Dillon Schwanbeck, increasing to nearly two seconds in the main. Spike Kohlbecker drove to third ahead of Matthew Northrop and Ryan Weyer. Sunday was all Bertagnoli, from qualifying to the final checkered flag. Schwanbeck landed his fifth runner-up result of the season to move into the championship lead, just four seconds back of Bertagnoli on track. Paley ended up third with Northrop and Michael Paterno making up the top-five.
Cadet double point leader Sam Mayer was shut out of the victory column on the weekend, with Aidan Harrington and Tristan Farber splitting honors in the Switch Racing Engines Yamaha Cadet division while James Lynch doubled up in the Haddock LTD/Comet Kart Sales Komet Cadet category. Mayer landed the fast time and Prefinal win both days in Yamaha. He led the opening laps of the Saturday Final, only to be demoted by a group of drivers led by Harrington. The Round Five winner led the remaining laps as Harrington took his second victory of the season. Kaden Wharff drove to second ahead of Kyle Thome as Mayer ended up fourth, just in front of Lynch. Sunday’s feature saw weather roll in just as the field hit the track. Only one driver put rain tires on, and that was Farber. As the conditions got worse, Farber took advantage of his competitors on slick tires. Up to second with two laps remaining, Farber claimed the lead on the final lap, holding on to take his first checkered flags of the season. Mayer held on for second with Kyle West, Garrett Adams and Harrington making up the top-five.
Komet Cadet was a battle all weekend long. JJ Hansen emerged with the fast time in Saturday qualifying, but was pushed down the order when the track went to full dry. Mayer took the Prefinal win, and was joined at the front by Lynch. The two pulled away and drag raced to the checkered flag. At the line it was Lynch by 71 thousandths of a second. Kyle Thome won the battle for third over Tristan Farber and Taylor Maas. Lynch set the pace in Sunday qualifying, edging out Mayer by over two tenths of a second. He came under attack in the Prefinal by Thome and Mayer, with Thome scoring the win. Mayer jumped from third to first at the start of the Final, and held it through the 12 laps to cross the line first. Officials however docked him one position for blocking, handing the win to Lynch. Thome drove to third once again over Farber and Parker Abed.
The KartLift Yamaha 100 Rookie division welcomed 22 drivers, nearly breaking the mark set at the opening weekend in Springfield. Owen Mahle set the pace in the damp Saturday qualifying session but was challenged heavily in the Prefinal. Mahle took the win by just 45 thousandths over Aidan Hinds and Keegan Bosch. Four different drivers led in the 12-lap Final, including Mahle, Camrin Cass, Bosch and Bryce Mersberger. On the final lap, Mersberger assumed the point and reached the checkered flag first for his second victory of the season. Conner Churchill slipped up into second with Cass, Hinds and Bosch making up the top-five. Mahle returned to the top of the time sheets for Sunday qualifying, but was beat out for the Prefinal win by Bosch. Mahle took advantage of the wet weather in the Final to pull out to a 27-second advantage in 12 laps for his first victory. Christian Miles drove to second with Ben Chejfec, Zach Collins and Alex Grapsas completing the top-five.
Adam Brickley returned to sweep the Hollywood Crane Service Kid Kart division once again. After missing out on the South Bend weekend, Brickley returned to dominate the weekend. Sofia d’Arrigo and Ava Dutton ran second and third on Sunday while Logan Julien drove to second behind Brickley on Sunday, pushing d’Arrigo to third. Stephen Dial was another weekend sweeper, controlling the action in Express Karts & Parts Komet. Dial took a seven-second win over Emanuel Richmond and Delaney Keaveny on Saturday, while Max Peichel and Ryan Weyer finished behind Dial in a wet Final Sunday. Aidan Hinds continued his win streak in the Tony Kart Micro Rok category, adding his fifth and sixth wins on the season. Saturday saw Hinds edge out Keegan Bosch for the victory with Camrin Cass in third. The finish was very similar on Sunday, this time with a photo finish as Bosch came 33 thousandths short of the win, with Cass right there in third.
The Route 66 Sprint Series raffled off prizes during the weekend, including Precision Karting Technology (PKT) certificates going to JJ Hansen and Jacob Able while a set of MG Tires went to Josh Hotz and William Diemer. The series finale send the program back to Wisconsin on September 11-13 at the Briggs & Stratton Raceway in Dousman. For more information on the Route 66 Sprint Series, head to route66kartracing.com.
Route 66 Sprint Series would like to thank the following companies for their support; L&T Clutches, MG Tires, Vortex Engines, Schwanbeck Racing, PKTAxles.com, IAME USA East, KartSport North America, Haddock LTD, MTEC, Target Distributing, Innovative Performance, Look Trailers, and Wings Etc Restaurant.