From the Tower: WKA Manufacturers Cup Series – Keystone State Nationals
Action-packed weekend in Pittsburgh with another event marked by rain
The WKA Manufacturers Cup Series program resumed this past weekend at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, PA. It was a near five-month gap between series races, with the WKA Winter Cup providing the only action for the organization during that time. The weekend welcomed roughly 140 entries for the four IAME categories, three Yamaha divisions and the Briggs 206 class competing on the 9/10-mile course, a much improved total from year’s past at the facility. Certainly the move to May for the trip to western PA rather than later in the summer helped, along with the new Bridgestone Mid-Season Shootout that began in Pittsburgh with prizes to the Rok Cup International Final in Italy. The series is gaining momentum for the 2017 with three marquee events on the calendar for the rest of the season. Get all the information from weekend in Wampum, PA at the EKN Event Page.
Heavy Heart for Pesek
Just days prior to the event in Pittsburgh, Kevin Pesek passed away. Kevin is the vocal and charismatic father of Yamaha Senior competitor Dakota Pesek. If you didn’t know where he was, it wasn’t long before you heard him. Sometimes it was a rant about this or just something out of the blue. But anytime he talked about his son Dakota, it was geared toward the love and admiration he had for Dakota, especially his talents behind the wheel. Every time the two were at the track, Kevin believed his son to be the best and always had his back. There was not doubt about the love and extreme proudness Kevin had for Dakota.
In turn, Dakota is one of the most well-spirited persons in the karting paddock. With an ‘outgoing’ father such as Kevin, Dakota was one to keep his cool, show extreme respect for his fellow competitors, and always there with a smile just happy to be at the kart track. On course, Pesek has become of the top Yamaha competitors of the last decade, continuing to put himself toward the front of the field racing for victory every time on the track.
Pittsburgh was no different, except Pesek raced with more passion and heavy heart with his #1 fan not along the fence line, but there in spirit. Saturday, the pace was just not there like it was before with Braden Eves running away with the victory. Dakota and longtime friend and former competitor Cody Robinson put in the work overnight, making sure the same wouldn’t happen Sunday. So did fellow Top Kart teammate Alexander Kardashian. The two ran 1-2 in the Prefinal to fill out the front row for the main event. The rain clouds opened up just prior to the start, and everyone made the switch to rain tires. Just a few laps in, the downpour began and officials were forced to red flag with vision of the entire track gone it was raining so hard.
Once the rain settled down, the race was restarted with the original lead Pesek established washed away. He jumped back on the saddle again, and broke out to the lead after an early fight with Nick Landi. From there, Pesek drove to the victory, his first on the season and first without his father at his side. A large majority of the paddock met Pesek at the scales with loud applause and many hugs for Dakota, including his family members present for event. It was great to see the karting family showing their support for one of their own, knowing how much the victory meant. The moment also affirmed the type of person Dakota truly is. No matter the task at hand, he puts his head down and fights hard to accomplish his goals.
Best Wishes Kaden Wharff
Before the rain hit Sunday, the track was in perfect condition for racing. The Pro IAME Junior category welcomed Kaden Wharff with his first Comet Kart Sales pole award in qualifying. The Junior rookie led the field to the green flag, coming across the line for the first time in the lead. As they went into turn one, his kart went straight off, into the airbag and then making hard contact with the tire wall at the side of the viewing hill. Obviously, Kaden was shaken up with the intense off, and thankfully the medic staff was right there to assist him out of the kart and review his injuries. The kart was not has lucky, bent a number of inches off the ground from the impact. Wharff’s only injury, despite him walking around the paddock throughout the rest of the day, was a growth plate fracture in his left foot after seeing their doctor at home Monday.
Safety is always something us as racers need to continue to review at the different facilities we travel to. In this incident, the airbags did their job. Many years ago at Michiana Raceway Park, Garry Lobaugh introduced to me the ‘Big Blue Bags’. They are designed to help slow down the momentum of the karts should trouble arise. You can find them at MRP, Pitt, Dousman and other karting circuits around the United States and Canada. Dan Schlosser was the general manager of the karting track years past, and was the person who purchased the Big Blue Bags to be utilized at the Wilson Circuit at Pitt Race. Wharff can thank Mr. Lobaugh for coming up with the idea and implementing it, Mr. Schlosser and the PIRC facility for keeping those bags in place, proving their purpose.
Posted by Kaden Wharff Racing on Sunday, May 21, 2017
New Leader of the Cadet Ranks
Just two weeks after earning victory at the SKUSA Pro Tour SpringNationals, Nitro Kart traveled back east to continue their efforts in the Manufacturers Cup Series program. The weekend was another success, earning six podium finishes and a total of seven top-five results in the three Cadet categories. Ashton Chilton became a two-time winner at the WKA Manufacturers Cup Series in Pro Swift Sportsman, earning his first with Nitro Kart. The Florida driver took advantage of the rain to help put Nitro Kart on top of the podium with Brett Crews in second. Ben Maier and Miles Murray stood on the steps in Mini Swift to represent Nitro Kart, with Murray – the M&M king – earning his first trip to the podium. Crews and Chilton added two more podiums, and the momentum continues to Nitro Kart heading into the summer months.
What a Terrible Call!
Sunday was a battle with the weather, as rain was coming, it was a matter of when. Qualifying was no issue but the clouds became thicker and darker as we worked through the Prefinal races. When the first main event began, there was a bit of sprinkles that fell during the Yamaha Sportsman main event. Just three laps before the checkered flag was to come out, WKA officials pulled out the red flag, therefore making it an official race. Standing at the start/finish line, you could hear all the parents and mechanics along the fence line questioning the call to red flag the race. No karts had spun, no person or racers were in danger, and track was not unsafe for racing conditions. It was a judgment call, and I think 99.9% of the paddock disagreed, as did I. It was not the worst decision ever made, we have seen it before at very high profile events in the past. Racing in wet conditions on slick tires is a great educating session, teaching the young kids the importance of kart control – how to manage the wheel in tandem with the throttle and brake pedals.
What was the 100% right call was throwing out the red flag during the Yamaha Senior main event. It was a safety factor in that we were losing the track to an immense amount of rain and visibility became very poor for both drivers and officials. Similar to the fog situations we see sometimes at Daytona. Officials need to have clear vision of the entire circuit in order to make sure the racers and the staff are safe. For those few minutes of what felt like hurricane rainfall, the track was unsafe for action. Thankfully after it blew past we were able to get back on track for some great rain racing to close out the weekend.
One of the knocks that we consistently here is how ‘big tents’ have taken over the sport at the national level. Big teams roll into events, including the WKA Manufacturers Cup Series, with big tents to service all their customers. To be honest, the Man Cup paddock is full of privateers, with only a few major race teams following the program. A large majority of the paddock are pitted under their own EZ-up, or out the side of the camper.
One class that has promoted privateers is the addition of the Briggs 206 division. After a solid participation number in Daytona, which was expected for the famous KartWeek event, the total dropped down to 10 drivers. Of those entered, 8 of the 10 were competing on American-manufactured chassis – Keener (3), Track Kart (2), Comet Eagle, MGM, Ionic. The Extreme Kart was the only international chassis in the category.
Two things stick out from this fact. One, the major teams are missing a great opportunity to introduce new customers or local racers to national level racing. As we have documented, the Briggs 206 category boils down to the chassis and the driver. It’s a very inexpensive opportunity to promote the WKA Manufacturers Cup Series to regional and local racers. It is a great marketing opportunity to bring in new customers that could develop into full-time team racers. Two, the Briggs class is a new venue for American ingenuity. Since the beginning of the sport, engineers and kart lovers have developed and produce a number of chassis brands and models. The growth of the 206 program has rejuvenated that fire and desire to design, bend, and weld new models right here in the USA. The first four winners on the season – Comet Eagle and Keener Kart – currently make the Briggs 206 category an all-American class thus far in 2017.
WKA Saving Time
For the 2017 season, WKA – along with USPKS – is reducing the number of sessions, along with the lap totals for the Sunday when compared to Saturday. The main reason for reduction is that racers are requesting to get out of the event earlier. To me, as a racer, I want as much time on track as I can possible get for the least amount of money. We will use the Pro IAME Senior category as it’s $300 to pre-register. That evens out to $100 per day to race at WKA’s pinnacle racing series. Six sessions of practice on Friday is the norm, breaking down to just under $17 per session. Rental karts cost more than that at Pitt Race and other facilities so there is no doubt its a great deal.
I’m more concerned with Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a qualifying (6 laps), Heat 1 (10 laps), Heat 2 (10 laps) and Final (16 laps). Sunday, not factoring the changes due to rain, would have been 6-10-16. That’s 10 less laps on the day. What really makes the days long at the track is the downtime between sessions. I’d like to see WKA try to put in those missing 10 laps into the Prefinal and Final sessions on Sunday. 10 extra laps per class is roughly 10 minutes – which equates to roughly 80 minutes extra on the day. Rather than ending at 3:30, it would be 4:50, about 45 minutes earlier than when we finish the program on Saturday. Those longer Prefinals and Finals would also make things a little more interesting for the on-track action, forcing drivers and mechanics to try and manage tire performance.
The month of June is off for the WKA Manufacturers Cup Series as the program returns to the New Castle Motorsports Park on July 14-16 before returning to Dousman, Wisconsin and the newly renovated Wolf Paving Raceway on August 25-27.