|eKartingNews.com Driver of the Month: 2010
In a continued effort to highlight the many outstanding performances by drivers around the country, eKartingNews.com is proud to introduce the ‘Driver of the Month’ program. Each month, the staff at EKN will determine the one driver who stood out above the rest and give the viewers a chance to know exactly what they accomplished and who they are.
| Grant Quinlan - EKN Driver of the Month - December 2010|
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
Driver of the Month - December 2010 - Grant Quinlan
The 2010 karting year wrapped up with the opening event of the 2011 season for the World Karting Association with the running of the annual Daytona KartWeek at the Daytona International Raceway. The George Kugler/Bridgestone Manufacturer’s Cup Series opened up the next edition of the series at the event with a recorded breaking 700 entries at the two-day event. For a number of years now, the Sportsman (ages 8-12) divisions have been the most competitive races event after event. Daytona was no different with the five classes offered, totaling 221 entries. At the front of all five fields was Canadian Grant Quinlan as he fended off a number of challengers over the course of the event. In the end, he would record four feature wins and a runner-up finish to earn the EKN Driver of the Month for December 2010.
The first day of competition included three classes - Cadet Sportsman, Yamaha Sportsman Heavy and Komet Sportsman. Quinlan started off with the Cadet pole award while placing third in the other categories, missing out on the pole position by 0.033-seconds and 0.091-seconds respectively. Quinlan went on to go three for three in the Prefinals, scoring the win in each to start on the pole for the main events. The Cadet victory was a battle between he, Kyle Tilley and Emerson Reed with Quinlan taking the checkered by over two-seconds in the end. After falling to second in the first lap, Quinlan led the remaining laps of the Yamaha feature for win number two by 0.139-seconds at the line. In the Komet main, Quinlan led across the stripe for the majority of the race until he fell to third at the checkered flags but was moved to second following penalties.
On day two, Quinlan completed an event sweep in the Cadet Sportsman division with another pole, Prefinal and Final win while leading all 20 race laps. After earning his third pole position of the event, Quinlan finished second in the Yamaha Sportsman Lite Prefinal. After shuffling back to fourth on the first lap, Quinlan knifed his way back to the point by lap eight. Leading to the checkered flag, Quinlan wrapped up his fourth victory of the event.
The impressive part of Quinlan’s accomplishment was the fact it was only the second visit at the Daytona track for the recently-turn 12 year old. Quinlan was a challenger in the championship chases last season and now leading three of the four point standings, the Canadian is sure to be in the hunt once again this year.
| Derek Crockett - EKN Driver of the Month - November 2010|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
Driver of the Month - November 2010 - Derek Crockett
The Superkarts! USA SuperNationals has become THE event of the season to win over the course of its 14 year history. This year’s record-breaking event carried many personal stories, some ending in victory while others cut short in disappointment. One success story came in the S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto category with Derek Crockett the star of the show. Entering the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas event second in the championship standings, Crockett put his fate in his own hands by dominating the category throughout the three-days of official action.
The event began with Crockett edging out young-gun Jake French for the pole position by a mere two-thousandths of a second. Crockett then piloted his GP kart to three straight heat wins, challenged only in the third heat as he lost the lead briefly to Nicky Freytag before taking back the position and scoring the win. With the three heat wins, the 22-year old positioned himself on the pole for the main event and in good position to earn the championship title. Crockett grabbed a great holeshot to lead the way with Freytag able to slot in behind. Freytag once again struck early, moving into the lead on lap three. Crockett settled in and measured up his rival, pulling the trigger with six laps to go as he drafted by for the lead into turn one. Freytag kept it close in the final circuits but Crockett was strong enough to hold the top spot. Crossing the line to earn the checkered flag, the win was Crockett’s first at the SuperNationals after several tries and the victory clinched his first national championship.
Derek opened up his own kart shop (Crockett Motorsports) at the end of the 2009 season, serving the Midwest area as a GP Kart dealer. His now one-year old operation is still in the growing stages, continuing to support Central States Challenge and local events through the 2010 season with more growth planed for the 2011 season. Crockett is on a small list of drivers to score SKUSA Pro Moto Tour, Rock Island Grand Prix and SKUSA Pro Tour victories in his career, and the addition of the SKUSA Pro Tour S2 champion only adds to the young driver’s resume.
| Jim Kidd - EKN Driver of the Month - October 2010|
(Photo: J. Kidd)
Driver of the Month - October 2010 - Jim Kidd
Street racing is a survival form of karting at times. While you may be the fastest, your not always the driver to score the victory. It takes a combination of speed, consistency, stamina and of course a little bit of luck. At the Streets of Lancaster event in October, Northern California driver Jim Kidd exemplified what it takes to come away with victory in the overall shifter division and Open Shifter category.
Combined with the Stock Honda Light and Stock Honda Heavy classes, a field of over 30 drivers took to the track for qualifying. In his first trip to the Southern California event, Kidd qualified ninth overall and fourth in class. After the 11-lap heat race, Kidd fell down a few positions to end up 11th. Avoiding any trouble in the opening laps of the race, Kidd worked himself into the top-five by lap five. When trouble occurred in front of him on lap 13, Kidd found himself at the point. With just a few laps remaining after laps under yellow, Kidd held off charges from Robert Marks and Stock Honda Light leader Vivek Tandon to score the win.
Kidd is one of the last drivers to carry the G1 banner for NorCal and still remains loyal to the category. Training hard while enjoying his time at the race track, Kidd is a solid competitor and a great person to have involved in the sport. EKN would like to congratulate Jim on this honor.
| Gary Lawson - EKN Driver of the Month - September 2010|
(Photo: G. Lawson)
Driver of the Month - September 2010 - Gary Lawson
While the Rock Island Grand Prix is known for the King of the Streets event for the shifter kart categories, the emperor of the event is 2-cycle and 4-cycle star Gary Lawson. The all-time win leader of the Quad Cities area street race every Labor Day weekend has accumulated a staggering 20 wins total, thanks to his four-win performance this September, making him the EKN Driver of the Month.
The event began with on Saturday with the qualifying sessions. Lawson entered the event on top of the career pole position standings with 17. Following the day’s action, Lawson took the top spot in Animal Medium, Animal Heavy, and Yamaha Can Heavy. A second in the Yamaha Can Medium category put him in fine position to score four victories.
First up was the Yamaha Can Heavy feature. Lawson was able to keep the lead though he first turn and pull out to a three-second lead by the halfway mark of the 15-lap event. At the checkered, Lawson took the win by over four-seconds to score his first win in the category at the event. Up next was Animal Heavy with similar results. After the opening lap, Lawson extended to a two-second lead on cold tires. Leading all 15 laps, the margin of victory was nine-seconds for win number two on the weekend. The win also marked Lawson’s seventh straight in the category, the most in any class.
The Yamaha Can Medium was Lawson’s first victory at the ‘Rock’ back in 2003 and this year’s was not easy. Starting second, Lawson was in the mix with a number of contenders and former winners. Able to work his way to the point by lap four, Lawson was able to extend his lead lap by lap. At the line, Lawson took his third RIGP checkered flag of the event by six-seconds. Similar to the Animal Heavy race, Lawson was nearly untouchable in the Animal Medium - Rumble at the Rock event. After losing the lead briefly in the first lap, Lawson put down stellar laps on cold tires to pull away from the field. In the end, his fourth victory was by a 20-second margin, with a fast lap over a second quicker than any other driver.
The four-win performance was Lawson’s first in his Rock Island GP career, extending his overall win total to 20 and poles to 20.
| Bobby Kelley - EKN Driver of the Month - August 2010|
(Photo: Joey Barros - NEIphoto.com)
Driver of the Month - August 2010 - Bobby Kelley
In just its second edition, the Superkarts! USA ProKart Challenge West Coast Shootout is projected to be one of the big events during the summer time schedule for karters along the western portion of the country. With a field similar to the SKUSA SpringNationals and a majority planned to compete in the SKUSA SuperNationals in November, the event is a great measuring stick to see just where you stack up at that point in the season. Leaving the Santa Maria Karting Association facility on August 14, Bobby Kelley put his name into the hat for TaG supremacy with his first PKC West Coast Shootout victory in TaG Senior.
The event began with Kelley ending up second in qualifying to his teammate Nick Johnston, who posted a 47.749 lap time, while placing ahead of PKC South point leader and former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Phil Giebler. Kelley was just 96-thousandths off Johnston’s time, as the two have posted similar results as of late. The first eight-lap heat race saw Johnston and Kelley break away. Kelley used Johnston as the rabbit, working by for the lead on the seventh lap, going on to take the win and record the fast lap of the race. Using the inside line to his advantage, Kelley held the lead through the opening corner of heat two, leading the rest of the way unchallenged to a 1.3-second win as the rest of the field fought over the second position.
It was a mad shuffle to begin the 15-lap feature, as Giebler came away with the point over Johnston and Kelley fell back to third. Once by Johnston on lap four, Kelley set his sights on the SKUSA Pro Tour TaG Senior point leader - Giebler. Four laps later, Kelley pulled the trigger and regained the lead. From there, Kelley would run the fast laps of the race to score the victory by one second over Giebler, while Johnston earned the final podium position.
Over Labor Day weekend, Kelley clinched the ProKart Challenge North TaG Senior championship with a victory at the Jim Russell International Karting Center in Sonoma, California. Kelley will continue his bid for the IKF Region 7 Championship Series title in PRD Senior as the year ends, looking to head into the SKUSA SuperNationals XIV with momentum.
| Stepanova Nekeel - EKN Driver of the Month - July 2010|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
Driver of the Month - July 2010 - Stepanova Nekeel
The US Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals has become one of the most premier events to win in recent years. Competitors spend nearly all of the 365 days in-between each annual event preparing to claim the national title. With this year’s event moved up to July, some time was lost but the competition did not lack as racing was fierce around the 1-mile New Castle Motorsports Park in Indiana. When the final checkered flag waved to crown the Senior champion, it was Stepanova Nekeel who scored the victory. The odd situation with the victory by the 20-year old was the fact he bought the kart at the track prior to starting the event.
Arriving to the track Sunday to begin two days of testing before the start of the event, Nekeel - along with his father Tim - worked on the same chassis they used for the Rotax Pan American Challenge race the month before. With the father/son team not happy with where their program was going, Stepanova decided to change chassis. Locating a used Tony Kart in the paddock, Nekeel begged and borrowed $950 cash to buy the package prior to the start of the event on Wednesday, along with borrowing a Tony Kart graphics kit and getting a good deal on a suit.
Following the official practice day, Nekeel was 11th in the final session of the day. After qualifying 12th overall, Nekeel ran strong in the heat races, finishing no worst then sixth to end up P8 on the grid for the Prefinal. Nekeel stated after the race weekend they used the heat races more as test sessions, being the first time aboard a Tony Kart. The opening corner of the Prefinal was traffic jam with drivers in the front few rows getting together. Nekeel was able to escape, dropping to 13th but regaining the spots he lost before completing the first lap. From there, Nekeel moved forward, running as high as third before settling into fourth over the final circuits.
A much cleaner start for the main event, the field shuffled through the opening corners with minimal contact. Nekeel would move himself into the second spot by the completion of the first lap and began running down the leader, Daniel Formal who escaped to a good distance in the first mile. Running down Formal, Nekeel moved to the lead on lap eight. From there, Formal fell into the grasp of a host of drivers while Nekeel continued to run consistent lap times to extend his lead, driving away from the battle for second. Nekeel would lead the final 13 laps of the 19-lap race to score his first national crown and earn a spot on Team USA to the Rotax Grand Finals for a second straight year.
Nekeel, who is currently in the process of building a new neck collar company - SFN Neck Collars, plans to race local events throughout the rest of year along with the final round of the Rotax Pan American Challenge. In November, Nekeel will join the rest of Team USA in La Conca, Italy for the Rotax Grand Finals.
| Jake Craig - EKN Driver of the Month - June 2010|
Driver of the Month - June 2010 - Jake Craig
The list of former International Kart Federation Duffy winners is a prestigious roster of many great drivers to have competed in the sport. While a number of drivers that we consider idols of the sport have a room full of them as others are happy to have just that special one. Each and every Duffy comes with a story. For Jake Craig, his five Duffy’s along with the four Screaming Eagles earned at the IKF 2-Cycle Sprint Grand Nationals will be remembered. Because of his performance, Craig has been named the June 2010 Driver of the Month.
The four day event held at the Willow Springs Kart Track saw Craig earn his first Screaming Eagle for a pole position in Jr. Super Sportsman Heavy. Going untouched the remainder of the day, Craig scored his first Duffy of the event as he went wire-to-wire in both the Prefinal and Final. The next day in Jr. KPV2 Heavy, Craig swept the class action once again. Though he was challenged early in the Final, Craig pulled out to a six-second victory.
For day three, Craig battled in two categories - Jr. 2 PRD and Jr. 2 Super Sportsman. In PRD, Craig missed out on the Screaming Eagle to be classified third in the timed session. Once the racing began, Craig was quick to find his way to the point and score the Prefinal win en route to a flag-to-flag victory in the Feature. In the Super Sportsman entry, Craig returned to a dominant pace to sweep the class action. To complete the event, Jr. KPV2 was Craig’s fifth Duffy and fourth Screaming Eagle. After he lost the lead early in the Prefinal, Craig bounced back to take the win. Though he was hounded through the 18-lap feature, Craig would lead all the laps to his fifth win in four days to complete a memorable event.
With his performance during the four days and the sportsmanship he displayed, Craig was awarded the Lake Speed Achievement of Excellence Award. Previous winners Matt Johnson, Jesus Vasquez, and Nick Johnston presented the award to the 2010 winner.
Craig has already earned four championships in the spring session of the IKF Region 7 Championship Series. Craig will finish out the season looking to earn the KPV2 and Jr. Rotax championships in the Los Angeles Kart Club program along with many one-off events, including Rotax Pan American Challenge Series at CalSpeed, Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix, WSK North American Series at Mandalay Bay and the SKUSA SuperNationals. For 2011, Craig will look to campaign the WKA Manufacturer’s Cup Series, starting at Daytona KartWeek in December.
| Jonathan Evans - EKN Driver of the Month - May 2010|
Driver of the Month - May 2010 - Jonathan Evans
Over the past few seasons, the largest class in the World Karting Association Road Racing Series has been the Sprint Briggs Animal group. Aside from being the largest group in the paddock, they also produce some close racing. In 2009, the driver who came out on top in the Briggs Animal 335 and Briggs Animal 360 championships was Jonathan Evans. The eKartingNews.com Road Racer of the Year nominee is well on his way to defending those titles in 2010, thanks in part to his performance at the latest round of the series, which has helped Evans earn the Driver of the Month honor for May.
The third round of the Dunlop Tire Road Racing Series was hosted by the Southern Kart Club at Roebling Road Raceway in Bloomingdale, Georgia. The fast 2-mile road course saw 14 drivers do battle in the first race of the weekend, including the Briggs Animal 335 division. Evans led the field across after the first lap, only to lose the spot to his Daytona rival Mike Stroik. Across the line for the remainder of race, Stroik showed the way until the final lap when Evans made his move. Getting to the line first, Evans took his second class victory of the season by just 0.031-seconds at the line.
On Sunday, 23 drivers stood on the grid for the Briggs Animal 360 start with a number of contenders set to do battle. Starting from the back by virtue of signing up late, Evans was 11th after the first circuit and was moving fast. By lap four he found himself in the familiar second spot, this time running behind Andrew Ryan. Similar to Saturday’s race, Evans waited until the final lap to make his move. Coming to the line, Evans took the checkered flag by a slim 0.050-second for his first win in the class on the year.
Evans has also made the jump to shifterkarts, running in the Stock Honda category. On Saturday, Evans battled with current point leader Brian Davies for the 30-minute race, only to lose out on the victory by 0.197-seconds. The next day, right after his 30-minute race in the Briggs kart, he jumped into the Stock Honda ride. The fight for the win this day became three with the addition of friend and veteran shifterkart driver Josh Lane. In the end, Lane took the victory with Evans once again in the second slot by just 0.106-seconds and Davies in third.
| Jeff Smith - EKN Driver of the Month - April 2010|
(Photo: Tony Leone - sixspeedphotos.com)
Driver of the Month - April 2010 - Jeff Smith
One category that continues to grow, becoming more and more competitive each year is the Masters categories. Many of the stars from a few years back are moving up the age ranks, jumping away from the young guns and racing against those who also need to be back at work on Monday morning. Last month at the Superkarts! USA North American Pro Tour debut - the SKUSA SpringNationals - the S4 Masters Stock Moto category was the largest class on the weekend. Though the competition was fierce, it was a one man show up front with NorCal’s Jeff Smith taking home victory both days. His performance helped him earn the eKartingNews.com Driver of the Month honor.
In his youth, Smith was involved in motorsports, wrenching on a variety of sports cars and formula cars. After finding out the battles with the cost to go car racing, Smith was introduced to karting. Jumping in head first by purchasing a used 80 shifter, Smith was hooked. Smith made a name for himself last year, claiming the 2009 ProKart Challenge South S4 championship. He also was chosen to be part of the 2009 SKUSA/MG Tires Granja Viana 500 team in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This year, the target is on his back following the performance at the SKUSA SpringNationals.
Smith found himself chasing at the start of the event with the first round of qualifying on Saturday morning. Making a charge late in the session, Smith was getting quicker and quicker but came up two-hundredths of a second short of the pole position. Starting from outside of row one, Smith grabbed the holeshot to begin the first heat race, cruising to a two-second win. Challenged in the early portion of heat two, Smith struck back with the fast laps of the race to score another two-second win. Getting away from the grid cleanly, Smith was on cruise control to go wire-to-wire for a six-second victory.
Making some slight changes for qualifying on Sunday, Smith put his CRG-Aluminos entry on the pole position as the only driver under the 49-second mark. Continuing to show the way through heat one, Smith felt pressure for the first time as he was joined throughout the eight laps up front, however, still going on for the win. In round two, Smith found himself in the challenger role for the first time, falling back to second in the first lap. The next time around, Smith retook the lead and put the hammer down to score the win by two-seconds. After losing on the holeshot to begin the main event, Smith secured second before losing any more spots. Once settled in on the opening lap, Smith reassumed his position at the front. From there, it was a reply of every race we saw as he just powered away in his CRG to another win and securing the victory on the day by over three-seconds to cap off a perfect points day.
| Daniel Morad - EKN Driver of the Month - March 2010|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
Driver of the Month - March 2010 - Daniel Morad
How would you define your prototypical motorsports driver? Someone with talent behind the wheel of course, but in today’s society you need to be more than that. Personality can go a long way as you need to deal with sponsors and the media in a 24/7 environment. Someone that many feel fit that criteria is Canadian Daniel Morad, the eKartingNews.com Driver of the Month for March 2010.
Beginning karting at the age of 8, Morad has developed through the karting ranks and is currently one of the young talents in motorsports today. Moving from karts to open wheel cars, Morad claimed the 2007 Formula BMW USA Championship and recorded a fourth place result at the Formula BMW World Final in Valencia, Spain. In 2008, Morad competed in the Formula Atlantic Championship but made the move to be the full time driver for Team Lebanon in A1GP.
Returning to his roots in 2009, a runner-up finish at the Canadian National Championships in DD2 earned him a spot on Team Canada and a trip to Egypt to compete at the Rotax Grand Finals. In contention for a podium finish, Morad was involved in spectacular last lap incident, luckily walking away with just a few bruises and cuts. Looking to earn a spot to return back to the Grand Finals, Morad contested the full Florida Winter Tour for a guaranteed entry into the event.
Morad entered the final weekend of the Tour with a massive point lead already, having won three of the four races thus far. Sealing the deal, Morad bested the largest DD2 field of the Tour to leave with two more victories and class championship. Pacing himself, Morad was in the top-three solidly in the qualifying and Prefinal sessions on the first day of action. In the main event, Morad assume the point on lap three and drove to a two-second victory to clinch the title. The following day was formality although Morad showed his talent in wet weather conditions to sweep the entire proceedings. Quickest in qualifying, Morad went wire-to-wire in both the Prefinal and Final for his fifth win of the Tour.
| Alessandra Madrigal - EKN Driver of the Month - February 2010|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
Driver of the Month - February 2010 - Alessandra Madrigal
The NASCAR and IndyCar world are going crazy for Danica Patrick. Karting on the other hand has a number of rising female stars across the country and around the world. Yes, she has brought attention to of motorsports to many young girls with her fame, however, those donning pinks helmet around the track are just more than a pretty face behind the wheel. The eKartingNews.com Driver of the Month program has already recognized two female drivers and is happy to announce the third - J3 Competition’s Alessandra Madrigal - for the month of February 2010.
Madrigal began the three week journey with round two of the Florida Winter Tour Formula Kart program at Palm Beach International Raceway. Competing in the IAME Junior category, Madrigal engaged in one of the best races of the opening day. Running in the top-three throughout the day, charged up the leaderboard of the feature after getting shuffled back early on. Working herself to the point in the final laps, she fought for the victory, going side by side through the final corner to drag race to the stripe. Madrigal came just 0.038-seconds short of the win. The next day was no easy task as well. Qualifying eighth, Madrigal worked her way forward in the Prefinal to start outside row one for the main event. After showing the way early on, Madrigal was shuffled back following contact. With the same grit and determination she showed earlier in the day, Madrigal knifed her way to the front once more. Snagging the lead on the white flag, she would make no mistakes en route to a sterling comeback victory. The win put her 55 points ahead in the title chase heading into the final weekend.
The following weekend, Madrigal contested the competitive Rotax Junior division in the FWT Rotax Max Challenge program. On day one, Madrigal qualified a solid 12th however was involved in an opening lap incident along with a number of other drivers at the start of the Prefinal. Falling to 29th, she ended up 23rd at the checkered. As has been the case for the category for a number of drivers, turn one ended her race early as once again she was involved in unavoidable contact. Bad luck continued the next day as a poor qualifying effort turned into Madrigal unable to complete a lap in the Prefinal. Putting the trouble behind her, she muscled from the tail of the 34-kart field forward to end up 14th after 20 laps with times comparable to the leaders. Despite a tough weekend, Madrigal left the weekend sixth in the points with a viable chance at a top-three position.
Madrigal then traveled to Homestead for the second round of the CKI Florida Cup. Doing the double-duty as she has been accustom to, Madrigal walked away with four podiums, including two victories. The wins came via a weekend sweep in the KF3 category. Scoring the pole, Prefinal and Final victories both days vaulted her into the class championship lead. In the Rotax Junior division, Madrigal battled for the top spot all weekend long, recording two solid third place finishes in both features to keep her in the championship chase.
| Kenneth Hildebrand - EKN Driver of the Month - January 2010|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
Driver of the Month - January 2010 - Kenneth Hildebrand
Many people who live in the northern half of the United States ask, ‘what do you do in karting during the off-season?’ The schedule for 2010 however proves there is no off-season with events in the warmer states of the country throughout December, January, February and March. During January, however, one name stood out among the many that contested the number of high-profile events - Kenneth Hildebrand.
Following his American debut at the WKA Daytona KartWeek in December, scoring a third in TaG and a victory in the Rotax category, Hildebrand rejoined the BTK Motorsports squad at the two weekends of the opening rounds for the Florida Winter Tour at the Orlando Kart Center. First up was the Formula Kart weekend where Hildebrand piloted his Arrow machine to 10-second victory in a wet-weathered opening day in the Pro Rotax category. Under dry conditions on day two, Hildebrand was again among the front-runners and engaged in a tough battle for the victory, eventually crossing the line in the runner-up position.
The following weekend Hildebrand did battle in the competitive Rotax Senior category. On the opening day, he and BTK teammate and Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon fought for the victory under the lights as they dominated the rest of the field. Hildebrand and Wheldon went side by side numerous times over the course of the final laps before Hildebrand edged out at the checkered flag by 0.096-seconds for the victory. Despite a number of opening corner incidents, Hildebrand was able to escape Sunday’s action however found himself chasing the leader in the final and scoring the runner-up finish.
With his results, Hildebrand currently leads both divisions in the championship standings heading into the second rounds, contested on February 13-14 and February 20-21. Hildebrand lived in Estonia for some time and is the country he represents in his international travels. At the 2005 Rotax Grand Finals in Malaysia, Hildebrand earned the Junior Rotax world title. Currently the 20-year old is living in the United States to compete in a number of karting events as well as perusing a ride in other forms of motorsports, possible formula cars.