|EKN One-on-One: ICC National Champion Gary Carlton
| 2006 ICC National Champion Gary Carlton|
(Photo: Jeff Deskins)
2006 was an up and down year for the newly crowned Stars of Karting ICC National Champion Gary Carlton. Winning the national championship and a victory at SKUSA SuperNationals to losing a close friend and switching teams mid-season. The 2006 EKN Awards Driver of the Year is now looking to continue his reign in North America while building experience and a presence in Europe.
It all began for Carlton in 1995 with an Emmick kart running a Cadet class. The young pilot won races early on and won regional championships as well in the IKF Region 11 area. When Carlton reached the Junior ranks, he teamed with KLS Racing running aboard an MBA. Though he did not produce the results he looked for, he found better luck when he graduated to the Senior ranks and a 125cc shifter.
In 2002, Carlton had a breakout year in the SKUSA S1 division, scoring three ProMoto Tour wins, the S1 Western Championship and the #9 national plate. 2003, the Californian made the transition to the top level, SuperPro, where he finished second at the SKUSA World Finals in Norman, OK. Both years, Carlton was nominated by the readers of SKI for the Rising Star award.
2004 was a judgment year as he started the season off with a new team, Kosmic Racing Karts of North America. The chemistry was not there and Carlton walked away from the sport to regroup mentally.
Later in the year, Carlton made his return due to one person, Trackmagicís Fausto Vitello. Fausto and the whole Trackmagic/Thrasher family brought Gary in and helped him remember why he was in karting - for the enjoyment of racing karts. Along with getting behind the wheel, Carlton also helped developed the Trackmagic FTR, which debuted at the 2004 SKUSA SuperNationals. As the lone driver representing the team in 2005, Carlton continued to tweak the chassis, scoring a victory at the Stars CARTBC round and a runner-up finish at the SuperNationals IX.
Of course, this past year was a whirlwind for the California native. Beginning with Trackmagic, the season started out on a negative with the death of the companyís founding father. Shortly after, he made the move to PCH Motorsports and CRG under the watchful eye of Mike Speed. The year ended with Carlton taking the Stars of Karting ICC National Championship and the SKUSA SuperNationals X SuperPro victory, also earning the 2006 EKN Driver of the Year award recently.
EKN was able to track down Carlton recently for a one-on-one interview to discuss his past, present, and future in karting.
| Carlton began the 2006 with Trackmagic before moving to PCH Motorsports mid-season|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
Name: Gary Carlton
Hometown: Marysville, CA
Team: PCH Motorsports
Chassis/Engine: CRG/SwedeTech Maxter
Helmet/Painter: Aria/Corby Concepts
Years racing karts: 11
EKN: First off, congratulations on the 2006 Stars of Karting ICC National Championship and the SKUSA SuperNationals victory.
Gary Carlton: Thank you very much
EKN: Letís start things off by looking back at the championship-winning season. When did you first realize you were a definite title contender?
GC: I never looked at the points all year really. I just focused on winning races. But after the Infineon round, where I won the Stars ICC Western title, I realized I had a good shot at it.
EKN: Obviously things worked out. What do you think was the key to winning the championship?
GC: Diego and I did a lot of testing around Northern California developing the new Trackmagic FTR chassis and we knew we had a kart to win; we just needed a power plant. We then hooked up with Mike (Tetreault) at Grand Products and Reine (Persson) at SwedeTech to start running the new Maxter engine. We had a rough first race in Oklahoma but after that we knew we had a winning package.
Then when Fausto (Vitello) passed away and Trackmagic was put up for sale, I thought the Buffalo Bills race was out the question. But then Andrew (Alfanso) pulled it out of his ass and got me their. We had zero time to get the karts ready. Just getting to that race was a win in itself.
Then hooking up with Mike Speed and PCH Motorsports/CRG at the end of the season was good. It took a lot of work to get used to a new kart in the middle of the year but all the days at Infineon with Mike paid off and we got the championship and a SuperNats 1-2.
EKN: Yes, the SuperNats win. It was definitely one of the best performances in the eventís 10 year history. Has it sunk in that you will forever be known as a SuperNats winner, along with names like Gidley, Speed, Elliott, and others?
GC: For me the whole weekend was just like any other race. Go out there and try to achieve the highest position possible. It didn't feel any different winning the SuperNats than winning any other race this year until I was sitting at home and looked though the KartSport program. I looked through it and saw all the past winners talking about their win and then I realized I just won THE race.
| The SuperNationals X weekend was one of his best performances to date|
(Photo: Super Kart Illustrated)
EKN: It was obviously an emotional year for you, both on track and off. What do you think you learned this season that you can take with you the rest of your life?
GC: I learned how to work with people that have different personalities, when to keep quiet and when to speak up. Trackmagic and CRG are to different worlds. They have completely different philosophies and ways of doing things. And another thing also is to take more pictures. I never got a picture of Fausto and myself together and it really pisses me off.
EKN: Now, looking ahead to 2007, what are your plans for the year? Defend your National Championship and the SuperNats win?
GC: Iím going to be very busy. I'll be returning with PCH/SSC/CRG and SSC East to do the Stars of Karting season and also be doing six races over in Europe with CRG, which include the European Championship (KZ2), a WSK International Series race, and two Italian Open races. Then the races that you canít miss, like the KartSport GP and the SuperNats.
EKN: Darren Elliott and Ron White have had great success running in Europe with CRG, do you expect to be as successful in you European trips?
GC: It is hard to say. What Ron did was amazing. I think with a lot of hard work and a little luck I can be successful. Iím currently trying to learn Italian. I found out on my first trip that being able to speak their language is a huge help. I'm sure the first couple races will be rough. I know I can race anybody the hard part will be trying to find the speed to run up front.
EKN: Do you see yourself racing anything other than karts, or do you feel karting is where you should be?
GC: It is hard to say. Right now Iím really focused on karting at the moment. I want to do my best to defend my title in the US and try to make some noise over in Europe. But if the opportunity presents itself where I could race a good car with a good team I would not pass it up. It just sucks that in the car world, there is so much more politics that can play a big part on how well you do. Itís just how it is and being a racing driver, itís something you have to deal with.
EKN: So when youíre not at the track testing or at a race weekend, what do you do outside the karting scene?
| Carlton made his European debut a few weeks ago at the WSK event with two-sixth place finishes|
(Photo: WSK International Series)
GC: Well just about everything I do is related to karting. If Iím not working on my karting program, I spend my days working at SwedeTech Racing Engines and working with a junior driver, Jordan Jadallah, which I really enjoy doing. Watching younger drivers learn the race craft is really cool. But outside the karting scene, I do just like everyone else. Spend time with friends. Chase girls. Play pranks on my roommates. I used to be really into skateboarding and wasnít half bad at it but lately karting has taken all my time now with running over in Europe.
EKN: Do you feel that working at SwedeTech has helped you as a driver?
GC: As a driver it has no help at all. But knowing how to put your engine together helps if you have a problem at the track. Itís a good job. All the guys there are really cool and make it a fun place to work. Working there you can really see why the company has had so much success.
EKN: Now, you were supposed to be teamed with both Alex and Scott Speed at the SuperNats in November but Scott was unable to compete. So who would win between them, Alex or Scott?
GC: In testing Scott was fast. He could put down the lap time no problem. His racing skills needed work. When we were testing, we would all go out and do little races at the end of the day. Letís just say Scott and I had a big moment in turn one at Sears that just about gave Mike a heart attack. But I'm sure he would have picked it up by the heat races in Vegas. Itís just like anything else, if you are out of it for awhile, your going to be a little rusty. It was a lot of fun having Alex and Scott around. It was more like going out to the track with your friends and thrashing on each other rather than just testing for a big race. But to answer your question, I think Mike (Speed) would beat them bothÖif he still raced.
EKN: I guess itís easier to pick Mike because you still have to work with him this year, and he was no slump behind the wheel back in his day from what I have heard.
GC: Yeah, that cat was no joke. Some years back George Barros, Bob Snow, Mike, and even Reine Persson all did a little series of races here in Nor-Cal. It was fun to watch. I remember one race at Dixon where Mike got passed on the last lap for the win and he was so pissed. He was yelling at Scott and Alex because they werenít giving him good enough signals. And Reine was an animal. He would drive the livin **** out of the kart, out of control all the time. He was always fun to watch.
EKN: Gary, I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us and good luck in 2007.
GC: Thank you guys.