From the Tower: WKA Daytona KartWeek 2016

Annual event in Daytona Beach sets tone for the 2017 season

(Photo: EKN)

Each and every year, racers of all backgrounds, experience and genre head down to Daytona International Speedway for the World Karting Association Daytona KartWeek. Many begin the journey south on or before Christmas Day to head to the Sunshine State for three days of action in part of the three distinct events taking part at the World Center of Racing. Weather was nearly perfect throughout the four days of karters taking over the DIS facility, with the final day bringing strong winds and cold temperatures to close out the 2016 edition.

Head over to the EKN Event Page for full coverage of the 2016 WKA Daytona KartWeek.

Three Unique Events at One Facility

The uniqueness of the Daytona KartWeek experience is the combination of three events in one facility. The Manufacturers Cup Series holds their event inside the NASCAR Turn 3-4 section on the kart track built in 2002. The National Road Racing Series has been visiting the DIS facility since 1974, taking on the high banks and the International Horseshoe year after year. In 2009, the WKA Dirt Championships moved from the Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium to outside NASCAR Turn 1-2 on the Daytona Flat Track. With one pit pass, racers, families and race fans can enjoy all three events in one day, bouncing from track to track.

Each has its own uniqueness about them. We have chronicled the Man. Cup side of things over and over. If you have never ventured over to the Road Racing or Dirt track side, you need to at least once. At the Road Race, you will see a lot of relaxing and just enjoying the chance at being at the race track and the prestigious Daytona International Speedway. Many of karting legends were there again this year, including Mr. Daytona Randy Fulks. The WKA Hall of Fame member has numerous victories around the high banks, and added another with a B-Stock victory on Day 1, reaching speeds over 150mph with his twin engine laydown. Margay owner Keith Freber left the racers on the sprint side for his four most enjoyable days of the year, jumping back into a laydown Yamaha kart throughout Daytona KartWeek. Freber took home three wins during the event. Jim Russell Jr. of Russell Karting Specialties ventured back to the big track, competing in shifter competition while his son James Russell took part in shifter and Yamaha laydown action. Many of the same figures that were at the event during my first trip to Daytona in 1996 as a racer are still there, along with many new faces, all enjoying the chance to race on the big track.

The Dirt World Championships partnered up with the Tri-State Pro Series, brining in Maxxis as the title sponsor and spec tire for the event. Roughly 400 entries per day in the 20 class event made for a busy three days on the dirt track. It is a unique event, racing on a track that is now only used once a year. From 9am until 10pm, karts are going around the 1/4-mile track vying for the $75,000 purse in the 40 classes over the two days of competition.

Dyszelski Doing the Double

Cadet driver Danny Dyszelski spent two days going back and forth from sprint to dirt (Photo: EKN)

One interesting story from the event was the double duty performance by eight-year-old Danny Dyszelski. Not once had their been a competitor racing at the Manufacturers Cup Series AND Dirt World Championship event before. The North Carolina driver set out to do both, racing in the Mini Swift division and the Junior 1 classes on dirt. Beginning his second year in the Cadet ranks, Danny finished 12th and 18th in the large Mini Swift division. In his Daytona Dirt Championships debut, Danny finished 11th and ninth on Day 1 while placing eighth on Thursday before the rain washed out his fourth main event.

For a while now, I have dreamt what it would be like for someone to compete in all THREE events at Daytona. A true triathlon for a kart racer. Three distinct and unique versions of our sport, all in one or even two days. So for the next 356 days, it will be my mission to set up three different karts for the three different events at Daytona KartWeek. While I know winning at one or even all three would be very unpractical, just racing all three at the same time would be memorable and possibly bring more exposure to the Dirt and Road Racing communities.

Olsen Nabs First Road Racing Nationals

Olsen hitting the tri-oval during practice day (Photo: EKN)

In karting’s early days, it was not rare to see someone succeed at all sections of the sport. Dismore, Adkins, Pruett, Haddock – they all won numerous times on the sprint track, and they all won major events in the road racing genre. Fast forward to today, there are not many that cross back and forth between the two forms of karting, let alone succeed in both. Five-time WKA Manufacturers Cup Series Daytona KartWeek winner Patrick Olsen is among the most successful drivers in the Yamaha/HPV divisions. His last two victories came in 2013 in the Piston Port Senior class, doubling up that December. For the past two seasons, Olsen has put the helmet off to the side and worked throughout the racing season as a wrench for a handful of drivers. This past summer, Olsen had the opportunity to try his hand at a laydown kart, racing around the Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit, Illinois.

Olsen returned to Daytona this year, making his laydown debut at the National Road Racing Series. Competing in the Formula 100 class, the weekend started out rough with engine issues and a little ‘reshaping’ of the front nose piece. Thursday, his race was toward the end of the day as the Man. Cup held their main events. Olsen piloted his #195 kart to his first national victory, out-running the second place driver by over a minute in the 45-minute race and posting a fast lap of 2:07.186. The following day, Olsen bettered his time to a 2:05.551 and lapped the entire race group twice, completing 21 laps in 45-minutes. A number of other individuals scored wins on the National Road Racing Series event, and EKN would like to congratulate all of them on their victories. For photos, head to the following LINK.

Day 1 Class Winner Day 2 Class Winner
100cc Controlled Final 1 Rick Fulks 100cc Controlled Final 2 Rick Fulks
100cc Piston Port Final 1 John Brown 125 Sprint Shifter Final 2 Tracy Phillips
125 Sprint Shifter Final 1 Tracy Phillips Animal Heavy Final 2 Andrew Boyer
Animal Heavy Final 1 Andrew Boyer Animal Lite Final 2 Ben Thomason
Animal Lite Final 1 Stephen Wheatley Animal Medium Final 2 Stephen Wheatley
Animal Medium Final 1 Wayne Moffat Cadet LO206 Final 2 Austin Harper
B Stock Randy Fulks CIK LO206 Final 2 Ricky Taylor
Cadet LO206 Final 1 Madison Wheatley Clone/LO206 Heavy Final 2 Andrew Boyer
CIK LO206 Final 1 Ricky Taylor Clone/LO206 Lite Final 2 Ricky Taylor
Clone/LO206 Heavy Final 1 Andrew Boyer Formula 100 Final 2 Patrick Olsen
Clone/LO206 Lite Final 1 Rob Hindery IAME Sprint Final 2 Nicholas Martin
Formula 100 Final 1 Patrick Olsen Junior Animal Final 2 Jordan Johnson
Formula 125 Brian Wilhelm Junior Enduro Final 2 Logan Nedelka
IAME Sprint Final 1 Nicholas Martin Junior LO206 Final 2 Devin Taylor
Junior Animal Final 1 Jordan Johnson Junior Sprint Final 2 Ella Brown
Junior Enduro Final 1 Logan Nedelka Open Sprint Final 2 Adam Myers
Junior LO206 Final 1 Dylan Amundsen Stock Honda Final 2 Stephen Flatt
Open Sprint Final 1 Jerry Revely TaG Heavy Final 2 John Brown
Stock Honda Final 1 Brian Fisher TaG Junior Final 2 Zander Taylor
TaG Heavy Final 1 Jason Lorang Unlimited Final 2 Brian Wilhelm
TaG Junior Final 1 Zander Taylor Vintage Final 2 Richard Charest
Unlimited Final 1 Darrin Cuthbertson WKA Sprint Final 2 Louie Magiera
Vintage Final 1 Robby Harper X30 Laydown Final 2 Gary Schenkel
WKA Sprint Final 1 Louie Magiera Yamaha Senior Final 2 Keith Freber
X30 Laydown Final 1 Gary Schenkel Yamaha Sportsman Heavy Final 2 Keith Freber
Yamaha Senior Final 1 Keith Freber Yamaha Sportsman Medium Final 2 David Lee
Yamaha Sportsman Heavy Final 1 Matt Michel Yamaha Sportsman Sprint Final 2 Dan Febbroriello
Yamaha Sportsman Medium Final 1 Matt Michel Yamaha Sprint Final 2 Dawn Magiera
Yamaha Sportsman Sprint Final 1 Dan Febbroriello
Yamaha Sprint Final 1 Dawn Magiera

Different Bodywork, Same Winner in Briggs 206

The CIK-only Briggs 206 class made its WKA debut at Daytona (Photo: EKN)

The 2017 season will see Briggs 206 racing as part of the Manufacturers Cup Series for the first time. The spec 4-cycle engine manufactured by Briggs & Stratton will be featured in both the Man. Cup and Gold Cup series for 2017. A CIK-only class has been instituted for both series, with Daytona KartWeek the inaugural event for the unique class. Last year, the standard Gold Cup 206 class was part of the Winter Cup, along with a Junior division, featuring 59 total drivers with 40 in the Senior class. The 2016 edition of Daytona KartWeek welcomed 32 competing for the victory each day.

Just like in 2015, everyone ended up chasing Florida driver Corey Towles. The Daytona facility is unlike any other, in that karts are only on the circuit once a year. This prevents racers the ability to go and test weeks ahead of time. With one full day of practice, racers need to be quick right out of the trailer to be competitive. Towles has plenty of laps around the Daytona kart track, winning both main events last year. In the same kart, swapping out the Gold Cup bodywork for CIK pieces, Towles nearly swept the weekend. With or without the draft, Towles was fast, setting fast time in Day 2 qualifying all alone with no drafting partner.

Weather, aside from Day 2, were very similar to that of 2015. Lap times were just a tick quicker in 2016 than last year with similar groupings from a year ago. So what does this mean? Karting – from the top level down to the club scene – is still about the driver. In order to be fast, the driver needs to hit his marks lap after lap with zero errors in order to be at the front. Towles did exactly that. If you watched him, his hands were smooth on the wheel going around the 10-turn course. The stopwatch doesn’t lie, with his lap times all within two tenths of each other in the 20-lap main event on Day 2. The ‘quicker’ and more consistent drivers were at the front of the field throughout the weekend. And that will never change no matter the bodywork style in Briggs racing. It will be interesting to see how this class unfolds throughout the year at the Winter Cup and Manufacturers Cup.

On the chassis side, it was all ‘Made in the USA’ for the top-five both days. The Comet Kart Sales Eagle kart was under Towles both days, including the two wins last year to make it four straight at Daytona in Briggs 206 competition. Five different brands made up Day 1 top-five, including MGM, Margay, the new Track Kart by Indiana Jeremy Warren and Keener Kart, another new chassis. Keener gained its first podium finish on Day 2 with Dustin Demattia while Zach Linsell gave MGM a second podium result of the event. Eagle (Michael Greiner) and Margay (Hunter Fox) kept the top-five an all-USA result.

New Faces at the Top of the Podium

KartSport North America’s Zane Maloney was among the first time winners in Daytona (Photo: EKN)

A number of drivers earned their first career WKA victories while at Daytona KartWeek. Day 1 saw three new winners with three added after Day 2 – all drivers in the Junior or Cadet ranks. Daytona is the first event for many of the graduating drivers, and among them was Pro IAME Junior winner Zane Maloney. Throughout 2016, the Barbados driver was among the contenders in the Cadet ranks. Day 1 in Daytona, the KartSport North America driver stayed out of trouble, was fast early in the day, and was able to break away in the main event for the victory in his Junior debut. Ashton Chilton (Tony Kart) and William Robusto (CompKart) scored their first wins in the top Cadet classes in Day 1. Michigan driver Elliott Budzinski (Tony Kart) made zero starts in Yamaha Junior competition last year, making the move over from the IAME class for the start of 2017. After coming up short on Day 1, Budzinski won a thriller on Day 2 for his first WKA triumph. Elio Giovane (Benik) and Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Kosmic) each took home their first Swift victories to start off the 2017 on top. With a number of drivers making the move to the next age level, we can expect to see a good amount of first time winners throughout the 2017 season.

New Format Helps Finish Day Under the Daylight

All nine classes got their full laps in each day before daylight disappeared in Daytona (Photo: EKN)

One of the issues at last year’s Daytona KartWeek, and very every year at the ‘World Center of Racing’ is daylight. With 10 classes in 2015, laps were cut once delays put the event behind schedule, and that was among the biggest complaints by the racers. This year, the two-heat and main event format was scratched for the Prefinal / Final structure. With only nine classes on the roster, the combination of the changes helped to save time. The Prefinal was scheduled for 12 laps with the Final 20, except for the Senior divisions which were put to 22. All of the races were completed to the full scheduled distance this year, finishing each day as the sun set behind the high banks of turn 1-2 of the NASCAR oval. The total number of laps for the event increased by 15% for all the classes, giving the racers more time on the track each day. It also provided a great challenge for the racers and tuners. The longer races made for different strategies. Those who set up for the kart to be quick early found themselves trying to hang on to the checkered flag. Those who set up for the long run, made late-race moves to advance their position for a chance at the win or the podium.

WKA got this change right as the day seemed to go by without any rush, or any major headaches. Competitors had plenty of time to wrench and enjoy themselves at the track, even those in multiple classes. It appeared to be there were less doing the double in the Junior and Cadet categories while at Daytona. We will see if this becomes more of a trend as the season goes on.

With the WKA Daytona KartWeek behind us, it officially kicks off the 2017 racing season. A busy winter scheduled will help us get through the cold months as EKN prepares for the 10th season of the Challenge of the Americas along with the first-ever Superkarts! USA Pro Tour WinterNationals.

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