Dolian and Lawson Double Up During Battle at the Brickyard
USAC Karting hosts second event inside the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Jeff Dolian and Gary Lawson each took home two Brick trophies from this year's USAC Karting Battle at the Brickyard (Photo: Mark Schwigen / EKN)
For decades, many karters have enjoyed the annual Christmas break trip to Florida to compete on and within the Daytona International Speedway. The Florida facility is among the staples in the world of motorsports. The same can be said for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Racing Capital of the World – which situated in the city of Speedway, Indiana. As you drive up to the 109-year old facility, you can feel the history and the roar of the many cars that have raced around the 2.5-mile oval for over a century. For countless years, karters have always dreamt of one day competing at IMS and racing across the famed ‘yard of bricks’.
This dream became a reality in 2017 when USAC Karting organized and managed the inaugural Battle at the Brickyard. Last year’s debut event welcomed just over 300 entries to a temporary circuit that utilized part of the Indy GP course, a segment of Hulman Boulevard and access roads inside the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mike Burrell and his USAC team stepped up their game for year two, including a parade lap around the 2.5-mile oval for all competitors entered on the weekend Friday evening. This single lap was absolutely plastered all over social media and provided the race with tremendous exposure.
In total, the 2018 edition of the race welcomed 439 entries in categories featuring Briggs & Stratton, Yamaha, TaG and Shifters. The ‘Brick’ trophy, which was debuted last year, was awarded to the top three finishers in all categories. In addition, honoring the history of the Indianapolis 500, each race winner sipped on a glass bottle of milk while donning a ceremonial winner’s wreath after taking the checkered flag.
A pair of drivers enjoyed the victory experience twice on Sunday. Veteran racer Gary Lawson came back from ‘retirement’ to claim two victories, while Texas resident Jeffrey Dolian swept the two Margay Ignite divisions.
Lawson, a 25-time winner at the Rock Island Grand Prix, added two ‘Brick’ trophies to his mantel with sweeps in the Briggs 206 Medium and Briggs 206 Heavy. A total of 57 drivers lined up in the Medium category, all chasing Lawson. Clearing the field by six tenths of a second in qualifying, Lawson held off Canadian Marc Stehle (Ricciardo) in the heat race and then Zach Linsell (MGM) in the Prefinal to secure the pole position for the main event. KartSport North America driver Brandon Jarsocrak (Praga) jumped from fifth in the lineup to challenge Lawson and Stehle in the early going. Eventually, Stehle lost the lead duo, as Jarsocrak held the point. On the final circuit, Lawson used lapped traffic to work past Jarsocrak for the lead, reaching the checkered flag first. Stehle was caught by a group of karts on the final lap, with a wild last few corners allowing Garritt Powell (Arrow) to grab the third spot on the podium. Stehle ended up fourth with Rock Island Grand Prix Ignite winner Jordan Bernloehr (MGM) in fifth.
It was a similar run in the 206 Heavy category for Lawson, aboard his Comet Kart Sales Eagle chassis. Qualifying P1 on Friday, he worked past Eric Fagan (Vemme) on the final lap of the heat race for the win before edging Linsell to earn the Prefinal victory. After some opening lap shuffling in the Final, Lawson and Jarsocrak put themselves out front to fight for the win. Lawson once again secured the lead on the final circuit and held on to gain his second ‘Brick’ and a sweep of the Briggs 206 categories. Linsell beat out Fagan for the third spot on the podium, while KartSport North America’s Brandon Jones (Praga) placed fifth in his first Battle at the Brickyard.
The Margay Ignite program was huge once again at the Brickyard, welcoming 84 entries in their two categories, featuring drivers from around the country and the world, including Bermuda, Australia and New Zealand. Everyone was chasing Jeffrey Dolian on the weekend. The Texan’s first win came in the Masters division, fighting against Quincy Grand Prix winner Keith Scharf. Qualifying went to Scharf by 83 thousandths of a second on Friday. Nick Todtenhaupt jumped into the mix and grabbed second in the heat race, while Dolian took the win. Dolian led all 10 laps of the Prefinal with Michael Burton winning the fight for second. Scharf moved up to second at the start of the Final and helped to push Dolian away from the rest of the field fighting for third. The top two diced it up in the final laps, with Dolian scoring the victory over Scharf. Rock Island Grand Prix winner Pete Vetter knifed his way forward and came away with the third spot while Ryan Bettenhausen finished fourth with Todtenhaupt placing fifth.
The Senior category featured 48 drivers with Dolian at the top after qualifying, clearing the field by six tenths of a second. Todtenhaupt and Scharf joined him at the front in the Heat race, with Dolian taking the win. Dolian won the Prefinal with five drivers in the lead pack, including Avery Schwalm, who came up to grab second. Dolian led at the start of the Final, with a group of drivers close behind him. An issue in the hairpin mixed up the group and Hunter Richardson jumped into the lead for a lap. At the same time, Bermuda driver Scott ‘Skitchy’ Barnes continued knifing his way forward before reaching the lead group. Qualifying 21st on Friday, Barnes worked his way forward through the Heat and Prefinal races, eventually taking the lead on lap eight. Dolian put himself into second and the two finally got away from Richardson. On the final circuit, the lead duo took off the gloves to dice for the victory, with Dolian reaching the line first to earn his second ‘Brick’. Barnes was second, while Bettenhausen came from last in qualifying to finish on the podium in third. Rock Island Grand Prix winner Jordan Bernloehr was fourth with Richardson ending up fifth.
In total, five drivers were able to defend their victories from the inaugural Battle at the Brickyard last year. Among them was Brandon Jarsocrak in the IAME Senior category. Placing runner-up in both Briggs 206 classes, Jarsocrak earned a victory ‘Brick’ with a win over KSNA / Kart Republic teammate Jacob Donald. Jarsocrak took top time in qualifying (1:02.622), while Donald edged him out for the heat race win. The two continued to dominate in the Prefinal with Brandon taking the win and the pole position for the main event. From there, Jarsocrak went wire-to-wire in the 14-lap Final for the victory over Donald. The fight for third went down to the checkered flag with Trinity Karting Group’s Finnegan Bayliff (Tony Kart) earning the podium spot over Brad Brittin (Merlin) with Ben Varner (Birel ART) in fifth. Alex Conlin repeated victory in the KZ division. Conlin (Birel ART) led all weekend long, scoring the victory over Miles Miller (GP) and Tommy Plahitko (Praga).
Dakota Pesek and Ron Petersen repeated their victories in the Yamaha categories. Pesek won for a second time in the Yamaha Medium class. A penalty in qualifying dropped Pesek (Top Kart) down to 14th in the order, forcing him to work his way forward in the Heat and Prefinal. Pesek was up to third in the Heat race and won the Prefinal to complete the drive back to the front. A great battle with Jack Dorsey (Tony Kart) and Evan Stamer (Margay) in the Final ended with Pesek going from third to first on the final lap, winning by 77 thousandths of a second. Dorsey and Stamer crossed the line at the same time, down to the thousandths with Dorsey being awarded the runner-up spot. Eli Fox (Tony Kart) was fourth with Arie Venberg (Top Kart) fifth. Petersen completed a sweep of the Yamaha Masters division to earn a second straight ‘Brick’ trophy. Petersen (Tony Kart) was challenged by John O’Keefe (CRG) and Gary Monnett (Tony Kart), but never relinquished the point in the 14-lap Final. Jeremy McHone (Tony Kart) was fourth with Jason Ewers (TB Kart) coming from last to fifth.
Kaden Wharff was able to repeat his victory in the Yamaha Junior division, sweeping the action on the weekend. The Top Kart driver did not run away with the victory, as he was challenged in the main event by Mason Piper (FA Kart) and Timothy Steele (Top Kart). It came down a race to the checkered flag with Wharff winning at the line first by 16 thousandths of a second ahead of Piper, with Steele a close third. Ayrton Houk (FA Kart) was fourth and Sam Hinds (FA Kart) was fifth. A flat tire in the main event of IAME Junior stopped Wharff from a possible second ‘Brick’ on the weekend. Wharff was the top driver throughout the event, until a flat front tire put him on the sidelines after one lap in the Final. This allowed Trinity Karting Group driver Gavin Bayliff (Tony Kart) to score the victory, in a photo finish over Bryson Morris (FA Kart) by just 95 thousandths of a second. Annie Rhule (Energy) completed the podium in third with Adam Maxwell (Top Kart) in fourth.
It was an impressive run for Devon Smith-Harden in the Honda 125 Senior category, for his second career ‘Brick’ trophy. The Honda 80cc Senior winner from last year bested a solid field of 23 drivers, including current SKUSA Pro Tour S1 and S2 standouts. The TB Kart Indy driver edged out the field in qualifying with a 59.562-second lap. Former Indy Lights driver Jimmy Simpson (Sodikart) was off by 17 thousandths with Quincy Grand Prix winner Joe Ruch (DR Kart) a close third. Jamaican Collin Daley (DR Kart) was fourth and worked his way forward to grab both the Heat and Prefinal wins to earn the pole position for the main event. His DRT Racing teammate Josh Lane (DR Kart) grabbed the holeshot and led the opening circuit. He and Daley swapped the lead in the opening laps until Simpson took over the point. Smith-Harden followed through, working his way to second before taking over the lead on lap nine. Fast laps of the race (58.823) gave Devon enough room to breath, as Daley took over the second spot from Simpson. They remained that way to the checkered flag with Smith-Harden earning the big victory. Lane ended up fourth in his Battle at the Brickyard debut. The loudest cheering section went to Ruch, who fought his way from last to fifth after a mechanical issue put him out of the Prefinal.
Scott Falcone dominated the weekend in the TaG Masters division for his first ‘Brick’. Falcone went wire-to-wire from Friday qualifying to the final checkered flag, earning the victory by 4.7 seconds aboard his KartSport North America Formula K machine. Christopher Rock (Swiss Hutless) had to come from the tail of the 15-driver field in the Final after a broken reed put him on the sidelines in the Prefinal. Making quick work of the field, Rock ended up second with Michael Burton (Margay) completing the podium in third. Brian Benedict (Energy) and Don Guilbeault (DR Kart) rounded out the top-five.
The 125cc Masters was one of the most contested categories of the weekend, featuring a good mixture of KZ and Honda drivers in the 24-kart field. Lance Lane (DR Kart/KZ) had fast time in qualifying before AJ Noud (GP/KZ) took over for the Heat and Prefinal wins. Mark Nagy (DR Kart/KZ) led the opening six laps until Noud retook the position. Nagy retired with two laps remaining, giving Noud a clean run to the checkered flag for his first ‘Brick’. Lane came from last to second after a DNF in the Prefinal, with last year’s winner Stephen Flatt (Praga/Honda) placing third, the highest finishing Honda driver. Daniel Barth (Birel ART/KZ) was fourth while OVRP’s Tim Hannen was fifth.
Completing the shifter categories was the Honda 80cc Senior division. Zachary Schiff (TB Kart) dominated the event, leading every on-track session to earn his first ‘Brick’. Last year’s winner Devon Smith-Harden was second with Ayden Fisher making it a TB Kart 1-2-3. Luke Durrett was fourth with Cody Beck in fifth.
Steve Knight gave the Comet Eagle kart a third victory on the weekend, earning the triumph in Briggs 206 Masters. A large field of 47 drivers were chasing Knight all weekend long. While Knight led the category in each on-track session, it was not an easy task. The Final saw a lead group of six drivers, all trying to find a way past Knight. Despite a fight for second, they kept close to Knight to the very end. At the line, Knight edged out John O’Keefe by 23 thousandths of a second. Phillip Craver crossed the line in third, however, was removed from the results following tech. That put Jamie Bradford into the third spot over Jeff Scott and Jason Trennepohl.
Rounding out the Briggs divisions was the Briggs 206 Junior class, featuring 20 drivers. Kevin Lanyi had the top spot from Qualifying through the Heat and Prefinal until Alexander Searle took the lead in the Final, leading until the final lap when Elijah Skaggs took over the point to earn the victory. Lanyi ended up slipping past Searle for the second spot as well. Emily De Master was fourth, earning fast lap of the race, with Chase Whitney in fifth.
The Yamaha Heavy class was decided after the final checkered flag had waved. The category was a toss up with Arie Venberg (Top Kart) earning fast time, while Tony Petersen (Tony Kart) and Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) split the Heat and Prefinal wins. Pesek jumped out to the lead in the Final with Petersen in second. Contact was made on lap four, with Pesek clipping a wall and ending his race. Petersen led the remainder of the race to reach the line first as the provisional winner. Officials penalized Petersen behind Pesek in the final results, handing the win over to Blake Korth (FA Kart). Stamer was second with Fox in third. Jake Venberg (Top Kart) was fourth with Colton Aldridge (GP) in fifth.
For many, the Battle at the Brickyard has become the new ‘Super Bowl of Karting’. Racing inside the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the one race that club and regional racers will be saving and waiting for each and every year. USAC Karting has certainly put itself on the karting map with the event, and racers now have the ability to say they have crossed the ‘yard of bricks’ in their own kart. This unique one-off event is something you just have to experience for yourself, and as such, we expect the numbers to grow even more in 2019.