EKN Trackside: 2018 WKA Manufacturers Cup Series – New Castle Preview
Program hits fifth facility of season for penultimate event of championship chase
The World Karting Association season officially began in December 2017 with the annual Daytona KartWeek. Now roughly nine months out from that event, the Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup Series program continues toward crowning the 2018 season champions. The fifth event of the 2018 title chase is the Nitro Kart New Castle Motorsports Park Nationals, set for this weekend.
The New Castle, Indiana facility is among the most popular in North America, hosting Round 9 and 10 of the Manufacturers Cup Series championship program. Typically, events that travel to New Castle utilize the ‘National’ layout. This time, WKA and NCMP have elected to provide a new layout, featuring ‘40’ circuit, which measures out to roughly 0.86 miles. The layout eliminates the ‘Cell Tower’ section (turn 6,7,8,9, and 10). Rather, drivers will turn left at turn five, going directly to turn 11. From there, competitors travel through the ‘Scoreboard’ turn and set up to hit the ‘Monza’ section, typically reserved for Kid Karts. Through that section, drivers go to ‘I-70’ and travel down the ‘Long Pond Straight’, hitting the new ‘Bus Stop’ section before crossing the start/finish line.
This weekend’s action can be heard all weekend long through the EKN Live page of the website. From the Cooper Tire Broadcast Center, listen in to Eric Brennan as he provides the play-by-play coverage at www.ekartingnews.com/live. Daily reports and updates on the EKN Social Media network will fill your timeline throughout the weekend.
The IAME Senior point lead is in the hands of four time winner Austin Garrison. The Fullerton-USA driver has the benefit of knowing the other three race winners on the season are not competing for the championship. This weekend could clinch the title for the Florida native, with the points format counting the best 9 of the 12 rounds of racing. The only contender Garrison needs to keep an eye on is Colin Neal (MDD / Kosmic). Neal has three runner-up finishes in the last four rounds, however, has yet to reach the top step of the podium. He will have to beat Garrison both days for any chance to steal the title.
Things are a bit interesting now in the KA100 Senior division. Championship leader Blake Hunt has two things that recently happened to him which will effect his bid for the title moving forward. First, he moved over to the KartSport North America team again, now driving the Kart Republic. Second, he broke his collar bone due to an accident on his mountain bike. Hunt is utilizing rule 104.4.4 in the WKA Rulebook to use a replacement driver to continue his championship chase. It is something used before, including Brandon Lemke having now Red Bull Junior Team driver Neil Verhagen sub for him at the 2013 event in Pittsburgh. Hunt has called on veteran driver Brandon Jarsocrak to help maintain the championship lead. Emory Lyda (Merlin) is the top challenger, along with Taylor Stanford (CompKart) and Chase Carey (Tony Kart). None of them have yet to earn a victory in 2018 and will need to in order for a chance at stealing the crown from Hunt.
The IAME Junior division is the largest of the weekend at nearly 20 drivers. The title fight is more defined entering the final two events of the season. Josh Green (MDR / Kosmic) has put himself into the point lead thanks to three podium finishes in the last four rounds. The Round Six winner has a 130 point advantage over Round Five vicctor Kaden Wharff (Top Kart). Connor Ferris (Top Kart) has two runner-up results and no win, however, remains in the hunt. Round Three winner Tyler Ferris (Top Kart) and Matthew Duncovich (Kart Republic) also need a solid weekend to remain in the chase. A number of drivers are looking to spoil the party, including Round Four winner Luca Mars (Tony Kart), Caleb Bacon (CRG), Connor Zilisch (Tony Kart) and hometown hero Garrett Adams (FA Kart). A couple drivers are using the weekend to get a taste of Junior racing, moving up from Cadet – including Thomas Schrage (PCR) and SKUSA Pro Tour vice-champion Jace Park (Parolin).
Many of the same drivers are in the hunt for the Yamaha Junior title and victories on the weekend in New Castle. Kaden Wharff (Top Kart) five wins on the season, winning at least once at all four events, doubling up in July at Norway. Despite his success, Tyler Ferris (Top Kart) has kept things close with seven podium finishes in the eight races. Ferris has yet to cross the line first in any of the eight features, needing to finish ahead of Wharff to keep the chase close heading into the finale at GoPro. Round Six winner Luca Mars (Tony Kart), Garrett Adams (FA Kart), and Ian Quinn (FA Kart) are among the challengers on the weekend for the podium spots.
Four wins on the year have Brent Crews at the top of the standings in the Mini Swift category. Crews (Nitro Kart) has also won at all four events on the season, holding a sizable lead over Florida driver Jeremy Fletcher (Kart Republic). Annie Rhule (Energy) grabbed her first victory of the season at Norway and followed it up with a career first podium at the SKUSA SummerNationals at New Castle. Round Three winner Thomas Annunziata (Nitro Kart) will try to capture that winning magic once again in what should be a competitive weekend for the category.
Danny Dyszelski (Parolin) and Annie Rhule (Energy) have a great battle going in the Yamaha Sportsman standings. Dyszelski holds the advantage by 155 points thanks to his six straight victories, while Rhule has been right there fighting for each of the wins. Her six podium results allow her to stay in the hunt, needing to reach the top step for the first time this season to keep in the chase. Brent Crews (Nitro Kart), Adam Brickley (Nitro Kart) and Logan Adams (Benik) will be fighting for the victories all weekend as well.
At Norway, Ben Maier jumped back to his winning ways in the Micro Swift category. Maier (Nitro Kart) has six wins in eight rounds, doubling up at Norway after getting shut out in Pittsburgh. His point lead is now 475, looking to lock up the title this weekend if possible. Miles Murray (Nitro Kart) is the top challenge in second, earning his first podium finish of his career at Norway. Hoyt Mohr (Nitro Kart) has not made it to the steps this year, needing two podium results to keep himself inside the top-three of the standings. Adam Brickley (Nitro) and Cameron Myers (Margay) are among those searching for podium finishes.
The Briggs 206 Cadet class, set to be a championship category in 2019, is running on the weekend at New Castle and GoPro. Eight drivers are currently entered, giving some a third class to compete in, including Crews, Dyszelski, and Brickley.
Only 40 points separate the top two in the Kid Kart standings. Chase Groh remains at the top of the standings with Beckham Lewis closing up the gap after Norway with a double win weekend. The two have combined for five of the six race wins on the season. Hudson Floyd currently sits third in the standings with Colton McQuade fourth and the third-different winner Sam Tutwiler in fifth. All five are among the 13 drivers entered on the weekend.