Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals II Nears 200 Drivers
Second annual event at New Castle Motorsports Park brings grassroots racers together
The weekend of September 28-30 hosted the second annual Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals, held at the New Castle Motorsports Park. The New Castle, Indiana facility welcomed drivers from all across North America, including Canada, from as far as Oregon and as far south as Florida. A solid seven classes welcomed nearly 200 drivers – all competing with the Briggs & Stratton 206 powerplant – for what was a great weekend battle in all categories to be crowned the Grand Nationals winner. The format saw each class take on the 1-mile circuit for qualifying, lining them up for three rounds of heat races. Those results set the grid for the Sunday morning Prefinal before the champions were crowned in the Final. Drivers stood next to their karts for the National Anthem, and series announcer Dave Macentyre announced each drivers name as they took their place behind the wheel of their machines. The buildup was intense, but the front drivers showed no signs of nerves with the seven drivers scoring victory at the Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals II
The largest class of the weekend featured 47 competitors. Four-cycle legend Gary Lawson (Comet) took pole position by a convincing 0.182 seconds from Colin Warren (VLR). The heat races were a sight to see, with karts nose to tail forming incredibly large lead packs. Besides Lawson and Warren, who both won heat races, Jordan Bernloehr (MGM), Mathew Mockabee (Comet), David Vasquez (VLR), David Kalb (FA), and Marc Stehle (Ricciardo) were in constant pursuit in each of the three heat races.
Mechanical failures plagued some of the top runners of the CIK Prefinal. Bernloehr and Vasquez, whom had been challenging for the lead in each of Saturdays heats, both had mechanical issues that caused them not to complete the race, relegating them to the back of the pack for the upcoming Final race. Lawson again lead Warren at the line by only 0.055, while Mockabee, Stehle, Brendan Baker (CRG) and Hunter Fox (Margay) followed just over four seconds behind the leaders.
The field of 47 drivers, the largest CKNA has ever started in one race took the green flag in the most highly contested class of the weekend. All 47 drivers made it through the high speed first few corners, and the race was on. However, lap two was not so smooth for many of the drivers. Two separate incidents on the lap caused a red flag, in which six drivers were not able to continue.
After the single file restart; Lawson, Mochabee, Warren, Kalb and Steven Kilsdonk (MGM) made up the top 5. Warren did not waste any time, passing Mockabee for second at the first opportunity. By the midpoint of the race, Sarah Luoma (Keener) had joined the battle for third behind Mockabee and Kilsdonk while Lawson and Warren pulled away ever so slightly each and every lap.
With four laps to go, the pace really picked up. And while everybody had been watching Lawson try to pull away from Warren, a new kart had joined the four-kart pack trying to settle out who would finish third. Vasquez started near the rear of the field in 38th position, but now was challenging for a spot in the top-five. He quickly sliced his way by Kilsdonk, Luoma and Kalb and finished fourth.
The final two laps between Warren and Lawson were simply breath taking. After the two had finished playing follow the leader for 14 laps, the time had come for Warren to make his move. While each giving each other just enough room, they passed back and forth at least six times on the final lap coming to the last corner where Warren had the edge over Lawson. Lawson dipped his head as they came out of the corner in Warrens draft and pulled out half way to the checkered flag. And in the closest Final of the weekend, Lawson edged Warren out by only 34 thousandths of a second to take the National Championship.
In a class packed full of former national four-cycle champions, Colin Warren (VLR) took pole position by an incredible half a second, the largest margin in any qualifying session all weekend. This speed stayed throughout the heats, with Warren comfortably ahead of Ryan Cassity (Coyote), who placed second in each heat race closely followed by Scott Kleman (Coyote), Sarah Luoma (Keener), Jesse Clossey (Coyote) and Dylan Amundsen (Ionic Edge) who made up the next positions.
Warren won all three heat races in a comfortable manner and continued leading in the Prefinal. Luoma had started in second place, but was quickly shuffled back to fourth by veterans Casity and Kleman. With two laps to go, Luoma put her head down and passed both drivers back with two laps to go to retake the second place honors heading into the feature race.
The Senior Medium Final started just like each race had all weekend. Warren got out to an early lead while Cassity, Kleman and Luoma battled for second place. Kleman and Luoma swapped back and forth for second place at least six times throughout the race with Cassity and AJ Roderick (Comet) in close pursuit. Joining the battle towards the end of the race was Wishard, Clossey, and Riley Scott (Ionic Edge) whom had started much further back in the field.
In the end, the Colin Warren show continued with more than a straightaway lead over second place finisher Kleman. Luoma was a very close third place followed by Casity, who held onto fourth place for nearly the entire race.
In some of the closest racing of the weekend, top qualifier Jim Lipari (Coyote) lead the majority of the heat races, while Grant Zimmermann (Arrow) and Connor Lund (MGM) rode second and third. The second heat both were able to sneak by Lipari, relegating him to third position.
Lipari lead the first eight laps of the Prefinal, closely followed by Zimmermann and Lund. On lap nine, Lund made his move on Lipari in an incredibly close pass in the fastest corner on the track, earning him the right to start from the pole position for the feature race.
As usual, the Senior Heavy class showed everybody how it is supposed to be done. After a clean start, drivers fell inline with each other and began logging laps behind leader Lipari. On lap 5, Lund saw an opportunity and by the narrowest of margins passed Lipari for the lead right in front of the grandstands. Four laps later, Zimmermann and Justin Wishard (Coyote) followed suit relegating Lipari back to fourth place.
The battle for second had given Lund only about a one second cushion over second place, which was the largest gap the class had seen all weekend. Zimmermann quickly shaved three tenths off of his time, and began pressuring Lund four the lead while fellow Coyote drivers Lipari and Wishard battled for third. Coming to the white flag, Zimmermann had timed the draft just right to try and pass Lund going into turn one. Zimmermann was able to get his nose inside of Lund but couldn’t quite complete the pass. Both drivers were side by side for the next three corners showing true sportsmanship and skill. In the back section of the track, Zimmermann was able to finally complete the pass on Lund. The multi-time RIGP winner Lund tried two more times to get along side Zimmermann, but was unable to do so and had to settle for second place. Zimmermann was crowned the champion over Lund with Lipari completing the podium.
The Masters drivers did exactly what you would expect, running competitive and clean all day long. Top qualifier and RIGP winner Jeff Scott (Ionic Edge) won the first two heat races ahead of Steven MacVoy (Ricciardo), James VanDerzee (Comet), Jamie MacArthur (K&K) and Chuck Maitlen (MGM). In the third heat, Series Champion Michael Welsh (MGM) found the tweaks needed take himself to the front in the third heat race.
The top four in Masters continued to put on a show in the Prefinal Sunday morning. Lap after lap; Scott, MacVoy, VanDerzee and Welsh went nose to tail around the entire track. Although many passing attempts were made, none of the drivers put a tire wrong and the four finished in the same order they started in at the end of the race.
Only two drivers had what it took to lead the Masters division in the Final. The first of them was Scott, whom lead the first six laps before Welsh passed him on lap 7. The top-six were never separated by more than about a second throughout the race, including the VanDerzee brothers, MacAvoy and Jerry Miller (MGM).
After being passed by Welsh, Scott rode in second place for the majority of the race until he and MacAvoy got together, ending both of their weekends. This gave both Justin and James VanDerzee the situation I am sure they had hoped for; a true teammate to try and work together with in the final lap! The two of them made up a lot of ground on Welsh in the final lap, but never got close enough to make the attempt. Welsh earned the victory with James Vanderzee in second and Justin VanDerzee in third.
The Junior drivers showed incredible skill all weekend. Series regular Will Holtz (Ionic Edge) took pole from Kevin Lanyi (Ionic Edge) by 0.128 seconds. Holtz would go on to win the first heat, but Lanyi found speed throughout the day and took the top spot in the second and third motos. Bryson Morris (Comet) and Elijah Skaggs (Ionic Edge) also made appearances in the top-three positions in the heats.
The Junior Prefinal had the usual suspects up front again. Lanyi lead the entire race from wire-to-wire, with Holtz, Morris, Searle and Skaggs finishing five seconds back after jostling for positions many times throughout the race. Series champion Emily DeMaster (MGM) joined the action on Sunday as well. Having a provisional starting spot of 10th guaranteed for Sunday’s Final, she started in the rear of the Junior field for the Pre-final. After going from 30th to 8th, she improved her guaranteed spot she had earned in the Champions Cup series.
The Junior Final was just as impressive with four different drivers leading a lap and nine lead changes throughout the Final. Morris lead the opening two laps, but slid back to fourth after being passed by Skaggs. Two laps later, Searle – who had started in the third row – took the lead with Lanyi in the mix the entire time. For the next few laps, although the drivers passed each other many times, it was still Searle, Lanyi, Morris and Holtz every time at the line.
With six laps to go, Lanyi made his move and took the lead. The shuffle in positions also allowed DeMaster to catch the top-five and pass Holtz for fourth place. The top-three slowly pulled away at this point, and the positions remained unchanged until there were only two laps remaining. Coming to the white flag, Morris had taken the led from Lanyi in the back section of the track with Searle closely behind him. The three were nose to tail to begin the final lap of the race. After a few good attempts, Searle was able to put the winning move on Morris in the middle section of the track, and held onto the place for the remainder of the lap to take the victory. Lanyi nearly retook second pace, but fell only 36 thousandths short behind Morris.
The heat races featured hard fought battles between home track hero Logan Adams (Comet) and three of the series regulars; Aryton Grimm (Nitro), top qualifier Cayden Fretwell (Bandit), and Cale Zimmermann (Tony Kart) with Adams leading the majority of the laps in all the heat races. Sportsman
After a red flagged opening lap that took a few of the front runners out of the race, Zimmermann took the victory in the Prefinal in a photo finish over Adams by 20 thousandths of a second. Danny Dyszelski (OTK) and Cameron Weinberg (Razor) made improvements overnight and were able to stay within a half second of the leaders to round out the lead pack of karts.
The first class to take to the track and name a Grand Nationals champion was the Sportsman class. Shortly after the first lap had completed, Zimmermann passed Adams for the lead. Adams quickly mounted a comeback, and passed Zimmermann back in the fastest corner of the track. Unfortunately some contact was made during the pass, relegating Zimmermann back to fifth place. Adams was issued a position penalty during the race by head flagman Jason Burgess. Adams quickly served his penalty by letting five drivers by him, falling back in line behind Zimmermann.
This gave Weinberg the lead closely followed by Grimm. But by lap 9, Adams and Zimmermann had worked together to get back to the front and were pressuring the top two positions. The pair was able to sneak by Grimm for second, and two laps later retook the lead from Weinberg. This set the stage for a three lap shootout for the win between Zimmermann and Adams, who had the only kart equipped with CIK bodywork in the top-10. After multiple overtakes between the drivers in the closing two laps, Zimmermann could not get around Adams at the line. The gap was just 97 thousandths with Adams earning the victory over Zimmermann, while Grim was a close third.
The smallest class of the weekend still had exciting racing. Jacob Schiable (Emmick) set pole and won each of the three heat races with Justin Bolen (DR) closely behind. Third place was a constant battle between Summit Rossiter (Top Kart) and Mason Brown (Top Kart), with Rossiter placing just ahead of Brown in 2 of the 3 heats.
Schiable again lead every lap of the Prefinal. Audrina Rowe (Ionic Edge) and Brown had worked there way up to second and third, but had issues throughout the race put Bolen and Rossiter back up to second and third respectively.
The Kid Karters provided a great race to watch as well. Although Shiable drove off and maintained a comfortable gap to the field the entire race, Rossiter and Bolen had a hard fought battle for second place while Brown and Miller tried to settle it out for fourth. After all the laps were competed, Bolen maintained his edge over Rossiter by only six tenths of a second to take second place, with Schiable winning by a comfortable 10-second margin.
The third edition of the Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals is set for one week later on October 4-6, 2019 at the New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle, Indiana.