Race Report: Cup Karts North America – Michiana Raceway Park
Cup Karts North America keeps on rolling. Their Champions Cup points series returned to North Liberty Indiana’s Michiana Raceway Park boasting a field of nearly 200 entries for Saturday and Sunday competition!
Going into the weekend, the weather looked bleak. Heavy rains had pounded the region for the days prior, and the race weekend looked no different. But as CKNA events run rain or shine, the competitors filed into the historic venue for Friday morning practice in droves to prepare for the weekend.
By the time Saturday’s preliminary races began, rain gave way to high temps and humidity the racers however were unphased. Hard fought battles in nearly every class truly displayed the level of competition in the series as well as the level playing field the Briggs 206 package offers. But just as the final class took to the track in round 2 of heat races, the skies turned black.
No more than five minuets after the class had exited the track, the skies opened. And even though the storm brought rain and hail nearly 1/2 inch in size, the storm quickly cleared, and Saturday’s final races began only 30 min behind schedule!
First up was the NSEW Sportsman Class. The field of 15 young drivers had battled hard all day, lead by Top Qualifier Cale Zimmermann (5) and Blake Boon (22). These two had fought hard all day, with driver had taken wins in the earlier heat races. The stage was set for a great battle to the top step on the podium. After a tightly contested first two laps, Boon slowly opened up a small gap to Zimmermann which he was never able to overcome as he spent the majority of the race being closely pursued my Cade Jaeger (64) for the entire race. When the checkered flag flew, Boon took the win, followed by Zimmermann and Jaeger.
Race 2 featured CKNA’s newest class, the Zamp Helmets CIK Masters division. Newcomer to the series Eric Heling (52) topped the qualifying session by 0.013 from series regular Jason Trennepohl (9). Through the heats, many drivers were able to work their way up through the pack including Matt Skaggs (101), Tim Stiefel (5), Tim Huss Jr. (39) who had qualified third, fourth and fifth respectively. The opening lap of the feature was a tough one for the middle of the field. Five drivers were involved in a turn two incident, which spread out the field. However, Skaggs and Helling were leading the train and were unaffected and put a comfortable gap between them and the battle for third between Trennephol and Huss Jr. In the final lap, Helling put the pressure on Skaggs, getting alongside him three separate times. However, Skaggs held his ground and took the win followed by Helling and Huss Jr.
Next was the Kart City Senior Medium Class. And although this was one of the smaller classes on the weekend, the level of race craft was impressive to watch. Young gun Kevin Lanyi (83) had taken pole from away from Hall of Famer Ryan Cassity (53) in the final lap of qualifying. Undeterred, Cassity struck back in just the second lap of the first heat to pass Lanyi, and they ran first and second through the remainder of the heats. When the time for the feature had come around, you could tell Lanyi was ready for the task. He jumped out to an early lead of over two seconds as Cassity battled with Brandon White (39) for second in the opening corners. The veteran put his head down and was back to Lanyi’s bumper by lap four. When the half way signal was given to the leaders, Cassity decided it was time to go. Through turns one, two and three, you could see Cassity building up a run towards a turn four pass which he was able to stick and make cleanly. While all of this was going on, the battle for third was heating up. On lap 9, Trenton Frederick (5) gets out of shape going into turn 6. This caused White to take some impressive evasive action through the grass, which spread the remainder of the field. In the final lap Lanyi attempted to return the favor with the same maneuver Cassity had used on him, but Cassity was too far ahead to complete the pass, and Cassity took the win followed by Lanyi and Kyla Anderson (05)
The Kid Karters had a lot to race for on Saturday. Not only were the normal points up for grabs, but class sponsor Trudell Performance had upped the ante by offering a new Zamp helmet to the day’s winner. That was all young Audrina Rowe (81) needed to hear. Not only did she lead every lap in the heats, but she fought off an early challenge from Summit Rossiter (23) in the opening laps of the feature to secure the win and brand-new helmet. Rossiter finished second followed by Grayson Walcott (44) and Hudson brown (14) who had their own close race for third.
The Viking Kart Products Junior Class was up for grabs all day. Nearly half the field had shown the pace throughout the day to win, and it was truly anybody’s race. At the start of the feature, the outside row worked well together to get a great push which made for a hair-raising start. The skill of these young drivers shined through, and all drivers made it through the first lap unscathed. By lap three, a four-kart breakaway separated the field, lead by James Overbeck (48) and closely followed by Will Holtz (43), Camden Gruber (24) and Jacob Bolen (25). Holtz who had battled his way up from a fifth place qualifying result passes Overbeck going into turn one on the fifth lap, and Gruber followed pushing Overbeck back to third place. Just one lap later Overbeck looks to the inside of Gruber in turn 6 forcing them both to the outside of the track. This allowed Bolen to secure second place, but only for a few corners. Overbeck retakes the position from Bohlen and sets his sights on Holtz. With three laps to go, Overbeck passes Holtz and again, and Gruber follows him through. All the tight racing did attract the attention of race officials, requiring the to issue position penalties for avoidable contact. The official top 3 was Gruber, Holtz and Logan Graham (15).
The Coyote Motorsports Senior Medium Class features some of the best drivers in the Midwest. The field spent the day being led by Justin Wishard (20). Wishard and Grant Zimmermann (08) had nearly 2 tenths on the field the entire day. When it came time for the final, this trend continued, and the two drivers stretched an early lead over the third place battle between Jim Lipari (24), Conor Lund (21) and Josh Davis (124). Wishard again lead every lap until the white flag flew, and Zimmermann showed his hand. Although Wishard had lead every lap of the day, Zimmermann lead the final one and took the win over Wishard. Lipari came across in a comfortable third.
In the biggest class of the weekend, racing was tight all over the track in CIK Senior. 33 entries usually makes for incredible racing throughout the field, and stats that test even the best drivers. This weekend was no exception. Top runners Marc Stehle (34) and Jesse Clossey (0) got the worst of a turn 1 incident in the opening lap, taking them out of contention for the day. Eric Fagan (35) lead the pack while Scott Kleman (92) and Jordan Bernloehr (27) followed directly behind. Bernloehr was able to squeeze by Kleman in the high-speed turn 3, which also allowed Chris Carol (12) and Josh Stiefel (19) to join the battle. The five karts gapped the field by just over a second, with little to no passing attempts until just one lap remained. Bernloehr looked to the inside of turn 1 and was able to squeeze past Fagan, only to be repassed back in turn 5. Just three corners later, Bernloehr and Fagan are wheel to wheel going into the downhill turn 8 where they make contact causing an unexpected shuffle of the top 5. Steifel navigated the situation the best, promoting him to his first CKNA victory, and after a few position penalties were handed out for avoidable contact, Kleman earned a 2nd place finish and Carol finished third.
Sunday brought a new day of racing, and cooler and drier conditions. It was in the low 70’s, sunny, and one of those days we all hope to be at a race track.
The Sportsman battle between Zimmermann and Boon remained as highly contested as it had the day before. Boon qualified on pole and lead each of the two heat races until the final lap where Zimmermann passed him to take the win. When it came time for Sundays feature race, Zimmermann wasted no time and jumped out to an early lead. This time however the tables were turned, and Boon was right where he wanted to be when the white flag came out. He was able to pass Zimmeramnn just past the white flag and secured the win for the day. Zimmermann finished second and Jaeger finished third.
Masters saw many of the same names running up front as well. Heling again took the pole position and earned the right to start upfront. However, a mechanical issue on the parade lap of the first heat would force him to retire before the green flag even flew which forced him to work his way back through heat 2 and the feature. The feature saw five karts closely battling for the lead through the first third of the race. Unfortunately, Trennepohl was forced to retire on lap 5 leaving Steifel, Skaggs, Huss Jr and Heling to battle it out. Skaggs and Huss Jr traded the lead back and forth a few times through the course of the race, but three laps to go, Steifel started his charge passing Skaggs and eventually Huss Jr in the final corners of the race to earn the win.
The Kid Kart division provided such great entertainment that the fence was just as full of spectators as any of the other classes. Saturday’s winner Rowe again took the pole position in qualifying, but Rossiter was not to be ignored. Rossiter took the lead early in the first heat race, and won both heats prior to the feature race. In the feature, Rowe squeaked by Rossiter on lap 3 in the infield. Rossiter stepped up the speed and began running Rowe back down but spun out in the process relegating him to a fourth place finish. Brown finished third and Walcott finished fourth.
Junior was as close of racing as it was the day before in each and every round of heats. Polesitter Skaggs and Overbeck broke away early in the feature. Lap 4 was the first pass for the lead when Overbeck got to the inside of Skaggs. The two evenly match drivers battled back and forth, and Skaggs retook the lead with just two laps to go. On the white flag lap, Overbeck got to the inside of turn 7, and ended up drag-racing Skaggs to the exit. It was a great battle, but Skaggs was awarded the victory, placing Overbeck in second and Graham in third after a position penalty was assessed.
The level of competition stepped up in the Senior Heavy class on Sunday. Zimmermann took the pole position away from Wishard and Lipari by a margin of only .028 seconds. Both Lipari and Zimmermann traded wins in the heat races, setting up for a close battle in the feature. Zimmermann lead the first four laps of the feature but was passed by Lipari who took the win by an extremely close margin over Zimmermann and the late charging Lund.
The final race of the weekend was the CKT Senior CIK Medium Class. Kleman had earned the RLV fastest qualifier honors by a convincing 0.167 seconds over Fagan. The feature was a race full of passing and hard racing. Fagan had dropped back to fifth place in the opening laps Carol, Wishard and Clossey to the front of the pack behind Kleman. One by one, Fagan picked his way back through the field and reached his back bumper with just 3 laps to go. The next lap, Fagan looked to the inside of turn 1 and was able to pass Kleman for the lead. Kleman nearly lost 2 positions in the pass as Stehle whom had DNF’d in the first heat had worked his way back through the pack and was now in third place. As Stehle and Kleman battled over the second position, Fagan snuck away and reached the Checkered flag just ahead of Kleman in second and Stehle in third.
All in all, it was an excellent weekend of racing. The formula of an extremely close engine package, top notch drivers and a well-maintained facility like MRP did not disappoint.
CKNA’s schedule takes the next handful of weekends off, as many of their racers wanted to compete in the Quincy Grand Prix and Battle of the Brickyard. Their next scheduled race brings the series back to Dousman, Wisconsin and the Wolf Paving Raceway – home of the Badger Kart Club – on July 13-14. Make sure you stay tuned, as organizers are promising a special promotion specifically focused towards the youth racers in 4-cycle racing!