2019 USAC Karting Battle at the Brickyard – Event Preview
Third edition to set entry record inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway
This week, the United States of America is celebrating Independence Day, more commonly known as the ‘Fourth of July’. Families will be taking time off work to spend time with family and friends, either camping at the lake or traveling the country. For karters, it is a chance to compete inside one of the most iconic landmarks in the country, if not the world. USAC Karting is hosting the third edition of the Battle at the Brickyard event, which is held inside the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Speedway, Indiana will welcome karters from all over North America for a three-day event that has quickly become one of the largest races in the country.
For three days, karters will contest a roughly 1-mile course set inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track consists of sections of the Formula One and Indy GP road course, along with 7th Street and Hulman Drive access roads. The fireworks begin on July 4 with teams and competitors moving inside the famed IMS to set up for the weekend. Friday hosts three rounds of practice before the categories are broken up for qualifying sessions. At the end of the day, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will invite all competitors to take a pace lap around the 2.5-mile oval. Last year was the first ‘Lap Across the Bricks’ for karts and it is expected to be another favorite among the many competitors in attendance this year. A Heat race and Prefinal on Saturday will set the stage for the main events on Sunday. A full schedule can be found HERE.
The USAC Karting Battle at the Brickyard is made up of 17 classes, combining a mixture of speed and makes. The event has become a grassroots ‘SuperNationals’ with the Briggs & Stratton 206 powerplant divisions being the largest of the event. Of the 439 entries last year, nearly 60% were powered by the Briggs 206 engine and similar numbers expected in those classes in 2019. The pre-entry list for this year’s event is just shy of last year’s record total, and the final count is expected to surpass that number with walk-up entries coming in on Thursday and Friday.
A total of four classes topped the 40-entry mark last year, and four are already at that level prior to the weekend. Briggs 206 Medium and Heavy lead the way in total number of entries with 45 and 41, respectively. The categories set marks of 57 and 50 in 2018. Ironically, the same driver who topped the charts last year will be defending his 2018 race wins – Comet Kart Sales’ Gary Lawson. The Rock Island Grand Prix ‘Emperor’ (with 25 wins) grabbed his first two at Indy in his first start at the Brickyard aboard the shop’s Comet Eagle chassis, matching the sweep that KartSport North America’s Eric Jones completed at the inaugural event.
The other double winner from the 2018 edition of the Brickyard was Jeff Dolian, who was victorious in both Margay Ignite categories. Margay Ignite Senior is currently at 40 entries with Masters featuring 30 drivers, all trying to knock Dolian off the top spot in 2019 – who just swept both main events at the recent Quincy Grand Prix. Dolian will be busy, racing four classes on the weekend as he will contest both Briggs 206 Medium and Heavy as well. The Ignite Senior class has both winners of the class competing with Canadian Charlotte Lalonde making a return to Indy. The most notable entry has made four starts in the big show – the Indianapolis 500 – with a best finish of ninth in 2017. Gabby Chaves loves returning to his roots of karting, and is set to make his first start at the USAC Karting Battle at the Brickyard. Chaves won the Margay Ignite race in Daytona back in 2017 and competed in 2018 as well. Double Daytona winner Evan Stamer is also in the field.
The fourth division to reach the 40-driver mark is Briggs 206 Masters, just seven short of its total in 2018. Steve Knight made it three-for-three on the Comet Eagle chassis last year, winning in a photo finish over John O’Keefe. All three podium finishers, including third-place Jamie Bradford, are back in 2019.
Joining the Masters field for their first starts at the USAC Karting Battle at the Brickyard are EKN’s own Rob Howden and David Cole. A gap in the Trackside Live schedules for both have allowed the karting enthusiasts and journalists the opportunity to compete inside the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both will battle aboard identical Comet Eagle packages from Comet Kart Sales on the weekend. Howden is going ‘all-in’, competing in the Margay Ignite Masters class, as well as making a debut aboard his Mike Birdsell-built 1982 Margay Xpert II in the Vintage exhibition class.
There are five drivers who have gone two-for-two in their respective categories – Dakota Pesek (Yamaha Medium), Kaden Wharff (Yamaha Junior), Ron Petersen (Yamaha Masters), Alex Conlin (KZ) and Brandon Jarsocrak (IAME Senior). None of these drivers are pre-registered and we believe none will be defending their race wins.
The KZ category is among the most improved in terms of numbers with the majority of the Honda 125cc Senior drivers moving over to the KZ Senior class. Among those is two-time Brick winner Devon Smith-Harden. A winner in Honda 80 in 2017, the Harden Motorsports Group driver won the Honda 125cc Senior class a year ago. ‘Wild Thing’ Josh Lane and Quincy Grand Prix 2018 winner Joe Ruch are among the contenders in the 16-driver field heading into the weekend.
The Yamaha divisions have been condensed into one – Yamaha Senior – with 14 drivers registered. Former RIGP winners Michael Dittmer, Pete Vetter and Michael Welsh stand out, along with veteran Brandon Adkins. The Yamaha Junior class will welcome a new winner as Wharff will not be on-track to defend his previous two victories. A total of 18 drivers are registered to fight for the victory. Junior racing at the Brickyard has expanded in 2019 with a total of four categories for the younger drivers. Briggs 206 Junior returns for a third straight year, with 2018 race winner Elijah Skaggs set to defend his victory over a 23-driver field. Margay Ignite Junior and KA100 Junior make their first appearances at the Brickyard, with totals of 12 and 15 entries set to be part of the inaugural fields. KA100 Junior replaces the spot of the IAME Junior class for 2019.
With Brandon Jarsocrak not scheduled to compete on the weekend, the IAME Senior class is open for a new winner to take home the Brick trophy and taste the milk. Seventeen drivers are set to battle, including top-finishers from last year like Finnegan Bayliff, Brad Brittin, and Ben Varner. Gavin Bayliff, the IAME Junior winner last year, will join his Trinity Karting Group brother in the Senior battle this weekend. Add in Florida’s Colin Warren, Matthew Mockabee, and Franklin Motorsports’ Nicholas Terlecki to the mix, so the class should be a good show all weekend.
In addition to the Briggs Masters racing, there are four other categories for the elder karters. KZ Masters (8) and Honda 125cc Masters (5) provide two options for shifterkart drivers with the IAME Masters class increasing from last year, up to 20 drivers. Yamaha Masters is at 14 entries and Honda 125cc Senior (5) completes the class roster.