Race Preview: WKA Daytona KartWeek 2019
Annual event to celebrate 45th anniversary at Daytona International Speedway
It was in 1974 that karts first hit the Daytona International Speedway with the World Karting Association making its inaugural trip to the Florida highbanks. 2019 marks the 45th anniversary of that event, with the WKA Daytona KartWeek taking place at the famed Daytona Beach, Florida facility on December 27-30. Hundreds of karters from all over North America and international will converge on the ‘World Center of Racing’ to compete in three events – the WKA Manufacturers Cup Series, the National Road Racing Series, and Dirt World Championships.
Road Racing was the only version of karting taken place at Daytona for KartWeek from 1974 to 1980. The Dirt event held its first race at the Memorial Stadium in 1981 with the Manufacturers Cup Series first racing inside the famed facility in 1982. It was not until 2002 that all three events were back in the Daytona Beach area. Since 2009, all three events have been held on the grounds of DIS, providing all forms of karters a chance to say they have won at Daytona.
The 1982 version of the Manufacturers Cup Series inside the Daytona International Speedway was rare night race on the backstraight of the 2.5-oval. A temporary circuit was built after the road racers were down competing during the day, and sprint racers battled under the lights. From 1983 to 2001, Man. Cup held events during the KartWeek dates in Jacksonville and Ocala. The 2002 edition of KartWeek put all three events together in Daytona as the Man. Cup competed for the first time inside the famed NASCAR oval with an infield course under turns 3-4. That has been the permanent home for sprint racers, and is the site for this year’s event.
WKA Daytona KartWeek marks a transition with the Manufacturers Cup Series program in terms of format and categories. The new format for 2020 is based around one main event for the weekend instead of two. Day 1 is practice and ends with qualifying. Day 2 is multiple rounds of progressive heat races, with Day 3 hosting the main events for each category. The new class structure is based around the new partnership WKA has formed with ROK Cup USA. All the core categories from that program are now part of the Manufacturers Cup Series – Micro ROK, Mini ROK, Junior ROK, Senior ROK, Master ROK, Shifter ROK, Shifter Master ROK. The 100cc Junior and 100cc Senior will combine the KA100 and VLR engines while Mini Swift, X30 Junior and Briggs 206 Cadet are the lone returning classes from 2019.
The pre-entry total since registration closed on December 10 is around the 170-mark. The largest categories heading into the event are Briggs 206 Cadet, 100cc Junior and 100cc Senior, with all three above 30 drivers. The top three in the championship from 2019 in Briggs 206 Cadet are back in Daytona. Champion Ben Maier leads a trio of Nitro Kart drivers Spencer Conrad and Christopher McKeithan in an effort to reclaim the top spots for 2020. Nitro Kart, which won the WKA Chassis Trophy for 2019, won all 12 main events in the class last year.
Four of the top five in last year’s KA100 Junior standings are among those entered in the new 100cc Junior category. 2019 champion Adam Maxwell (Top Kart), runner-up Westin Workman (CompKart), James Overbeck (Tony Kart) and Connor Zilisch (Tony Kart) lead the early favorites in the 31-driver field. 2019 Mini Swift champion Adam Brickley (OTK) is among the many young guns moving up from the Cadet levels and making their Junior debut in Daytona.
The 100cc Senior division is at 30, with more anticipated to enter trackside. One of the most notable entries in the class is IndyCar’s Santino Ferrucci. The former WKA champion last raced at the Daytona KartWeek in 2011 as a Junior karter at the age of 13. Ferrucci is working with Chris Rock Motorsports to pilot a Swiss Hutless in two categories, also racing in Senior ROK. The 100cc Senior field is full of contenders, including SKUSA SuperNationals 23 winner Pauly Massimino (Kosmic), three-time USPKS champion Brandon Jarsocrak (Kosmic), Comet Kart Sales’ Garrett Adams (FA Kart), Arie and Jake Venberg under the Franklin Motorsports tent that won with Brandon Lemke last year. A number of Junior drivers are moving up to Senior in Daytona, including Luca Mars (Redspeed) and Luke Lange (Redspeed).
One notable about the Manufacturers Cup event, two drivers will be racing three classes over the three days of competition. Connor Zilisch is set for all three Junior divisions while Parker DeLong will race all three Cadet categories. Some other notables that are racing but not on the entry list include Jamaican Alex Powell, Tony Kart factory driver Matheus Morgatto, and former SuperNationals winner Tyler Gonzalez.
As mentioned in the early portion of the preview, Road Racing at WKA Daytona KartWeek is the backbone of the event. The first group of racers took part in the inaugural event in 1974, taking to the then 3.8-mile course that including the oval and infield road course. Since then, only two times (2006 and 2010) have karters not hit the highbanks with a need for speed. Each year, hundreds of memories are made with karters checking off the bucket list item of racing at Daytona International Speedway.
Competitors at this year’s KartWeek continue racing around the 3.56-mile 24 Hours of Daytona road course, with the exception of driving straight through the bus-stop on the backstretch of the oval, and using the inner loop of the ‘International Horseshoe’. A total of 72 classes – a mixture of National Road Racing Series point classes and local option divisions – will compete over the two days. Day 1 is a full practice day with Day 2 and Day 3 fill of racing. Each day welcomes seven race groups competing in timed events, ranging from 15-minutes for Cadet, 30-minutes and 45-minute race groups.
The classes range from Cadet and Junior Briggs 206, which lap the circuit at roughly 3 minutes 15 seconds, to the Unlimited class clocking the circuit around the 1 minute 53 seconds mark. That lap was set last year by ‘Mr. Superkart’ Johnny West. Each year, a handful of drivers fight to complete the fastest lap of the event, ranging from Superkarts, to a 250cc laydown kart or twin-engine laydown packages. Numbers are over 200 drivers pre-registered with totals in entries to be above the 300-mark, and likely hit 400 after the event completes.
The four largest classes heading into the event include the Briggs 206 CIK class at 33 entries. IAME Sprint has 26, TaG with 22, and Yamaha Senior – which is a laydown class – at 19.
PDF of first event from the pages of World Karting magazine from WKA: WKA-World Karting-Feb 1975-Daytona KartWeek.
The 38th edition of the WKA Dirt World Championships will be held during Daytona KartWeek. It began in 1981 at Memorial Stadium, which was located east of DIS a few miles. It was held there until 1984 before moving to Volusia Speedway from 1985-1987. By then, the Municipal Stadium just west of Interstate 95 became the home of the event. Numbers were over 2500 entries by 1996 carried into the early 2000s. In 2006, with no KartWeek for road racing and Manufacturers Cup Series at DIS, the event for Dirt moved to Volusia Speedway for two years. In 2009, the Daytona Flat Track was constructed and available for WKA to utilize for the Dirt program, putting all three events at the DIS facility. WKA put an emphasis on preparing the track prior to the event the last two years and have given the best conditions ever according to racers.
Racers begin with Day 1 on December 27 with practice followed by two separate days of racing. December 30 is a rain date incase of inclement weather. Each day has 18 total classes racing. Seven of those classes are ‘warm-up’ races for the Pro categories later in the order. A total of nine classes will race for cash purse. Six have a $1,500 purse each day – Junior 1, Junior 2, Junior 3, Semi-Pro Heavy, Super Heavy, Senior Champ (1st-$800, 2nd-$400, 3rd-$300). A $2,000 purse is available in the Pro Stock Heavy and Pro Stock Medium (1st-$1,000, 2nd-$700, 3rd-$300). All Pro at the end of the day has a $5,000 purse (1st-$3,200, 2nd-$1,200, 3rd-$800). At the end of Day 2, the Maxxis All Pro Knock Out awards $1,500 to the winner. An ‘Australian Pursuit’ style event where the top-10 finishers from All Pro are inverted in a 20-lap race. The last kart every two laps is black flagged off until the final driver stands. If that driver is an All Pro winner, he receives a $500 bonus.
Be sure to follow worldkarting.com for more information along with their social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. If you are there, or watching the three events on Race-Monitor and want to post to social media, make sure to use #KartWeek