2020 USAC Karting Battle at the Brickyard – Event Preview
Fourth edition of the largest club race in the USA returns to IMS
Karts will once again venture inside the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend as USAC Karting hosts the fourth annual Battle at the Brickyard. This event is the lone opportunity for karters to compete inside one of the most iconic landmarks in the world in terms of motorsports. A record total of 459 entries will compete inside the legendary grounds in Speedway, Indiana for what has become the largest club race in the United States.
To say the 2020 season has been challenging is an understatement. Add in the recent COVID-19 guidelines set by the state of Indiana, the USAC Karting staff has been working overtime to ensure the event is conducted as safe as possible, providing competitors with all of the latest information available to keep with social distancing requirements within the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Among the changes was the date, moved off the July 24-26 weekend to July 31-August 2 due to the adjustment of the Speedway schedule. With the change comes an adjustment to the track, which utilizes portions of the IndyGP course and access roads to create a 10-turn, roughly 1-mile course. The change from previous years is the ‘bus stop’ section that crept out close to edge of the 2.5-mile oval. Two-seater IndyCar rides throughout the weekend are keeping the walls up and thus an adjustment to that section was needed.
Also changed is the location of the paddock. For the first three editions the infield of turn 3 was the paddock. Now, the paved area along Harroun straight where the USAC .25 event was located in years past has become the paddock. The move of the paddock has relocated the finish line for the racing to Harroun Straight, making the exit of the hairpin the race to the checkered flag. For practice and qualifying, the original finish line at the north end of the track will be utilized while keeping the starting line in that same position for all races in 2020.
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 for what is now called ‘The Lap’. A Heat race and Prefinal on Saturday will set the stage for the main events on Sunday. A full schedule can be found HERE.
A total of 18 categories will compete for a chance to win the coveted Brick trophy and etch their names in history as a winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event is focused on the grassroots racers, and the majority come in the Briggs & Stratton 206 categories at 66% of the entries powered by Briggs, including the three Margay Ignite divisions.
The largest field is in the Briggs 206 Masters class at 67 drivers. Defending champion Steven Kilsdonk is not competing in 2020, thus opening the door for a new driver to the drink of milk. Three different drivers have won this category in the past, with 2018 winner Steve Knight the only returning victor. Two-time Ignite winner Jeff Dolian is another former winner in the field, with a host of others that will be in contention all weekend long.
Pin-pointing one of the favorites is Gary Lawson – the Emperor of the Rock Island Grand Prix. Lawson has four victories of his own in the last two years at the Brickyard in the Senior divisions. This year, the Comet Kart Sales / Comet Racing Engines driver is running in Masters for the first time, leaving a void in the Medium category and looking for a three-peat in the Heavy class. Lawson and double 2017 winner Eric Jones are the only two drivers to win in the two Senior categories over the first three years of the event. Kilsdonk was runner-up to Lawson in both Senior classes, thus some new names could land on the podium in 2020. Eric Fagan was third in Medium in 2019 as the only other returning podium finisher. Medium has 57 entries with Heavy going off with 56 drivers.
Among the categories to grow from last year is the Briggs 206 Junior division, up to 34 from 27 last year. North Carolina driver Sam Corry was the victor in 2019 and is back to defend his Brick with EKN Driver Rankings #2 driver Brandon Jarsocrak on the wrenches coaching the returning winner. Most of the field is returning drivers from last year.
The 2019 edition welcomed three new winners in the Margay Ignite categories, spanning Senior, Masters and introducing Junior last year. Two of the three are back to defend the Brick trophy as Reid Sweeny is set for a repeat in the Junior category, welcoming seven new drivers to the class with only three total returning. Senior winner Collin Warren is not returning in 2020, thus opening the door for a fourth different winner in four years with no former class winner in the field. A field of 42 drivers will battle all aboard the Margay K3 chassis with Briggs 206 power and the spec Hoosier tires. Last year’s runner-up Evan Stamer along with former RIGP Shootout winner Jordan Bernloehr and Justin Vancil are returning after finishing top-four last year. Defending Masters winner Keith Scharf is doing both Senior and Masters, along with a handful of the elder drivers. Five of the top-six from last year’s field are returning – Nick Todtenhaupt, Michael Burton, Pete Vetter and EKN’s own Rob Howden.
The EKN duo of Howden and Managing Editor David Cole are back for a second straight year, replacing the mic and camera for racing helmets. Howden is joining Margay for the Ignite Masters class, while racing alongside Cole in Briggs 206 Masters with Comet Kart Sales / Comet Racing Engines. Both will be on the Eagle chassis, similar to 2019. Cole will be also going double duty on the weekend, competing in the Yamaha Masters class.
This year’s event will combine the Yamaha Masters, Senior and Junior fields into one race group, all vying for their own triplet of Bricks on the podium. The race group features 38 drivers, 14 of which are Masters. Eight of the top-10 in Masters are returning, along with defending winner Michael Welsh, who held off Michael Dittmer at the line for the victory. Both are returning along with ‘Pistol’ Pete Vetter. The largest of the three classes is 16 in Senior. Last year’s Junior winner Adam Maxwell of A-Maxx Racing is moving up to Senior, set to join defending winner Brandon Adkins in the field. Blake Korth and Andrew Bische finished on the podium last year alongside Adkins and are back in 2020. The Junior field is down to just eight in the field with no returning podium finishers. The top returning driver is Matthew Darlison, who was 9th in 2019.
A fan favorite is the shifterkart divisions, this year split up into two race groups and four categories. The IAME SSE 175cc powerplant has its own category for both Senior and Masters. A total of 13 drivers are in the field for Senior with 2019 winner Race Liberante set to defend his victory. Fellow podium finishers Devon Smith-Harden and Evan Batt are also returning, and welcoming former EKN Driver Rankings #1 driver AJ Myers to his first Brickyard. The Masters class has five drivers in the field, with John Crow as the early favorite. Crow is a 2018 SKUSA Pro Tour champion, set to make his first Brickyard start in several classes from the slowest to the quickest.
The other two shifterkart categories is a mixture of engine platforms, all at the 125cc displacement. Senior has 14 drivers in the field, including former Quincy Grand Prix winner Joe Ruch. Masters is at 13 entries, led by 2019 KZ Masters winner Lance Lane.
New to the event is the creation of the FK100 classes. This is a combination of the IAME KA100 and Vortex VLR100 powerplants into one class, with Senior and Junior offered. Senior has 25 drivers in the field, with a mix of veterans, club drivers and young guns. Vetter, Adkins, and Brad Brittin have plenty of experience. Young guns Adam Maxwell and rising star Luca Mars are set to battle to become an inaugural winner. Junior has 21 entries with many nationally recognized names in the field. Elliot Cox is an Indy-native, finished fourth in Yamaha Junior last year. Sam Corry is the defending Briggs 206 Junior winner. Noah Baker, James Overbeck, and Danny Dyszelski are other names seen on the national results.
The IAME Senior and Masters categories are also running in the same race group. Senior has 11 drivers, with defending winner Nicholas Terlecki of Merlin Nation / Franklin Motorsports is back, along with fourth place finisher Finnegan Bayliff of Trinity Karting Group. Watch for his teammate Logan Mueller and Michigan’s Elliott Budzinski to battle for the victory. Masters is at 18 drivers, featuring many of the same drivers from 2019. Missing is defending winner Brian Fisher. Top returning contenders include Christopher Rock and Ryan Spierowski. Watch for a returning Darin Marcus along with first timers Phil Pignataro and John Crow to be among those fighting for the top spot.