EKN Trackside: Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals 5 – Preview

Record-breaking event for Briggs & Stratton ‘Runoffs’ at New Castle Motorsports Park

The Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals 5 is set to take place this weekend at the New Castle Motorsports Park. As of Monday morning, a new record has been set with 382 entries that will battle in the eight Briggs & Stratton 206 categories, surpassing last year’s record by nearly 100. The event continues with that ‘Runoffs’ feel thanks to drivers of all levels from all across the United States, with club, regional and national level competitors set to battle to be a CKNA Grand Nationals 5 champion.

The event begins with unofficial practice and move-in on Thursday, September 30. Official first sessions take place Friday, October 1 with three practice sessions before ending the day with qualifying for each category. A warm-up opens up the action on Saturday, October 2 before two rounds of heat racing takes place. Qualifying lines up the field for Heat #1 while the results of Heat #2 are based on the results of the opening heat. For those categories that will be split up, they will be separated based on qualifying with odd numbered positions into the Odd heat races with Even numbered positions into the Even heat races. Based on last year’s event Sportsman, Junior and Senior Medium will be split up with the possibility of other classes as well. Heat points will set the grid for the main events on Sunday, and for the Last Chance Qualifiers that will be run on Sunday morning.

This year’s layout at the New Castle, Indiana facility is a brand-new design. ‘Track 50’ has been established for the CKNA Grand Nationals 5, which uses part of the east section of the facility while using most of the same layout from the last two years. The ‘National’ is used until going into the ‘Oval’ section, going opposite direction toward the ski-jump. Once through that section, karts return to the ‘National’ layout and follow it up to the ‘Cutoff’ section between the two long straights. No ‘Monza’ section will be used in this new layout, making this a distance close to 1-mile.

CKNA Grand Nationals 4 winners – missing Kid Kart champion Summit Rossiter (Photo: EKN)

Throughout the weekend, several prizes will be handed out to competitors of the Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals 5. Over $60,000 of product have been accumulated thanks to the many series and event sponsors. Friday evening will be the Divisional Awards Ceremony for the North and South programs with the top-three drivers in each category recognized. Door prizes will be handed out at the drivers meeting and throughout the weekend, along with the Grand Nationals Award Ceremony Sunday evening.

eKartingNews.com will be broadcasting the entire event through the EKN Live page – www.ekartingnews.com/live – and through the Race-Monitor app. Catch the audio from qualifying, two heat races and the main event with CKNA announcer Dave MacIntyre joined by karting legend Randy Kugler calling the action. CKNA is video broadcasting the action Live Saturday and Sunday available on the CupKarts.com website and CKNA Facebook page from New Castle Motorsports Park presented by Odenthal Racing Products.

Jacob Donald scored the victory in Senior Medium in his first CKNA start last year (Photo: EKN)

The largest category thus far for the event is the Senior Medium division at 67 drivers. Over half the field were in last year’s event, including defending winner Jacob Donald. In his first start at the CKNA Grand Nationals, Donald – who won the 2021 CKNA Spring Nationals in Charlotte – was able to capture victory last year ahead of Garrett Adams, who is also returning. Eight of the top-10 are back, including Ian Quinn (4th), 2018 winner Gary Lawson (6th), 2021 CKNA North Division champion Mick Gabriel (7th), 2017 winner Colin Warren (8th), Clay Settles (9th), and Dylan Amundsen (10th). Notable drivers making their first starts at the CKNA Grand Nationals are EKN TaG Driver Rankings top-10 performers Brandon Jarsocrak and Pauly Massimino, along with top shifterkart driver from Arizona Micah Hendricks. CKNA South Division champion Corey Towles is another driver to watch on the weekend with a host of others.

Many drivers are doing double or triple duty, including the Senior Light and Senior Heavy divisions. Senior Light is at 51 entries, surpassing last year’s total of 46. Colin Warren scored the victory a year ago with five of the top-10 returning; Bryce Mersberger (3rd), Donald (5th), California driver Sophia Storey (8th), and Gabriel (9th) – who also won the CKNA North Division title in 2021. Brandon Adkins is a driver to watch in both Medium and Light after claiming the Masters victory in 2020. Chase Jones is another, coming off a runner-up at the Rock Island Grand Prix. Another successful 4-cycle driver in the Light division is Zach Linsell from Philly.

Colin Warren enters as the defending race winner in Senior Light division (Photo: EKN)

Heavy comes in at 40 drivers, one short of the 2019 total. Gary Lawson won the class in 2020 but is not entered to defend the crown. Former Briggs Weekly Racing Series #1 driver Eric Fagan was second with Drake Ostrom (2021 CKNA North Division champ) third and Elmer Edmonson fourth. All three are back along with Adam Maxwell (6th), Matt Lyda (7th) Jacob Kaszubski (8th), and Jeremiah Davis (10th). Aren Lloyd is a driver looking to claim a triple crown, winning the Spring Nationals, securing the CKNA South Division title and vying for the GN5 victory.

Another driver going for the triple crown on the 2021 season is in the Masters class, growing to 50 drivers for the GN5. Michael Dittmer, the 2021 King of the Rock 206 winner, also won the Spring Nationals and took the title in the CKNA North Division. Dittmer was a DNF in last year’s wet main event fighting for the victory with Adkins. Top returning drivers including runner-up James Perkins, Joe DeBoever (3rd), Jason Rowe (4th), Jamie Bradford (6th), Jakab Nyiri (7th), Joseph Mason (8th) and Carlos Moraes (10th). CKNA South Division champion Chris Cline is making his Grand Nationals debut, so is Eric Fagan in the Masters division. Drivers to watch include Jeff Scott, Brandin Moore, Jeff Hill, JD Gunn, and former two-time CKNA Grand Nationals winner Michael Welsh. Making their first start include Steve Knight, Ryan Spierowski, Curtis Ruth, and CalSpeed Karting manager Mike Smith. Also making his third start at the Grand Nationals is EKN Managing Editor David Cole, joining the LSR Motorsports / Target Distributing team aboard a CRG FS4 chassis.

Michael Dittmer going for the CKNA triple crown in Masters (Photo: Alissa Grim Photography)

The Legends category is making its CKNA Grand Nationals debut, coming at 36 drivers pre-entered. Among the top contenders includes Spring Nationals winner Tim Shutt – who is also racing Masters – CKNA North Division champion Ken Paulson, Joe DeBoever doing double duty, Phil Pignataro, Jerry Miller and the ‘Iceman’ Jim Fry.

Junior will welcome a new winner once again, with no driver able to repeat since the inaugural event in 2017. The field is the second largest of the event, featuring 65 driver thus far and sure to be split up for the heat races with an LCQ. In fact, only three of the top-10 finishers are returning as the rest have graduated on. James Overbeck is the top returning finisher from 2020 – coming in as the CKNA North Division champion, with Austin Olds (6th) and Cayden Fretwell (9th) also returning. The focus is on all the Junior rookies making the move up this year, including the top-four from last year’s CKNA Grand Nationals. Ben Maier won Cadet in 2021, moving up along with former two-time Sportsman winner Aryton Grim who was P2 in last year’s feature. Spencer Conrad and Christopher McKeithan made it Nitro Kart 1-2-3-4 last year, all moving up to Junior. Parker DeLong was in that mix last year, and is among the top Junior nationally in X30 and KA100 competition. Also included in that are Austin Jurs and Elliot Cox, making their CKNA debuts.

2020 Sportsman winner Ben Maier among the many Junior rookies looking to battle for the Grand Nationals victory (Photo: EKN)

Despite the number of Cadet graduates, the Sportsman division has a number of top returning drivers from 2020 that are part of the 54-driver field. Cade Jaeger is the leading returning driver, finishing fifth last year. Jase Petty – CKNA North Division champion – was sixth last year with Caleb Tarter (7th), Isaac Malcuit (8th) and Andrew Dean (10th). In total, 24 drivers have experience at the Grand Nationals, including Kid Kart graduates. Summit Rossiter is the defending Kid Kart winner with Jaxon Stone placing fourth last year in the that category, moving up this year. Three drivers that are part of those making their CKNA Grand Nationals debut include Spring Nationals winner Keelan Harvick, Texas Sprint Racing Series champion Ragan Saville, and top Micro driver Tristan Murphy.

A great number to promote is the total for Kid Kart this year, growing up to 18 drivers for a new event record. Four of the drivers are returning from last year, welcoming a lot of first time competitors. Leading the returning drivers is Riley Jacks from Arizona, who finished fifth. Cooper Mull is the Spring Nationals winner, and placed seventh a year ago. Giovanni Fiorita (8th) and Camdon Clay – the CKNA South Division title winner – complete the returning drivers. Zion Dyer is among the top rookies, entering the event as the CKNA North Division champion.

Be sure to follow the EKN social media all weekend long for updates along with the Cup Karts North America Facebook page regarding the live broadcast of Saturday and Sunday.

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