Race Report: 2021 WKA Daytona KartWeek
Keelan Harvick led all drivers with three wins at WKA Daytona KartWeek, including a sweep in Briggs 206 Cadet (Photo: WKA)
The annual pilgrimage to Florida for the World Karting Association Daytona KartWeek was held during December 28-30 at the Daytona International Speedway. Karters from all over gather to the unique event that welcomes three disciplines of the sport all at one location. The Speedway Dirt Series competes on the Daytona Flat Track for two days, while the historic Road Racing Series takes on the famous road course that includes the infield and oval for three days. Inside the Daytona facility is the kart track, hosting the opening rounds of the 2022 Manufacturers Cup Series event presented by A-Maxx Racing.
This year’s event on the circuit inside the NASCAR Turn 3 and 4 saw a new format for the 14 different classes competing, building a 350-entry total. The opening day on December 28 was two practice sessions before two separate qualifying sessions were held. Round One of racing took place on Wednesday, December 29 with Round Two on Thursday, December 30. It was perfect weather conditions all three days, minus a fog delay to open the final day of action. In total, three drivers were able to double up in the win column in their respective categories.
One of the veterans of the WKA Daytona KartWeek is Tennessee driver Jeff Jewell. The multi-time Daytona winner was among the 19 drivers in the Margay Ignite Masters class, making its second appearance at the event. Jewell qualified second on Day 1 behind Tim Hannen – owner of the OVRP facility in New York. Hannen won the Prefinal, but saw the sweep disappear in the Final. Jewell took over the point on lap two and drove away to his first victory at Daytona since 2013. Hannen settled for second, holding off last year’s double class winner James Perkins. It was similar results on Day 2 with Hannen showing the way in qualifying and winning the Prefinal. Jewell finished the Prefinal in third, and it took 11 laps before he would take over the top spot in the Final. Jewell led the final four laps for a second victory. Hannen was runner-up once again with Michael Burton placing third.
It was a near sweep of the two days in KA100 Junior for Christian Miles. A double WKA Daytona KartWeek Mini Swift winner in 2018, Miles swept the opening day of action for his first Junior win at the event. He led all 10 laps of the Prefinal and 16 of the Final, driving away to a five-second advantage. Parker DeLong was second with Miles Murray in third. Day 2 saw Miles lead 25 of the 26 laps on the day, getting shuffled back on the opening lap of the Prefinal after starting second. Camryn Reed was able to edge out Miles for fast time in qualifying by 21 thousandths. After winning the Prefinal, Miles controlled the Final by leading all 16 laps for the second victory. Adam Brickly kept it close, running second with Eli Warren earning the third step of the podium.
The largest category of the event was the Briggs 206 Cadet division, welcoming 48 drivers in total. The class was split up for both qualifying and the Prefinal to earn a spot in the 36-kart field for the Final each day. Sweeping all his on-track sessions was Keelan Harvick. The son of NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick wrapped up an outstanding 2021 calendar year in Daytona. Harvick set fast time in qualifying and won his Prefinal on Day 1. He then led all 14 laps of the Final for his first career win at Daytona. Isaac Malcuit – a winner at last year’s event and 2021 WKA Triple Crown champion – drove to second with Tyrone Kemper Jr. driving to third. It was the same results on Day 2 with Harvick out front for all three of his sessions. Malcuit won his Prefinal, but was unable to challenge Harvick in the Final, as the gap was 1.9 seconds after 14 laps. Lucas Palacio put in the fast lap of the race, winning the battle for third.
Harvick picked up a third victory at the event, breaking up the possible sweep for Isaac Malcuit in Mini Swift, featuring 20 entries. Malcuit set the tone in qualifying for Day 1, clearing the field by two tenths of a second. He came away with the win in the Prefinal before leading all 14 laps of the Final for a three-second advantage at the checkered flag. Harvick set fast time of the race in his runner-up performance with Max Weiland in third. Only 32 thousandths separated Malcuit and Harvick in qualifying for Day 2. Harvick jumped away in the Prefinal for the win. After an early fight, Harvick set fast time in the Final to drive away to his first career Mini victory by 1.4 seconds. Malcuit was runner-up once again with Lucas Palacio in third to cap off his Mini debut.
The Margay Ignite Senior category, featuring 46 drivers, saw two familiar names at the top of the order after each Final. 2020 winner Gavin Bayliff set the pace for Day 1 in qualifying before 2020 Junior winner Reid Sweeny came away with a last lap win in the Prefinal. Bayliff jumped out to the lead in the 16-lap Final, showing the way for the first 13. On Lap 14, Sweeney was able to work past for the top spot, holding on to the checkered flag for victory in his Senior debut. Bayliff held on to second with Adam Maxwell winning the battle for third. Sweeney had already locked up the pole position thanks to his fast lap in Day 2 qualifying. He fell back to sixth in the Prefinal as Jed Perkins scored the win. Perkins led the field for the opening seven laps of the Final until 2018 double winner Evan Stamer took over the point. From there, Stamer – a 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship driver – led the remainder of the race, holding off Sweeney at the line by 39 thousandths of a second. Perkins capped off the podium in third.
The Margay Ignite Junior division rounded out the three categories for the spec program featuring nine entries. Isaac Wells had a sweep in process on Day 1 by setting fast time in qualifying and winning the Prefinal. Wells was on the sidelines before the opening lap finished, ending his bid at the victory. This allowed Jaiden Beckman to go on to earn the provisional win until a penalty dropped her off the top of the podium. That promoted Aiden Lourenco to his first Daytona victory with Sawyer Roussel in third. Wells was able to complete the sweep on Day 2. Earning fast time in qualifying and winning the Prefinal, Wells led all 14 laps of the Final to secure his first Daytona victory. Beckman was runner-up with Lourenco in third.
The Briggs & Stratton 206 Senior level racing saw two categories, with a 360 (29 entries) and 375 (18 entries). When the racing was done, four different drivers stood at the top of the podium. Pacific Northwest driver Gabe Sessler was the driver to beat in the 360 class on Day 1, setting fast time in qualifying and winning the Prefinal. He led the first nine laps of the 16-lap Final before Senior rookie James Overbeck grabbed the point. The fighting for the top spot continued until Overbeck was able to secure the position at the white flag, leading the final circuit to claim a second career Daytona victory. Mick Gabriel set fast time of the race, slipping past Sessler for the runner-up spot on the final circuit. Adam Maxwell was able to secure the pole position in Day 2 qualifying but was edged out at the line in the Prefinal by Gabriel. The opening 10 laps were controlled by Gabriel before Maxwell took the spot. From there, Maxwell led the final six circuits to hold off Gabriel for his first Daytona victory. Jeremy Fletcher, in his Senior debut, drove to the third spot with fast lap of the race. The opening day of action was the beginning battle between Gabriel and Maxwell as they fought in the 375 class as well. Mick set fast time in qualifying before Adam scored the Prefinal win. That all changed in the Final when Sessler led 15 of the 16 laps. It was a photo finish with Sessler edging out Gabriel by 55 thousandths at the line. Jed Perkins finished third. Day 2 appeared to be in the hands of Maxwell, securing fast time in qualifying and leading all 10 laps of the Prefinal. Gabriel had other ideas, taking away the top spot on lap three and leading the rest of the distance for his first Daytona victory. The gap was over two seconds with Jake Sessler earning the runner-up spot over Perkins.
History was made in the 28-driver Briggs 206 Junior category in Daytona. The Day 1 action was led by Eli Warren who set fast time and won the Prefinal. The Final was a battle to the very end for the 16-lap main event. Warren was shuffled back with Parker DeLong leading most of the race. Ashton Henckel took the lead on lap 14 and was leading at the white flag. A last lap battle saw Camryn Reed, who started seventh, lead the one lap that counted, the final one. She timed out the passes perfectly, reaching the line first by five hundredths of a second over Henckel to become the first female winner at WKA Daytona KartWeek since 2008 when Julia Landauer won a Senior race. Warren left no doubt on Day 2, sweeping the action. He led all 10 laps of the Prefinal and then all 16 of the Final, driving to a 1.4 second advantage. DeLong won the fight for second, crossing the line just ahead of Reed.
New for the 2021 WKA Daytona KartWeek was the introduction of Briggs & Stratton 206 Masters class to the event, welcoming 14 entries. Becoming the inaugural winner was Bermuda driver Scott ‘Skitchy’ Barnes. Racing both Ignite Senior and Ignite Master, Barnes ran the 206 Masters class as well for Day 1. Barnes set fast time in qualifying after spending hours of practice day in the hospital getting an x-ray on his hand following a practice incident. Skitchy led all 10 laps of the Prefinal and was challenged by Don Newman in the Final. Newman was able to lead a lap, but majority of the race was led by Barnes, taking the checkered flag by three tenths of a second. James Inscoe drove to the third spot. Barnes moved to the road racing event on Day 2, thus opening the door for Newman to take control. Newman led all 10 laps of the Prefinal and then all 16 of the main event for his first Daytona victory. He held off Inscoe, who posted fast lap of the race, at the line by 99 thousandths with Jason Carlock on the podium in third.
The KA100 Senior division returned to the WKA Daytona KartWeek for the first time since 2018 after two years of a Senior 100cc multi-engine class was offered. A total of 31 drivers took part in the only 2-cycle division for Senior drivers. Brad Brittin, a co-winner in 2018, set fast time in qualifying for Day 1 with Senior rookie Jeremy Fletcher coming away with the win in the Prefinal. Fletcher led the first 14 laps of the 16-lap Final until Gavin Bayliff pulled the trigger. Bayliff showed the way for the final two circuits, earning a second career Daytona victory, first in the category. Fletcher settled for second with Race Liberante joining them on the podium in third. Bayliff was P1 through qualifying and the Prefinal, however, the Final belonged to Fletcher. After early shuffling, Fletcher led from lap four to the checkered flag, picking up that first Senior victory in Daytona. Bayliff ended up second with Chase Jones a solid third.
The 32-driver field for Micro Swift welcomed two new winners to the WKA Daytona KartWeek event. Rocco Simone was the first name added to the list with his victory on Day 1. Simone led 13 of the 14 laps in the Final after winning the Prefinal. Top qualifier AJ Stoner was second with Travis Pettit in third. On Day 2, Stoner put his name in the record books, leading the final 11 laps of the Final for his first WKA Daytona KartWeek victory. Aston Wyatt was second ahead of Prefinal winner Tyrone Kemper Jr.
The Kid Karts had two different categories for the event, with Comer competing on Day 1 and Briggs 206 on Day 2. Anthony Mazzuoccolo swept the action in the 17-driver Kid Kart Comer, leading all 8 laps of the Final. Keegan Chance set fast time in the Final for a runner-up finish as Justus Jennings completed the podium in third. Only seven drivers took part in the Kid Kart Briggs 206 class, racing for the first time at the WKA Daytona KartWeek. Elam Stoner grabbed his first victory. Parker Stewart was top qualifier and won the Prefinal, settled for second in the main event with Liam Fohr in third.
The Manufacturers Cup Series returns to action on March 25-27 with a return to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.