EKN Trackside: 2022 Rock Island Grand Prix – Preview

27th edition of Labor Day weekend street race hits the Quad Cities

The 27th edition of the Xtream Rock Island Grand Prix is coming this weekend from the city streets of Rock Island, Illinois. Beginning in 1994, karts began competing in the downtown streets of the city along the Mississippi River with spectators from all around the Quad Cities area and beyond to take in the action. The annual Labor Day weekend event continues with two-days of karts reaching speeds of two or three times the city limits around the 6/10-mile street course, taking in the fun and excitement on and off the track, to see who leaves this year with the coveted ROCK trophies.

(Photo: Joe Brittin)

The city streets of Rock Island transform at 5pm Friday into a race track and festival overnight. Action begins Saturday with two rounds of practice for the different groups before heat races are held for the 16 categories competing over the weekend. Following the morning warm-up, all main events are then held on Sunday for a chance to put their names into the record books and take home the coveted Rock trophy.

eKartingNews.com will once again partner with the RIGP family to produce a live audio play-by-play broadcast from the start-finish line on Fourth Avenue, all part of our EKN Trackside Live coverage program along with social media and forum updates. Jay Kidwell – sports director at WHBF-TV and Dave MacIntyre – the voice of the Cup Karts North America – will be on the microphone to call the action throughout the weekend, and those not in attendance can listen in both days at www.ekartingnews.com/live courtesy of Briggs & Stratton Racing, D.I.D Chain and Margay Racing – along with the EKN Radio Network and watch the action on the EKN YouTube channel.

Majority of the categories at the Rock Island Grand Prix feature the popular Briggs & Stratton 206 engine. Since 2012, Briggs 206 has been thumping around the Rock Island Grand Prix, expanding from one class that year to now featured in nine of the 16. The headline division is the new King of the Rock Briggs class. Inaugural winner Michael Dittmer sits fifth in the all-time win list after picking up two wins in 2021.

Michael Dittmer was crowned the inaugural King of the Rock Briggs 206 (Photo: EKN)

The King of the Rock class is basically an all-star race with the depth of the field, featuring nearly all veterans of the event, including second in all-time victories at RIGP in Tony Neilson. The longtime Margay driver has 22 victories heading into this Labor Day weekend, trying to close in on the ‘Emperor’ Gary Lawson total of 28. Former winners in the field include Scott ‘Skitchy’ Barnes, Jeff Dolian, inaugural Briggs 206 winner at RIGP Connor Lund, Matt Pewe, Gage Rucker, Jeff Scott, Riley Scott and Michael Welsh and Todd Bolton – who is seventh in the all-time win list with 8 victories.

Four different drivers won the four regular Briggs 206 categories in 2021. Tony Neilson won his lone Rock in Medium 1 class with Mick Gabriel picking up his first in Medium 2. Gabriel is not slated to defend that win this year. 11 drivers will be racing in both classes. Heavy 1 and the Travis DeVriendt Memorial category went to Race Liberante – the 2019 King of the Streets winner. Liberante will not be back to defend that win, opening the door for any of the 18 drivers entered to compete for the title. The second Rock trophy for Dittmer came in the Heavy 2 class, set to defend that win this year as well. The Masters class is the final regular Briggs 206 division on the schedule, which was introduced in 2014. Defending winner Jeff Dolian will have fellow former winners Jeff Scott (2018) and four-time winner Tony Neilson to contend along with the rest of the 13-driver field.

A big part of the growth in the Briggs 206 categories at the Rock Island Grand Prix is thanks to the amazing Margay Ignite program. Started in 2015, the spec-chassis program put a focus on the driver, and it has shown in the results with six different winners in the six different main events at the Rock Island Grand Prix.

Margay Ignite program returns to RIGP for a seventh year (Photo: Margay Racing)

Two of the former winners have a chance to repeat, including last year’s victor Ashton Wheeler and 2018 winner Scott Barnes. 12 others could be a first-time winner in the category. Barnes was the winner in the Ignite 2 class, which was introduced in 2019 as he can elevate himself further up the all-time win list, competing in 10 of the 16 categories. Ignite Masters was introduced in 2017, won by ‘Pistol’ Pete Veter the first two years. Since then, it has been Tony Neilson that have claimed the Rock trophy in the class. Can he make it three in a row?

The King of the Streets crown has been awarded at the Rock Island Grand Prix since 2000. It began in 1998 with a street race in Oklahoma and moved to Quincy Grand Prix the following year. 2022 marks the 22nd time the King has been crowned at the Rock Island Grand Prix. Over the last eight years, eight different drivers have earned the crown with last year won by Andrew Bujdoso. The Ohio driver is returning for a chance to be one of only three drivers (Alan Rudolph, Kyle Wiegand, Jordon Musser) to win multiple King of the Streets crowns and in back-to-back years. Leading the charge to steal the crown is EKN Shifterkart Driver Rankings #1 AJ Myers. The two teammates will be among the early contenders entering the weekend, along with the win in the Open Shifter class. The Open Shifter Masters class features five fast drivers. Defending champion Joe Ruch as the leading contender ahead of two-time winner Scott Barnes. Making their RIGP debut will be Justin and Tiffany Kelly – an amazing husband/wife pairing. Justin is coming off victory at the SKUSA SummerNationals and Tiffany is attempting to join Michele Bumgarner as another female winner at the Rock Island Grand Prix.

Andrew Bujdoso returns to defend the crown in King of the Streets (Photo: EKN)

The King of the Rock 100cc class was introduced last year, won by Race Liberante – who will be unable to defend his crown this year. Riley Scott and Charlie Mohr are the only drivers returning from last year’s race with Scott Barnes and Andrew Bujdoso set to battle for another crown on the day. They all will battle in the regular Senior 100cc division as well. Yamaha SuperCan Heavy was a popular category in RIGP past and makes its return for 2022 after missing out in 2021. Gage Rucker won the last time in 2019 and is back to defend after three years. Former winner Michael Dittmer along with former RIGP winners Todd Bolton and Drake Ostrom are among the contenders in the nine-driver field.

Vintage category closes out the categories for the 2022 Xtream Rock Island Grand Prix. A total of 19 drivers in three specific classes will take to the city streets once again to provide a glimpse into the history of the sport.

Be sure to follow EKN Social Media channels – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – all weekend long with updates, results, photos, videos and more throughout the weekend at the Rock Island Grand Prix.

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