EKN Trackside: Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals 6 – Race Report

Record entries as drivers claim year-end victories to reign as Briggs & Stratton North American champions

Big names headlined the Senior Medium class for Grand Nationals 6
(Photo: eKartingNews)

Briggs & Stratton 206 racers from all over the United States and Canada converged on the popular New Castle Motorsports Park in Indiana this past weekend for the sixth running of the Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals. The four-cycle festival has grown steadily since its debut in 2017 and this year topped the impressive 400-entry mark, welcoming a total of 409 entries and over 340 individual drivers, making it the second largest sprint karting event in North America in 2022. For the first time in many years, the event enjoyed spectacular weather from Thursday to Sunday, with cool mornings and warm afternoons. The racing was absolutely thrilling, and Sunday’s 16-lap main events featured battles for the lead in all eight classes.

Eric Fagan (MGM) was the only double-winner at the event, topping both Senior Heavy and Masters, while Mick Gabriel (EOS) and Jordan Prior (Birel ART) were victorious in Senior Medium and Senior Light, respectively. Ryan Cassity (Coyote) triumphed in Legends, and Eli Warren (Redspeed) commanded the action in Junior. EKN Driver of the Month for August – Isaac Malcuit (Kart Republic) won in Sportsman and the Kid Kart main event went to Parker Stewart.

Gabriel took his first Grand Nationals victory on Sunday (Photo: eKartingNews)

The Senior Medium division was set up as the headline category of the event, featuring 50 drivers fighting in the Final, narrowed down from 71 after three rounds of heats and the Last Chance Qualifier. Top qualifier James Overbeck (Tony Kart) – CKNA North Division champion – was able to maintain the pole position through the heat races to lead the field to the green flag for the 16-lap main event. Impressively, the field made it through the opening corners with minimal contact, with the top eight drivers breaking away from the pack. Things got shuffled up around lap seven when contact that included CKNA Canada champion Jonathan Treadwell (Birel ART) created two groups of three with defending winner Colin Warren (VLR), Mick Gabriel (EOS) and Overbeck splitting away. The trio ran nose-to-tail for the remainder of the race until the final circuit. Gabriel made his move by Warren at the ‘Cell Tower’ corner, bringing Overbeck with him. They then ran side-by-side through the next few corners for second, which gave Gabriel a little bit of breathing room. This cushion was enough for Gabriel to drive to the checkered flag for his first CKNA Grand Nationals victory. Overbeck settled for second with CKNA South Division champion Warren in third. Pauly Massimino (CRG) crossed the line in fourth after starting eighth, however, he was removed following tech. This promoted Brandon Lemke (Merlin) up to fourth and Keegan Clark (Tony Kart) into fifth.

The Canadian took his first Grand Nationals win since 2019 (Photo: eKartingNews)

The second largest category of the weekend was the Senior Light division, which welcomed 68 drivers to compete for the 50 spots in the main event on Sunday. Over the course of the six heat races, Brandon Lemke (Merlin) was the only driver to win twice, however, it was CKNA North Division champion James Overbeck (Tony Kart) who gathered the most points to claim the pole position for the Final. The two led the field to the green flag, which saw multiple drivers collected in contact through the opening corner. Top qualifier Gabe Sessler (EOS) came from third to lead the opening circuit before two-time defending champion Colin Warren (VLR) took control of the lead. A group of about 10 drivers ran nose-to-tail with Warren leading the way. Shuffling with about four to go allowed for the top-three to break away with Warren, Gabriel (EOS) and Jordan Prior (Birel ART) set to scrap it out for the win. The group fought for position on the final circuit, even going three-wide heading into the Scoreboard hairpin. Prior got the advantage, moving from third to first before holding on to secure the victory, his second at the CKNA Grand Nationals and first in this class. Warren came away with second while Dylan Amundsen (MGM) jumped up to third while Austin Jurs (Redspeed) in fourth. Gabriel dropped a wheel after the three-wide action and slipped to fifth at the checkered flag.

Fagan came out on top in the closely contested Senior Heavy class (Photo: eKartingNews)

Forty drivers from across North America registered for the Senior Heavy class, with a list of heavy hitters set to do battle. Eric Fagan (MGM) and Gary Lawson (Eagle) were the two protagonists who held the front positions for Friday and Saturday’s heat races. Fagan took Heat 1 and Heat 2, while Lawson took top honors in Heat 3, beating out Fagan by just 0.032 seconds at the line. Come the main event on Sunday, Lawson dropped back from the lead group after getting shuffled back in the opening stages of the race. Fagan took the lead with a few laps to go and came across the line to win by just over two tenths. Sean Meier (Coyote), who set fast time in qualifying on Friday, came up to second with last year’s winner Adam Maxwell (MGM) finishing third. Riley Scott, after starting 14th on the grid, drove his way up to the fourth spot with 2020 winner Lawson finishing fifth.

Fagan became the only driver to win two classes on the weekend (Photo: eKartingNews)

It was a near record high number of entries at 46 in Masters, equaling last year’s kart count in the class that is open to drivers 35-years-of-age and older. Eric Fagan (MGM) delivered the opening blow by securing fast time in qualifying on Friday by over a tenth and a half. Marc Stehle (Ricciardo) took top honors in the opening heat while Ryan Cassity (Coyote) won the following two races. Fagan fell down the order in Heat 2 after contact, however, he fought forward in Heat 3 to earn a P9 starting spot for the feature. Despite starting on row five, Fagan would make his way up toward the front of the field to take the lead away from CKNA North Division Champion Geoff Shaw (VLR) on lap nine. From there, he kept the lead for the rest of the race to earn his first CKNA Grand Nationals victory in the category. Last year’s winner Michael Dittmer (Eagle) finished second with Shaw in third. Cassity ended up in fourth as Jakab Nyiri (EOS) rounded out the podium in fifth.

Cassity had a dominant performance throughout the weekend in Legends (Photo: eKartingNews)

It was a perfect weekend for Ryan Cassity in the Legends class, sweeping the event for his first CKNA Grand Nationals victory. The CKNA North Division champion started on the pole position for the Final after setting fast time in qualifying and winning all three heat races. Alongside was CKNA South Division champion Todd Baron (Deadly), who was right there all weekend with Cassity. Contact early cut down the tire on Baron’s machine, forcing him to retire early. James Perkins (CRG) and Eli Yanko (Tony Kart) moved up as the top challengers. While they kept the pressure up all race long, Perkins was not able to make move as Cassity led all 16 laps to secure the victory. The fight for fourth place went down to the wire with James Inscoe (Coyote) and Jamie MacArthur (Birel ART) fighting for the spot. John O’Keefe (Comet) was able to get around both to claim the position while the other two fought through the final circuit. MacArthur crossed the line fifth with EKN’s own Rob Howden (Coyote) into sixth as Inscoe was across in seventh. MacArthur was scored behind Inscoe as a result of the contact, promoting Howden to the podium in fifth, with Inscoe back up to sixth and MacArthur in seventh.

Warren after falling back to sixth, fought back to take the Junior win (Photo: eKartingNews)

The Junior category allowed all 51 drivers to compete in the 16-lap main event. They were led by Spencer Conrad (Nitro Kart), who won all three of his heat races after qualifying third overall. Top qualifier Eli Warren (Redspeed) started the main event from the outside of the front row, and what a race it was. The field got through the opening corners cleanly with a solid lead group established. Conrad led the first half of the race before the shuffling began. Christopher McKeithan (Nitro Kart) was the top challenger, as he and Conrad exchanged the lead multiple times. Hanging right there were both Warren and Addison Ianniello (OTK). Coming to the white flag, Ianniello led with Warren and Conrad on her bumper. She fought them both off for nearly the entire final circuit before they went three-wide in a drag race to the checkered flag. At the line, Warren took the victory by 0.038 seconds ahead of Ianniello with Conrad coming up just short in third by 0.072 seconds. The hard charger of the race went to Henry Wheeler (Kart Republic), who started 20th and was a close fourth place at the end, just ahead of McKeithan.

Malcuit lead for over half of the Feature on Sunday (Photo: eKartingNews)

The 55-driver Sportsman class ended up becoming a duel between two drivers in the Final. CKNA North Division champion Isaac Malcuit (Kart Republic) and Derek Wargo were able to get out and away from the field in the 16-lap Final. Malcuit, who qualified 21st yet fought forward to win two of his three heat races, started fourth and was into the lead by lap five. Wargo slotted in behind and stayed there the remainder of the race, unable to make a move for the win as Malcuit would secure his first CKNA Grand Nationals victory by just 0.021 seconds. Landon Buher (Will Power Kart) won the fight for third ahead of main event pole sitter Brady Schad (Nitro Kart) and top qualifier Josey Chambers (Nitro Kart).

Stewart’s first win on the weekend came in the Feature (Photo: eKartingNews)

The Kid Kart division was a battle between north and south title winners at the front of the 15-driver field. CKNA North Division champion Brayden Clossey led the way through the first two days of competition with fast time in qualifying and winning all three heat races. Stewart started the Final in fourth, and quickly began making his way forward. By lap four, Stewart took over the lead from Clossey, and from there, showed the way for the remainder of the 16-lap race on the condensed layout to claim the CKNA Grand Nationals victory. Clossey was a close second with Liam Fohr right there in third. Henryk McKay was fourth, posting the fast lap of the race, while Giovanni Florita completed the top-five podium.

The excitement for this year’s CKNA Grand Nationals was palpable all weekend, and there’s no doubt that its momentum will continue into 2023. The organization’s brain trust brought in even more staff to manage the growth in numbers, and the prize table simply overflowed. This event was a massive success and CKNA’s positioning with our sport continues to expand. With a new season just around the corner, we’re sure that everyone is waiting to hear plans for the series’ schedule and any potential growth.

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