Race Report: IKF Northern California Sprint Kart Series – Prairie City Kart Track
The new IKF Northern California Sprint Kart Series (NCSKS) kicked off its inaugural campaign April 22-23, with its opening round taking to the 1/2-mile grand prix circuit at the Prairie City Kart Track in Rancho Cordova, CA. Eight classes were on offer, including five Briggs 206 categories and three 2-stroke classes. As the first of five events on the calendar, which sees stops at Buttonwillow, a trip to Medford, OR, Santa Maria, and a temporary track in Corning, the championship will run from now through September. And speaking of championships, points were the talk of the town, as every on-track session counted towards your points haul, with $1000 going to each 206 champion and a ticket to the SKUSA SuperNationals for each of the 2-stroke categories.
It would be perfect weather for racing with lows in the 50’s and highs in the mid-eighties, and the on-track action putting on an exciting show for all in attendance. With qualifying and a pair of heat races Saturday, followed by a Prefinal and Final on Sunday, there was no shortage of exciting racing to watch.
The first karts on track for the weekend would come from Junior 1 206 presented by Speedsense Motorsports, and it would be Aiden Go clocking the top time in qualifying, besting Kayden Williams by 0.231. Aiden Go would lead the field of 11 to the green for the first race of the weekend, but it would be Williams that would bring home the win in the 10-lap contest, with a second 15-lap heat capping things off on Saturday. P4 qualifier and third place runner in the first heat, it would be Floyd Frisby finding his way to the point for Heat 2, backing it up with a Prefinal win when the action kicked off again on Sunday morning. In the 22-lap Final, it would be Frisby and Williams back and forth for the lead throughout the opening handful of laps, with Aiden Go right on their heels and ready to pounce. Pounce he did, carrying speed around the outside for an advantageous move in the turn 6 hairpin, but he and Williams would get connected on the exit. Carson Mcleod would leapfrog the duo as they tried to get back under way, with Williams getting the worst of it. This allowed Frisby to cruise to the win for the season opener, with Aiden Go eventually catching back up to pass Mcleod for second, and Williams settling for fourth.
Junior 2 206 presented by Cole Nelson Racing/Invader would see a perfect weekend out of Derek Dimandja, sweeping the weekend with top time in qualifying, followed by a mostly unchallenged weekend leading every lap across the board. Dimandja’s job was made easier by the infighting and battling for position behind, as Nate Spitz, Jameson Gwinup, Melia Hernandez and more fought for the hardware positions. In the Preliminary races second and third would be split between Gwinup and Spitz, with the former taking heat 1, and the latter bringing home hard fought P2’s in the second heat and the Prefinal. While 4th on back was a revolving door of challengers that included the aforementioned Hernandez, Luca Vitarelli, Jearemy Heath, and Brian Sheltra, In the Final, an incident on the exit of corner #3 saw the front three break away, and the podium all but decided. In the end, Nate Spitz would claim the second spot, with Jameson Gwinup locking in the third spot after a 22 lap battle.
Senior 206 presented by GFC was the largest class on the weekend at a strong 18 on the tight confines of the Prairie City grand prix circuit, with several drivers in the hunt for the win, starting with pole sitter Chase Hand. It was just a 0.098 second advantage for Hand over Kade Godbehere in qualifying, and that theme continued throughout the weekend in what would be one of the most exciting classes to watch. Godbehere would steal away the win in heat 1 before Hand rebounded from a tough start in heat 2 for the win to finish up Saturday, the pair pulling away front the field in both instances. On Sunday, however spectators we treated to phenomenal racing, as Stephen Eisert, Boden Barnwell, and Travis Mitchell all joined the conversation. Hand entered the final as the pole sitter after holding off a late race challenge from Godbehere and Eisert in the Prefinal, and the same names would be in the mix by the end of the 22-lap contrast. Instead of pushing Hand like he had done much of the weekend, Godbehere instead took the fight to him, passing for the lead multiple times, only to have Hand challenge right back. Their infighting kept Travis Mitchell right on their toes, with Stephen Eisert also benefiting to rebound from a tough start, bringing Boden Barnwell along for the ride to the front. On the final lap, Eisert attempted the pass into the corkscrew, but as he had done a couple times before, Godbehere held the outside to make it side-by-side through the next right/left complex. Eisert would go through the grass and lose momentum, with Chase Hand carrying his speed to pass and get alongside Godbehere for a drag race to the finish – with Kade Godbehere winning by just 0.003. Hand settled for 2nd with Travis Mitchell making it through the melee to snag the final podium spot.
Masters 206 presented by Unleashed Power for drivers 30+ in age would be an eventful category all weekend, with excellent racing on Saturday, and some raised eyebrows on Sunday. Tyler Hall would cut the fastest time in qualifying, with the front five separated by just about a quarter second, but it would be Jesse Gwin taking the fight to him in the first heat. The Gwin vs Hall program would continue in heat 2, with the addition of Brian Gallagher, as the P2 qualifier found a little extra, the trio coming across the line separated by just .069 – advantage Hall. In the Prefinal it would be Gwin striking back for the W, again with Hall in second and Gallagher keeping the pressure on all 15 laps long. Behind them Zach Sanborn and Michael Ting would get together on the main straight, with Ting’s weekend eventually done, while Sanborn was able to continue albeit in the back. It was the Final where things devolved a bit, as Hall was shuffled back at the start and had a hard-fought battle with Jared Simms, with contact between the two happening towards the end of the main straight, but Hall finding his way by. Out front, things got worse, as Gwin and Gallagher would have contact between the two hairpins, with the latter going up and over, bringing out the red. Gallagher would exit under his own power and was ok, but after the green contact between Simms and Hall would see the pair sidelined, ending their race early, with Gwin riding off into the distance. The battle would then be between benefactors Ying Li and Zach Sanborn, with Sanborn finding his way by to snag the second spot, rebounding from his pre-final incident.
In the 50+ Legends class presented by Step Up Karting one driver was the class of the field, as after qualifying second, Tom Agan dominated the racing action through the heats and the Prefinal to start first in the Final. He would never get to the green flag however, as the right rear hub would come off on the warm-up lap, eliminating his chances at the win, thus moving Frank Chavez to the front. Chavez had nipped Agan in qualifying after the latter pulled in early and look to have a shot at the front before a self-spin in one of the heats. Alongside him was Paul Booher, the defacto number two up to that point, having finished second in every race thus far. Booher would make his own mistake however on the third lap, jumping on the brakes a bit too hard to keep from collecting Chavez, spinning to the back of the pack. Frank Chavez would then be able to cruise to the win in Legends, while Mike Vanmuyden moved up to second after a mechanical failure on Chris Brittons machine, and Mike Allison was able to secure third after holding off a late race charge from the aforementioned Booher.
On the 2-Stroke side of things the 125cc Shifter category presented by Driving Ambition saw the second perfect event put together, as Seth Huntley went flag-to-flag all weekend to claim the top step for round #1. Battling through a few mechanical issues would be one of the double duty drivers on the weekend Colby Romero, keeping things together to lock in second place, while Dan Laporta was able to hold off Todd Vancleve for third, although Vancleve was able to put a solid body of work together to sit just 5 points back from Romero in third.
In KA Junior presented by Mega Power Racing Engines it was a tale of two different weekends, as two drivers split the weekend, with Erik Doan in command all day on Saturday, starting off with a solid pole position in qualifying. He would follow that up with a pair of Heat race wins, coming right out of the gate quick, with consistent laps that allowed him to stay relatively unchallenged all day. On Sunday the challenge would come, as Alex Rantala found some extra speed and brought a resurgence to the front, taking the fight to Doan right away in the Prefinal. Doan would keep the pressure on all race long – including the fastest lap – but Rantal would take down the win, and the pole for the Final. Rantala would continue where he left off in the final, pulling away a bit throughout the first half of the 22-lap contest, but then Doan would reel him in for a battle in the final couple of laps. Doan would carry the speed around the outside of a defending Rantala in the turn #6 hairpin, but Rantala would be able to hold him off, with Doan settling for second. Cypress Andruss would be the de-facto third-place driver on the weekend, with his pace improving and looking like a contender for Round Two.
KA Senior presented by Leading Edge Motorsports may have been the most exciting class to watch all weekend, as protagonists Chase Hand and Stephen Eisert put on a show at the front every session out. Hand would claim the top time in qualifying, but Eisert struck back in Heat 1 to steal away the win, claiming fast time in the process. Heat #2 saw Ridgley Welsh and Flavio Aquini join the party, with all four drivers vying for the top spot before the end, although it was Hand and then Eisert across the line first and second. Sunday saw Hand and Welsh find a little bit more, with Eisert having to battle with the latter in the Prefinal before catching back up to challenge hand, eventually settling for second again. In the main, Eisert again took the fight to Hand – the pair having passed each other in nearly every corner on the circuit throughout the weekend – but Chase was able to get back by a few laps in, and eventually started to pull away slowly. For his part, Welsh kept the pressure on Eisert all race long, showing immense improvement throughout the event. Chase Hand would take the win for Round One, with Stephen Eisert second and Ridgely Welsh rounding out the podium in third.
The IKF Northern California Sprint Kart Series heads to Buttonwillow Raceway Park on May 27-28 for the second of five rounds in the 2023 season, with registration opening up on Monday May 8th. For more info on the series, championship points, full results and more, check out norcalsks.com