Cup Karts North America: 2023 Champions Profile – Sean O’Shea

Road racer turned back to sprint racing clinches first CKNA North Division title

CKNA North Division Masters champion Sean O'Shea (Photo: AG Digital Content)

The Cup Karts North America program is celebrating its 10th season in 2023. The family-friendly racing series is based around the Briggs & Stratton 206 engine platform which has rejuvenated the grassroots karting movement across North America over the last decade. As the leader in grassroots regional racing, CKNA has grown into four different divisions that run from Eastern Canada down to the southern tip of the United States.

The 2023 schedule began with the South Division, opening up the season with the Winter Nationals before trips to Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina for the finale. New for the 2023 season was the North East Division, which began at the Spring Nationals in Charlotte. Events in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania highlighted the series’ inaugural season. The ‘OG’ division is the North, which featured four races in four different Great Lakes states. The new-in-2022 Canada Division expanded to three events this year with the season started with a race in Quebec and capped with a pair of events in Ontario.

All the programs and races have helped to build the excitement for the Cup Karts North America Grand Nationals 7, which are set to return to New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle, Indiana on September 28-October 1. Featuring 385 entries in 2022, the event is expected to break the 400-entry mark this year to make it one of the largest karting events of the season in North America, and around the world.

Before the engines rumble in New Castle for the 2023 CKNA Grand Nationals, EKN would like to recognize a handful of drivers who were able to claim divisional championships.

Cup Karts North America 2023 Champions Profile

North Division: Masters Champion

Sean O’Shea

Sean O’Shea (Photo: CKNA)

Hometown: Royal Oak, Michigan
Age: 43
Occupation: Engineer
Kart: Comet Eagle
Sponsors: Me…but thanks to the wife and kid for supporting my obsession

One of the most improved drivers of the 2023 Cup Karts North America North Division is Sean O’Shea. The 2022 season was the first full campaign for Sean at the flagship divisional program. He recorded a best finish of third in six starts of the eight rounds, finishing the championship in fifth.

Fast forward to the start of the 2023 CKNA North Division and Sean O’Shea put himself into the championship chase right away. O’Shea was able to claim his first career CKNA victory at the season opener at Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati at Round One, outgunning former series champ and CKNA Grand Nationals winner Michael Dittmer. He backed it up the following day with another triumph, again edging out Dittmer, this time by only 13 thousandths at the line. This helped to put him at the top of the championship standings leaving the opening weekend. The second event at the Kart Circuit Autobahn in Joliet, Illinois began with a runner-up finish to Canadian driver Marc Stehle, another former CKNA Grand Nationals winner. Fifth was the result on Sunday, ending his run at three straight podium results.

The series headed north to the Badger Kart Club facility in Dousman, Wisconsin. Sean was part of the battle at the front all day, coming up just short of the podium in fourth. It was a similar battle the following day with O’Shea grabbing his fourth podium finish of the season in six rounds, placing third. The championship was on the line heading to the final event of the 2023 season – the Whiteland Raceway Park in central Indiana. Sean battled with Stehle once again, along with Badger race winner Ryan Spierowski. O’Shea was right there at the finish, placing third behind the two at the checkered flag. A win in the Prefinal put him on the pole position for the Final on Sunday. The main event went down to the very end with O’Shea missing out on a third victory of the season to Spierowski. However, the runner-up finish was enough to secure the CKNA North Division championship in Masters. O’Shea finished the season with two wins, six podium finishes and eight top-five results.

1. When and where did you start karting?

SOS: I started karting in 1990. My first race was in Chestertown, MD, which I believe is now called Nicholson Speedway. This was back in the flathead Briggs days where my Dad spent the first two years of my karting life refining a killer motor that had three main traits…it consumed a ton of oil, was hard to start, and the rod liked being outside more than inside. I only ran sprints for two years then switched to laydown enduros, where my first WKA national was in 1992 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

2. Why do you compete at the CKNA?

SOS: I competed in road racing up until a few years ago and was able to win a handful of national races, and one championship. After my daughter was born, I wanted a new challenge with a bit more reliability and less drive time. I came back to sprint racing in April 2020, and in an effort to find a national level of competition with the Briggs 206 I came across CKNA. I continue to follow this series as I like how every year we go to different tracks and the competition is top notch. I enjoy how the series is run, everything from practice starting at noon on Friday, to the different race format for Saturday and Sunday, to the great officials that value the racers. Also, having one engine format is also a huge plus – and I don’t have to drag around a starter with me!

3. What’s your favorite track to compete at?

SOS: As far as favorite tracks there are so many that it’s hard to narrow it down. I would like to go back to 61 Kartway in Iowa as it was a great track and facility. It was also my first CKNA race, and I think I finished last, so I need another try at it. G&J is probably my all-time favorite. To me, it represents everything karting was and is; a good ‘ol grassroots, corn field race track that’s hard to master and promotes great racing.

4. Who do you look at as your primary challengers in each event?

SOS: The competition is always great, there are so many people each weekend to watch out for and to chase. This year Marc Stehle has been almost unbeatable, he races very smart and provides a benchmark every session. Ryan Spierowski and Mike Dittmer are always very quick and race great, and I can never count out JD Gunn, he’s been right there all year.

5. Are you racing at the CKNA Grand Nationals 7, and if so, what’s your goal for the event?

SOS: I will be at Grands this year, and as in year’s past I expect the competition to be insane. In Masters, I finished 15th last year, 8th the year before, so my main goal this year is really to qualify better. I had the pace but needed to race forward all weekend which put me behind. A realistic goal in the feature would be top-10. Assuming I qualify well, I see top-5 being a good possibility.

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