Race Report: IKF Northern California Sprint Kart Series – Corning Grand Prix
The inaugural season of the IKF Northern California Sprint Kart Series came to a close this past weekend, with the fifth and final round taking place on a temporary circuit in Corning, CA. Designed and built by series promoter Donald Durbin Jr, his father and the rest of the NCSKS crew, the 10-turn ‘Corning Grand Prix’ circuit featured a tight rhythm section, a few switchbacks and a long sweeping corner that led onto the 650+ foot straight. With a blend of tight and fast corners, plus ample passing zones, combined with sunny weather, it was a great place to host the season finale.
Of course the series championships with the main talk of the town, with $1000 going to each of the 206 categories -most of which were still undecided- plus a ticket to the SKUSA SuperNationals in 125cc shifter. Additionally, the Corning GP also saw entry tickets up for grabs for the upcoming Challenge of the Americas series, with the winners of Jr 2 206 and Senior 206 being awarded those during the podium ceremonies.
For 125cc Shifter category presented by Driving Ambition, this season was all Seth Huntley, visiting every round on offer, and walking away with the first place trophy in each. The Corning Grand Prix was a nice little test for him prior to taking his talents to the SuperNats in a couple of months, as he was kept honest all weekend as he learned the temporary circuit. In fact, first blood went to Colby Romero, as he scored the pole in qualifying, with #2 qualifying Michael Guasch scoring the win in Heat 1. Huntley would finish out Saturday by snagging heat 2, but Sunday would see Guasch back on top in the Pre-final, with Romero finishing P2 and Huntley in third. Seth would not be denied in the Final however, scoring a solid win by a little over a second over Guasch, with Romero rounding out the podium in third.
In the Masters 206 presented by Unleashed Power class, the theme was ‘to win you must first start the race’, as Zach Sanborn came away with the championship and the $1000. After a pair of 2nd place runs in the opening two rounds, Sanborn continued to improve, showing the way for the class by winning the final three races. The Corning Grand Prix was the icing on the cake, as he dabbled in 2 categories -the other being shifter- as he had the championship sewn up.
The Legends class presented by Step Up Karting was the only 206 category that was decided prior to the drop of the green flag on Saturday, as Paul Booher came in as the champ on the back of 2 wins, but more importantly, superb consistency. The rest of the podium order was undecided however, as three drivers fought for the final 2 spots in the hardware, led by 2-time winner Frank Chavez in 2nd. He would be challenged right away however by the other two looking to snag hardware, with Chris Britton and Mike VanMuyden both showing strong pace right away in qualifying. While things were controlled by Booher out front, it was Britton that claimed the second spot the rest of the way, and VanMuyden in third, with Chavez settling outside the top 3 all through the preliminary sessions. Coming into the final it was Britton with the point advantage over Chavez, and he would seal the deal in the over stablemate Booher, allowing them to go 1-2 on track, and in the championship. Chavez would settle for 4th on the day, but still score enough points to secure 3rd in the championship.
Jr 1 206 presented by Speedsense Motorsports looked to be one of the best title fights on the weekend, but with round #4 winner and second place runner Aiden Go absent, things changed to be all Kayden Williams. A staple at the front all season, Williams put a stamp on his championship season at Corning, sweeping the event from start to finish to claim his second win and 4th podium of the year. Behind him it was all to play for for the rest of the Corning GP podium, with every driver entered in the conversation at some point. The Final would see season-long runners Luka Rommeck and Patrick Meisner pull away from Rylee Graves and Floyd Frisby to make it a two-horse race for the podium, with Rommeck coming out on top of the best-of-the-rest battle. For his part, Frisby would still walk away with hardware, claiming the third spot in the championship, with a win at round #1 on his resume.
Junior 2 206 presented by Cole Nelson Racing/Invader saw Derek Dimandja enter with a strong point lead, but was looking to complete his title run after having to exit early from round #4. Nate Spitz and Jameson Gwinup had been his primary challengers all season, and it was no different in Corning. But as has often been the case this season, one-off appearances by drivers have played the spoilers to the series regulars, and this time it was Cooper Perez looking to do just that. It would be the point leader striking first with a pole in qualifying, but when racing began it would be Spitz and Perez claiming the heat races, with Dimandja settling for third in each to close out Saturday. Come Sunday and it was again Perez with the win in the Pre-Final, but a much more racey Dimanja making him work for it, scoring second with Spitz in third. With the title all but wrapped up heading into the final, Dimandja good focus on going for the win, and he did just that, slotting into second after an early pass on Spitz, before finally stealing the lead away on the final circuit from Perez, with Spitz making his way through as well. It would be a win on the day and a COTA ticket to go along with the $1000 for Derek Dimandja, with Spitz second in the race and the championship, while Jameson Gwinup settled for 3rd in the championship after a very strong season.
The marquee class for the NCSKS, Senior 206 presented by GFC would see the championship come down to two drivers, with the full podium in flux after a pair of season-long runners were absent. The battle for the Corning Grand Prix would see several more drivers stake a claim on the top step, and the entry into the Challenge of the Americas however, with Jonathon Endrizzi earning the spotlight first with pole position in qualifying. Trenton Helie would be the first to attack Endrizzi for the top spot once racing commenced, With Mitchell taking his shot before Colby Romero -who bounced back from a DQ in qualy- entered the fray. Crucially, Mitchell would go from the lead to the very back in the closing stages of the first heat, the 40 points swing in favor of Romero who came out with the win. It was again Romero with the win in heat 2, with Endrizzi second and Mitchell working his way up to third to end day one competition. The Pre-Final would again go to Romero, with Mitchell coming out on top of a three-way fight for 2nd between himself, Endrizzi and Trenten Helie, setting things up for an exciting final race. This time it was Romero who had issues, slipping back and having to work his way back up, allowing Helie and Mitchell to get away enough for a mano-e-mano battle, the pair swapping the lead multiple times, before Mitchell secured the top spot with 2 to go and held off Trenton Helie for the win, while Romero fought back up to claim third. The body of work was enough for Colby Romero to snag the championship in the final event of the season, with Travis Mitchell in 2nd and on the back of a consistent season, an absent William Wallis still able to claim third in the debut season.
Donald Durbin Jr, and the rest of the staff want to thank all of the sponsors, competitors, and families that supported the IKF Northern California Sprint Kart Series in its inaugural season, and everyone that came out this past weekend for the Corning Grand Prix!