Race Report: 2023 IKF Sprint GrandNationals
The 2023 edition of the International Kart Federation Sprint GrandNationals presented by Ferguson Truck Center was held on October 20-22 at the Speedsportz Racing Park. The New Caney, Texas facility welcomed 110 entries for the seven categories, focused on the Briggs & Stratton 206 and IAME engine platforms. All drivers were competing to win the coveted ‘Duffy’ trophy that has honored winners at the IKF GrandNationals for decades.
“The event went well, and the racing showed that on track,” stated Neal Strickland of the International Kart Federation. “The Finals on Sunday were great races to watch as many of them went down to the last lap or the last two corners of the race to decide the winner. The IKF would like to thank Alan and his entire staff for being this year’s promotor of the IKF Sprint GrandNationals as Speedsportz is a beautiful facility and provides great racing opportunities. Congratulations to all the 2023 Duffy and Screaming Eagle winners!”
The largest division of the weekend was the 206 Senior class presented by Smoker Performance Mini Sprockets at 34 drivers. Kelvin Xing was able to edge out Aden Rudolph by five thousandths with a 1:01.862 lap time to earn the IKF Screaming Eagle trophy for fast time. Qualifying third was Mikey Bowlin, who won the opening heat race ahead of Rudolph and CKNA Grand Nationals winner Christopher McKeithan. Xing was able to hold off Bowlin and Rudolph for the win in Heat #2 while fireworks took place in the final heat. Cole Nelson climbed 11 spots in the 12-lap race, coming away with the win over Xing and McKeithan. In the Final, Xing led the first four laps until McKeithan and Rudolph showed the way. Each led with Rudolph at the point on the white flag lap. On the final circuit, McKeithan was able to move from third to first, taking the checkered flag for the Duffy trophy. Xing crossed the line second just ahead of Rudolph to complete the podium. Ragan Saville gained five spots in the 20-lap main event to finish fourth while Bowlin completed the top-five.
The 206 Junior category presented by Saville Electric hosted 16 drivers on the weekend. Stephen Searock was the driver everyone was chasing to begin, posting a 1:02.946 lap time to lead the way in qualifying for the IKF Screaming Eagle. Six drivers were all within 95 thousandths, including Chris Tracey, Cooper Perez, Josey Chambers, Jackson Baldus and Carter Kilgo. It was Perez taking the win in Heat #1 by 66 thousandths over Tracey while Chambers took the win in the second heat over Perez. Returning to the front, Perez added another win to close out the heats with a photo finish over Chambers by 78 thousandths. Those two wins put Perez on the pole position for the Final, leading the opening circuit before Tracey and Chambers took control. By lap six, Perez was back at the point and led the way until lap 15 when Tracey and Chambers battled back for the position. The final four laps saw a lot of shuffling for position with Chambers leading at the white flag. Tracey was able to bounce back from sitting sixth in the closing laps to crossing the line first, however, a ‘cutting the track’ penalty of 10-seconds took the victory away. This promoted Chambers to the top step of the podium. Perez was classified second with Carter Kilgo up 11 spots to land the third step of the podium. Tracey ended up fourth with Gavin McCune rounding out the top-five.
There were several drivers in the fight all weekend for the 206 Cadet division presented by Ferguson Truck Center. The IKF Screaming Eagle trophy for top qualifier went to Tanner Barsch, with a 1:00.948 lap time to edge out Kade Kaspar by one thousandth of a second. Texas Sprint Racing Series champion Aston Wyatt was a close third with Brayden Westfall only 71 thousandths off in fourth. Three different drivers won a heat race, with Kaspar taking top honors in Round One over Westfall, Wyatt ahead of Drew Blehm in Heat #2, and Kayden Williams beating out Wyatt for Round Three. What was expected to be a race long battle turned into a wire-to-wire victory for Kaspar. Jumping from fifth on the grid to the lead on the opening lap, Kaspar led all 20 circuits to claim the Duffy trophy. The battle for second went down to the wire with Wyatt taking the position and Kayden Williams joining them on the podium in third. Barsch and Blehm finished fourth and fifth.
A familiar name to IKF competition was back at the top of the podium in the 206 Master class presented by RLV. Cole Nelson took top honors in the qualifying session, edging out Paul Booher by only nine thousandths with a 1:03.630 lap time. Nelson would not finish P1 in any of the heat races with Jesse Gwin taking the top spot in Heat #1 before Chuck Jensen doubled up in the final two heats. Jensen and Nelson led the field to the green flag, leading the first two laps before Gwin led the way for two as well. Nelson then took over the point, and showed the way the rest of the distance, taking the victory ahead of Jensen and Gwin. Zachary Sanborn was fourth with Booher in fifth.
The quickest category of the weekend was the KA100 Senior class presented by Trackside Karting Services. It was led for most of the weekend by Austin Garrison. The Florida driver put in a 55.192 lap time to show the way in qualifying over the 15-driver field. He and Aden Rudolph exchanged positions throughout the heat races, with Garrison coming away with the win in all three heats. The two resumed their fight in the Final after Garrison led the first half and Rudolph the majority of the second. On the final lap, Garrison was able to cross the line first, however a five-second penalty for incident responsibility dropped him off the top step of the podium. That promoted Rudolph to victory with Garrison classified second. Colby Romero advanced seven spots to finish on the podium in third over Everett Thomas and Travis Mitchell.
Santiago Duran was able to add his name to the list of Duffy winners, taking top honors in the KA100 Junior class presented by Performance Stop. Landon Skinner was the driver to beat throughout the event, setting fast time in qualifying by 75 thousandths over Jaxon Young with a 55.989 lap time. Santiago Durran drove up to the provisional win in Heat #1 but was penalized for scrubbing tires. That promoted Skinner to the race win. Skinner then led all the laps in the final two heat races to claim the pole position for the Final. He led the first half of the race until Durran claimed the top spot. From there, Durran led the second half of the race to claim the victory and Duffy trophy. Skinner settled for second with Jaxon Young crossing the line in third. Young was moved to the tail of the field for a bumper issue, moving Tyler Roberts onto the podium in third. Derek Wargo and Jordan Envani rounded out the top-five.
It was a near sweep of the event for Nicolas Orbezo in Mini Swift presented by the Alan Rudolph Racing Academy. Orbezo’s lap of 58.677 secured the fast time in qualifying by two tenths. It was Matteo Quinto however that broke up the sweep early, winning Heat #1 by 64 thousandths ahead of Orbezo. It was Orbezo, however, leading wire-to-wire in the final two heats, and then showing the way in the 20-lap Final to claim the victory by 4.4 seconds. Texas Sprint Racing Series champion Sawyer Chambers drove to second with Aston Wyatt joining them on the podium in third. Quinto ended up fourth with Emerson Laine placing fifth.
The 2023 chapter on the IKF Sprint GrandNationals is completed, with a successful return to the Lone Star State. The event is scheduled to remain there in 2024, with the Texas Sprint Racing Series taking over as event promoter. The 2024 IKF Sprint GrandNationals will be held at the Amarillo Kart Complex in Panhandle, Texas on August 2-4.