Paddock Insider: Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 26
EKN’s Paddock Insider is part of our Trackside coverage, bringing you notes, updates and breaking news as it happens. The article will feature notes from trackside at the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 26 outside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is insider info will not be seen anywhere else. Please feel free to comment and discuss our coverage and today’s action in the EKN Global Members Discussion area below.
The Big One
The 26th running of the SKUSA SuperNationals is underway as karts are now hitting the racing circuit for the first time this morning. A dusty race track, combined with strong winds in the area, is not making for a smooth opening first session for the morning categories including KA100 Junior, Senior, Master and Micro Swift. The winds are wreaking havoc on the many tents in the area, with teams seeking concrete barriers to hold down the tents.
With the new location of the event on the outside of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to the west, the layout is a bit of a challenge for those in the secondary paddock. It’s an easy five-minute walk around the track to the front of the grid entrance. SKUSA is already working to fix this issue, bringing them in right at the crosswalk area to make it an easier path from the pits to the fuel/grid area.
On-track, the early categories are testing the limits of the track, with several drivers pushing the end of the long 1400 foot straight into the turn one region. Of course, the dust and the lack of grip in the morning, are making it more of a challenge than normal conditions. The track is fast, with the word ‘unique’ and ‘different’ used a lot by the drivers in the morning sessions. We’ll have a full on-board video later today – one from the morning and another from the afternoon session.
Leading Edge Motorsports Unveils New Livery and Branding
The history of Leading Edge Motorsports is as long as that of the SKUSA SuperNationals, so this year’s race was the ideal location for Greg Bell to unveil his operation’s new livery and branding. The new look continues Bell’s trend of evolving his program, which began with his move to the the OTK brand and the iconic Tony Kart line. A brand new ‘LEM’ logo is paired with new red, white, and blue colors, and this rebrand will take the team into the 2024 season, in which the squad will start the year campaigning the Challenge of the Americas in the West. Bell also has programs in place for racers looking at the SKUSA Winter Series and ROK Cup Florida Winter Tour. Once the summer season gets underway, Leading Edge’s truck and hauler will remain on the East Coast to run for titles in the SKUSA Pro Tour, United States Pro Kart Series, and the Stars Championship Series.
GFC Introducing 2024 GT14 Shifter
GFC Karting is celebrating its five-year anniversary since launching back in 2018. It has been non-stop development since with owner Gary Carlton working with his design and utilizing the input of his two drivers – Jacob Gulick and Kyle Wick. The focus was on making it more stable. The hard work and passion put into the development since led to the first production run making its debut at the ROK Vegas event where Wick secured the victory. Now, the entire roster under the GFC tent at the SuperNationals are on the new 2024 GT14 Shifter chassis, including Pro and Master. More news is on the horizon for GFC in the coming weeks as they look to the 2024 season.
Bonnie Moulton Ends Streak at 25
For the first time in SKUSA SuperNationals history, Bonnier Moulton will not make an official race lap. The lone driver to start at all 25 editions of the SuperNats, dating back to 1998, is not competing this year. The three-time SuperNationals winner and SKUSA Hall of Fame member elected not to race but is here working as driver coach and mentor for Pro Shifter driver Hannah Greenemeier. It goes without saying that Moulton has been a fixture at the SuperNationals and the sport in general since starting back in 1992. Speaking with him trackside today, he’s not upset about sitting this event out, and happy to have ended the streak at the 25th, outside the Rio. For us at EKN, it is bittersweet not seeing him race for a record-tying fourth victory at the SuperNationals.
About midway through the afternoon sessions on Wednesday, Superkarts! USA officials put in a sunset break. The sun was beaming into the sight line of the drivers down the near 95mph straight for the shifterkarts. During that time, officials took extra steps to adjust the section entering the turn one complex. The apex was moved in, to move away from one of the light poles on the outside of the track that was in the impact zone. The adjustment was welcomed by the paddock but pushed the end of the day to roughly 7:30-8pm to close out the day. The morning sessions today used the first session to adjust, and now were are closing in on the first official laps with qualifying on the horizon.
Likens Hits 15-Year Milestone as SuperNationals Starter
One of the great stories of the SKUSA SuperNationals is the discovery of flagman Aaron Likens at the SKUSA Central States Challenge in 2008. SKUSA’s Tom Kutscher was visiting his regional series and was blown away by the skills of their starter. At the drivers meeting that weekend, Kutscher invited Aaron to flag at the SuperNationals and he’s occupied that role for the last 15 years. Likens’ story has taken him to the top of the sport, as he not only continues as the starter for SKUSA but he’s also the lead flagman for INDYCAR and the Indianapolis 500. Aaron’s flare and style have caught the eyes of the world’s race fans and he’s become a core part of the INDYCAR family. Aaron is also the Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals Arkansas, and autism trainer for police and fire departments, consultant for Mattel’s ‘Thomas the Train’ and a new character, Bruno, who is autistic, the author of ‘Finding Kansas’ and his new book to be released in 2024, ‘Playing in Traffic: Living in the fast lane with autism’. SKUSA is blessed to have such a talented individual manning the flags again this year.