PHOENIX – Karting has always been a cyclical sport. Engine packages and tire brands come and go, but the racers are ever-present.
Last weekend at Phoenix Kart Racing Association, a group of racers converged on the Formula K circuit in a confluence of affordable racing and a passion for the sport.
The first annual 4 Cycle Super Showdown presented by Briggs and Stratton was held, showcasing the World Formula and LO206 formats – engines that are seeing an upswing in popularity at sprint tracks across the country, as well as in Canada. The combination of cost, maintenance and close racing has won over many people, as evidenced by the event held at PKRA.
A unique format was used for the two-day event. Six races – three on Saturday, three on Sunday – were run, with points being given out on a sliding scale for each race. Each race had more laps and was progressively worth more points, giving more importance to the races on Sunday. Throwing a further monkey-wrench into the format, it was decided to invert the field for the senior categories, putting those with the highest point totals in the back for the start of each race. With those leading the points starting in the back of each race, a mix of strategy, talent and luck was needed to stay in the running for a podium finish – as well as a big payday. The racers were competing for a guaranteed payout for the top three finishers, with $500 and a set of MG tires going to the winner, $300 to second place and $200 to third in all classes.
And in a huge twist, rain – yes, rain in the desert – was a constant threat, and played a factor in a few races over the course of the weekend.
What resulted was highly competitive – and at times completely unpredictable – racing.
The LO206 Senior class saw six drivers entered, and one was in a class all his own. Curtis Ruth piloted his No. 8 kart to a clean sweep of the six races, starting last in all but the first race, and winning by more than one second in each.
“That engine is bad, man,” Ruth said, referring to the strength of his LO206 engine.
Ruth took his time getting to the front in each race, working past the likes of Eric Vanderford – who battled engine woes all weekend – and Bryan Quattrocchi. Ruth would take turns pushing Vanderford and Quattrocchi to the lead in the draft on the long back straightaway until he saw an opening and motored on past.
Ruth took home the $500 prize with the six victories, all while spending more time helping his Innovative Karting customers than working on his own kart. Quattrocchi placed second overall, finishing second to Ruth in four of the six races. Vanderford placed second in the main event on Sunday afternoon, vaulting him to third in the overall standings.
The LO206 Cadet class was perhaps the most fun racing to watch in the junior categories throughout the weekend.
The youngsters were paced by two drivers in each of the six races. Diego LaRoque and Zoey Endenholm swapped the lead countless times over both days. LaRoque and Endenholm are no strangers to racing one another, being friendly rivals at the club level for some time.
The close racing wasn’t limited to LaRoque and Endenholm, however. Battles could be seen between Timothy Trostel and Amelia LaRoque; Macy Williams, Tommy Traylor – who flipped in practice on Sunday, but returned to finish each race like a trooper – and AJ Hernandez; and Jordan Shepard, Brody Lewis and Max Frank. The kids raced clean and hard, showing the adults how much fun clean racing can be.
Though Diego LaRoque won each of the six races, he was never far ahead of Endenholm, who placed a close second in each race. Diego took first overall, with Endenholm second and Trostel taking the third spot on the podium.
With the strong numbers and close, clean racing, PKRA hopes to make the LO206 cadet category a stronghold in its club events in the future.
WORLD FORMULA MEDIUM
The World Formula Medium category saw racers from three states – Arizona, Iowa and Minnesota – compete in the most competitive class of the weekend.
In the other four classes, six drivers won the 24 total races. In the World Formula Medium, five drivers got a win in the six races. The competitiveness of the class was through the roof, with an IKF Duffy winner, three PKRA season champions, and drivers with countless feature wins in the fold.
The field inversion played a critical role in the Medium category, with hard racing and racing luck yo-yoing the points after each race.
Canada-native Derek Poirier won the first two races on Saturday, driving from the back in both races. By the third race on Saturday, the field had evened out. Alex Akers took the third race victory ahead of Minnesota’s Chris Slinden in second and Poirier, who raced from last to third.
Sunday was when things got really interesting for the Medium class. Slinden’s teammate and fellow Minnesotan Creig Olcott dominated the opening race of Sunday, having started on the outside pole. Olcott was down in points after being caught up in a few incidents, including a wreck after Iowa’s Jeremiah Davis had a flat right rear at the end of the back straight in the second race on Saturday.
As Olcott stretched out his lead, the battle for second was heated between five drivers – Slinden, DJ Quint, Kody Ramsey, Akers and Davis. But with just a few laps remaining, the skies opened once again, throwing a wrench in the works. Slinden took second in the race, with Quint third.
Slinden took control of the overall points lead in the fifth race, winning his only heat by avoiding carnage behind him in the battle for second place. Poirier, who had raced from deep in the field to the lead in that fifth race, lost any real chance at the overall win with a flat tire of his own, opening the door for Slinden.
The Medium guys saved the best for last, though. The main event was a fantastic race among the top four racers over the second half of the race. Slinden, Quint, Davis and Akers each took turns holding the lead at some point in the final ten laps, with drafting strategies and gutsy passes plentiful.
Quint made the best drive of the day, recovering from a run-in with Davis in the carousel turn that saw Quint with all four tires off the track while racing for second behind Slinden. Quint recovered, though, as Davis and Slinden raced hard for the lead, and was able to catch back up.
Working with Akers, Quint drafted back to the front, taking the lead past Slinden as the top four took the white flag. Akers made his move headed into the so-called Daytona turn on the final lap, drafting alongside Quint with Slinden in tow. Akers couldn’t quite complete the pass, and Quint held on out of the Daytona turn. Akers, who unfortunately was stuck on the outside from there, fell from the lead to fourth as Slinden and Davis snuck past.
Quint raced to the main event win, with Slinden second. Davis was third in the main event, finishing ahead of Akers by a nose. Slinden’s consistent runs and fifth-race victory gave him the overall win and $500 prize, ahead of Quint in second and Akers in third.
WORLD FORMULA JUNIOR
Though only two drivers took to the track for the World Formula Junior category, there was no shortage of close racing between Tyler Wells and Mason Frank, who made the trip from Colorado.
Wells and Frank traded victories through the first four races, but mechanical issues plagued Frank in the fifth, costing him a shot at the overall victory.
The two proved a two-driver race could be entertaining, though, swapping the lead on several occasions throughout both days, and developing a friendly rivalry – one that resulted on Frank inviting Wells to come race in Colorado, in his neck of the woods.
Wells celebrated his 13th birthday on Sunday by taking the overall win ahead of Frank, and had a wide smile when considering what he’d used his prize money on.
WORLD FORMULA HEAVY
The final class of the weekend entered the main event without much drama, but provided close racing nonetheless.
Chris Slinden, who was double-classing, had won the first five races of the weekend by a wide margin, having raced from the back of the largest field at the Showdown each time. Slinden couldn’t complete the clean sweep, locking up the breaks while trying to make a pass in the early stages, spinning out and losing any chance at the win.
With the dominant driver of the class out, that left things wide open for the rest.
Roger Culver, who missed Saturday due to illness, started on pole in the main event, and pulled out to a huge lead ahead of the likes of Sean Kisselbach, Bernie Lacotta and Jay Woodward.
As Culver built up his lead, the group behind him raced hard for second. Kisselbach saw a promising run thwarted by a flat tire, and two other drivers worked their way from the back, negotiating traffic well.
The drive of the day in Heavy belonged to Rich Cordova, who started next-to-last, alongside Slinden. Cordova patiently and methodically worked his way through the field, avoiding trouble and setting his sights on Culver. Not far behind was John Estrada, who started just ahead of Cordova, as the two had entered the final race second and third in overall points.
When Cordova made his way to second, he faced a four-second deficit to Culver with less than 10 laps remaining. Cordova ran down the veteran racer in Culver, and made the winning pass with just a handful of laps remaining.
Cordova then pulled away, winning his first main event. Second place in the main event went to Lacotta, who avoided a final-turn incident between Estrada and Culver, who made contact racing for second. Rich Bowen took third, just behind Lacotta.
Slinden took the overall win, sweeping his two classes and taking $1000 back to Minnesota with him. Cordova’s drive to the main event win gave him a strong second place overall finish, with Estrada third.
While the drivers were on display, and put on a great show for those in attendance, they wouldn’t have been able to do so without the sponsors and volunteers who made the event possible.
In addition to Briggs and Stratton, RLV, Surfer’s kart parts, Target Distributing, Burris Racing, Terry Nash Motors, MG Tires, Northwest Valley Towing, Terrell Battery and AZ Specialty Demolition all donated money, door prizes and time and effort so that all classes would have guaranteed payouts and almost every racer got to leave with a prize.
The organizers, in conjunction with PKRA and sponsors, have already begun work on next year’s 4-cycle Super Showdown to make the event even bigger and better.