April 8, 2015 at 2:09 pm #45731Ken ShifterkartParticipant
This last weekend (Easter weekend) on Saturday I was very fortunate to be able to race my CR-125 SKUSA Spec Honda sprint kart with NCK Road Racing (www.nckroadracing.com) at Willow Springs on the “Big” track. I sprint race regularly with SKUSA in their ProKart Challenge series (www.superkartsusa.com) as well as their Pro Tour and SuperNats. A few years ago I raced with NCK at Buttonwillow on their “big” track so I’ve road raced just a little bit.
Road racing is a completely different “discipline” vs sprint racing. Sprint racing is held on either dedicated/specific kart sprint racing tracks or temporary tracks (on city streets such as the Lancaster Grand Prix or parking lots such as the SuperNats), but road racing is held on much larger full size car racing tracks. The top speeds are much different as well: a typical sprint track will be ~75-80 mph but a road race track will be ~105-110 mph!!! While sprint racing is much more “frantic” with things happening extremely quickly and aggressively, road racing is much more “deliberate”, and strategy and the draft are crucial.
I needed to do very little to prep my sprint race kart for road racing. Just changed my gearing, front end setup (caster & camber), softer axle and shorter hubs as well as jetting. In the class I was racing in, it required that we use the standard CIK front fairing, compared to the NCK class where they could use a large Hegar carbon fiber front fairing which gives a better aerodynamic profile plus a larger air “bubble” for the driver’s head.
NCK recently created (I think last year) a class called “Sprint Super Stock CR125 385 lbs (SKUSA)”. It follows SKUSA rules, which makes it extremely easy for a SKUSA racer to “cross over” and road race with NCK. Being that I race in S4, and the new S4 Super Master (S4 SM) classes, I was running about 20 lbs over the NCK 385 lb minimum weight. Although being overweight in road racing doesn’t matter as much as sprint racing, it does make a difference.
Our gearing calculated out to a 105 mph top speed, but in the draft, we were hitting ~110 mph.
On Saturday the schedule included two 20 minute practice sessions and three 20 minute races. NCK was sharing the track with Speed Ventures which is a car racing sanctioning body.
In the first two practice sessions I was extremely conservative on jetting and just learned the track, got used to the higher speeds, as well as drafting and being close to other karts at 100+ mph. Also, NCK does NOT allow bump drafting.
NCK races with all of their classes on the track at the same time, so they grid the karts based on their speed capability. This meant that the super karts were gridded at the front, then all of the CR-125 karts (the larger NCK classes first), then the open 125’s and myself at the back of the 125’s, then the TaG, etc…. Each class was to be separated by ~75 yards at the start. Also, the race length is set by overall time, not by number of laps. Additionally, being that there is no qualifying, the grid is set randomly in each class.
Going into the first race of the day, I took my spot on the grid at the back of all of the 125’s. I just wanted to be able to get comfortable racing at faster speeds than I am used to, plus I wanted to earn the trust of the drivers around me, being that I’m not a “regular”. I also was being conservative and inching my way down on the jetting chart, as well as using two race old tires… At the start, I laid back a little, not being really close the karts ahead of me, just wanting to see how the regular drivers handle the start, as well as race. All of this while not losing the draft. I quickly got comfortable and started moving my way forward, but still being very deliberate in all of my moves and giving a bit of extra space. I also sometimes used hand signals to let the drivers around me know my intentions, also kept my head on a “swivel” to know who was around me and where. I got to the point to where I really didn’t need to look around as much, because you can really “feel” it when you have a kart drafting right behind you. As the lead driver, you can really feel how the kart behind you tucks into your draft, making you both faster. Being in the draft can gain you at least a couple of seconds a lap at this track, which is about a 1:40 second lap time for the 125’s. Also, the wind direction and speed, as well as the corrected altitude can change your gearing, as well as jetting. I had a great time racing with a handful of other drivers in our pack, and in the scale line I was approached by a couple of them and received a great compliment. They said: “we really felt comfortable racing with you”. Wow…that was awesome to have them say that to me!!!!
Going into the second race, I still started at the back of the 125’s, but felt more comfortable having the first race under my belt and planned on being a bit more aggressive. I had a great time battling it out with a number of karts throughout the race. Coming to the checkered flag, there was a group of five karts immediately in front of me who all were drafting, then fanned out for the run to the checkered flag. Unfortunately a couple of them got tangled together and spun….
Unfortunately I didn’t get to record race #3.
I had a fantastic time road racing with NCK and I highly recommend my sprint racing friends to give it a try sometime!!!
April 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm #45732Ric mcDadeParticipant
GREAT POST!! Sprint guys are always welcome at any of our R/R events. Wish more of you would come and give it a try, I think you’ll be hooked! Lookup KART.ORG, and hit a race. We’ll find a class for you!
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