Race Report by Keith Shampine / Photos by Bruce Walls (complete event album here)
Georgia’s Tanner Carter and Florida’s Colin Warren top winners list
The American Kart Racing Association (AKRA) opened the second year of its Vega USA American Sprint Cup Series program April 21-23 at Carolina Motorsports Park with the first-ever North / South Shootout presented by MGM Chassis, an event that counted for points in the series’ “Northern Tour” and “Southern Tour,” each of which will run three more events this year leading up to the 2017 Grand National Championship this October at the 103rd Street Sports Complex in Jacksonville, Fla.
This past weekend’s event was another successful one for the growing 2-cycle and 4-cycle sprint series. Sixty-two entrants filled the CMP pit area Saturday for day one of racing. Threatening storms and colder temperatures shrunk fields slightly on Sunday; however, approximately 120 entrants on the weekend marked the series’ largest turnout to date and more positive momentum moving forward.
While AKRA works to grow the 2-cycle turnouts in the American Sprint Cup Series, the Briggs & Stratton Racing LO206 turnout was terrific. At least 45 LO206-powered karts hit the track at the Shootout, including nearly 20 senior competitors, 10 masters, 5 juniors and 11 cadets.
TS Racing driver Colin Warren entered six classes on the weekend and would win five of them, making the Florida driver the top winner at the Shootout.
Razor Chassis racer Tanner Carter was not far behind Warren. The Georgia native entered the four 4-cycle cadet divisions and won three of them to score the hat trick.
North / South Shootout double winners were: John Anderson (TaG Masters), Indy Kassy (Yamaha Junior), Joey Miller (206 Masters), Macon Moore (206 Junior), Kyle Raymond (Yamaha Cadet), Bryce Sanders and Austin Williamson (Pro Gas Junior).
Here’s a rundown of each class’s competition at the North / South Shootout.
Georgia’s Tanner Carter was the big winner in the Cadet category, besting 10 other entrants to win Saturday’s Kart City Performance 206 Cadet main event and both Saturday and Sunday’s IONIC Edge Chassis Pro Gas Cadet finals.
Saturday’s 206 Cadet main saw a three-kart breakaway up front with Carter, Owen Lloyd and Brently Miller – all Razor Chassis drivers – leaving the rest of the pack. Carter would hold on for a 0.086-second victory over Lloyd with 2016 AKRA Kid Kart national champion Brently Miller finishing a strong third. Virginia’s Camden Gruber finished all alone in the fourth spot with Elijah Skaggs trailing in fifth.
Lloyd would step up Sunday to score his first-ever AKRA American Sprint Cup 206 Cadet triumph. The Waycross, Ga., driver would fend off Carter for the win in another close race between the two. Gruber would run a strong third in his No. 24 with Bryce Sanders taking fourth place on his home-built Maverick chassis. Skaggs would once again settle for a P5 finish in the 11-kart field.
In a nice addition to the AKRA sprint series, five drivers entered the Pro Gas Animal Cadet division at the North / South Shootout. Last year, the series barely saw a Pro Gas entrant in any age category.
The Pro Gas Cadet races looked pretty similar to the 206 Cadet contests, especially at the front of the pack, where Carter, Lloyd and Gruber continued to reign.
Saturday’s main would see Carter wheel his Razor to the win by a 1.1-second margin over Lloyd. Gruber would settle for P3 with Louisiana’s Camryn Reed taking P4 and Elijah Skaggs P5.
On Sunday, Carter again paced the field, leading every lap of the main event and this time triumphing by a 1.5-second gap over Gruber. Lloyd would finish third, about one second behind Gruber. Skaggs took fourth and Reed rounding out the five-kart field.
The Yamaha Cadet division ran with the Pro Gas Cadet class. Only two drivers entered Yamaha Cadet, both coming down to South Carolina from the Thompson, Ohio, area. Kyle Raymond would score the class wins both days ahead of fellow Thompson Kart Raceway regular JT Novosielski.
Bryce Sanders and JT Novosielski would split the RockAuto.com 2-Cycle Rookie finals. Sanders would win Saturday’s contest over Camryn Reed, while Novosielski scored Sunday’s win in his first-ever AKRA American Sprint Cup Series event.
A half-dozen junior drivers made the call at CMP with 206 Junior the largest division at five entries.
Louisiana IONIC Edge Chassis driver Macon Moore again flexed his muscle in the Boon & Sons-sponsored 206 Junior class, continuing his momentum from wins at the 206 Grand National Championship last fall at Jacksonville. Moore would drive his No. 200 to feature victories both days in 206 Junior.
Moore won over Florida’s Ryan Rogers both Saturday and Sunday. Rogers finished 1.3 seconds back of Moore in Saturday’s 12-lap final with Elmer Edmonson, another Florida driver, taking third. Austin Williamson would take fourth and Dylan Amundsen rounded out the five-kart field.
Sunday’s 206 Junior main would see Rogers jump out to the early lead. He would proceed to lead about half the race until Moore made the pass for the lead just past halfway. Rogers did everything he could to hang with Moore and challenge at the end, but the Louisiana driver would be just a bit too strong, scoring the win by a slim 0.291-second advantage over Rogers. Williamson would take third, Amundsen fourth and Edmonson retired after one lap and was credited with fifth.
South Carolina’s Austin Williamson left no doubt who was the fastest MGM Chassis Pro Gas Animal Junior competitor at the North / South Shootout. Competing in his first-ever AKRA event, Williamson dominated the class all weekend, winning both Saturday and Sunday’s finals by comfortable margins.
Williamson, driving a No. 43 Coyote chassis, crossed the finish stripe nearly six seconds ahead of Moore in Saturday’s 12-lap Pro Gas Junior main. Edmonson was third.
On Sunday, both Edmonson and Moore pulled off the track early while chasing Williamson, who continued to pull away. When Williamson was the only kart left on the track, officials waved the checkered flag to officially give the Coyote pilot a clean sweep on the weekend in the Animal-powered junior division.
Virginia’s Indy Kassy was the only entrant in Yamaha Junior. Kassy gained a great amount of experience and track time at CMP while racing first with the Pro Gas Junior drivers, and then with the TaG Senior and TaG Masters competitors. Kassy would be awarded a pair of first-place awards for his efforts, and a wealth of experience on the technical 0.7-mile CMP kart track.
Senior / Masters Classes
Multi-time 2016 AKRA national champion Colin Warren hit the track running in 2017 and would again prove to be the driver to beat in senior AKRA sprint competition.
Warren, driving a TS Racing VLR chassis, would win Saturday and Sunday’s TSRacing.com-sponsored 206 CIK Senior Medium main events going away. With six entries in the new CIK Senior class, Warren would qualify P1 both days and lead every lap of each day’s main events.
Saturday Warren triumphed by a big 13.6-second gap over Austin Queen and Ryan Miller, who waged a spirited battle for the second spot. Queen and Miller would swap the P2 position a number of times throughout the 12-lapper with Queen taking the advantage on the final lap and holding off Miller to the stripe. Miller would settle for third with Eric Maitlen fourth, Cade Frazier fifth and Long Island’s Andrew Cirillo completing the six-kart field.
Frazier went home after Saturday’s program leaving five karts entering Sunday’s 206 CIK Senior Medium class. The result at the front was the same with Warren winning the Pole Award and leaving the rest of the field in the final for a 10-second win. On this day Miller was able to fend off challenges from Queen for P2 and eventually taking the runner-up position. Queen was third, Cirillo fourth and Maitlen rounded out the five-kart race.
A dozen drivers entered the Razor Chassis / Roberts Kart Shop 206 Senior Heavy division which continues to be AKRA’s headline senior division. In Saturday’s program, Tyler Lloyd would win the Pole Award and proceed to lead most of the 12-lap main event. But with only a couple laps to go Tyler’s twin brother, Aren Lloyd, would make is way past his brother and bring Tennessee’s Joseph Skaggs and Colin Warren along with him. Tyler would slip to fourth, finishing behind Aren, who was able to stay a kart-length in front of Skaggs over the course of the final lap to score the win. Skaggs would take P2, Warren P3, Tyler Lloyd P4 and JT Swygert would complete the top five.
Warren found some more speed in his VLR chassis for Sunday’s program. After winning the Pole Award, Warren was never seriously challenged in the 12-lap Senior Heavy weekend capper. He would lead every lap of the race and cross the stripe 3.2 seconds in front of Saturday winner Aren Lloyd for his fifth win of the event. Nick Lefferdo, driving a Roberts Kart Shop-owned Razor, had a rough day Saturday but rebounded for a third-place finish in Sunday’s main. Florida’s Patrick O’Neal was fourth on his Coyote and Skaggs would round out the top five on his Coyote. Tyler Lloyd ran P3 for most of the event but threw a chain with two laps to go.
Diversified Plumbing Services 206 Masters was a hotly contested class with 10 entrants and close competition throughout the field. But defending AKRA national champion Joey Miller would make it look easy on his Razor, winning nearly every round of competition on his way to a sweep of the 206 Masters main events.
On Saturday, Miller would score the feature win by a comfortable 6.4-second margin over North Florida Kart Club regular Justin VanDerZee. Paul Rice would cross the finish stripe third but not weigh, resulting in a DQ. That would give P3 to another Jacksonville regular, Brad Farmer on a Coyote. Joe Murzynski would take fourth and Kevin Medearis fifth.
Sunday’s qualifying round was the only round of competition Miller would lose all weekend. VanDerZee would time just a tick faster than Miller to win the Pole Award. But when the green flag waved for the feature, Miller would shoot out to the front and pull away quickly. VanDerZee was left to battle with Rice and Farmer for the second position, and once he cleared them several laps into the race, Miller had already pulled away and able to race uncontested to his second North / South Shootout feature win. VanDerZee would again settle for second with Rice third, Farmer fourth, Murzynski fifth and Andy Jones sixth.
Colin Warren won both Vega USA TaG Senior main events. Driving a TS Racing-prepared DR Kart, Warren would triumph over Illinois’ Brandon Basela both days. Basela was making his first AKRA sprint start after racing with the Road Racing Series last year.
Nicholson Speedway club racers John Anderson and Derek Grebinger made the trip south to Kershaw to compete in the Vega USA TaG Masters division. Anderson, from Dover, Del., would win both days over Grebinger.
The American Sprint Cup Series now has the month of May off before returning to action with two big events in June.
The Northern Tour will run its first standalone event of the season June 9-11 at the Genesee Valley Kart Club in Avon, N.Y. Two weeks later the American Sprint Cup Series will be in action at Bushnell Motorsports Park in Bushnell, Fla., for Round 2 of the Southern Tour.
Pre-registration for both events will open next week on AKRASprint.com.