Daytona KartWeek Turns 50

By: Jennifer Henry

 Once again kart racers from all over the country made their annual trek to Nascar’s Daytona International Speedway. This year would be just a little more special because this would be the 50th anniversary for WKA’s KartWeek. With so many families spending their time in between Christmas and New Years at the track, this year’s event would be one for the books. Many of the racers today still remember the 1st race that was held at Daytona. There are also a few go karters that can say that they have never missed a year racing here which adds up to a lot of miles traveled. One of those racers is Randy Fulks or as we call him, Mr. Daytona. With 60 wins under his belt, he has never missed a race in Daytona.  Keith Freber is another one that has attended 47 years’ worth of races and has 42 consecutive years of racing.  From grizzly granddads to little kids, every age group will compete for the bragging rights of the 1st place trophy from Daytona International Speedway. 

We also want to take a moment to remember a few individuals that we lost this past year. Marie Borsuk, who was an integral part of WKA’s operations since 1990 when WKA relocated to Charlotte, NC. She spent countless hours preparing for each race and oversaw registrations for some of the WKA’s largest events.  She was definitely the face of WKA. David Lee, who we lost this year after an incident at Roebling Road.  And Dan Stowell, who we also lost after an accident at Mid-Ohio racetrack. There are countless others who have left this earth but will be remembered by family and friends.

With practice day being a wash due to unfortunate weather many came into race day 1 not knowing how their kart were going to perform.  With a little bit of practice in the morning race 1 started off with over 30 drivers in the CIK LO206 Sprint(375) class looking to take the checkered flag.  Coming on the straightaway to get the green flag Jon Miller, Doug Kittleson, Mark Stonesifer and Scott Heath had already teamed up and broken away from the rest of the class. The four of them continued this momentum throughout the entire race with almost a lap over the entire field.  Jon Miller would hold onto the lead to take the checkered flag.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Day 2 also brought the numbers to the class with almost 40 drivers looking to take home the 1st place trophy. The race started off with Jonathan Williams, Doug Kittleson and Derrick Ruzicka teaming up to take the lead. It wasn’t long before Scott Heath, Jon Miller, and Mark Stonesifer eventually caught up to the lead pack.  Unfortunately, Mark spun out and then it was down to 5.  The pack of 5 continued on with more than a 40 second lead over the rest of the class.  Jonathan Williams was able to hang onto the lead, beating out Scott, Doug, Derrick, and Jon.

“This was my third year in a row going and racing down in Daytona. It’s every racer’s dream to go and race there, it’s probably one of the most famous tracks in the world”, says Jonathan.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Race 2 brought out 20 plus drivers for the Yamaha Sr class, which was bound to be a great race with so many veteran drivers all looking to take home a win.  Leading the pack on lap 1 driver Randy Fulks took the green flag with Nate Grindell, Rick Fulks and Rusty Benson hot on his trail. After the first few laps it looked like it would be a battle of the brothers as Randy and Rick Fulks fought for first place. While Nate, Rusty and Colin rounded out the top five. Unfortunately, Randy and Nate fell out leaving Colin Jedrzejek, Jason Lorang, Rick Fulks, and Rusty Benson fighting for the top position in the end Colin was able to take the lead and take the win for day 1.

According to Colin, “The weekend went well with practice day getting rained out but with the practice before the races we had enough time to dial the kart in handling wise and get a gear picked out.  I thought the weekend ran good aside from the rain. We had full races both days and the program ran smoothly”.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Race day 2 in Yamaha Sr had another great showing with a 20 plus group.  Again, with this caliber of drivers it was anyone’s guess as to who would take home the checkered flag. Leading the first lap was Patrick Olsen, Randy and Rick Fulks, Nate Grindell, Jason Lorang, Rusty Benson, and Colin Jedrzejek.  This battle continued for most of the race with Ritchie Warren and John Brown also joining in on the fight. With just a few laps to go Nate, Ritchie and John were able to take the lead and continue the fight with Ritchie Warren drafting past Nate for the 1st place position. 

“The weekend was as perfect as it could be for myself after not being in a laydown for 10 years. The Richie Warren Chassis did a phenomenal job taking five out of the top six positions on the first race day and taking the top four positions on the second day”, states Ritchie.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Race 3 on day 1 had a fantastic showing in the CIK LO206 Sprint (390) class with 20 plus drivers on the grid.  Leading the pack on the first lap was Rob Garland with Aspen and Brody Kellner not far behind. With another pack consisting of Hank Hefner, Brian Donati, Daniel Breedlove, and William Gerland only seconds behind. Aspen and Brody Kellner took the lead with just a few laps in but with the help of a drafting partner William Gerland was able to secure the lead and take the win.

Day 2 for the CIK LO206 Sprint (390) class once again brought the numbers with another solid field of 20 plus drivers.  At the drop of the green flag, it was William Gerland on the hunt looking for another 1st place finish.  With the help of a drafting partner, he was able to make his way to the front of the pack. With only a lap or two left an on-track incident brought out the red flag which ended the race. With William leading at the time, he was able to take the win for a sweep in the CIK LO206 (390) class.

According to William, “The track lost a little grip mostly because it was cold. 50 anniversary for WKA was a great time as always. And a shout out to 991 Race Engines, the best power on the grid”.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

The 100cc AC TaG Sr Race A and B brought tons of competition to with over 20 drivers in all four races.  In Race A on day 1 Jonathan Miller once again took the win with a fairly big lead over 2nd place Scott Cherry. In Race B would Jonathan be able to bring home another win or would someone else swope in for the checkered. Coming around on the first lap leading the way was Victoria Helm, Ryan Miller and Scott Cherry.  Closing in fast was Nick Cornetta and Emory Lyda. Within a few laps Emory was able to take the lead with the help of Scott Cherry, but Victoria was hot on their trail and Nick not far behind. In the end Emory Lyda was able to maintain the lead and take the checkered flag.

Emory states, “This was my first road race, and while I had a lot to learn I enjoyed the new challenge. Daytona is one of the most famous racing landmarks in the world, so to be able to race and win on the high banks was very meaningful”.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Day 2 in the 100cc AC TaG Race A and B once again brought an impressive number of racers.  In Race A on day 2 Jonathan Miller took his 3rd  win of the event with a 15 second lead over 2nd place.  Race B brought out some great racing between Scott Cherry and Wes Schroeder.  Right from the start Wes lead the first several laps but unfortunately fell back due to losing the draft. Eventually he found Scott Cherry and the two found their way back to the head of the pack. Wes passed Scott in turn 6 on the last lap and held him off to take home the 1st place trophy.

“Thanks to my fellow racers for a clean/fast race and to both the WKA and Daytona staff for hosting another great road race”, states Wes.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

IAME Sprint class had some great racing with 25 drivers entered all fighting for the 1st place position on day 1.  Leading the way on the 1st lap was Hunter Macomber and Brad Adams but Jon Davis and James Glitch were hot on their trail.  Within a few laps brothers John and Jamey Brown were able to make their way to the front of the pack to take the lead. They were able to pull away from the rest of the class with a significant lead and secure the top 2 position with Jamey taking the checkered flag.

“First of all, hats off to the WKA team for putting together an amazing 50th anniversary kart race at Daytona.  And special thanks to LAD for the bullet X30’s”, says Jamey.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Day 2 in the IAME Sprint class continued their impressive numbers with over 20 plus drivers. In the end driver Brad Adams was the lucky winner barely beating out Hunter Macomber by 0.008 seconds.

Race 6 on day 1 and 2  in the 125-shifter class had some fantastic racing and fast times.  On day 1 Alex Popusoi and Alex Laughlin ran neck and neck the entire race with a decent lead over the rest of the pack. In the end Alex Popusoi beat Alex Laughlin to the checkered flag but only by 0.057 seconds and over 7 seconds from 3rd place of Steven Rougeou.  Day 2 was the Alex Popusoi show has he had an impressive win beating out 2nd place Alex Zinser by more than a lap.

“Big thanks to WKA for making everything happen.  Looking forward to the 2024 race seasons and for more wins”.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Race 6 on day1 in the Unlimited class had 15 plus entries and would have some very fast times from one particular driver.  At the green flag Brian Wilhelm and Johnny West started their battle with Johnny overtaking Brian in the infield. The two battled back and forth for most of the race. In the last 10 minutes of the race Brian and Johnny swapped positions more than 15 times.  Towards the end of the race Johnny had transmission issues which allowed Brian to increase his lead.  In the end Brian was able to secure his 1st place, beating Johnny by about 2 laps. 

According to Brian, “Daytona is always the most highly anticipated and planned-for race of the year for our group, and this year being the 50th Daytona Kartweek meant it was going to be even bigger than normal.  It’s been 25 years since my first one in 1998. It took me 9 years to win my first one (2007), and this year I got my 24th and 25th win. I think I have missed Daytona 3 times total”.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

On Day 1 in the TaG Heavy class it was looking like it was going to have some stiff competition with 20 drivers hoping to take home the win.  Right from the start Mike Jones took the green flag and ran with it. He kept the pace up and started to gap the rest of the pack. With the darkness approaching many wondered if they would even get to finish the race but as lady luck would have it the TaG Heavy class was able to finish and Mike Jones would take the win with a 9 second lead over 2nd place, Brad Adams.

According to Mike, “The first session I was in the TAG kart, I was completely humbled! In fact, I came off the track telling my boys I probably wasn’t going to race. They talked me into it and fortunately got the win on my first attempt”.

Photo credit: Fade to Black photography

Again, a big thank you to the racers that came out and supported the 50th anniversary of Kart Week at Daytona International Speedway.  Hope to see everyone at the next stop on the Road Race Series, Roebling Road.