Vega Road Race Series: Charlotte Karting Challenge

By: Jennifer Henry

WKA returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Karting Challenge for a 3rd time with all 3 series racing for the checkered flag.  To spice things up WKA decided to change the layout of the road course.  Last year they ran the entire Roval course but this year the new layout took out the 2 inner loops but after careful consideration, the powers at be decided to add the 2nd loop back in for safety reasons.  As the racers started move-in on Friday many were wondering if their initial setup would work given the new layout.  Afternoon practice started off with a bang and a red flag which would be a precursor for the entire weekend. 


Starting off Saturday’s 1st race was the CIK LO206 Sprint class which brought out 25 racers to the grid.  Unfortunately, after 2 laps a red flag was thrown due to a wreck in turn 3 of the Roval.  Once the dust was settled the racers were restarted and the battle was on.  Right out of the gate a pack of 5 racers joined together for 30 minutes of tough racing. Jame Russell, Kevin Darling, John Miller, Doug Rink and Kyle Banovetz battled for 9 laps and exchange leads several times which made for a fantastic race to watch.  In the end Jame Russell was able to secure the victory on Saturday with less than a second separating the top 5 racers. 

“Super close racing Saturday for sure, Unlike last year. I think the top 5 or 6 were all close at the finish after 30 minutes. MGM is a hard team to beat, we were lucky on Saturday’s race on the Birel team for the win.  Would like to thank Gary freeze at Speed Clinic and WKA”.

Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black

After a great race on Saturday, the CIK LO206 class brought the numbers again but who would take the checkered flag this time?  Would Jame Russell be able to sweep the weekend, or would he be overthrown by someone else?  Leading the pack on the 1st lap was Kyle Bickford, who on Saturday was involved in the red flag wreck in turn 3 of the Roval.  This too would be a fantastic race to watch has the top four drivers were within a couple seconds of each other.  At one point Saturday’s winner, Jame Russell came onto the Roval leading the pack of 8 drivers all pushing the limits to try and take the lead.  Coming down the back straightaway with less than 10 minutes left in the race, Kevin Darling had taken over the lead with Kyle Banovetz and Kyle Bickford hot on his tail.  In the end Kevin Darling hung onto the lead with 0.078 of a second between him and 2nd place.

Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black

Race 1 also had the 100cc Air Cooled TaG Sr class which had 12 great racers hoping to take home an Eagle.  Right from the start 16-year-old driver, Makena Rice came onto the Roval leading the charge with Phillip Eastmead hot on her trail followed by Ian McFarland. By lap 4 the lead was lost to driver Jake Mueller, who unfortunately did not get off to a good start and had to make his way to the front.  Sadly, the red flag was thrown due to a wreck in turn 3 of the Roval and the race was stopped.  Once the drivers were reset, Jake once again did not get off the line very well and had to fight to regain his position at the front of the pack.  Going into the last few laps the lead was exchanged several times within the top 4 driver but in the end, Jake was able to hang on to the lead by keeping the outside line through the chicane and taking the checkered flag. 

Sunday’s 100cc Air Cooled Tag Sr race was also a fight for the lead for Saturday’s winner Jake Mueller.  Leading the way on the first lap was Phillip Eastmand followed by Makena Rice and Ian McFarland.  By lap 3 Makena Rice had taken the lead with Ian McFarland not far behind and Phillip dropping back to 3rd.  On the next lap Saturday’s winner Jake Mueller had made his way into 2nd place over Ian and Phillip.  By the halfway mark Jake had taken over the P1, while Phillip was in 2nd and Makena landing in 3rd.  With less than 10 minutes left in the race Colin Teague was able to take a hold on 1st place pushing Jake into 2nd and Phillip into 3rd.  Coming onto the finally lap Jake was able to draft with Phillip Eastmand which put him within striking distance of Colin Teague.  Going through the chicane, Jake and Phillip were able to stay low and squeak by Colin taking 1st and 2nd leaving Colin in 3rd.

According to Jake, “The race on Sunday was hands down the greatest racing I’ve ever experienced and the most fun I’ve ever had in a kart. And I’ll definitely be back again next year!”

Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black

Race 3 saw some of the fastest lap times of the weekend with the Super Karts and Unlimited class taking the track.  On Saturday, 13 drivers hit the grid looking to take home the win and the elusive Eagle.  Right from the get-go Paul Gatto hit the gas and never looked back.  Coming off the 1st lap Paul Gatto was leading the pack with Johnny West in 2nd and Attila Juhasz coming in 3rd.  Johnny’s run would be short lived as he only completed 2 laps which put Attila in 2nd place and Joey West moving up to 3rd.  This order held fast till the very end with Paul Gatto taking the checkered flag. 

Race 4 on Sunday brought out even more karts in the Super Kart/Unlimited class with 17 racers.  Brian Wilhelm debuted his new kart put together by Ian Harrison at Viper Racing UK.  This race brought Johnny West leading the pack coming off the 1st lap with Paul Gatto following close behind and Joey West rounding out the top 3.  Coming into 3rd lap Paul Gatto had taken over the lead from Johnny West, while Joey West still hung onto 3rd.  By the hallway mark, Allen Hollinger had made his way into 2nd place, while Brian Wilhelm had moved up to 3rd.  As the time was dwindling down Paul Gatto was still in 1st, with Brian Wilhelm overtaking 2nd from Allen Hollinger.  Ultimately this would be the finishing order as time expired and the checkered flag was thrown.


“I thought WKA and the Charlotte facility both were fantastic in their execution of the event. Charlotte is a beautiful facility. I was incredibly happy with the track layout, just not the bumps. I hit a top speed of 138.4mph which was 4mph faster than last year” says Paul.

Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black

Race 4 was the Yamaha Sr. class which brought 18 racers ready to fight for the win. As the green flag dropped the racers hit the ground running with Patrick Olsen coming out of Nascar turn 4 leading the way.  A few laps in Randy Fulks passed Patrick as they headed down the backstretch, but Randy was unable to shake Patrick has he stay right on his bumper.  This cat and mouse game continued for the entire 45 minutes trading the lead with one another.  While Randy would have the advantage going from the Roval to the Nascar track, Patrick would be back in the lead as they can onto the front straightway.  As they entered in what would be the final lap of the race, Randy and Patrick would trade paint a few times trying to slow each other up.  In the end Patrick was able to make the move coming out of Nascar turn 4 by taking the high side and passing Randy as they entered into the chicane leading him to the checkered flag. 

Sunday’s race would be a little less event but none the less exciting.  Right from the start Patrick Olsen had to battled yet another Fulks but this time it would be Rick instead of Randy.  Unfortunately, it would be short lived as Randy and Rick Fulks got tangled up in the Roval on lap 2.  This allowed Patrick to take the lead and stretch the gap between him and the other racers.  He continued this pace not realizing the huge lead he had over everyone.  2nd place Jason Lorang and 3rd place Randy Fulks fought for top positions for the last part of the race.  With a 32 second lead Patrick Olsen went on to sweep the Yamaha Sr class for the weekend with Randy Fulks winning the battle against Jason Lorang for 2nd place with less than a second separating the two.

“I really liked the layout WKA had posted, but due to safety reasons, it had to be changed to run the second inner loop, which added a great deal of technicality and low speed corners. I won’t lie, the infield was great; very flowing and fast. The oval let’s just say having suspension would be nice. That being said, the bumps add a different level of difficulty to being fast. Huge thank you to the entire team operation at LAD Specialties, Scott and Don Grenier, Brian and Gary Ellis, and of course my wife Deanne for all the support that made this weekend a huge success”!

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Race 5 on Saturday brought out an impressive number of racers in various classes.  The CIK LO206 Medium class had 14 karters.  Leading the way on lap 1 was Jeremy Yancy followed by Gary Campbell and Rob Garland.  Jeremy was unable to hold onto the lead as Gary Campbell, Rob Garland and a few others were able to work together and draft past to take over 1st place. Sadly, on lap 5 a red flag was thrown due to a wreck on the Roval with the TaG Heavy class.   With less than 10 minutes to go Trey Kelly had worked his way up to 3rd trailing behind Gary and Rob.  Unfortunately, on the next lap he had fallen back to 4th with Gary Campbell and Rob Garland still leading the way.  With the racing gods looking down, Trey Kelley was able to fight his way back to the front of the pack on the last lap passing Rob Garland at the finish line by 0.100 of a second between them. 

Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black

Sunday’s CIK LO206 Medium race brought even more racers to the grid with 16, all hoping to take home a win.  Leading the way on the 1st lap was Duke Zink, James Sullivan, and Rob Garland.  This pace continued past the halfway point with Duke and James drafting together for 1st and 2nd while Rob and Jeremy worked together for 3rd and 4th.  After lap 8 Duke Zink dropped out due to mechanical issues which left James without a partner to draft.  Without any help Jeremy and Rob were able to work together and past James for the lead.  They were able to maintain the lead but regrettably a red flag was thrown in the last minutes of the race. With Jeremy Yancy in the lead at the time he took the 1st place position followed by Rob Garland for 2nd and James Sullivan taking 3rd.

According to Jeremy, “I thought it was a great weekend overall of racing. Track layout was fast and competitive. Excellent competition and some tough racing”.

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The TaG Heavy class also had 15 racers each day which made for some good racing.  Crossing the line on the 1st lap was driver Gary Sircy with Rob Parker, Brandon Rodriguez, Blane Aarup not far behind.  By lap 4 Brandon Rodriguez had taken over the top spot with Craig Mortiz in 2nd.  Sadly, a red flag was thrown on lap 5 due to a wreck on the Roval.  Once the mess was cleaned up, the racers were regridded in the position they were in when the wreck occurred.  Coming down the back straightaway Gary Sircy was back in the top position followed by Rob Parker, Richard Buckley and Jarret Banks.  With less than 10 minutes remaining Jarret Bank was able to take the lead from Gary Sircy while Rob Parker stayed in 3rd and Richard Buckley followed up in 4th.  In the end Jarret took the checkered flag over Gary Sircy and Richard Buckley advanced to 3rd place over Rob Parker.

“Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. I’d like to thank WKA for hosting this terrific event, and CMS for the world class facility. Most importantly, a huge thank you to my sponsor’s, and 66 Auto Supply”.

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Coming into Sunday’s TaG Heavy race, many were hoping for no red flags and to be able to come away with the win.  Leading the charge on the 1st lap was Matt Turner but would he be able to keep up the pace to take home the win.  By lap 5 Matt Turner was still hanging onto 1st place with Craig Mortz in 2nd, Saturday’s winner Jarret Banks in 3rd while Gary Sircy held onto the 4th spot.  Matt Turner kept up the pace up until a red flag was thrown with less than a few minutes left in the race.  Since the race was more than halfway over, all racers would receive the positions they were in when the red flag was thrown.  Matt Turner in 1st, Craig Mortz in 2nd and Jarret Banks in 3rd.

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One group of racers I would like to mention is the Junior Enduro class which consist of 2 fantastic racers, Dean Dybdahl and Josh Toth.  A lot of times they don’t receive a lot of notoriety due to the small numbers, but these guys are definitely the future of karting.  They show up to every race and give it their all no matter how many they are racing against.  This past weekend at Charlotte, I had the pleasure of helping Kevin Williams present the A-Maxx 2020 Winter Series Championship trophy to Dean Dybdahl.

Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black

At the start of Saturday’s Junior Enduro race, Josh Toth got off the line a little faster than Dean Dybdahl which gave him quite the lead, but Dean was persistent and eventually caught back up to Josh and passed him. He led the rest of the race until a red flag was thrown around the 25-minute mark and the race was called putting Dean Dybdahl in 1st with Josh Toth 2nd.

According to Dean, “My goal was to stay persistent and put in lap times all under 2 mins. Unfortunately, after 25 mins into the race a red flag was thrown, and the race was called. In the end I finished top in my class, had the fastest lap of the race, and first overall in the group. . It was great racing all around and I had a lot of fun racing at Charlotte. Thank you WKA for always putting on a great race and Dave Armstrong for everything that you do for me”.

At the start of Sunday’s race, Josh once again got the jump on Dean and got off the line quicker. Dean also got held up behind a few other karts from different classes. By the time he was able to get pass the other karts, Josh was several seconds ahead. After a couple of laps Dean was finally able to make the pass and take the lead. Josh continued his pace and stayed on Dean’s bumper until he tried to brake late in the chicane on the front straight and stopped the motor.  He pulled into the pits and restarted but at that point he was a lap down. In the end Dean once again took home the win with Josh coming in 2nd.

Josh would like thank Joe and Colin Jedrzejek, Gary and Brian Ellis, Donny and Scott Grenier of LAD racing, Patrick Olsen and everyone else who helped me this weekend, but my biggest thanks is to Randall “Slim” Williams, my kart owner who got me to where I am now.

Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black
Photo credit: Jennifer Henry-Fade to Black

Thanks to all the racers who made the trip to race at the 3rd Charlotte Karting Challenge.  Congratulations to all the winners from the weekend and to all the 2020 National Championships winners. Next race is set at the Worldwide Technology Raceway in Madison, IL May 7-9, 2021.  Hope to see you all there.