The Route 66 Sprint Series – presented by MG Tires and Franklin Motorsports – kicked off the 2021 season at the New Castle Motorsports Park. Over 130 entries converged on the New Castle, Indiana facility over the April 16-18 weekend to begin the four event, eight-round championship program. Colder but sunny skies greeted the teams and drivers for the Will Power Kart sponsored event, contested on a new layout for the series. The ‘Backward 1’ layout featured the national layout in the clockwise direction, including the ‘monza’ section of the track. The change in course provided some exciting racing throughout the weekend in all seven categories.
The largest class of the weekend was the Woltjer Racing Engines KA100 Senior class at 45 drivers. Everyone was chasing Aiden Levy on the first day after he swept the opening round action. Levy set fast time in qualifying with a 1:13.144-lap, edging out Brandon Lemke and Chase Jones by 82 thousandths. Levy led the first six laps of the Prefinal until Lemke took control. On the final circuit, contact dropped Lemke to the tail of the field allowing Levy to retake the top spot for the win. The main event was a battle with Levy getting shuffled back by Josh Hotz, Nicholas Terlecki and Alexander Kardashian. Levy fought back to the front and battled Terlecki in the final circuits for the victory. On the final lap, Levy worked past Terlecki for the victory, his first at the Senior level. Terlecki ended up second with Chase Jones placing third. Emerson Reed returned back to the series after an eight-year hiatus from karting with a solid fourth with Stephen Dial fifth.
Jones found speed overnight to set fast time during the qualifying session, edging out Lemke by 48 thousandths. Levy was fifth in the session and worked his way toward the front in the Prefinal. Jones led the opening seven laps until Levy took the win on the final circuit. Levy led early in the Final but would be shuffled back by the halfway point, and a lap later retire due to a broken chain. Alex Bertagnoli had charged forward by that time and took over the lead. Lemke was on his bumper until the final circuit, working past for the lead and the victory. Bertganoli settled for second with Jones earning another third-place result. Lucas Smalec and Terlecki completed the top-five.
A total of three drivers secured a both victories in their respective category. Addison Ianniello was able to pull off the double in the Advance Design Studio Briggs 206 Junior class. Eli Warren was the top driver in qualifying to begin the opening round and fought with Ianniello throughout the Prefinal to earn the win. The fight continued into the Final, this time with Ianniello leading the majority of the 12-lap race. Warren took the top spot for two laps into the final circuit. At the line, Ianniello was able to edge out Warren for the victory by 89 thousandths. Brian Vacek had fast lap of the race in third. Luke Wackerlin and Lukas Klimek rounded out the top-five.
Sunday’s Round Two began with Klimek setting the quick lap in the qualifying session ahead of Ianniello and Warren by two tenths. Four different drivers led in the eight-lap Prefinal, including Wackerlin and Vacek. In the end, Warren came away with the win. The Final was a repeat of Saturday as Ianniello led for much of the 12 laps, this time with Klimek in the mix. At the line, Ianniello took the victory by 94 thousandths ahead of Klimek with Warren in third. Vacek and Wackerlin finished fourth and fifth.
Ava Hanssen was the second female driver to sweep her main events, doubling up in the One Powersports Briggs 206 Sportsman class. Saturday’s round looked to be Aryton Grim’s day. Grim set fast time in qualifying by four tenths of a second. The Prefinal was a fight, as Grim fell to fifth but worked back up to score the win on the final circuit. Grim and Hanssen were able to get away in the Final and fought for the top positions over the final few laps. On the last lap, a few corners from the checkered, the two made contact with Grim getting the worse of it. He ended the race in the grass while Hanssen went on to take the victory. Indy Ragan won the battle for second ahead of Alessandro Truchot, Jase Petty and fast lap holder Sarah Bradley.
A great lap by Landon Buher in qualifying on Sunday, the only driver into the 1:24s, put him at the top of the order by two tenths clear of Grim. The two fought at the end of the Prefinal for the win with Grim getting the edge at the line. Hanssen replaced Buher at the front to fight Grim for the top spot for the 12-lap Final. Their fighting allowed Buher and Bradley to close in late, with four drivers racing for the checkered flag. At the line, Hanssen was able to edge out Grim by 67 thousandths with Bradley in third and Buher in fourth with fast lap of the race. Ty Arbogast drove to fifth.
Ethan Tovo was the only driver on the weekend to put in a perfect performance over the two days of competition, sweeping the DNJ Intermodal Services Micro Swift class. Tovo went wire-to-wire in Saturday’s main event, winning by four seconds ahead of brother Jackson Tovo. Landon Buher was third with Brady Schad fourth and Luke Gigilo fifth. Sunday, Tovo increased his margin of victory following another wire-to-wire performance in the Final, winning by over eight seconds. Alessandro Truchot crossed the line second but was penalized four positions for contact. That promoted Benym Abernethy to the second spot ahead of Caleb Tarter, Jacob Modjeski and Schad.
The Briggs 206 Medium by RLV was a battle all weekend long. Mick Gabriel set the tone in qualifying with fast lap but was challenged throughout the Prefinal. After eight laps, Keegan Clark came up 93 thousandths short of taking the Prefinal win away from Gabriel. Bryce Mersberger joined the fight in the Final, taking the lead on lap six. Gabriel returned to the point two laps later until Mersberger reclaimed the position. From there, Mersberger went on to score the victory over Gabriel with Clay Settles slipping past Clark for the third spot. Nathan Trapp rounded out the top-five.
Settles carried the speed over from the Final into Sunday’s qualifying to set the quickest lap of the session, clearing the field by two tenths. Clark and Mersberger put on the challenge to Settles in the Prefinal, driving to first and second to drop the top qualifier down to third. In the 12-lap Final, Clark led the first nine laps until Settles went from third to first. That was the winning move, with Settles leading the remaining two laps to claim the victory. Clark finished in second with Mersberger in third. Jerry Fandrey was fourth with Trapp in fifth.
Defending champion Austin Jurs in KA100 Junior by BBS Race Engine Development was able to begin his quest for a repeat with victory in Round One. Saturday’s action was a battle with Addison Ianniello setting fast time in qualifying but getting shuffled back at the start of the Prefinal. That allowed Jake Walker to drive to the win ahead of Justin Adakonis with Jurs in third. Jurs made quick work in the Final, moving to the lead by lap three. From there, he drove away to a 1.1-second advantage for the victory. Walker took second with Sebastian Wheldon in third. Cameron Brinkman was fourth with Adakonis finishing fifth.
Sunday was all Wheldon as the Florida driver swept the action. Wheldon edged out Brinkman for fast time in qualifying by a mere 43 thousandths. In the Prefinal, Wheldon was able to lead seven of eight laps to win before going on to a green-to-checkered performance in the Final by a 10-second advantage. Ava Dobson won the battle for second over Brinkman with Walker fourth and Lucas Szabo fifth.
The opening round in the Mills Pallet Mini Swift division went down to the wire, and after the checkered flag was waved. Aryton Grim set fast time in qualifying with six drivers fighting for the win in the Prefinal. Indy Ragan came away with the win and led the field to the green flag in the Final. Ava Hanssen was able to jump out to the lead on the opening lap, showing the way for the first 11 laps. A wild last lap pushed her down the order with Cash Perkins crossing the line first. Perkins would be penalized for contact, dropping him to third. That promoted Ragan to the top step of the podium with Oliver Wheldon in second. Sarah Bradley finished fourth with Grim placing fifth.
Ragan kept the momentum into Sunday, posting fast time in qualifying. Ragan’s Prefinal only lasted two laps before he retired, handing the lead over to Hanssen. She led until the battle raged on the final two laps, as Bradley came out with the win. Bradley took the pole position for the main event to her advantage, leading all 12 laps for her first series win in the class. Wheldon added another runner-up finish along with fast lap of the race. Ragan ended up in third with Hanssen and Perkins completing the top-five.
The Route 66 Sprint Series returns to action on June 26-27 at the CTECH Manufacturing Motorplex at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for Round Three and Four. Prior to that, the Route 66 Sprint Series along with the Buckeye Karting Challenge will host the inaugural KA-LO Nationals at the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati facility. The race will take place on June 4-6 at the Batavia, Ohio circuit.
Article by David Cole, eKartingNews.com.
Photos provided by Alissa Grim Photography.