SuperNats XXII

301DAYS

SKUSA Winter Series

21DAYS

2018 Pro Tour

42DAYS

PKC California

14DAYS

PKC Texas

63DAYS

Can-Am PKC

120DAYS

Supernationals

SuperNationals II - 1998
In the history of the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals, one single race stands out as the beginning of it all. Sure, the event launched as the ‘SuperNats’ in 1997 but, for all intents and purposes, the 1998 edition of the race was the big one, the start of it all.



The race returned to the Las Vegas Karting Center for its second installment, dubbed the Gearbox® SuperNationals thanks to title sponsorship from SSC Racing’s apparel subsidiary. SKUSA was ready to step up their game and they put on what many believed to have been the most professional event to date in the country. The event was well-managed, run on-time and featured the best shifter drivers from North America in just seven classes. The final entry list included a total of 200 drivers, a staggering number at the time. Who knew that it would grow to over 300 competitors in its future?

SKUSA had debuted its two-tier system for the 125cc category that year, offering the Formula S1 ‘Pro’ class and the Formula S2 ‘Semi-Pro’ class. This was an effective approach and turned the headline race into a true star-studded event that drew 50 entries. Formula S2, to its credit, saw 48 drivers make a qualifying attempt, making it almost 100 125cc moto drivers in attendance. Add in the Formula C-powered ProNational class of nine entries and the century mark was eclipsed.

In the headline Formula S1 battle, veteran Philip Giebler scored the pole on his JM Racing Tony Kart, chased closely by Trackmagic factory driver Jason LaPoint and SSC Racing’s star Darren Elliott on a CRG. Birel driver Jimmy Didier was fourth quick ahead of Ryan Howe (Tony Kart). The field was split into four groups and through the heat race rotation, Trackmagic’s Memo Gidley emerged to win all three of his motos after qualifying eighth. Giebler was strong with a 1-2-3 set of results to start on the outside of the front row.



Come time for the final on SuperSunday, Elliott pulled away as the man to beat, chased by reigning champion Alex Barron all the way. CRG stud Jesse Rooke – now a top custom motorcycle builder – was third in the final tally and he was joined on the podium by Gidley and LaPoint.



The 80cc Senior event was a pre-cursor of things to come in American motorsports as the field included front row starters Patrick Long (CRG) and Scott Speed (MBA), as well as A.J. Allmendinger (Haase). And people wonder why they should get out to see these races. What they would have witnessed in Las Vegas in 1998 was a fantastic battle between Speed and Long that saw the future F1 star take the win.



In Formula S2, Craig Taverna (Trackmagic) broke through to score one for the privateers while Michael Valiante (Italkart) was victorious in ProNational. Current ICC star Matt Jaskol (CRG) won the 80cc Junior race over JJ Langan (CRG), who would come back in 60cc Novice to edge some kid named Alex Speed by just 0.123 seconds. The final race of the weekend – 250cc Moto – was captured by Tim Dobbins.



The event was also the debut of the Dash for Cash, pitting the top five qualifiers in the Formula S1 class against the fast timer in Formula S2 in an epic Australian Pursuit battle that eliminated the last driver in the order on each successive lap. Elliott was given a huge launch by his mechanic ‘Big Mike’ Campbell before running away to the $1000 win.

How big were the 1998 SuperNationals? Based on its success and excitement, the idea for a nationwide series of SuperNats-style events was already on the drawing board by the Friday afternoon of the race. The resulting SKUSA ProMoto Tour became the fuel that powered the growth of shifterkart racing through the early years of the new millennium.

Words and photos kindly provided by Rob Howden of eKartingNews.com. Be sure to check out future installments recounting the events leading up to this year’s 10th annual SKUSA SuperNationals, coming soon.