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EKN Trackside Live: Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix Race Preview
Written by   
Thursday, 06 October 2011 23:00
There was a palpable level of excitement on the streets of Lancaster, California on Friday morning, as final preparations were being made for this coming weekend’s Grand Prix. The city’s downtown core was taken over on Thursday morning and crews worked throughout day and late into the evening, hauling haybales, plastic barriers and fencing into place around the 0.8-mile temporary circuit. The third annual Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix may fire up officially on Saturday morning, but only thanks to months and months of planning and management. After all that work, it’s finally time to go racing in Lancaster.

The City of Lancaster approached the Superkarts! USA promotional team earlier this year in an effort to raise the bar for their Grand Prix, and the new partnership has resulted in several adjustments, both to the class structure and the physical layout of the track. The class line-up for the race was evolved to include much of the SKUSA / ProKart Challenge structure, but the addition of a PRD class has brought in additional racers, although not as many as were expected. Regardless, both Stock Moto and TaG racing will be front-and-center this weekend to excite those in the trackside viewing areas, which are expected to be packed. One of SKUSA’s primary moves was to re-locate the track to the west a couple of blocks right into the downtown core, the Boulevard, which will provide a new look to the layout. Supporting the local business community is a key goal in the planning of this race, and SKUSA’s Tom Kutscher wanted to make sure that these businesses would see increased traffic as a result. The new track is positioned right in the middle of a thriving area filled with restaurants, bars and shops, and will include four 90-degrees corners and a tight hairpin that leads onto a 1000’ straightaway, one that will likely support the nickname that is being thrown around – ‘the Fastest Street Race in American Karting’. A $200 check awaits the first driver to hit the 100 mph mark in the speed trap that the local law enforcement has set up in turn five. Most people have their money on Pro Shifter drivers Brad Dunford, Clinton Schoombee or Nicky Freytag or S4 stud Jimmy McNeil.

The absolute commitment by the City of Lancaster is something that has set this race out from the crowd, as the approach is more akin to an IndyCar street race than a typical karting event. To take it to the next level, the event coordinators have added much value to the race, such as a video team that will stream its feed to huge television screens in both the spectator and VIP areas. Around the track, beer gardens have been set up as well. The race itself is being fully leveraged by the city, as a host of VIPs and local dignitaries will be involved throughout the day on Friday and following the official events on Saturday. Safety is being put at a premium, as the track has been lined with a massive increase in fencing and barrier systems.

The track was completed early this morning in preparations for a day of VIP, media and vintage karting practice. SKUSA has made several trips to Lancaster with its fleet of sport karts over the past month to present the sport to the local media and dignitaries, with experience-oriented events being offered in local parking lots. It’s all been about building the momentum for the race and support from the local businesses and community. There will be special racing events from several different VIP groups with the official on-track action ends on Saturday afternoon.

The full-on racing begins on Saturday morning with a total of seven classes on the docket. Gearbox fanatics will enjoy the Pro Shifter (S1/S2) and S4 Master Stock Moto classes, while SKUSA’s full line-up of TaG racing – Senior, Master, Junior and Cadet – are primed and ready to thrill the spectators. A PRD class has been added to the mix and it likely to break the double-digit mark for entries, which is a bit of a disappointment to the promotional team.

The Pro Shifter category will headline the weekend with a field of 20 drivers, highlighted by the top competitors in the SKUSA fold, all of whom will be expected to face off once again in just six weeks time in Las Vegas at the SuperNationals. This race will be an opportunity for Arizona’s Nicky Freytag (Intrepid) to back up his new position as the #1 ranked Stock Moto driver in the country, according to A combination of Pro Tour race wins and larger S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto fields have pushed Freytag ahead of the full list of S1 Pro Stock Moto drivers, who haven’t been able to score as many points for their race wins due to shorter fields. The EKN rankings takes into account the size and depth of the grids, so there has certainly been some discussion in regards to the current ranking. This weekend’s combined S1 and S2 category will pit them all head-to-head and should settle things once and for all. S1 frontrunners Brad Dunford (GP) and Clinton Schoombee (CRG) will be out to make a statement, as will SKUSA SpringNationals S2 racewinner Kyle Hathcox (GP). All three will be gunning for the race win and a jump in the EKN rankings heading to the SuperNationals.

Other notables in the Pro Shifter class include NorCal’s Jared Woolf (Intrepid) and Daniel Langon (Zanardi), former ProKart Challenge S1 champion Bobby Legate (CRG) and two quick young ladies, Colorado’s Sabre Cook (CRG) and Cali’s Jessica Sollberger (DR Kart), this year’s PKC South S3 champ.

The TaG Senior class, which is expected to top 25 entries, will be a hard-core scrap featuring many of California’s finest pilots. Devin Lindsey (Tony Kart) and Travis Lowe (Kosmic) have shown well all year in PKC South competition and will be up for the challenge, as will Shawn Cricca and Adrian Starrantino, both of whom finished on the podium last year. Nick Johnston, John Wallace, Lloyd Mack and veteran stud Trevor McAlister were all walk-up entries on Friday and should throw their hats in the ring, as will rookie senior Camden Geise (CRG).

A surprise entry is former Stars of Karting ICA national champion and Skip Barber National title winner Joel Miller, who will run for Phil Giebler racing this weekend. After two years of Star Mazda racing, Miller spent time in an Indy Lights car this year, and is working hard to put together a full-time ride for 2012. Miller remains an extremely talented kart racers and he should certainly be considered as a threat for the race win come Sunday. Also pinned as a long-shot favorite will be Larry Fraser, the veteran Masters driver who often likes to jump up to Senior to scrap it out with the kids. Fraser has both the speed and the racecraft to bring ‘age and treachery’ to in a dose that could be too much for the ‘youth and enthusiasm’ line-up.

Action gets underway on Saturday morning at 8:30 am for the start of practice, and the Opening Ceremonies will begin at noon. Qualifying is schedule for 12:30 pm, and that’s when EKN will begin its live coverage of the race, presented by P1 Engines.