Over 200 karters converged on the Las Vegas Karting Center's 13-turn, 7/8-mile road course in Las Vegas, Nev., for the inaugural three-day Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) Stars of Tomorrow karting challenge. The fiercely competitive event concluded today with the announcement of the five Stars of Tomorrow.
Through the support of CART, Team Rahal, Skip Barber Racing School, Firestone Racing, Honda, Paul Tracy Kart Racing, E-Z-Go, Bosch, Yamaha and Racer and Champ Car magazines, the Stars of Tomorrow event was able to offer karters an unprecedented prize and award package.
The top winners in the challenge -- the five Stars of Tomorrow -- will journey to Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., later this month for a Three Day Skip Barber Racing School beginning November 28th. The group will arrive at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., the site of the CART season finale, on December 11th for the ultimate prize -- a two-day test in the Team Rahal Champ Car on a temporary road course.
"I am extremely proud of all of our competitors today," said event founder Bryan Herta. "I think they showed a tremendous amount of talent out there, and I look forward to watching our Stars of Tomorrow take part in the Skip Barber program and the Champ Car test. I hope this program will provide a real stepping stone for them to further their racing careers. I really want to thank all of our sponsors and an extremely dedicated team of people that helped put together an event that was ten times more work than any of us anticipated but also very rewarding."
The five Stars of Tomorrow consist of the race winners from the three senior classes -- Pro Superbox, Pro 80cc Gearbox and Pro 125 Gearbox -- and two "at-large" picks chosen by Skip Barber Racing School instructors and drivers Casey Mears, Richie Hearn, Claude Bourbonnais, Memo Gidley, Alex Barron, Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and Bryan Herta, plus Champ Car Editor Jeremy Shaw. They are:
Kevin Christensen, 20, of Castaic, Calif. Winner - Pro Superbox
Jason Bowles, 18, of Ontario, Calif. Winner - Pro 80cc Gearbox
Jonathan Bomarito, 18, of Salinas, Calif. Winner - Pro 125 Gearbox
AJ Allmendinger, 17, of Hollister, Calif. At-Large Pick - Pro 125
Brett Buckwalter, 18, of Novato, Calif. At-Large Pick - Pro 80cc
The top-three winners in the Junior Superbox and Junior 80cc Gearbox classes will each be awarded a 125cc Gearbox Driving School and a test with one of the top Gearbox teams in North America -- Paul Tracy Kart Racing. They are:
Caleb Sanden, 15, of Holtville, Calif. Winner - Junior Superbox
Charlie Kimball, 15, of Camarillo, Calif. Second Place - Junior Superbox
Darren Hagen, 14, of Riverside, Calif. Third Place - Junior Superbox
Alex Speed, 14, of Manteca, Calif. Winner - Junior 80cc Gearbox
Charlie Kimball, 15, of Camarillo, Calif. Second Place - Junior 80cc Gearbox
Joel Miller, 12, of Hesperia, Calif. Third Place - Junior 80cc Gearbox
Also, in an action-packed Stars of Today challenge, Memo Gidley claimed bragging rights, followed by Richie Hearn, Bryan Herta, Casey Mears and Claude Bourbonnais. An early incident between Alex Barron and actor Alfonso Ribiero took both contenders out, and an off-course excursion with a brief, but impressive, stint on two wheels ended Paul Tracy's day. Alex Tagliani, with lingering soreness in his back from a crash at California Speedway last week, did not start.
"Paul [Tracy] was driving the wheels off that thing out there, but I saw him go up on two wheels and knew that was my chance," said Gidley.
"Bryan [Herta] did a real good job with this whole event. I really appreciate what he's doing for some deserving talent, and for karting in general. So many times in the past, people in karting have planned big events, promised this and that, then failed to deliver. Bryan has done everything he promised this weekend, and more."
<pre> Race Results:
Junior Superbox 1. Caleb Sanden, 15, of Holtville, Calif., driving for Gillard Racing 2. Charlie Kimball, 15, of Camarillo, Calif., driving for Team Top Kart 3. Darren Hagen, 14, of Riverside, Calif., driving for Cutting Edge Racing
Caleb Sanden (Started 2nd): "This was a great event. I'd love to run it again in the future. The restart saved me. On the first start, I got caught out on the outside and spun out on the first lap. I got restarted right away, but dropped way back. Then on the next lap, I saw a guy upside down and the red flag came out. They made it a complete restart so I was back to the outside pole. I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice, so I pinched down to the inside a little bit and got the lead from Charlie. We worked together and broke away from the rest."
Junior 80cc Gearbox 1. Alex Speed, 14, of Manteca, Calif., driving for KGB Racing 2. Charlie Kimball, 15, of Camarillo, Calif., driving for Team Top Kart 3. Joel Miller, 12, of Hesperia, Calif., driving for J. Miller Racing
Alex Speed (Started 1st): "It was an awesome event and everything ran great. I would definitely participate next year. The tires were cold at first, but once the pressure came up, that's when I picked up speed."
Pro Superbox 1. Kevin Christensen, 20, of Castaic, Calif., driving for JCC Motorsports 2. Jeff Wallace, 16, of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., driving for Wallace Racing 3. Colin Fleming, 16, of North Hills, Calif. , driving for Pitts/SSC Racing
Kevin Christensen (Started 1st): "This is one of the biggest events I have been involved with. It's very professional. I can't wait to drive a Champ Car. This is a life-long goal for me. My boss also races karts, and he's already promised me the time off! That last lap of the race was pretty nerve-wracking. I wanted to wait a little longer, but the other guys started going for it with six or seven laps to go. The draft really evens out all the karts, and you just had to be in the right place at the right time. Fortunately, I was."
Pro 80cc Gearbox 1. Jason Bowles, 18, of Ontario, Calif., driving for TNR Kartsports 2. Dustin Courter, 16, of Englewood, Colo., driving for Triple C Racing 3. Chris Carmody, 16, of Valencia, Calif., driving for Pitts/SSC Racing
Jason Bowles (Started 6th): "This is the best thing we've ever had. The kart was working great today. I got a really good start, and the guy at the head of my row bogged down and almost stalled. Everyone else stacked up behind him so I moved up the outside and into second place. Then the leader [Brett Buckwalter] had mechanical problems and the race was mine. The start made all the difference. I saw a hole open up for me and I took it."
Pro 125 Gearbox 1. Jonathan Bomarito, 18, of Salinas, Calif., driving for Trackmagic Racing 2. Josh Schreiber, 17, of Lancaster, Pa., driving for Birel Racing 3. Scott Speed, 17, of Manteca, Calif., driving for KGB Racing
Jonathan Bomarito (Started 4th): "This was a great weekend, and I look forward to coming back again. It's good exposure that will help me move up to the next level of racing. I struggled on the start with carburetor problems, and fell back to seventh but worked my way up to fourth. At the restart, I got up to third and caught up with the leaders. The first two [AJ Allmendinger and Scott Speed] made contact and I moved up front and took advantage of it."