AKRA: Kick off at Crossroads Motorplex

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Kick off at Crossroads Motorplex By: Bruce C. Walls American Kart Racing Association (AKRA) racers kicked off their inaugural season February 3-5 at Crossroads Motorplex in Jasper, FL. That Thursday and Friday four inches of rain fell over...


Kick off at Crossroads Motorplex
By: Bruce C. Walls

American Kart Racing Association (AKRA) racers kicked off their inaugural season February 3-5 at Crossroads Motorplex in Jasper, FL. That Thursday and Friday four inches of rain fell over the Florida panhandle forcing AKRA officials to cancel Friday's free practice day. Rain continued falling Saturday morning into the early afternoon.

It would be 2:00 p.m. Saturday before racers were called to the grid for the first of three rounds of practice before qualifying. "We could have called yesterday's race, but we didn't," AKRA co-owner Tony Barton told racers at Sunday's driver's meeting. "We know how hard you worked getting ready for this weekend's race and we were determined to race and we did, even though we were eight hours late."

Multi-winners gobbled up 12 of 26 classes offered that weekend. Two hat tricks were turned and three double wins recorded. Reigning 2005 World Coca Cola 100 winner, 15-year-old Tanner Bohlen of Hortonville, WI knows his way around Crossroad Motorplex's 1/4-mile dirt oval. The Mishue Motorsports powered Ultramax Racing Chassis pilot produced wins in Saturday's Junior 3 Gold and Junior 4 Unrestricted returning Sunday to complete his Junior 4 Unrestricted sweep.

Saturday Bohlen turned a 15.601-seconds lap for Junior 4 Unrestricted's pole. From there he quickly bolted into the early lead. With the field evenly spaced out behind him, Bohlen expanded his lead every lap down to the end where he was 0.392-second ahead of Tyler Burnette.

"It was a great win," Bohlen beamed, "We started off slow and fought the track. Then the kart finally came around and got better. I qualified on the pole and I was better in the main event."

Later that night Brandon Odom dialed in a 15.442-seconds lap for Junior 3 Gold's pole. He shared front row with Odom. When the green flag waved they quickly took their fight for the front way ahead of the field battling for positions behind them. Odom burst into the early lead with Bohlen right behind him looking for away to the front. Three laps into it Odom left the door open and Bohlen blasted through it. Dicing for the lead continued three laps later in turn three with Odom recapturing the lead in turn three. Bohlen battled back to the front only to have Odom take it back again next time around.

The lead swapping struggle continued until the end of 20-laps where Bohlen owned a narrow 0.273-second advantage over Odom. Behind them in the top five were Taylor Sheffield, Burnette and Daniel Brown.

"In the beginning we swapped the lead a couple of times and then we just barely got him back on the back stretch," Bohlen explained. "Then I tried to run him down as quickly as I could. The Ultramax kart was handling good, they've been giving us great karts and Mishue's been giving us great motors."

Sunday Sheffield spun a 14.890-seconds lap for Junior 4 Unrestriced's pole. A 14.917-seconds run had Bohlen sharing front row with him. Bohlen blasted into the early lead. After several laps Bohlen was comfortably in control of the field, at least for the moment. Behind him Scheffield's kart was coming in and closing in. On lap four Sheffield muscled by Bohlen for a short shot at the lead. Bohlen battled back returning to the front. Sheffield quickly sped by Bohlen again. Not willing to settle for second Bohlen saw an opportunity and took it back for good. At the stripe Bohlen beat Burnette by 0.669-second.

"We went back and forth several times. Even the third place driver was right in it," Bohlen described adding, "I just got a real good run off of turn 2. It feels great coming here and winning three races. The track was awesome, the kart was awesome and Todd Ellison gave us great tires."

Greensboro, SC based Brett Miller won all three stock classes starting with Saturday's Stock Medium where a 15.574-seconds lap put him on the pole. For 20-laps Miller was flawless. After fighting off early challenges from Michael Taylor and Mark Hall, Miller held off Greg Hargraves who threaded his way through the field from a ninth place start to a second place finish just 0.416-second behind Miller.

Sunday Miller opened the show with a win in Stock Light and closed it with another in Stock Heavy. Joey Collins clocked Stock Light's pole time with a 14.879-seconds pass. Collins shared front row with Chad 'Houdini' Haithcock and had Miller threatening from behind. Collins captured the early lead with Miller's Hi Tech Racing Engines powered Millennium machine right behind him. Two laps later Miller captured the lead bringing Hall and Taylor with him. Next time around karting veteran Brad Sellers, of Atlanta, GA, shot by Hall and Taylor for second.

The remaining laps provided fans with thrilling race action. Sellers offered challenge after challenge. Miller fought them off as they pulled way ahead of the field falling behind them. Sellers kept the pressure on as they exited turn four headed for the checkered flag waving in front of them. Sellers pulled along side of him down the front straight as they headed for a photo finish that ended with Sellers just 0.090-second late.

"Well it was about the same as Stock Light from start to finish," Miller described. "I knew Sellers was on me the whole time and that really kept me concentrating. He just barely missed the grove or he'd have been gone. I want to thank JT Stillwagon, Hi Tech Racing for all the work they do on the kart, my dad and Shayne Rheuark. It feels great coming here and winning two races this weekend. I've got one more to go and I hope to make it three-for-three."

And three-for-three it was. A 14.686-seconds tour earned Miller Stock Heavy's pole. Miller quickly rocketed into the early lead. Behind him Danny Meeks was busy threading the field from a seventh place start. In the final laps Meeks moved past Walt Barnes for second. After taking second, Meeks started reeling in the leader, but his pursuit ended 0.163-second short of his goal.

"JT did a lot of work on the kart today and got it going good. Brad's just got back on a kart and he was pretty good today. I'm just glad to see two Millennium karts out front. It was a fun race."

Josh Morris, Shayne Rheuark and Garrett Bunch were double winners. Morris, an 11-year-old Moon powered Prowler Kart pilot spun a 16.695-seconds lap for Junior 1 Purple Plate's pole. From there outside pole-winner, Grayson York, challenged him at every corner and was close behind down the straights. "I was so freaked out by him (Grayson York)," Morris admitted. "But I had to hold it in the line and keep on going."

York took the fight into lapped traffic. As they battled through the field they suddenly came up on a lapped kart in the middle of the racing lanes. Without letting up Morris passed him. York, on the other hand was a little slower getting by. "Passing that lapped kart in the middle of the track near the end helped keep him further back," Morris said in victory lane.

York was1.888-seconds late at the stripe. Behind him in the top five were Canon Ward, Dakota Silvers and Jak Kichlighter.

Without mirroring Saturday's performance, Sunday's was just as exciting. This time Silvers spun the pole-winning trip at 16.074-seconds. York was second fastest again.

Behind them Morris and Ward shared row two. When the green flag unfurled all four scrambled for the front. Silvers held the bottom line. The field fell spread out single file behind him. York and Morris began battling wheel-to-wheel for second. York secured the spot on lap two setting his sites on Silvers. While they fought over second Silvers gained a few kart lengths cushion. On lap three York was still cruising comfortably. Before they crossed the stripe again crashing karts behind them brought out the caution flag. York was on Silvers' back bumper when the green flag waved again. With a little friendly push from behind York and Morris drafted by Silvers dropping him to third.

Next time around Morris muscled his way around York. Ward came along behind him. Morris reached the field's tail and began lapping karts high and low. He enjoyed a very comfortable lead at mid-race now building it in clean air. When the five laps remaining signal was shown York worked back by Ward for a distant second. At the end he trailed Morris by 0.772-second.

"At the beginning I was sure I could get the lead because some of them in front of me were slower than me so I tried to pass them, but it was kind of hard," Morris said. "Lapped traffic kind of helped me. I would go around them and they would slow down and that helped me. Winning two races this weekend feels great!"

Ward held third across the stripe. Kicklighter crossed behind him and Silvers got the final podium position.

Rheuark ruled both Super Heavy offerings from their poles with perfection. Saturday he rocketed way ahead of the field with Josh Haire trying to close the gap from a very distant second. During the early laps Haire lost ground to Rheuark squabbling over second with Michael Smith. After securing second Haire hustled after Rheuark who was enjoying a huge lead. Haire was gaining ground with every lap.

They hit lapped traffic. Rheuark quickly roared through the field back to clean air. Haire didn't thread the field as fast, but he was still determined to catch Rheuark. Once Haire got through the field his machine picked up speed. It looked like Haire had a chance, but he was never a threat. Rheuark rolled over the stripe with a 1.141-seconds advantage. Behind Haire in the top five were Troy Bunch, Mark Devane and Smith.

"We had a real good race, Rheuark remarked. It's a joy being here at Jasper, FL. It's a good racetrack and a good facility. It's been a good weekend at the AKRA race. I appreciate all of the AKRA workers being here putting it on," Rheuark thanked adding, "The kart handled pretty good. As the sun goes down the back end wanted to kick out a little bit and got loose in the back end. It's loosing a little bit tonight, but this afternoon when the sun was out it was perfect."

Sunday Garrett Bunch, of Front Royal, VA, bested fields of 15 and seven in Junior 2 Blue and Junior Sportsman Champ. Gus Dean dominated Junior 2 Blue's qualifying with a 15.298-seconds run. Before the first lap was complete caution flags waved. Dean led them single file back to the green flag and roared off the pole with Bunch right behind him. Bunch challenges him every chance he could. The opening Bunch was looking for came right after they crossed the stripe the second time. As Bunch built a comfortable lead fourth fastest qualifier Wilson Keene whizzed by Dean for second. Wilson closed the gap looking low in the turns and high down the straights. When opportunity opened Wilson was there to take the lead.

Wilson enjoyed leading several laps with Bunch not far behind. Bunch battled his way back into the lead with Hunter Devers in tow. Five exciting laps were left. Keene climbed back into second and began challenging Bunch. With two laps remaining Keene pulled his machine next to Bunch. The wheel-to-wheel fight lasted down the front straight. Bunch had the inside groove advantage forcing Keene to tuck in behind him.

Keene made one last attempt for the lead on the last lap, but fell short at the strip by just 0.105-seconds. Devers held onto third as they crossed the finish line. Tyler Camp fourth followed Dean for the top five.

"My arms were getting a little tired at the end," said the 12-year-old winner. "I went for it and he hit me coming off. I want to thank him for racing me clean. The Phantom kart was a little loose at the start and it got better as the race went on."

Bunch's Tod Miller Racing Engines powered Phantom kart broke the 16-second mark with a 15.863-seconds lap for Junior Sportsman Champ's pole. Brandon Brown was second fastest qualifier at 16.132-seconds. Cody Smith and Grayson York shared row two. Bunch blasted off when the green flag flew and went wire-to-wire. His closest pursuer, Smith, crossed the stripe 5.124-seconds later.

"It fun when it's like that. (wire to wire)," Bunch said adding, "I've got a lot of people to thank. JT Stillwagon, Hi Tech Racing they do a lot of work preparing to race and they really worked hard this weekend and it paid off. I want to thank those guys and the Lord without them I couldn't race."

Smith, a12-year-old Holt, FL based P.E.C. Racing Engines powered Rage kart pilot produced Sunday's pole time with a 16.646-seconds run. From the moment the green flag waved till the checkered flag Smith was perfect. When his wire-to-wire ride ended Bunch was a distant 8.120-seconds behind him. According to Smith, "I just never gave up. The kart was great and I never had to worry."

Unadilla, GA racer Dee Paschal was the weekend's first winner taking Stock Light's main with a 0.451 second advantage over Kyle Chappell. "We've been struggling on tires and we finally hit something and got it going," Paschal said after his win. Payne Pickles was third, Miller fourth and Aaron Sapp completed the podium.

Kevin Tillman, of Alma, GA fought his way from a fourth place start in Saturday's Senior Stock to the front in time to take the checkered flag with a 1.978-seconds advantage over Rheyark. Donnie Sellers dominated qualifying with a lap time of 15.768-seconds. Lee Jones was second fastest at 15.839-seconds.

Sellers rocketed away with the early lead. With no one near him, the Coolidge, GA based leader was building on that lead. Then the race's only caution flag waved. When racing resumed Sellers and Tillman battled side-by-side. Tillman took the lead down the front straight as they headed into turn one. Behind him Sellers and Rheuark were squabbling over second. Rheuark won that battle, but Tillman owned a 1/4-track edge that had to be closed in five laps. Rheuark couldn't do it.

According to Tillman," We took off in the early part of the race. Had a caution when a kart spun out. We restarted fourth I passed them on the outside coming into three. I took off from there and took second. I ran Donnie Sellers down and followed him for a couple of laps. Put it underneath him and took off for the win. The Shadow kart was wonderful. It stuck. You couldn't ask for a better kart and the Capps Racing Engine was fast. They're good guys they'll stick with you. You can't ask for a better group of people. Anything you need they'll help you with."

Sunday Rheuark was Senior Stock's pole winner. Rheuark roared into the early lead with outside pole winner Walt Barnes close behind. Barnes battled with Rheuark for a couple of laps before passing him. Next time around, with three laps remaining, Rheuark got a run on Barnes, but Barnes shut the door and drove away with it. At the stripe Barrnes was just 0.339-second ahead of Rheuark. Lee Jones and Tillman completed the field.

"It was a good race," Barnes described. "I'd like to thank JT Stillwagon, Millennium Racing Chassis. He's helped me out a bunch. I switched over to his stuff this weekend. I won this weekend and it's the first time I've won in about a year. I've been struggling with the other karts I've run on. I want to thank my mom, my sister, my step-dad Bill McCutcheon and Brad Jenkins for coming down here and helping me this weekend. "

Unlimited 2-Cycle competitors competed Saturday with Piedmont, SC based Randy Gunton grabbing the pole with a 15.107-seocnds run. From there the David Waddell Racing Engines powered Comet kart pilot was perfect. Behind him in the three-racer field were Ashley and David Waddlell.

Gus Dean grabbed Junior Sportsman 2 Blue's pole that Saturday with a 15.298-seconds run. Twelve-year-old Radical Racing Engines powered Tempest kart pilot Cole Exum quickly grabbed the lead from Dean. As Exum led the field behind him dropped further back. When it was over Exum was a very comfortable 4.589-seconds ahead of second place finisher Adam Collins.

"The kart was handling awesome," said the Valdosta, GA based winner who added, "It was rough, but AKRA did a great job getting the track ready for us. I'm surprised we got to race today; they did a great job on the track."

Aaron Marlin pumped out a 16.461-seconds lap for Saturday's Senior Champ pole. At 16.499-seconds Billy Martin was second fastest. Marlin led the nine-racer field around several laps and then gave it up to Martin. Further back Eddy Bryant Racing Engines powered Charger Kart pilot Josh Haire was threading his way to the front from a sixth place start.

On lap nine Haire took second. After running down Martin, he hit the hammer coming down the front straight taking the lead and the half- way flag. Keeping the pedal to the metal Haire build a huge lead over the field. Behind him racers diced positions. Fifth fastest qualifier, Zach Holcombe, took second in the final laps. But Holcombe was never a threat. Haire beat him to the stripe by 3.168-seconds.

"There was a lot of good competition out here tonight," said the Erwin, NC based winner. "I want to thank Eddie Bryant and Andy Murray, JL Furrow, Lee Jones, Donkey, My dad, David and everybody else that helped me out. They were tough to get by. They had the bottom hooked up the racetrack was about one good groove. It was easy to get hung up on the outside cause there was only one groove you had to work your way by real smooth and get by them."

Haire was Sunday's pole winner. But this time Marlin beat him to the stripe by 1.276-seconds. Haire hustled into the early lead with Marlin and Holcombe tucked nose-to-tail behind him. It stayed that way for nearly nine laps. With the end nearing Marlin began putting on the pressure. Holcombe offered a series of serious threats going down the back straight and into turns 3 and 4. They took the halfway signal and entering turn one Marlin saw an opening and took it.

"I just paced myself out. I had a fast kart. I just stayed consistent on first place and pushed him faster than anyone. I waited for him to slip. With 10 to go I took the lead I knew I had a good distance to go so I just kind of took it easy," Marlin described. There was some good competition in this class today. I liked it. It was a fun race. I think running through lapped traffic paid off. When I came up on lapped karts I kind of benefited. I got a good run and I don't think anybody could get through lapped traffic as good as I did."

Steve Adams dominated Limited Modified's three-racer field. He earned the pole with a 14.693-seconds run. Outside pole winner, Joey Collins got the early jump on Adams as they headed into turn one. Four laps later Adams reeled him in and recaptured the lead. With Collins constantly hounded him the next 16-laps threatening in every corner. Adams held on taking the final flag with a 0.797-second edge over Collins.

Collins avenged himself Sunday beating Adams to that stripe with a comfortable 2.319-seconds cushion.

Payne Pickles produced Stock Heavy's pole time at 15.663-seconds. After 17-greuling laps of dicing with Brett Miller and Greg Hargraves, Pickles muscled by Hargraves for the lead. Three laps later Pickles pasted the stripe with Hargraves trailing by 0.372-second.

"It was pretty fun," described the Live Oak, FL based winner," but I had to worry about Brett Miller he's always fast and who ever was in the #5 kart (Greg Hargraves) that I took the lead from was fast. I did it for my team and I had to win for them and I want to thank Performance Cut Tires because they were a big part of this win."

"It was a good race. I didn't know where anyone behind me was," Collins said. "But I pulled it off. "I'd especially like to thank my mom, dad and Sissy. I also want to thank AKRA for putting on this race."

Brandon Odom, of Defuin, FL did it all in Junior 3 Gold. The 13-year-old P.E.C. Racing Engines powered Prowler kart pilot pumped out a 14.722-seconds pole-winning lap. Odom shot out into the early lead with outside pole winner Tanner Bohlen banging on his back door. As the race neared conclusion Odom bobbled in turn two. Bohlen almost got by him. Three laps were left. The battle continued with Bohlen challenging and Odom holding him off. Three laps later Bohlen was 0.549-second late and Odom was heading for Victory Lane. "I just kept it in the groove and put down 20 good laps," Odom described.

Round two of the five race series will be held March 31-April at Margarettsville Speedway in Margarettsville, N.C. June 9-11 round three will compete at Southern Pitt Raceway in Ayden, N. C. Racers get a two-month break before round four, which will be held at Georgia Karting Komplex in Carnesville, GA. For more information about AKRA visit their website at www.akrainc.com.

-bcw-

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