ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- Alan Rudolph continued his domination of the Rock Island Grand Prix kart racing street course by capturing his third straight King of the Streets crown in the 125cc SuperPro gearbox class. Brian Jacobsen turned his pole...
ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- Alan Rudolph continued his domination of the Rock Island Grand Prix kart racing street course by capturing his third straight King of the Streets crown in the 125cc SuperPro gearbox class.
Brian Jacobsen turned his pole position into an early lead, but got tangled up with lapped traffic in Turn Six and was out of the race. Rudolph, who had moved past Ohio's James Willis into second, took the lead and never looked back. Willis, and Preston Peebles of Lubbock, Texas, found themselves in a strong battle for second, which only helped Rudolph` solidify his lead in the 30 lap feature. He also turned a lot of heads doing it in a Yamaha-powered PCR kart.
"This is by far the best field of drivers we've had in this race," said Rudolph, head instructor at the Bob Bondurant Performance Driving School, Phoenix, Arizona, which was also the sponsor of the race. "So a win this year is especially gratifying. There were so many talented guys out here this weekend. This Rock Island race is just a great event. All these spectators were out here watching us. This is just the type of karting event we need to bring our sport to the people."
Peebles drove his Leading Edge/Mile High kart to second, with Willis third, Michael Bailliez forth and Travis Roberts fifth.
To illustrate the depth of the field, 13 drivers in the SuperPro field turned in qualifying lap times on Saturday that were faster than the track record. Jacobsen, in putting his BRM on the pole, took more than half a second off the previous mark. Ten drivers then topped his new fast-lap mark during Sunday's feature.
Rudolph won the King of the Streets title last year in Rock Island and the previous year in Quincy, Ill. He also won the 125cc gearbox class at Rock Island in 1998 and 1994 and would have won in 1995 if he had not penalized for crashing through a straw bale chicane to avoid an accident.
King of the Streets, part of Superkarts! USA's Triple Crown of Geaerbox Racing, was only the first of 14 Feature races run at the Rock Island Grand Prix, featuring 2-cycle, 4-cycle and gearbox classes. Presenting sponsors of the race are Ameritech and Bi-State Home Improvement Corp., and Casino Rock Island is the sponsor of the $25,000 purse.
Jason Birdsell, winner of more races than any other driver at Rock Island, added victories in the 2-cycle Senior Sportsman class sponsored by Ameritech, and 2-cycle Super Sportsman class sponsored by Zimmerman Pontiac Cadillac Oldsmobile Honda, to run that total to an impressive 11 career victories. Birdsell's Super Sportsman win came on a last-lap, last-ditch pass attempt as the leader came up on lapped traffic, which helped him edge Davenport, Iowa's Mike Welsh by three-tenths of a second.
Scott Evans heralded his return to The Rock with a victory in the Ameritech Yamaha Heavy class to register his sixth win at the fabled street course. Local favorite Welsh proved his three wins last year were no accident by winning the Yamaha Medium race.
Jason "Skuzzie" North led a contingent of two teams (five drivers) from Bermuda, by defending his win last year in the WHBF-TV 2-cycle Controlled Super Stock race. While Tim Lobaugh won the Omega Max Street Challenge and Mike Combs finished second, the Bermudans dominated the rest of the field with North finishing third, Anthony Bean fourth, Delton White sixth, Scott Barnes seventh, and Ronald Denbrook 10th. This was the first year the Rotax FR 125 Max motor has competed at the Rock Island Grand Prix. Lobaugh took the lead for good on the fourth lap of the 25-lap race.
Jacob Pierson, Bellvue, Colorado, won the 80cc Shifter class sponsored by Bi-State Home Improvement, by less than one-half second over Kyle Wiegand of Greenwood, Indiana. Pierson took the lead for good on the fourth lap.
Joe King of Silvis, Illinois, came away with the win in the Rieken's Racing 4-cycle Junior II race after the leader, Matt Pewe of Davenport, Iowa, got tangled up coming out of Turn Six, rolled, and slid upside down across the timing line. The dramatic accident thankfully resulted in only a broken collarbone for the young driver.
Chris Harding of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, won the 4-cycle Medium Class sponsored by Bi-State Home Improvement, by less than one-half second over Rod Stewart of Jacksonville, Illinois, and Billy Dickson of West Decatur, Pennsylvania. Mike Guerity of Charlotte, North Carolina, was fourth and Birdsell fifth. Todd Bolton won the inaugural running of the HPV100 Pro Heavy class sponsored by Ameritech, and Stewart won the WHBF-TV 4-cycle Stock Light class.
Mike Guerity of Charlotte, North Carolina, defeated Billy Dickson of West Decatur, Pa. and Rod Stewart of Jacksonville, Ill. in the 4-cycle Stock Heavy race.
In the 125cc SemiPro shifter class, Dan Roe of Minnetonka, Minnesota, moved up to capture the title after winning the 80cc shifter class last year. Guido Duerbaum of Hollywood, Florida, Chris Festa of Atlanta, Georgia, and John Kindhard ot Lake Dallas, Texas, all crossed the finish line less than two seconds behind.
Perhaps the most impressive driving display of the weekend was by Leading Edge/ Mile High's Courtney Weeks. After qualifying a disappointing 31st on Saturday, she cruised to an easy win in the Sunday morning Last Chance Qualifier, which put her 26th in the 30 kart Feature grid. She worked her way through a highly competitive field to as high as 10th place before a stuck throttle forced her out on Lap 18 of the 20 lap Feature, leaving her in 15th place.
Weeks was one of eight females competing at this year's event. Mishael Abbott of Coral Springs, Florida, finished 13th in the King of the Streets SuperPro event and Gina Codalata was 7th in the 2-cycle Controlled Super Stock event to lead the ladies.
Other Grand Prix sponsors include J.W. Koehler Electric, Four Points Hotel by Sheraton, Budweiser and Stern Beverage, Zimmerman Pontiac Cadillac Oldsmobile Honda, The Dispatch The Rock Island Argus and The Leader newspapers, WHBF-TV Channel 4, Illinois Oil Co., Sprint Kart Speedway in Davenport, Iowa, Cumulus Radio, Iowa Wireless, Iowa Illinois Taylor Insulation, Key Auto Mall, J&J Camper Sales, Jetter Disposal, DeSalvo's Photography, Shifter Kart Illustrated magazine, Briggs & Stratton Motorsports, H&H Car Care & Towing, Bandit Karts and TKO Enterprises.
New fast-lap speed records were set in every class. This was due to ideal weather and an ever-improving quality of drivers competing at the Grand Prix, according to Roger Ruthhart, head of the organizing committee. "The biggest improvement in this year's event is the quality and the depth in every class," he said.
Race director Tom Argy Jr. said probably 15-20 drivers were discouraged this year from participating because they did not have the experience to compete at this level.
Racers were unanimous in their praise of this year's Rock Island Grand Prix.
"As a racer I found the quality of the track staff as good as any I have ever seen. On the track when there was a problem, they were on the ball to tell us what to do and to a racer this is a big deal," said Marshall Martin of South Bend, Indiana.
"The races were all very smoothly run. Great event. Wish all street races were this nice," said Mark Dismore, Jr. of Greenfield, Indiana.
"Also a big plus is that you can bring your family and loved ones and be assured that there are plenty of things to do until the racing begins," echoed Mike McKnight.
"For me this was the memory of a lifetime," said Joe Lemel of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.
The Rock Island Grand Prix is held each year on Labor Day Weekend. Rock Island is located at the intersection of Interstate highways 80, 88 and 74 in an area known as the Quad-Cities. It is located on the Mississippi River 3 hours west of Chicago with a population of more than 375,000. It is also accessible by air.
The race is hosted by the Downtown Rock Island Arts & Entertainment District which features a hotel, dinner theater, Jumer's Casino Rock Island, and a wide variety of restaurants, comedy clubs, bars and live music venues.
For more information on the Rock Island Grand Prix or The Arts & Entertainment District, visit their web sites at www.qconline.com/gpkart and www.ridistrict.com .