MILFORD, DE - Entering a chicane with the finish line just 150 yards ahead, Dustin Morris made a last lap pass by Rowan Pennink to win the Rodney J. Harrington Memorial Pro Race during the 11th Annual PNC Bank Milford Black Top Kart Race presented by the Greater Milford Area Chamber of Commerce October 4-5. National, regional and local kart racers competed in 17 classes on a half-mile road course through Milford, DE's downtown streets that weekend. Morris pocketed $500 for the win along with $60 in lap money and contingency prizes from G-Man Kart Works, Garland Racing Engines and Bonsignore Kart Shoppe.
Racers got in a round of practice on the half-mile course Saturday morning and then competed in eight lap heat races to determine Sunday's 10-lap Feature starting positions. Washington, PA pilot Eric Garland earned the Pro Race heat win for the pole and shared front row with Rowan Pennink. Morris started behind Garland in third and had local racer Matt Jester starting next to him. When the field got the green flag Garland grabbed the early lead as they flew down Park Avenue and turned south onto Walnut Street. Garland led for five laps, which earned him $300, before his machine broke forcing him to abandon the race.
Pennink inherited the lead when Garland left the track and was headed for the checkered flag four laps later when Morris made his move in the library parking lot chicane. Pennink tried to recapture the lead while they battled down Denny Row, but Morris prevailed as they rounded the final turn onto Park Avenue with the checkered flag waving in front of them.
"That was a pretty good race. I got on them a little bit. He (Pennink) moved out and I got under him, we got together a little bit and I came out in front," described Morris a 25-year-old Garland Racing Engines powered Invader Kart pilot from Birdsboro, PA. "I just sat there in second and rode for a little while. The kart handled awesome, actually it was a little tight in the rights, but I made it work for what I had to work with. I'm on a low budget, no new tires or nothing like that, so it's kind of hard to do it. Garland's motor was great; they're the best. The course out here is great, it's a lot of fun, people come out and watch you race and its good promotion for the town and good for kart racing. It's a lot of fun we look forward to this race every year. You're out there beating and banging on the street where you drive your car on and it's a lot of fun."
Pennink had a different spin on it. "I got out front and thought I had it and he (Morris) just ran into the back of me and shoved past me in the turn," Pennink said. "Its kind of sad when a person who helps build your own engines tries to take you out."
Sunday's features started with David Harding, of Fairfax, VA and Jordan Moore on Bay Health Medical Center Stock Lite's front row. Harding hustled into the initial lead over Moore. Fourth place starter Clay Tatman took second from Moore and began threatening the leader. Harding held on as Tatman looked high and low for a chink in his armor. Harding was among eight racers whose home track is Monrovia Raceway in Monrovia, MD. Five of those eight were feature winners at Milford.
"It was a rough ride. There's a smooth way around here, but it's hard to find," said Harding, a Zanderbuilt Racing Engines powered Coyote kart pilot. "We happened to get a good setup so the kart wouldn't be loose. This morning's practice helped a little with the guess, the weather hasn't changed much from yesterday and I just happened to stay up front."
Layhill, MD racer Jessie Morrison battled her way from the rear of Davis, Bowen & Friedel Junior Stock's field to the front in time to take the win over Matt Amos. "That was so much fun," beamed 14-year-old Morrison a repeat Milford Street Race winner from last year. "I'd like to thank my dad and Zanderbuilt Racing Engines. The Shadow kart handled well and the engine pulled strong."
Morrison finished second in Richard Y. Johnson Restricted Junior Stock's heat and shared front row with pole and feature winner Brooks Smith. Smith scampered into the early lead as Morrison fell to third surrendering second to Amos. Amos closed in on Smith and took a piece of the lead, which Smith quickly recaptured and held to the finish.
"It was crazy, he passed me for the lead and then I got it back, it was awesome," said 13-year-old Lincoln, DE based Smith. "The Phantom kart handled great, it was a little bit worse in practice, but it turned out nice for the feature and the motor pulled great thanks to Huffy Power and I also want to thank everybody that helped me work on the kart, especially my dad."
Smith was one of two Lincoln, DE based drivers who reached victory lane that weekend. Huffy/Colborn Racing Engines powered Coyote Kart pilot Matt Jester, also of Lincoln, dominated the Hickman Overhead Doors Limited Modified heat race for the pole from where he turned eight consistent 31 seconds laps out of 10 on his way to building a 25.2 seconds finish line advantage over second place John Davis. Milford Police radar clocked Jester doing 59 mph down the Walnut Street straightaway.
"It was a real good race. The Coyote kart handled great and Huffy's motor was strong," said the 18-year-old Del Tech freshman. "The kart was handling, the motor was pulling, we just tried to get out early and take it easy from there. I want to thank everybody that helped us out especially our sponsors Grotto's Pizza, G-Man Kartworks, Lynden Air Freight, Sand Dollars Traffic and Huffy/Colborn Motors.
Toni Alexander made three in a row for Zanderbuilt Racing Engines powered pilots with a wire-to-wire win in Clariant Stock 5HP 35& Over. Second place starter Jack Krieger offered Alexander some early race challenges and then surrendered second to Robert Mitchell who kept the pressure on Alexander to the end.
"I don't know how I stayed up front. Robert Mitchell and I have been racing for a long time. He raced me clean and we had an absolute blast out there and I just pulled it out," Alexander said. "The Bandit kart was just fantastic, we had a great heat race yesterday and a fantastic feature today. This is my first win at the Milford Street Race, last year I finished second behind Tom Fash.
Garland scored Sea Watch International Stock Medium's win from a fourth place start. Morris earned that heat race win for the feature's pole and had Pennink positioned next to him for the start. Pennink got the jump when they took the green flag. Next time around Garland grabbed the lead from him as they headed across the stripe. After capturing the lead Garland built a small advantage over Pennink that he held to the end.
"We had a real good run going there. It's a lot of fun when you go out there with your friends and run hard like that and know nobody's going to get into each other and wreck each other," Garland said. "The kart worked really well, it came in the more I ran."
GT Machine powered Coyote kart pilot Zachary Taylor earned Donovan Plumbing, Heating & Air Junior Sportsman 1's feature over pole winner Zachary DeShaies. DeShaies blasted into the early lead as Taylor charged trough the filed from sixth. After capturing second Taylor took off after DeShaies and got him at the half way mark. From there DeShaies fought him to the finish.
"It was crazy," described the 10-year-old Pasadena, MD based winner who leads the class in the Maryland Sprint Divisional Series. "My dad really helped me and the body was really good. It was really hard to keep on trying to get the lead, but I made it."
Tyler Sandmeyer, another GT Machine Powered Coyote kart pilot, topped I.G. Burton Junior Sportsman 2's heat and feature. Sandmeyer rocketed off the pole and never looked back before taking the checkered flag. "I just held onto it. The Coyote kart handled good on the streets and the GT Machine motor was working good. I want to thank everybody that helped us this weekend, especially my dad."
LaVere Electric Animal Heavy was a two-driver battle between Dover, DE brothers James and Jerry McKinney; both piloting Bobby Brooks Racing Engines powered Bandit karts. James won both the heat and feature races. "I just love street racing and I hope they do it many more years in Milford," James said after his win.
Pennink posted a wire-to-wire win in 5J's Sanitation Stock Heavy. The Huntington Valley, PA based Garland Racing Engines powered Bandit kart pilot blasted away from the pole and was never seriously challenged on his way to the finish line. Trailing a distant second was Mike Stratton, a former WKA/Delaware Divisional Series champion, who now builds and races Northeast Modified Lite cars. It was Stratton's first kart race in 10- years.
"I got out front and got a good lead," Pennink said of his win, "The Bandit kart was great and I want to thank Garland Racing Engines, Thor Oil and my dad for helping me all weekend."
Five 2-Cycle classes competed that weekend highlighted by the City of Milford 125cc Shifters that Milford Police radar clocked at nearly 80 mph down the longest straightaway. Lutherville, MD Gold Kart pilot Sean Beziat swept the heat and feature races. He led the feature flag-to-flag with Marco Bertoli battling him for the lead during the early laps before he broke away for the finish.
"I've got to thank the other guys racing Shifter karts they helped me set it up, this is only my fourth race in this thing so I slapped a new set of tires on it this morning," admitted the Pavesi Racing Engines powered winner. "Molly, my fiancée, and I tried to get this thing together and we straightened it out and just from there I focused and as soon as I took the lead I just stayed focused and didn't worry where the rest of them were. I Knew they were behind me, but people started to let me know every lap just how far behind they were, but I stayed on it like they were right there behind me the whole time."
Paul Kennedy posted the ICA win over Virgil Cross and Holiday Inn Express 100cc Piston Port Senior was captured by Harold LaVere who also won a MY- CHRON 3 in a drawing during Sunday's driver's meeting.
GKS Racing Engines powered Coyote kart pilot Austin Flurer bagged Burris Logistics Comer 125 Junior's win from the outside pole. "I guess I really got it," beamed the amazed 11-year-old Knukeltown, PA pilot. "This is my first street race and I won! The Coyote Kart handled great and the GKS motor pulled good."
Kyle Mason captured e Callaway Furniture Comer 125cc Senior Heavy's feature from the outside pole over pole winner Joe Tierney.
With the 11th Annual PNC Bank Milford Black Top Kart Race in the rearview mirror, plans for an even more exciting 12th Annual Race already in the works.
-Bruce C. Walls, guest writer