ROCKINGHAM, NC-A surprised Ryan Cassity became the third member of this year's WKA Triple Crown Club. The Decatur, Il based Coyote karts factory driver entered this year's annual GT Machine WKA Horstman Gold Cup Grand Nationals at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, NC Thanksgiving weekend with a shot at two national titles and ended up with three. Cassity was among over 400-racers that entered the November 29-30 event.

It took Cassity two Grand National wins and a second place finish to join this year's other Triple Crown champions Bret Spaude who races in the WKA/Dunlop Tire National Road Racing Series and WKA/George Kugler Manufacturer's Cup Series competitor Nick Bussell. Cassity captured both wins that Friday starting with the event's first feature Precision Industries Briggs Lite. Scott Kleman topped qualifying with a 31.103- seconds lap on the 3.8-mile asphalt road course while Cassity had to start fifth. Kleman took the heat race win with a 0.596-hunderths of a second edge over King Automotive backed Coyote factory pilot Carlos Ramirez, of Arundel, MD.

The feature boiled down to a battle between Cassity and Ramirez, who was glued to Cassity's tailpipe while producing the race's fastest lap on lap 12. Before it was over they traded the front a couple of times, but Cassity prevailed and took the win over Ramirez by just 0.493-hundreths of a second for the Eagle and the top prize, the national championship.

"That was a real good race, it came down to the end," Cassity described. "This was the first time in a long while that four guys still had a chance at the championship at Rockingham. The rain at Charlotte tightened things up in the points chase and then I won at Camden and was DQ'ed so Carlos (Ramirez) Scott Klemam, Tommy Van Cleef or myself could have gotten the championship with a win. I was two points out of first when we came to Rockingham and I didn't think the deal was going to happen. We were quick in practice and made some changes going into the feature and I still didn't think it was going to happen, but he (Ramirez) passed me and I passed him back."

Cassity captured McCall Motorsports Briggs Animal-1's pole later that day with a 30.898-seconds lap. Colts Neck, NJ based R&R Racing Technology powered Bandit kart pilot Justin Gumley edged out Cassity by a mire 0.170- hundreths of a second for the heat race win and then Cassity fought back and beat him to the feature's checkered flag by 0.727-hundreths of a second.

"In Michigan I was real quick and won both days and with the rain outs that set us in a great spot all I had to do was start at the Rock to wrap it up," Cassity said, "It takes a lot of luck to win just one of these championships, but things worked out for us at Rockingham."

Cassity picked up his third national points championship with a second place finish in King Automotive Briggs Medium where he trailed Charlotte, NC competitor Daniel Koehler by 0.192-hundreths of a second.

Seventeen other classes competed at the Grand Nationals. A full report can be seen in an upcoming issue of WKA's Karting Scene Magazine. To subscribe visit their website at or call the WKA office at 704.455.1606.

Racers in the WKA/Horstman Gold Cup Series will be recognized for their efforts in the 2002 season during a breakfast banquet January 25th at the Hickory, NC Holiday Inn Select Ballroom beginning at 8:30 a.m. Their 2003 season starts March 7-9 at Jacksonville, FL's 103rd Street Sports Complex followed by the second race of the season, which will be held July 4-6 at South Bend Raceway Park in South Bend, IN. From there the national series travels to a new venue August 8-10 Beaver Run Motorsports Complex in Wampum, PA and then concludes again with the traditional GT Machine Thanksgiving Grand Nationals.

-Bruce C. Walls-