Zemke, Russell Lead Winning Team in VIR's Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals Superstars Kart Enduro Challenge Alton, Va. (August 18) -- AMA Superbike star Jake Zemke and former AMA Superbike and World Superbike champion Scott Russell headlined ...
Zemke, Russell Lead Winning Team in VIR's Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals Superstars Kart Enduro Challenge
Alton, Va. (August 18) -- AMA Superbike star Jake Zemke and former AMA Superbike and World Superbike champion Scott Russell headlined the winning team in Thursday's second annual Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals Superstars Kart Enduro Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway's Plantation Valley Kart Track. They were teamed with Lindsay West, representing M1 Entertainment, and fan Derek Martin of Shepherdsville, Ky.
The race was the unofficial kickoff for the Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals, featuring the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, which takes place at VIR this weekend. Twelve teams, each consisting of a Superbike racer, a media celebrity, a fan and a staff member from VIR, AMA, event promoter M1 Entertainment or an event sponsor, got seven laps of the 5/8-mile, 24-foot-wide circuit that features 30 feet of elevation change and electronic timing and scoring before handing off to a teammate. Each driver's fastest lap was recorded, and the team with the lowest combined elapsed time was declared the winner. The winning team received trophies and a guaranteed entry in next year's race, and Martin will receive a three-day pass to next year's Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals.
The winners posted a total elapsed time of 3:21.09 to take the win, edging the second-placed team of Aaron Yates, Mark Mitchell of speedtv.com, Tami Journigan of VIR and fan Joshua Powell of Lynchburg, Va., who posted a combined time of 3:23.45. The third-placed team consisted of Roger Hayden, Ralph Sheheen of Speed Channel, Dave Sadowski of M1 Entertainment and fan David Eanes of Mebane, N.C.
"I've watched Scott Russell win a race from crashing out at Daytona to coming back and winning the same race," said Zemke, who races for the factory Honda team. "I just didn't want to let Scott down, so I had to keep my foot in it the whole time. It was a whole lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.
"The track preparation was good, the kart was good, my teammates were awesome and I enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to coming back next year," said Russell, the legendary five-time Daytona 200 winner who claimed the AMA Superbike championship in 1992 and the World Superbike title in 1993.
"It was great racing with those guys," said Martin. "Most fans don't ever get to do anything like that. I've walked around the track and watched them race, but to actually get to race with them was great. All the guys were really nice, and I'll definitely be back next year."
Yoshimura Suzuki's Aaron Yates was disappointed to lose, but reasonably satisfied with second place. "Second is a lot better than I did last year," he said. "We had a pretty good team. Our fan racer, Joshua Powell, was fastest in his session, Tami Journigan from VIR was really fast in her heat, and Mark Mitchell did well. We had a good variety of people of the team, and it worked out well. It was a lot of fun, and I hope I can come back and do it again next year."
Team Kawasaki's Roger Hayden was all smiles after the race. "It was a pretty good race," he said. "After I figured out a little bit about how to drive the kart, it was pretty good. I was the first guy to do a 49sec lap, so I was happy with that, but Dave Sadowski and Scott Russell got me for fastest lap at the end of the day. All in all, it was good fun. I was hoping that we could pull off the win, but it didn't happen. We've always got next year, I guess."
Fastest lap of the event was posted by 1990 Daytona 200 winner Sadowski, who is serving as one of the track announcers this weekend, at 49.67sec. He just nipped Russell, who timed in at 49.77 in the same heat. Third-fastest lap went to Sadowski's teammate, Zemke, at 49.81.
As always, controversy reared its ugly head amongst the ultra-competitive professional racers. Defending champ Jessica Zalusky accused Miguel Duhamel of rough driving.
"I think from the start I was a target," said defending champion Jessica Zaluksy after finishing eighth. "I got a little rough-housing from Miguel Duhamel, and from there I couldn't get it back on the box. I think Miguel was a little disappointed after getting beat by my team last year, and he took out his anger and frustration on me."
"I think Jessica was defending a position rather than going for a lap time," responded Duhamel, whose team finished sixth. "I gave her a 'love tap' just to say I was there. She knew I was there, because she looked at me and then put me in the grass, which allowed Roger Hayden and a couple of other guys to go by me! I lost that lap time, so the next time around I gave her a little bigger 'love tap' and she went wide, which allowed me to go by her. I turned some decent times after that, but our kart had a bent rear shaft and it was vibrating a lot, so I got a free massage! I don't know if it's a conspiracy or just bad luck, but our No. 17 kart just was not right. Our team did a good job anyway, because it was hard to get that kart around there. It was fun, though. The team that won deserved to win, and it was great to see Scott Russell out there. He looks like he's in great shape and about ready to get on a bike and come out here and race us. I'll be back next year, and before the race I'm going to roll the kart a few feet to make sure it's straight!"
Race promoter Cameron Gray, who complained last year that his kart was sabotaged, was happier with his result this year after finishing on the seventh-placed team.
"The 2006 Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals Superstars Kart Enduro Challenge was definitely a turnaround for me," he said. "Last year I had what was supposedly the fastest kart, but apparently a fan, someone from the AMA or a VIR employee pulled out my choke, so I couldn't go fast. But I think everybody witnessed... I may not have set the fastest lap -- Scott Russell came out of retirement and threw it down, Roger Hayden was pretty fast and so was Jake Zemke and Lindsay West -- but I was right in there with a 50 flat, so I'm happy with my performance. I won my heat, so bring it on. Russell better beware, they all better beware, I'm coming back for '07 and the promoter is going to win!"
VIR general manager Josh Lief said this year's event was another success. "This is just a great way to kick off the Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals weekend," he said. "Twelve lucky fans got the chance of a lifetime to race with and against the biggest stars in American professional motorcycle road racing, and the race was close but clean. Our VIR contingent did well, everybody had a good time, and we look forward to next year's event."
The Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals offers a variety of ticket packages designed to fit every budget, including standard general-admissions tickets, Big Kahuna Super Tickets, Big Dog Hospitality Passes, Little Dog Hospitality Passes, Pit Walk Passes, car parking passes and camping passes. Tickets will be available at the gate.
All current military personnel will receive a 30-percent discount and free parking by presenting their ID card at the gate. Similarly, college students will be eligible for a 15-percent discount by presenting their ID card at the gate. Groups of 20 or more will also be eligible for a 15-percent discount, providing the order is paid for with one credit card. Discounts do not apply to Trackside VIP Suite and Big Kahuna Super Tickets, or to Big Dog Hospitality Passes or Pit Walk Passes.
Children aged 12 and under will receive free admission, provided they are accompanied by a paid adult, but must have a Little Dog Hospitality Pass to enter the Big Dog Hospitality area.
To purchase tickets, visit www.m1event.com or www.gettix.net. Tickets ordered too late to mail will be able to be picked up at Will Call at the track.