Las Vegas, NV - For a few superbly talented shifterkart drivers, last Sunday's CART Stars of Tomorrow event in Las Vegas was a huge step towards lifelong dreams of driving a Champ Car. For most of the rest, it was simply the last best chance to...
Las Vegas, NV - For a few superbly talented shifterkart drivers, last Sunday's CART Stars of Tomorrow event in Las Vegas was a huge step towards lifelong dreams of driving a Champ Car. For most of the rest, it was simply the last best chance to test their equipment in competition before the fourth annual Palace Station SKUSA SuperNationals, set to start on Friday at this very track.
The Stars of Tomorrow event brought some of the nation's best kart racers together under the watchful eye of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), with the goal of spotting new talent for the future of the sport. Organized by Vegas track owners Bryan Herta and Hollis Brown, the winners of the three "Senior" divisions would be awarded a two day test in the Team Rahal Reynard/Ford at Fontana in December, after a three day school at Skip Barber. Two more drivers would be selected for the test from the rest of the field by a panel of judges from the Champ Car community, including current drivers from the Fed Ex Championship and representatives from the Skip Barber Racing School.
Of the classes of kart competition included in the event, three were "gearbox" divisions. Also known as shifterkarts, they are regarded by many to be the closest you can get to the experience of driving a Champ Car. Superkarts! USA (SKUSA) is a sanctioning body that focuses solely on the gearbox divisions, and the majority of the drivers entered in the 125cc and 80cc classes were highly experienced SKUSA pros. Though the Stars event was not sanctioned by SKUSA, the results were a pretty comprehensive guide to who's who on the SKUSA North American ProMoto Tour.
SKUSA veteran Jonathan Bomarito on a Trackmagic/Honda package won the thirty lap 125cc main event. Bomarito was a contender this season on the SKUSA North American ProMoto Tour, but bad luck hit him a few times and put him 15th overall in the Moto World Championship. Third at the season opener in Phoenix was his best result on the 2000 Tour, though he was consistently quick throughout the year. He was 16th overall in 1999, his rookie season. In the Stars main event, he was running a solid third when the leading pair made contact and opened the door for him to take the lead. Finally, some good luck came as payback for all the bad he'd suffered so far.
Jason Bowles of Ontario CA won the 80cc event, only a stone's throw away from the site of his upcoming Champ Car test at Fontana. Bowles was a SKUSA ProMoto rookie this year, competing in the Formula S2 semi-pro 125cc division. With two podium finishes, including second place at the ProMoto World Finals in September, Bowles carries the National Number six into 2001. Here at the Stars event, he won his award in the 80cc division. He was running a strong second place when leader Brett Buckwalter broke down and handed it over to him and the Sodikart pilot drove away from a very tough field.
AJ Allmendinger on a Tracy/Honda package won the first "at large" selection for the Fontana test, based on his stunning performance in the 125cc main event. Driving for the Paul Tracy Kart Racing Team, Allmendinger led the most laps but was knocked out of the race during an intense battle with eventual third place finisher, Scott Speed.
The final open spot went to another Californian with extensive SKUSA experience, Brett Buckwalter. He was crushing the competition in the 80cc race on a MBA/Honda until his drive chain snapped, putting him out for the day. Buckwalter won the SKUSA SuperNationals last year at Las Vegas, and incidentally, second place in that race last year was AJ Allmendinger.
The Fourth Annual Palace Station SKUSA SuperNationals begin tomorrow, and based on the level of competition at the Stars event, this weekend is going to be the most intense SuperNationals yet. Over 300 of the world's best shifterkart drivers are here today testing for the biggest shifterkart event of all time.
The 2000 SuperNationals Champion in Formula S1 will receive a paid invitation to the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School and to their Graduate Runoffs, with the goal of selecting a driver for a seat in the 2001 USAC Formula Russell Championship.