By Bruce C. Walls -Motorsport.com CONCORD, NC-The concept was simple; invite North America's top sprint racers to team up for a three-hour challenge on the World Karting Complex 7/10-mile road course behind turns three and four of ...
By Bruce C. Walls -Motorsport.com
CONCORD, NC-The concept was simple; invite North America's top sprint racers to team up for a three-hour challenge on the World Karting Complex 7/10-mile road course behind turns three and four of Lowe's Motor Speedway with a top prize of $1,500 and a total purse of $5,200. The result, a 180-minute battle from the front to the to the back of the 24-racer field for the first ever '3 Hours of Charlotte' the newest and most exciting addition to the North American Karting Championships. When it was over teammates and fellow Coyote kart factory pilots Eric Garland, of Washington, NJ and Hurlock, MD racer Alan 'Bunky' Whiting owned bragging rights to winning the first '3 hours of Charlotte.' Here's how it unfolded.
Time trials started at 9:30 a.m. Saturday November 3rd and the main event began that Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Wall, NJ based Rat Power Racing Engines powered Coyote factory pilot Jace Reynolds ruled qualifying with a 49.021seconds trip. Fellow Coyote factory pilot Travis Firing, of White Hall, PA, turned a 49.163 seconds lap for the out side pole position.
Firing, who teamed up with Tom Craze, hustled into the initial lead with Reynolds and Naples, FL based Coyote factory driver Candice Jolly hot on his tailpipe. Next time around Reynolds took the lead with Firing and Jolly hounding him from behind. Just after lap four was booked the race's only caution waved. Reynolds led the restart and held the lead as the top three pulled away from the field.
Firing took over next time around in turn eight and Jolly drafted in behind him and Reynolds fell to third as the fight for the front continued pulling from the field. Then suddenly Firing's machine slowed to a crawl and he was forced to pit surrendering the lead to Jolly who had Reynolds threatening from behind. Jolly got to lead once around before Reynolds shot under her and blasted away for a small advantage.
Meanwhile Firings crew got his machine running and he began fighting his way through the field as lap 20 went into the book and thirsty motors became a concern for most drivers. As racers rolled off into the pits Reynolds stayed out front while Charlotte, NC competitor Paul Rice slipped into second. Finally, on lap 26, Reynolds decided it was time to hit the pits for a splash of fuel and Rice took over until lap 30 when he was force to pit and give the lead to Colts Neck, NJ racer Justin Gumley, who elected to solo the race.
Reynolds quickly returned to the battle and was chasing Gumley down as lap 30 was recorded- 25-minutes into the race. On lap 43 Reynolds got by Gumley and stayed there until he pitted for fuel and a driver change on lap 57. Milford, DE based Grotto Pizza/G-Man Kart Works backed Matt Jester took over driving duties and put them back in the lead on lap 59 with the one hour mark just minutes away and he was still there on lap 71 when the first hour expired.
Jester had a lap advantage over Whiting on lap 77 when his motor blew through the front and he was forced to coast into the pits while the rest of the field flew by him. His crew, which included top east coast engine builders Kevin Colborn and Rick 'Huffy' Huffman along with Jester's father Terry, replaced the motor with a fresh one in just three minutes flat. Reynolds returned to the driver's seat and headed back to the track in 15th place while Whiting worked on extending his lead over Joe Bodenschatz.
At lap 87 Whiting headed for fuel and Bodenschatz took the lead, but not for long. It only took Whiting's crew 14 seconds to fill his tank and put teammate Eric Garland in the seat and back to the front on lap 97.
Ten laps later Garland was first to get the halfway signal. Garland led the 18 remaining racers with Jolly trailing far behind him in second until it was time to refuel and put Whiting back in the driver's seat for the final laps as Jolly continue to hold second a lap down.
Whiting took the 30-minute signal on lap 172, dove into the pits for a last splash of fuel and quickly returned to the lead, as Reynolds took third. When the 15-minute signal showed Reynolds closed in on Whiting and shot by him, but Reynolds was still a lap down.
The taste of victory almost went sour with three minutes left as Whiting's motor began failing him. Whiting reached around and adjusted his carburetor and fixed the problem and roared across the finish line with a comfortable lead over Reynolds.
"It scared me a little when the engine began sputtering, but as soon as I found out what it was I fixed it and went on," Whiting described. "The Coyote Kart was really good the whole time it was free rolling and never got tight and Eric's (Garland) motor was fast, had plenty of power and was reliable," added the 15-year-old winner who split $1,500 and a trophy with his teammate. "I want to thank Garland Racing Engines, our pit crew for really fast stops, my dad Big Alan and Rowan Pennink for all of their help this weekend.O
Reynolds and Jester took second and split $750 and a trophy for their efforts. "New front tires may had made a difference," Reynolds reflected. "We were prepared for it and both motors were strong and Terry Jester's setup was perfect."
"The tires went away at the end and we were just trying to hold on," said Jester.
Dirt racers Tod Miller and Todd Bolton of North Carolina tried their hand at road course racing and finished third which earned them $600 and a trophy. "We were close," Miller said. "I'm a road course rookie and I'm proud of our effort and it was a lot of fun. I think I'll try some of the Gold Cup races this season and get more experience for next year," he added.
Payouts continued to 10th place. Candice Jolly and her teammate Ryan Cassity finished fourth for $500, Robinson Speed Shop Team Divers Chris Mason and Jason LaVere followed in fifth and earned $400.
Gumley's solo effort earned him $350 for a sixth place finish. Georgia base Jim Hanson also soloed the race and finished ninth for $200.
Baltimore, MD based Dan Koehler and his teammate Justin Cassity claimed seventh which earned them $300 and Rice and Tom Daly of North Carolina came in eight and split $250.
Ultramax factory drivers Aron Oakley and Brad Sellers of North Carolina captured 10th.
Now that road course racers have tasted Ô3 Hours of Charlotte' they're hungry for more and they'll get that chance next year during the North American Karting Championships.