By Bruce C. Walls - Special to Motorsport.com ROCKINGHAM, NC-Coyote karts factory pilot Travis Firing, of Whitehall, PA, earned four WKA Grand National Eagle trophies during the annual Thanksgiving GT-Machine WKA/Horstman Gold Cup Grand...
By Bruce C. Walls - Special to Motorsport.com
ROCKINGHAM, NC-Coyote karts factory pilot Travis Firing, of Whitehall, PA, earned four WKA Grand National Eagle trophies during the annual Thanksgiving GT-Machine WKA/Horstman Gold Cup Grand Nationals raced at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, NC November 22-24. The event, which recorded 420 entrees, marked the WKA's return to 'The Rock' after a three year absence from the traditional venue for this event that was held there for over a decade.
Firing's four wins clinched a trio of national points championships, which earned him the prestigious WKA Triple Crown award. He was also selected as one of 16 finalists for the Skip Barber shootout in Sebring, FL January third and fourth.
"It took a lot of hard work, optimism, and intelligence in knowing your competition's strengths and weaknesses and understanding the race track and trying to minimize mistakes and a lot of good luck," said the Checkered Flag Fuels/Coyote Products/Horstman Manufacturing/MIR Racewear/Dunlop Tires/Douglas Wheel/RLVCMS Body Works Wess Brothers Custom Painting/Performance Unlimited North backed Triple Crown winner. "This was such a huge feat that I don't think the full magnitude has hit me yet, it's breath taking."
Firing posted two wins that Friday starting with Piedmont Kart Shop Briggs Limited Lite where he blew his race motor in qualifying and had to rely on a back up motor to win the race. Rowan Pennink earned the pole with a 29.525 seconds trip and Charlotte; NC competitor Jason LaVere took the outside front row starting position with a 29.544 seconds lap.
From a sixth place start in the heat Firing worked his way to the front in time to take the win just 0.204 seconds ahead of Pennink. "The back up motor was faster than our original motor and I just picked my way through the field and got by Rowan (Pennink) just in time," Firing described.
When green waved for the feature LaVere and Pennink broke from the 10-racer field and battled for the front. "It took a little time for the motor and tires to come in. Once they came in I went by Rowan (Pennink) and then worked on LaVere who trailed Firing by 0.741 seconds.
"The kart was real strong at the end and I want to thank Johnny Bartlett of Checkered Flag Fuels for the motor," Firing said.
Pennink held third across the stripe and was followed in the top five by Randy Wells and Coyote Karts factory driver Candice Jolly of Naples, FL.
Firing cranked out CMS Body Works Briggs Controlled Medium's fastest qualifying lap at 30.465 seconds. Firing won the heat race finishing a whopping 5.214 seconds ahead of Scott Rettich and then led the feature wire-to-wire ending the perfect ride just .131 seconds ahead of fellow Coyote factory pilot Jon Baker.
"Baker was with me the whole time so I knew I couldn't make any mistakes or he'd of gotten by me," said Firing.
Rounding out the four-racer field were Rettich and Ronnie Cunagin.
While Friday's weather was perfect for racing with the National Weather Service reporting temperatures in the mid 70's, Saturday morning clouds rolled in and showered over the track forcing racers to qualify with rain tires which suited Firing.
"Racing in the rain shows where a driver's abilities are," said Firing who produced a pole lap of 32.958 in Power Products/Super Seat Briggs Limited Heavy.
Pennink edged out Firing in the Heat race by 0.280 seconds, but Firing turned the tables on Pennink in the feature beating him to that finish by 1.174 seconds.
"I knew I had to win to get the championship and I did what I had to do to win it," said Firing.
Completing the top five of eight behind Pennink were Joe Bodenschatz, Frank Bondatti and Alan 'Bunky' Whiting.
A 32.639 seconds lap put Firing on Pennink Arrimour Golf Briggs Controlled Heavy's pole and Baker's 33.160 seconds trip earned him the outside front row starting spot. Firing nipped Milford, DE driver Matt Jester by just 0.644 seconds in the heat and by 0.388 seconds in the feature.
"Matt Jester and Jon Baker and I pulled from the field for our own race," Firing described. "My tires weren't as good and I had to drive harder, but luckily everything came together and they couldn't get by me."
Baker bagged second and Rettich and Ronnie Cunagin completed the top five of six behind him.
Florida racers Ashley Larson and Tommy Van Cleef each captured a pair of Grand National wins that weekend. Larson led the way in Strawser Racing/Circleville Raceway Park Briggs Amateur Medium and Custom Trophy Briggs Amateur Heavy.
Friday Larson did it all in Amateur Medium. She earned the pole with a 31.648 seconds qualifying lap and won both the heat and feature. In the heat she beat Justin Webb to the finish by 1.647 seconds and in the feature she finished 1.603 seconds ahead of Frank Kelleher. Following Kelleher in the top five of 25 were Steven Johnson, Justin Webb and Michelle Pennink.
Kelleher captured Amateur Heavy's pole with a 35.773 seconds lap, but tailed Larson across the stripe by 0.280 seconds. John Anderson finished third and was trailed across the stripe in the top five of 26 by Heat race winner Michael Osborn and Steven Johnson.
Van Cleef 's wins came in Precision Industries Briggs Junior Heavy and McDonald Motorsports Briggs Restricted Junior. After loosing Bandit Racing Chassis Briggs Junior Lite's feature to AJ Lane by just 0.390 seconds, Van Cleef avenged himself Saturday in Precision Industries Briggs Junior Heavy beating Chris Braun to the finish with a 2.050 seconds cushion. Van Cleef's Advance Racing Engines powered kart captured the pole with a 31.526 seconds qualifying lap.
Trailing Braun in Heavy's were Ashley Morrissey and Laura Smith. Smith finished third in Lite and was followed in the top five of 32 by Alex Ohman and William Stairiker.
Lane turned Briggs Restricted Junior's top qualifying lap at 35.247 seconds, but trailed Van Cleef across the finish line by 0.889 seconds. Ohman was third across the stripe; Dallas, NC competitor Evan Keresi followed in fourth and Morrissey completed the top five.
Robert Mitchell ruled MCP Brake Systems Briggs Senior's 15-racer field. Maryland racer Dave Ploor posted the pole time with a 34.973 seconds lap. Ploor trailed Mitchell by 1.229 seconds in the heat race and John Kreiger crossed behind him by 1.934 seconds in the feature.
Barry Greensweig, Jeffery Gecik and Jerry Cole claimed the remaining top five positions.
Coyote Products factory pilot Ryan Cassity, of Decatur, IL, captured the event's first win RLV Tuned Exhaust Products Briggs Lite just 0.356 seconds ahead of Chicago, IL based Jerry 'Reds' Sharp. Cassity turned the top qualifying lap at 31.002 seconds and also beat Sharp to the Heat race's finish by 0.230.
LaVere, Tim Delss and Lawson Aschenbach rounded out the top five of 19.
Salisbury, MD based Chip Disharoon dominated I Performance Racing Equipment Briggs Super Heavy. His SuperTech Performance powered Chip Disharoon Racing Chassis kart cranked out a 31.981 seconds qualifying lap for the pole. Disharoon finished second to Paul Rice, who is also powered by SuperTech, in the Heat race by 0.121 seconds and then beat him to the feature finish by 0.948 seconds for his first ever Grand National win.
Rice tool the early lead and stretched it out a little before Disharoon reeled him in on lap three. Once Disharoon captured the lead he checked out on the 14-racer field until the final lap where Rice closed the gap.
"I want to thank Kevin Colborn of SuperTech Performance for the motor that made me a Grand National Champion," Disharoon said. "I've been coming to 'The Rock' for 10-years and I finally won one. I'd also like to thank G-Man kart Works for their continued support and my crew chief Richard Hornsby."
Grotto's Pizza backed Matt Jester, of Milford, DE, finished third, which earned him the national points championship. "I want to thank Kevin Colborn of SuperTech for great motors, Grotto Pizza for their support and my dad," said Jester, "It was consistency and reliable equipment and keeping it reliable that earned us this championship."
Zack Esters and Darrell Duffy rounded out the top five.
Billy Dickson notched his first Grand National win taking King Automotive Briggs Medium's checkered flag just 0.160 seconds ahead of Firing. Coyote Products factory driver Carlos Ramirez clocked the pole time with a 34.291 seconds trip and finished third. Motor Head powered, Boat Mover backed Stevensville, MD racer Todd Wieslander finished fourth and Jim Lipari rounded out the top five of 27.
Colts Neck, NJ racer Justin Gumley grabbed Garland Racing Engines Briggs Heavy's checkered flag with a comfortable 3.070 seconds cushion over Firing. Gumley turned a 31.357 seconds lap for the pole and ran with it from there. Rat Powered Jace Reynolds, of Wall, NJ, was third across the finish line. Behind him in the top five of 27 were Dickson and Matthew Ploor.
Casey Roderick owned everything SSC/CRG Briggs Junior Sportsman-1 Lite had to offer. He earned the pole with a 33.823 seconds lap and beat Toby Parese in the Heat race by 4.346 seconds and captured the feature's checkered flag a whopping 8.375 seconds ahead of Connor Cotaling. Brad Bischoff, Joseph Coulter and Tyler Kemp captured the remaining top five of 32 positions.
Brian Blum took Baker Racing Engines Briggs Junior Sportsman-1 Heavy's checkered flag just 0.333 seconds ahead of Bischoff. Roderick ruled qualifying with a 37.480 seconds lap and took second in the feature to Blum. Filling the feature's remaining top five of 27 were Keith Jackson, Cotaling and Tyler Sandmeyer.
Glen Bernie, MD based Coyote factory shoe and Robinson Speed Shop Team Driver Steven Axtell produced a 32.608 seconds lap for Coyote Products Briggs Junior Sportsman-2's pole, but when the final flag waved it was for Justin Larson. Deer Park, NY racer Justin Bonsignore crossed 0.623 seconds behind Larson and Axtell finished third. AJ Morgan and Terry McDermott completed the top five of 24.
Morgan avenged himself Saturday taking Bonsignore Kart Supply Briggs Junior Sportsman-2 Heavy's win 0.363 seconds ahead of Bonsignore. Steven Brooks bagged third and was followed in the top five of 21 by David Carmendy and Austin Hopper.
That wraps up the 2001 WKA/Horstman Gold Cup Series season. Champions in the series will be crowned at a breakfast banquet Sunday January at the Hickory Metro Trade Center during KartFest 2002.
The national Gold Cup Series start's its 2002 season with 'Winter Nationals', which will be raced March 1-3 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. From there the series travels to East Lansing Kart Track in East Lansing, MI July 5-7 for 'Firecracker Nationals.' Summer Nationals will be held August 9-11 at historic G&J Kartway in Camden, OH and racers return to 'The Rock' November 28-30 for Grand Nationals.