STARS OF KARTING 2008 SEASON PREVIEW PRESENTED BY EKARTINGNEWS.COM - JICA & CADET The opening round of the 2008 Snap-on Stars of Karting presented by Indy Racing League season will take place this weekend, visiting the Ocala Gran Prix facility...
STARS OF KARTING 2008 SEASON PREVIEW PRESENTED BY EKARTINGNEWS.COM - JICA & CADET
The opening round of the 2008 Snap-on Stars of Karting presented by Indy Racing League season will take place this weekend, visiting the Ocala Gran Prix facility in central Florida for the first time in series history. With that, EKN has dedicated the next four days to preview the six class championships for the year.
Today, we will look at the Junior Intercontinental A (JICA) division along with the Cadet class. Tomorrow is devoted to the new Stars TaG class, Wednesday the new TaG ICC and Intercontinental A (ICA), and wrapping up the previews with Intercontinental C (ICC) on Thursday. On Friday, we'll have an Ocala race preview with entry lists for every class to begin our Trackside Live coverage.
Before they even hit the track in Ocala, the JICA division is looking to be the class to watch in 2008. Of the top ten in the final standings, eight will be returning for the championship chase, including defending national champion Jarvis Gennari.
The 2007 EKN Awards Young Driver of the Year won the title following the Stars Finale in October after a stellar rookie Stars season. This year, he makes the move from Tony Kart USA to SSC East, going from the green Tony Kart to the black CRG. Gennari spent the winter getting adjusted to his new ride, hoping to repeat the championship in 2008.
The championship leader for most of the 2007 season was Tony Kart USA's Gustavo Menezes. The Californian will return for his third full season in the Junior division and will be among the handful of veteran JICA drivers battling for the championship. Unlike last year, Menezes will put his efforts into just the Western schedule with a full European schedule on his docket, running the CIK-FIA KF3 European Championships and the WSK International Series.
Rivals of Menezes since they began karting are fellow Californians Miles Maroney, Brendan Phinny and Taylor Miinch. The three are also entering their third JICA season this year, all enjoying a taste of the podium in 2007. Maroney ran as a privateer last season, having an impressive Moran event by taking both wins. This year, he's moved to the FirstKart.com tent that has a current streak of three division championships in the class. Phinny returns with Team Top Kart USA with the support of Kartel Motorsports. 'Mini Phinny' swept the Miller round last season and will look to add more victories this year. Joining him aboard a Top Kart will be Taylor Miinch. Moving from Birel to Kartel Motorsport at the end of 2007, Miinch will look for his first JICA victory of his career.
Returning after finishing the 2007 in the top ten include Spencer Pigot, Tatiana Calderon, and Angel Caban. Pigot had a stellar rookie JICA season, picking up a win and finishing fifth in the standings. Still driving for FirstKart.com, the Florida driver has been busy during the winter, running the Florida Winter Tour and WKA Manufacturer's Cup Series, winning two finals at the recent Lowe's event at the beginning of March. Columbian Calderon put in an impressive second half of 2007 season to slide into ninth at the end of the year. She's continued that success, running at the front of the Rotax Junior division during the Florida Winter Tour to prepare for the upcoming year with Tony Kart USA. J3 Competition's JICA pilot Caban also ran well in '07 along with this past winter and should battle for some race wins.
A few rookies to watch this season include the top three Cadet drivers from last year. Two-time Cadet national champion Sage Karam will make the move up to the Junior division this year after a long and successful Cadet run. The MRP-Birel America pilot picked up his first JICA victory already this season, at the FWT finale in Ocala. Tyler Thomas, Cadet runner-up in '07, also is making the jump and is bypassing his final year at the Cadet level. The Oklahoma driver running for Team Top Kart USA has also used the winter months to adjust to the bigger horsepower and bigger kart. Third in last year's Cadet standings, Nick Neri, has already picked up four victories during the winter months. Three in JICA that helped claim the FWT championship, and one at the WKA Daytona KartWeek in HPV competition with San Yves Motorsports aboard a Maranello chassis.
One thing is for sure, there is no clear favorite entering the 2008 season for the JICA championship.
With the top three now gone up to JICA, the Cadet field is wide open for a new driver to rise to the top. Like most Cadet races over the last few years, they will come down to the driver who is in the right spot on the final lap. Drivers like Mason Chelootz (Team Top Kart USA), Santino Ferrucci (San Yves Motorsports), Garett Grist (Team Top Kart USA), Andrew Murray (MRP-Birel America), Austin Self (MRP-Birel America), Broc Yocom (Champion Racing/Intrepid USA) and other will be battling all year long to claim the Cadet title.
Snap-on Stars of Karting presented by IndyCar Series is based out of Seattle, Washington, sanctioned by the World Karting Association (WKA) and owned and operated by 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion and IRL IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal, IndyCar Series driver Bryan Herta and veteran karting promoter Paul Zalud. www.starsofkarting.com, www.worldkarting.com.
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