SHAWANO, Wis. — AEM Karting continued their fast start to the 2021 Cup Karts North Division season July 16-18 at USAir Motorsports in Shawano, Wis., a 1.1-mile twisty sprint track with elevation change that many agree is one of the best and most challenging in the country.
With nine karts in action, AEM racers competed at the front of the pack all weekend with Owen Oehler and Jackson Wolny in Cadet; Matthew Miller, James Overbeck and Bacon Zelenka in Junior; Neil Breitenbach in Legends; Jerry Fandrey and Mick Gabriel in Senior Light and Gabriel and Jordan Morgan in Senior Medium.
When the dust settled on Round 3 of 2021 Cup Karts North racing, the AEM team left Wisconsin with four final wins, five pole awards, 10 top-five finishes and the points lead in Junior, Senior Light and Senior Medium heading to the fourth and final round this August at East Lansing Kart Track in Michigan.
Here’s a look at AEM’s successful weekend of Briggs LO206 racing in Wisconsin.
Breitenbach triumphs in Legends
For the first time of the year in Cup Karts North, Neil Breitenbach was back behind the wheel of a No. 88 AEM / EOS chassis in the new Legends division. Breitenbach practiced Friday and raced Saturday only, but one day was enough for him to score a win. In another great showing, the Florida racer drove to Saturday’s Legends win by a 0.771-second gap over second. Breitenbach qualified P2 and won both heat races before capturing the final.
The win was Neil’s second of the year in Cup Karts competition; he won the Legends final in the CKNA South Division opener at Bushnell, Fla., in February, and he leads the Legends points in the South series with only one round remaining, a return trip to Bushnell Saturday, August 7.
Overbeck adds another Junior win
AEM’s James Overbeck, Bacon Zelenka and Matthew Miller were extremely strong in the 206 Junior category throughout the weekend. Overbeck opened competition with a pole in Saturday morning’s qualifying over a 21-kart field. Zelenka joined Overbeck in the top three in qualifying with an impressive P3 effort.
Overbeck ran second in both heat races and was back on the top step of the podium after the Saturday Junior final, winning the main event by a 0.241-second margin over second and setting the race’s fast lap in the process with a 1:11.122. Zelenka had a solid run for P5, giving AEM two racers in the top five. Miller was involved in an accident and did not finish the final.
Miller had a better day on Sunday and capped it off with a solid P9 result in the final. He also qualified P8 and ran P8 and P7 in the day’s heat races. Overbeck continued his string of podiums in Cup Karts competition with a solid P3 finish in Sunday’s final while Zelenka settled for 11th after qualifying third earlier in the day.
In six Cup Karts North rounds, Overbeck has two wins and four P3 results, which have him leading the Junior standings by 55 points heading into the fourth and final round of the series at East Lansing. Zelenka will enter the final round sitting a respectable seventh in the standings.
Wolny earns top-5, pole in Sportsman
Owen Oehler and Jackson Wolny carried the AEM banner in Sportsman, the biggest class of the event with 32 youngsters making the call. Wolny had the better weekend of the two and added to AEM’s top-five total with a fine P5 result in Saturday’s Sportsman final. After qualifying P6, Wolny slipped to 13th in the first heat and ran seventh in heat two. He’d have a great final, passing several karts on the way to his first top five of the day.
On Sunday Wolny turned heads in qualifying by capturing the pole award with a fast lap of 1:11.172, 0.254 seconds clear of second. He’d finish P2 and P8 in the heat races and drove another solid race in the final, crossing the finish stripe just outside the top five in P6. Jackson continues to show great improvement and is looking great on an OTK chassis in Sportsman competition.
Oehler raced in the pack all weekend and came away with 24th-place finishes both days. Owen is gaining experience and the team expects him to be racing closer to the front as he gets more races under his belt.
Mick sweeps Saturday Senior finals
Mick Gabriel had a great round at USAir beginning Saturday which saw him drive his No. 023 AEM / EOS chassis to main event wins in both senior finals.
Gabriel scored the pole over 20 competitors in Senior Light qualifying and would finish P1 and P2 in the heat races. Mick would keep his EOS out front throughout the 10-lap final, crossing the stripe 1.004 seconds ahead of P2.
Jerry Fandrey joined Gabriel on an AEM entry in Senior Light and had a solid day, capping it off with a sixth-place run in the final.
Twenty-eight drivers entered Senior Medium and once again Gabriel qualified pole with a quick time of 1:10.168. The Illinois pilot would go on to sweep the class on the day, winning both heats and driving to a 0.066-second win in the main.
Jordan Morgan was on a No. 42 AEM entry in Senior Medium. Morgan ran between 15th and 20th throughout the day and ended up P20 in the final. His best run came in heat two which saw him finish P15.
Mick would place top five in both classes Sunday. After scoring another pole in Medium, he crossed the finish line first in the final but officials issued him a three-spot penalty for avoidable contact, relegating him to a P4 result. He nearly pulled off the sweep in Light, finishing a close P2 for his third podium of the weekend.
Fandrey had a great day going in Senior Light on Sunday. He qualified P4 and ran third in the first heat race. He ran into some troubles in the final and ended up 15th, but showed great speed despite the tough finish in the main.
Morgan had a good race Sunday with a P14 drive in the 27-kart Medium final.
Heading to the final two days of 2021 Cup Karts North racing this August 14-15 at East Lansing, Mich., Gabriel holds the points lead in both Senior Light and Senior Medium. In Light, he’s 215 points to the good and the Medium standings show him on top by 70 points.
Fandrey will enter East Lansing seventh in the Light standings while Morgan is 11th in the Medium points.
206 Senior up-and-comer Matthew Winfrey joining AEM Karting
Matthew Winfrey raced at USAir and he was one of Gabriel’s toughest competitors throughout the weekend. The 17-year-old racer ran up front all weekend in both Senior Light and Medium and accomplished a podium in Saturday’s Light final, finishing P3. He also won Sunday’s Senior Light pole award and qualified P2 to Mick in Saturday’s Light qualifying.
AEM Karting is proud to announce that Winfrey is set to join the Illinois-based team for the North Division’s final round at East Lansing. The Hughson, Calif., driver will compete in both Light and Medium and is expected to be one of the top drivers in attendance. Winfrey is in his fourth season racing karts. He’s a 2016 Monterey Bay Karters champion and he’s won poles in SKUSA, KPX, Super Showdown and now CKNA with his Senior Light pole award at Shawano.
We’re looking forward to tracking Winfrey’s racing when he begins his teaming with AEM Karting this August 13-15 at East Lansing.
AEM Karting is based in Bolingbrook, Ill., and is an official authorized OTK distributor, offering sales and support for OTK products, Briggs & Stratton LO206 racing engines, and many other karting brands and products that make a successful team. Led by championship-winning kart racer Mick Gabriel, AEM offers at-track coaching, tuning and support, arrive-and-drive packages and more. For more information, visit the team’s official website at aemkarting.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.