Overbeck wins Junior with AEM at CKNA Grands; Gabriel, Miller win the following weekend in East and Midwest

AEM KartingBOLINGBROOK, Ill. — AEM Karting is showing no signs of slowing down as the winter months approach. James Overbeck, Mick Gabriel and Matt Miller all scored big wins for AEM in early October and the team recently announced an aggressive, busy early winter schedule including the biggest 4-cycle and 2-cycle events in the country. 

After more than a year of focusing on the Briggs LO206 platform, the OTK-backed team with their in-house engine program will expand in 2022 to support programs in both LO206 and the IAME KA100. Plans include attendance at all the major 4-cycle and 2-cycle American sprint series, including SKUSA, CKNA, Route 66, USPKS and the Stars Championship Series.

Before looking ahead, we’ll recap AEM’s wins and success at the Oct. 1-3 CKNA Grand Nationals 5 at New Castle, Ind., the Stars Championship Series finale at Pittsburgh International and racing at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill. 

Starting with the CKNA Grands, AEM drivers showed tremendous speed all weekend at the biggest annual LO206 karting event in North America. 

Overbeck dominates huge Junior field

James Overbeck led the way for AEM racers as he put an exclamation point on his CKNA North championship season with a huge win in Junior at the Grands. The Ohio wheelman dominated the event in the 63-kart Junior category. After qualifying P3, he’d go on to win both Group A heat races and win the 15-lap main event in wet conditions by a huge 9.2-second margin over P2. With challenging weather conditions through the weekend, Overbeck again proved his versatility with super impressive drives in the rain and dry with the end result another win — this time at the most prestigious North American race in 4-cycle junior karting. 

Overbeck wasn’t the only AEM shoe running up front in Junior at the Grands as Bacon Zelenka and Matt Miller both had solid showings. Zelenka qualified just outside the top 10 with a P12 effort of 63 drivers to take time. He’d show out in Group B heats, finishing P2 in the first heat and scoring the win in heat two. In the rain on Sunday Bacon continued his strong weekend with a P7 drive and just a few kart-lengths away from a top five.

Miller rebounded from a P28 qualifying effort to run third and 11th in his heat races. He fought hard in the final, battling with several other juniors with a P13 end result. 

Zach Kubinski was the fourth AEM junior entry and unfortunately had a rough outing. Kubinski got banged up in a wreck in heat one and opted to sit out the rest of the weekend. He’d return to competition the next weekend at Autobahn (see below).

Nyiri podiums in Masters

Mike and Mick Gabriel and AEM's Chris Surdenik with Masters P3 finisher Jakab Nyiri (AEM photo)
Mike and Mick Gabriel and AEM’s Chris Surdenik with Masters P3 finisher Jakab Nyiri (AEM photo)

Jakab Nyiri gave AEM an outstanding showing in the Masters category for drivers age 35 and up. In his first race with AEM, Nyiri was up front all weekend in the 46-kart division. He’d qualify P3 and run second and sixth in the heat races. Battling tough racing conditions Sunday, Nyiri would persevere to an outstanding P3 podium finish in the 15-lap final. Outstanding debut with the team, Jakab!

Jeff Bays joined Nyiri in Masters on an AEM entry and raced around the top 20 all weekend. Bays would qualify P23 Friday and end up finishing in the same spot in Sunday’s final. He also recorded finishes of 25th and 20th in the pair of heat races.

Wolny fast all weekend in Sportsman

Jackson Wolny showed very well for the team in the Sportsman division. In a huge field of 55 youngsters, Wolny qualified 14th and that would be his lowest result of the weekend. ‘Action’ Jackson improved for a pair of top-10 finishes in Saturday’s heats with a solid P8 and P7 results. In a wet final Sunday, Wolny would slip back a few spots from his heat runs but still finish a very respectable P11 to cap off a good CNKA season.

AEM shows lots of speed in Senior

While AEM drivers were among the fastest throughout Thursday and Friday’s practice and qualifying, challenging weather conditions got the better of the senior drivers as the weekend progressed.

Mick Gabriel topped Senior Light and Medium practice speed charts multiple times before qualifying P2 in Light and P3 in Medium. With the challenging weather conditions Saturday and Sunday, Mick decided to sit out and focus on giving his team drivers the best shots at good runs at the big event.

California’s Matt Winfrey showed outstanding speed in practice, going P1 in Light’s second practice among other fast rounds. Qualifying went well for Winfrey with a P5 effort in Light and P11 in Medium. He’d back up his qualifying speeds with a couple of fine P4 finishes in the Senior Medium Group A heats, but unfortunately the inclement weather conditions didn’t work in Winfrey’s favor in the finals and he was a DNF in both.

Jerry Fandrey continued his recent hot streak with a solid P10 drive in Light qualifying. Fandrey’s heats didn’t go according to plan and he was involved in incidents in both that relegated him to P37 and P28 results. Jerry rebounded in the final to finish just outside the top 20 of 50 starters in P21.

Blade Fountain had an up-and-down weekend in Senior Light. Fountain showed speed throughout the practice sessions and would qualifying P25. The heats weren’t kind to Fountain as he was 41st in the first and DNF in heat two. He’d avoid the wrecks in the final and make all 15 laps, crossing the finish stripe in 27th. 

Jordan Morgan’s weekend in Senior Medium was similar to Fountain’s in Light. After qualifying 45th, he’d drive to a solid P11 run in Group A heat one but DNF in both heat two and the final. 

Mason Briones had some tough luck in Senior Heavy but showed improvement all weekend.

Mick wins Stars at Pitt, debuts in KA100

Mick Gabriel headed to Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pa., the week after the Grands to compete in at the Stars Championship Series season closer. Mick entered his AEM Engines-powered Tony Kart 401R in Senior LO206 and dominated the class in both wet and dry conditions. 

Mick Gabriel racing KA100 at Pitt (Karlie Jones Photography)
Mick Gabriel racing KA100 at Pitt (Karlie Jones Photography)

After qualifying pole, Mick won both heats — one in the dry and one in the rain — before scoring the 15-lap final win on Pitt’s Wilson Circuit.

In addition to 206, Gabriel made his debut in KA100 Senior on a Kosmic 401R.  Gabriel and team battled engine issues all weekend with the 2-cycle but finally got them straightened out for the final. Starting shotgun on the 23-kart field for the 16-lap main, Mick showed his skill and drove up to P5 before the checkers waved. He also set the race’s fast lap in the process with a quick 56.619. 

After an impressive KA debut race, AEM is looking forward to building up it’s 2-cycle program in 2022.

Matt Miller wins at Autobahn, Kubinski P3

While Mick was winning at Pittsburgh, Matt Miller and Zach Kubinski were back in action with AEM support in Ignite Junior at Autobahn Country Club in Illinois. A week after a hard-fought weekend at the CNKA Grands, Miller swept the day in Ignite Junior at Autobahn, qualifying fastest and winning the pre-final and final. 

Kubinski rebounded from his injury at New Castle a few days earlier and raced hard for a P3 result in the final at Autobahn. 


AEM’s schedule is packed with the biggest races in the country now through the end of the year. The team will head to 103rd Street Sports Complex in Jacksonville, Fla. Nov. 19-21 for the Maxxis Sprint Series Grand Nationals. Mick won Senior Medium at this event in 2020 and will look to defend his title. AEM’s driver lineup will be announced soon.

Two weeks later the team will head to Las Vegas for the prestigious SKUSA Super Nationals Dec. 1-5. The SuperNats will be the first major 2-cycle event for AEM.

AEM will also compete in Florida events at Andersen RacePark and the SSKC series at AMR Motorplex in December before heading to Daytona International Speedway for WKA’s Daytona KartWeek Dec. 27-30 and the CKNA Winter Nationals Dec. 31-Jan. 2 at Jacksonville.

The team is taking commitments on team driver agreements for 2022 for both 2-cycle and 4-cycle. Contact info@aemkarting.com or call/text Mick at 219-307-0317 or Chris Surdenik at 312-343-0499.

For more information on AEM Karting, visit their official website at aemkarting.com.

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