Bacon Zelenka wins Sr Light plus five poles, four podiums for AEM Karting at CKNA Norway

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. — The summer season is here and AEM Karting drivers are proving up to the task as temperatures rise and racing heats up throughout the country.

The AEM team has been in action in multiple series over the past few weeks with plenty more racing on the horizon.

Bacon Zelenka atop the Sr Light podium over James Overbeck<br>CKNA photo
Bacon Zelenka atop the Sr Light podium over James Overbeck
CKNA photo

Most recently, 11 drivers filled the AEM Engines / OTK-backed AEM Karting tent at Round 2 of the Cup Karts North Division June 3-5 at Concept Haulers Motor Speedway in Norway, Ill. Competing at what’s considered the team’s home track — only about 35 miles from AEM headquarters in Bolingbrook, Ill. — the team had high hopes heading to Norway as Mick Gabriel opted to step away from the driver’s seat at the event to help his dad, Mike, with tuning and data analysis. 

Click here to read more about Mick’s recent and upcoming racing plans.

Senior rookie Bacon Zelenka led the way for AEM in the Senior Light division with a huge Saturday at Norway. Zelenka qualified P1 and went on to win both heat races and the 10-lap final over defending CKNA North Junior champion James Overbeck. In fact, Zelenka led every lap of competition on the day in Senior Light to score his first Cup Karts win in a dominating performance on his AEM-powered EOS chassis.

Zelenka had another solid day Sunday but penalties dropped him in the finishing order in both Light and Medium. After winning the Light pole award, he’d cross the finish stripe P1 in the final but get penalized to P2 for avoidable contact. In Sunday’s Medium final, Zelenka set the race’s fast lap over 21 other competitors and crossed the finish line a close second to Overbeck. Unfortunately, he was penalized two spots for a tram line violation. Despite the penalties, the weekend went down as an incredible one for the Illinois driver with a final win, two pole awards and three top-five final finishes in four starts.

Jerry Fandrey continued to show he’s one of the top senior racers in CKNA North. The Illinois driver was one of 20-plus racers to enter the super-competitive Senior Medium class and he finished inside the top five in nearly every round of competition throughout the weekend, including a heat two win on Saturday. Fandrey recorded final finishes of P4 Saturday and a fine P3 result Sunday in Medium. He’s been strong all season and he’s making his presence known in Cup Karts competition.

Jerry Fandrey (AEM photo)
Jerry Fandrey (AEM photo)

Blade Fountain joined Zelenka and Fandrey in Senior Medium and had a solid weekend. Fountain finished just outside the top five in Saturday’s Medium final, taking P6. He’d add a P9 result in Sunday’s final to make it a pair of top-10 results. He also qualified an outstanding P2 Saturday and P4 Sunday in the 22-kart field.

Justin Wishard was back with AEM after making this debut at CKNA North Round 1 in April at G&J Kartway. The Illinois veteran had a solid weekend in Senior Heavy, promptly putting his EOS on pole in Saturday qualifying before finishing P2 and P3 in the pair of heat races and driving to a close P4 finish in the final, only a half-second back of the winner in a super tight contest. 

Wishard returned Sunday and again scored the pole award before recording a pair of runner-up finishes in the heat races and a third-place result in the Heavy weekend capper.

AEM had two drivers each in Junior, Masters and Legends.

In Junior, Owen Oehler and team newcomer Justin Naughton were in action. Oehler had a slightly better weekend of the two, driving his No. 85 EOS to final finishes of seventh and eighth in the 18-kart field. Oehler recovered nicely Saturday after qualifying a disappointing 16th, improving each round to break the top 10 in the final and nearly advance to the top five.

Naughton raced inside the top 10 in nearly every round of competition all weekend. He’d end up with finishes of P8 in Saturday’s final and P11 in Sunday’s main event. He finished eighth or ninth in most of the qualifying rounds and heat races.

Jakab Nyiri with his Masters pole award<br>(CKNA photo)
Jakab Nyiri with his Masters pole award
(CKNA photo)

Hungary native Jakab Nyiri and Washington state racer Jeff Bays carried the AEM banner in the Masters division. Nyiri, who’s solidified himself as one of the best Masters racers in Cup Karts, came away with a pole award Saturday and main event finishes of fourth and third in the 13-kart class. Nyiri is currently third place in CKNA North Masters points with half the season in the books.

Bays continues to run well in his first visits to sprint tracks east of the Mississippi. He’d drive the No. 6 AEM-powered EOS to a pair of top 10s with final finishes of ninth Saturday and eighth Sunday. Bays also qualified sixth Saturday and held the position in the day’s first heat race.

Randy Raridon and Mike Gray were two of 13 competitors to make the call in the Legends division for drivers age 50 and up. Raridon had a nice weekend, coming away with a couple of top-five results with a P4 Saturday and P5 Sunday. He’s currently third in CKNA North Legends points after four races.

Gray finished a couple karts back of Raridon both days with finishes of P7 Saturday and P8 Sunday. 

Tori Daniels entered Sportsman, the largest division of the event with 30 entrants. Daniels gained experience throughout the weekend with final results of P26 Saturday and improving for a 20th-place finish Sunday. Daniels clearly showed improvement on Sunday with the P20 result her best of the weekend.

Many of the AEM racers in action at Concept Haulers will be back under the AEM tent at Cup Karts North’s third round of 2022, set for July 15-17 at USAir Motorsports in Shawano, Wis., considered one of the premier kart circuits in the country. 

For information on joining AEM Karting — one of the fastest growing kart teams in the country — email info@aemkarting.com or call 630-863-7898.

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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 FacebookFacebook and Instagram.

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