BOLINGBROOK, Ill. — AEM Karting hasn’t stopped since wrapping up their triple-championship season in the Cup Karts North Division at East Lansing in August. Since the CK North closer, the Mick Gabriel-led team has been in action nearly every weekend throughout the Midwest, including Route 66 rounds at Autobahn and Badger, the Rock Island Grand Prix and KRA club racing at New Castle.
AEM’s wins, podiums and track time over the past month has the team extremely confident heading to the biggest race of the year, the prestigious Cup Karts North America (CKNA) Grand Nationals 5, coming up next weekend — Sept. 30-Oct. 3 — at New Castle Motorsports Park.
“We feel like our drivers are hitting their stride coming into the biggest race of the year,” AEM co-owner and driver coach Mick Gabriel said. “We’ve been getting our racers to the track as much as possible. Thankfully, there have been a lot of races to hit over the last month. In all divisions, our drivers are running fast, racing hard, battling right up to the checkered flag, and the results show it. We’re feeling really good heading into the Grand Nationals at New Castle, and we have a great lineup of drivers for the event.”
Before looking at AEM’s lineup for the Grands, we’ll take a look at the team’s results since late August.
Route 66 at Autobahn
Going back to the last weekend of August at the Route 66 Sprint Series’ third round at Kart Circuit Autobahn in Joliet, Ill., Matt Miller led the way in 206 Junior on his EOS 401 chassis with AEM power. Miller won the Junior finals both Saturday and Sunday and earned the pole award in Sunday’s competition. The only driver to best Miller in qualifying was another AEM pilot, Zach Kubinski, who scored Saturday’s pole by a mere 0.130 seconds over Miller. After a P5 result in Saturday’s final, Kubinski would come back to finish a strong P2 to Miller in Sunday’s 14-lap Junior main.
Oak Hill, Illinois’ Jerry Fandrey finally got the monkey off his back in 206 Senior Medium. After showing great speed throughout the year but getting shut out of victory lane, Fandrey scored the Senior Medium win Saturday at Autobahn. It was an uphill battle for Jerry after qualifying fourth; he’d persevere to a P2 finish in the pre-final before winning a close 14-lap final by just 0.043 seconds over P2.
“Action” Jackson Wolny was busy at Autobahn. The youngster competed in both 206 Sportsman and Mini Swift. Wolny recorded a pair of P3 finishes in the 206 Sportsman finals. His weekend highlight came in Saturday’s Mini Swift final, which saw him score the win over nine competitors and set the race’s fastest lap in the process. Jackson added a P4 result in Sunday’s Mini Swift main event, and he won Saturday’s 206 Sportsman pole award over 10 other entrants.
Mick wins at Rock Island
On Labor Day weekend, Mick Gabriel made his first trip to the biggest street race of the year, the Rock Island Grand Prix in Rock Island, Ill.
Fresh off securing another pair of CKNA North national championships in Senior Light and Medium, Mick made the most of his debut at the Rock, grabbing two heat wins on his way to a big win and a P2 in the two 206 Senior Medium finals. Gabriel rode his sleek No. 01 OTK EOS 401R powered by the AEM-built Briggs LO206.
KRA Round 11 at New Castle
A few AEM drivers took advantage of KRA’s Round 11 club race on Sunday, Sept. 12 at New Castle to prep for the upcoming CKNA GN5.
Junior racers Matt Miller and Zach Kubinski both made their first visits to New Castle. Riding recent success at the Autobahn Route 66 round, Miller and Kubinski each had fine runs in the 206 Junior category. Miller scored the pole over 12 other entrants while Kubinski qualified a very respectable P3. The AEM duo locked up and pulled away from the field in the 12-lap final until a KRA regular caught them late in the race. Miller would settle for P2 and Kubinski P3. It was definitely a solid showing for both drivers in their debut race at New Castle and they’re both looking forward to the Grands.
Matt Winfrey also took advantage of the KRA race to get some laps at New Castle. Flying in from California, Winfrey entered Senior Light and immediately made his presence known. In a 13-kart field, Winfrey qualified P3 and only 0.136 seconds off the pole. He’d continue his solid day in the 12-lap final, finishing a close P2 and setting the race’s fastest lap in the process. Winfrey looks like he’ll be a tough competitor at the Grands next weekend.
Jordan Morgan entered the largest class of the day, 206 CIK (Medium). Morgan improved all day on his AEM entry and came away with a P16 finish in the final in a 24-kart field. Winfrey battled in a big pack, got shuffled around, and ended up P11 in the same race.
Route 66 at Dousman
Following KRA Round 11, it was back to the track only a few days later for AEM Karting, this time for the Route 66 season closer at Badger Kart Club’s Wolf Paving Raceway in Dousman, Wis.
Jerry Fandrey continued his recent string of strong showings in Route 66 competition. Fandrey led most of Saturday’s 206 Senior Medium final before getting passed late and settling for a P2 result. Jerry also qualified P2 and ran a close second place in the pre-final.
Come Sunday morning, Jerry had enough of the runner-up spot and qualified his EOS chassis on the pole, clearing the field by 0.229 seconds. He’d fight hard all day and end up P3 in the final, closing the Route series with an impressive P2 finish in the Medium’s final point standings in his rookie season in the senior ranks.
In Junior, Matt Miller and Zach Kubinski were back at the track racing for the third time of the past four weekends. Similar to the previous weekend at New Castle, both drivers were making their first visits to the technical Badger track, and both ran well.
Miller would qualify P2 Saturday with Kubinski P6. Miller raced to a respectable P4 result in the final and set the race’s fast lap with a 54.627. Kubinski would finish P7.
Sunday’s Junior final was extremely competitive with Kubinski slicing his way from P7 to make it on the podium to P5 on the final lap. Miller was in contention for the win on the last lap, riding in P2 but unfortunately getting shuffled all the way back to P6 on the final circuit. Some really tight, fast racing by our junior drivers and lots of experience gained.
In his rookie season in karting, Miller came away with an impressive third place in the 206 Junior Route 66 final point standings.
AEM lineup for CKNA GN5
AEM Karting has a star lineup of drivers set for the Sept. 30-Oct. 3 CKNA Grand Nationals 5 at New Castle, a huge event that will see the best LO206 drivers in the country competing for wins and podiums.
Tent space filled up weeks ago, and AEM will be working hard to get all our AEM-powered EOS 401R racers to the front of the field in their respective chassis.
Here’s our lineup for this year’s Grand Nationals:
Senior Light –
Senior Medium –
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 AEM on Facebook and Instagram.