BOLINGBROOK, Ill. — The biggest race of 2022 is nearly here and next weekend all eyes in the karting world will be on New Castle Motorsports Park in Indiana, where Cup Karts North America will hold their Grand Nationals 6 for Briggs LO206 CIK sprint karts.
Illinois-based AEM Karting will be one of the top teams in attendance at the Grand Nationals with 10 drivers from across the United States set to tackle NCMP on AEM-prepared and powered OTK chassis. AEM has been hot all summer as their OTK karts and AEM-powered engines have been scoring wins and podiums on the club, regional and national levels throughout the country.
Leading the charge will be AEM co-owner Mick Gabriel, the multi-time Cup Karts North Division champion among numerous other accolades in karting. Coming off one of his best weekends of the year with a fine P3 result in the 60-kart KA100 Senior USPKS national Sept. 17 at New Castle, the 25-year-old has his eyes on his first CKNA Grands win.
Gabriel, who’s been the bridesmaid so many times at major CKNA national events the last couple years, will be one of the clear favorites at the Grands and as usual he’s entered in the Senior Light and Senior Medium divisions, both of which are closing in on 70 pre-entrants as of this writing.
AEM will have a couple of bullets set for battle in the Masters and Legends divisions.
North Carolina’s Todd Baron will be running under the AEM tent for the first time. Baron, a 62-year-old therapeutic endoscopist doctor, is one of the best in the country in the age 50-and-up Legends and 35-and-up Masters categories and he’ll be defending his first career Grand National win, which came in the Legends class at the 2021 Grand Nationals 5.
Since last year’s Grands score, Baron has picked up a number of wins including CKNA Spring Nationals and WKA triumphs at Charlotte Motor Speedway and at GoPro Motorplex’s Karting Challenge against drivers more than 40 years to his junior. He’ll be one of the favorites in both divisions at New Castle.
But don’t count out Hungary native Jakab Nyiri, who’s quietly become one of the top 206 Masters racers in the US. Nyiri, who now resides in Chicago, will join Baron in Masters and Legends on his No. 5 EOS chassis. Nyiri ran third in last year’s Grands Masters final and netted a P5 result in Masters at the Spring Nationals. Nyiri has been quick all summer in Cup Karts North and like Baron, he’ll be one of the favorites in both Masters and Legends at this year’s Grand Nationals.
A trio of Washington state drivers will make the trip east to run with AEM Karting.
Brothers Gabe and Jake Sessler will be back east for the first time since the Spring Nationals in March.
Jake is set to join Mick in the Senior Light and Medium divisions and in the last day or two Gabe cleared his schedule and is set to run in Senior Medium and Heavy.
At Charlotte in March, Gabe finished P6 in the Senior Heavy final after qualifying P2 of 34 entrants. He’ll be one to watch at New Castle. Jake ran into bad luck throughout the Spring Nationals, and he’ll be looking for redemption at the second and final CKNA national event of the 2022.
Jeff Bays is the third west coaster that will be under the AEM tent at NCMP and he’ll run the Masters division. Bays ran three of the four Cup Karts North Division races this past summer with AEM and came away with a P9 finish in the final Masters points despite missing the last round at MRP.
Illinois’ Justin Wishard is coming off a solid Rock Island Grand Prix showing Labor Day weekend including a P4 result in the prestigious King of the Rock race for 206 karts. Wishard will continue his run with AEM Karting at this year’s Grands, which will be his first racing with the team at this event. Wishard is signed up to run Senior Medium and Senior Heavy.
Blade Fountain, Junior Downs and female racer Summer Whited are all entered in Senior Light with AEM and Downs will also run Senior Medium.
Whited is coming off a 206 Senior qualifying-prefinal-final sweep at AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex on her AEM-powered RedSpeed kart Sept. 11, and she’ll be making her first start at the Grands.
Fountain had a number of good runs in Senior Medium in Cup Karts North this summer, and he finished P8 in the class’s final standings. He ran Senior Light at the series’ last round at MRP and came away with a couple top-10 results and top-5 qualifying efforts.
Downs is a Florida racer who’s recently seen some success at Bushnell and Jacksonville, including a close P2 result in Senior Light Saturday night at the North Fla. Kart Club race at 103rd Street.
CKNA Grand Nationals 6 action will get underway Thursday, Sept. 29 with practice, qualifying and preliminary races being held Thursday through Saturday. The big day comes Sunday, Oct. 2 with last-chance-qualifier races and Grand National winner-take-all finals for Kid Kart, Sportsman, Junior, Senior Light, Medium and Heavy, Masters and Legends.
The event will be live streamed for those who can’t attend; for more information, visit cupkarts.com.
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, IAME 2-cycle 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.