DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The OTK Chassis / AEM Engines team of AEM Karting recently concluded an outstanding week of Briggs 206 kart racing in the Sunshine State with major national events at Daytona Int’l Speedway and 103rd Street Sports Complex in Jacksonville.
Daytona Sprint Championships
In the week between Christmas and New Years, the World Karting Association held their annual Daytona KartWeek at the World Center of Racing where Mick Gabriel, Washington state brothers Gabe and Jake Sessler and Gio Cardone competed out of the AEM Karting tent at the prestigious WKA Sprint Championships at DIS’s infield kart track.
The AEM team raced at the front of the pack all week in 206 Senior Medium 360# and Senior Heavy 375# with Gabriel and both Sesslers playing key roles in nearly every round of competition between the two divisions.
The team dominated Senior Heavy action. On day one (Wed, Dec. 29), Gabe Sessler drove his EOS chassis to victory in the 16-lap final over pole award winner Gabriel, who crossed the finish stripe just 0.055 seconds back of his teammate. Jake Sessler crossed the checkered P4 and went purple in the race with a quick time of 46.921, but was penalized to P18.
Day two’s Heavy final would see Mick drive to a convincing win by more than a 2-second advantage over an AEM teammate, this time Jake Sessler on his No. 501 EOS chassis. Gabe would get shuffled back in the final and finish P7.
Senior Medium action was fierce all week at Daytona with some of the top LO206 drivers in the country competing.
Gabe Sessler started the week off right in Tuesday’s qualifying sessions. Gabe would win the pole for day one’s Medium pre-final with Mick qualifying P3 and Jake P5. Gabe would back it up with a win over Gabriel in Wednesday’s 10-lap pre-final but was denied of the day one three-round sweep, settling for a P3 result in the final. Mick went purple in the final with a fast 46.669 and finished a close P2, while Jake Sessler finished at the tail end of the lead pack in P9.
Day two’s Medium program began with Mick and Gabe qualifying P2 and P3 on Tuesday, while Jake was 13th of 27 drivers to take time. Gabriel would come out strong on Thursday with a win in the Medium pre-final. Once again Gabe Sessler was right there in the mix, finishing a close P3. Jake improved a spot to take P12.
With everyone gunning hard for a win in the last Medium competition of the weekend, Mick would be denied of victory by just 0.104 seconds in the 16-lap final. Gabe would slip one spot from his pre-final finish to take P4 while Jake was one of the hard chargers in the race, improving six spots to take a solid P6 result.
Race Beckman was the lone AEM Karting 2-cycle racer at Daytona and he had a good week in the Micro Swift division. Beckman didn’t let an 18th-place finish after contact in day one’s final get him down as he raced in the top five all day on day two, resulting in a fine P2 run in the 10-lap pre-final and a P4 finish in the 14-lap final after leading the race early.
AEM and Beckman are eyeing a potential CKNA 206 Cadet campaign in 2022.
Gio Cardone made the jump to Senior Medium at Daytona and gained seat time all week. Cardone improved throughout the event and closed out his KartWeek with a P22 result on the lead lap in Thursday’s Medium final.
CKNA Winter Nationals
With Daytona wrapping up Thursday, attention shifted 90 miles north to Jacksonville where Mick Gabriel and Gio Cardone were joined by Cadet drivers Paxton Dyson and Tori Daniels and Legends veteran Randy Raridon at 103rd Street Sports Complex for the inaugural Dec. 31-Jan. 2 Cup Karts North America Winter Nationals.
Following his win at Daytona, Mick was a staple at the front of the pack in Senior Light and Medium racing, amazingly never finishing worse than P4 in eight total rounds of competition against many of the top Briggs 206 senior drivers in the country.
Gabriel, a four-time CKNA series champion, opened the event with a pole award in Senior Medium and P2 qualifying effort in Light. Mick remained hot in Medium’s heat races Saturday, winning heat one in the daylight and finishing P3 under the lights in heat two. The Illinois veteran was top three in both of Senior Light’s heats, as well, racing to results of P3 and P2 in that class’s pair of Saturday heats.
All eyes in the LO206 karting community were on Jacksonville Sunday, Jan. 2, to see who would close out the week of karting in Florida and ring in the new year with Winter Nationals triumphs.
Mick entered Senior Light’s 20-lap final as one of the favorites and he lived up to expectations, albeit falling just short of the win. He’d race at the front of the pack throughout the A Main but settle for a close P3 result, crossing the stripe only 0.383 seconds back of the winner.
Gabriel had one more shot for a win with the Senior Medium final as the last race of the day and it looked as though he was in line for the victory after jumping out to a multi-second early lead. But the draft plays a huge role at 103rd Street and several drivers were able to work together and catch Mick, relegating him to a P4 result in the 24-kart field.
While Mick was shut out of victory in the finals, he ran up front in every race and produced another very solid weekend on the AEM Engines-powered No. 523 EOS.
Cardone didn’t shy away from racing with the many of the best in the nation and entered the Senior Medium class at Jax. After qualifying P18 of 24, he’d race well in the heats and final, coming away with a nice P14 finish in Sunday’s main event. Cardone will be at Monticello Karting next month with AEM for Cup Karts South round two.
Youngster Paxton Dyson entered the super competitive 206 Sportsman (Cadet). At 7 years old, Paxton did a terrific job on the EOS Cadet kart, qualifying 14th of 40 entrants and racing to finishes of P7 and P8 in the heat races to easily qualify for the main event. In the final, Dyson raced to a very respectable P15 result to finish in the top half of the field. He’ll also race with AEM Karting at Monticello in February.
Tori Daniels joined Dyson in Cadet and had a tough weekend of learning at the national level. However, she gained a lot of experience at the ultra-fast 103rd Street circuit and she’s already looking forward to her next events!
Sixty-three-year-old Randy Raridon joined the AEM team for the first time in his first race at Jacksonville since 1975, when he finished 18th of 36 starters in a McCulloch class. At the Winter Nationals, Raridon qualified P10 in the Legends division and raced to a respectable 12th-place finish of 20 starters in the final. Randy was happy to be back at 103rd Street and will rejoin the AEM team at Monticello for round two of CKNA South.
As mentioned, next up for AEM Karting is round two of the Cup Karts South series February 4-6 at Monticello Karting in Florida.
AEM is solidifying a big lineup of drivers for the second annual CKNA Spring Nationals March 4-5 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
If you’re interested in joining the OTK Chassis / AEM Engines-powered AEM Karting team for an upcoming event, reach out ASAP to 630-863-7898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.