Charlotte CKNA Spring Nationals recap, news and notes

CONCORD, N.C. (story by Kart Lounge, photos by Kenny Pearson) — A reported 503 race entries made this year’s edition of the Cup Karts North America Spring Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway the biggest yet, and the event fell just shy of topping the series’ record turnout in October 2023 at New Castle Motorsports Park for the Grand Nationals 7.

The Spring Nationals debuted at Charlotte in March 2021 with around 300 entries, and the event has done nothing but grow in numbers since. Held at a track that was once home to some huge national and international kart events such as the North American Karting Championships, the SpringNats has returned national-level karting to one of the most famous motorsports venues in the world.

Other series have taken notice, and this April 26-28 the popular Stars Championship Series will hold the first exclusively 2-cycle race at Charlotte since around 2010, when the track was a routine stop for the WKA Manufacturers Cup Series in its heyday.

With the 2024 Spring Nationals in the rearview for another year, here’s some news and notes on the fourth version of the CKNA SpringNats.

1. Early March weather is Charlotte is unpredictable. Sometimes the SpringNats feels more like the “WinterNats.” In four days at CMS, attendees encountered cold, cold rain, wind, sun, warmth, mist and drizzle, and sun again.

Luckily, despite steady and sometimes heavy rain during nearly all of Friday practice, most of Saturday and Sunday’s programs were run in the dry.

2. JUNIOR — With over 70 drivers taking time in Junior qualifying, it was the usual suspects up front throughout the weekend. For the second straight year the final came down to Carter McMurray (Compkart) and Isaac Malcuit (BirelART). Malcuit crossed the finish stripe first, but as everyone knows by now, he was bounced in post-race engine tech, giving the win to McMurray.

Junior winner Carter McMurray ahead of Isaac Malcuit
Junior winner Carter McMurray ahead of Isaac Malcuit

The win was McMurray’s second in a row at Charlotte, and he’s no doubt solidified himself as one of the top juniors in the country.

Brayden Domont and Henry Taylor both had solid runs for P2 and P3, and both finished within 1 second of McMurray.

Christopher Wakefield has switched to SodiKart and he was a major player in both even group heats Saturday, winning the first. But a last-lap incident with Cade Jaeger (Coyote) while battling for the win in heat two ended Jaeger’s chances for a final win, and hurt Wakefield’s. The Florida driver managed a P4 in the final after the Malcuit DQ, and Jaeger was the race’s hard charger, advancing 23 spots in the race to finish P10.

Christopher Wakefield and Cade Jaeger (64) contact in even heat 2
Christopher Wakefield and Cade Jaeger (64) contact in even heat 2

Lucas Thek was solid throughout the weekend on his PPK / Coyote entry, and he ended up P5 in the final.

3. SENIOR LIGHT & MEDIUM — Owen Lloyd (MGM), James Overbeck (Coyote) and Colin Warren (VLR) were consistently the top runners Saturday and Sunday in the headline Senior Light and Senior Medium divisions. While there were several others players making noise — including Brandon Jarsocrak, Hudson Brown, Henry Wheeler and Connor Zilisch, among others — Lloyd, Overbeck and Warren really separated themselves on Sunday.

After four heat wins Saturday, Lloyd scored the Senior Light final Sunday after Warren was issued a penalty for contact on Lloyd in Turn 14 coming to the checkered.

Colin Warren wins Senior Medium over Overbeck, Brown and Lloyd
Colin Warren wins Senior Medium over Overbeck, Brown and Lloyd

Warren redeemed himself about an hour later with a close win over Overbeck, Brown and Lloyd in the Senior Medium final.

Overbeck finished P2 in both finals and while he didn’t win a round all weekend, he was factor for a victory every time he hit the track.

4. SENIOR HEAVY — The lead battle in the Senior Heavy final could have passed for a North Florida Kart Club local. NFKC regular Ronnie Klys (Coyote) drove to a big win to continue an impressive start to his senior career. Watch for Klys in the senior divisions as the CKNA season progresses.

Colin Aitken (VLR), Lloyd (MGM), Elmer “Moe” Edmonson (MGM) and Chris Carroll (Coyote) followed Klys across the stripe to finish second through fifth. All of these drivers are either NFKC regulars or known to make multiple appearances at Jacksonville each year.

Ronnie Klys wins Senior Heavy
Ronnie Klys wins Senior Heavy

5. Shoutout to Florida’s Colin Aitken. He was strong all event in Heavy and Medium. He ended up with a P2 in Heavy and P5 in Medium.

Colin Aitken (11) works on Owen Lloyd (119) in Heavy racing
Colin Aitken (11) works on Owen Lloyd (119) in Heavy racing

6. Colin Warren’s Medium win joins him with Sean Meier as a three-time Spring Nationals winner; they are the only two drivers that can claim that feat. As for Meier (Coyote), this year marked the first time he’d traveled to Charlotte for a SpringNats and not won a final. He showed some speed, but would leave with a P9 in Heavy and P11 in Medium.

7. MASTERS — Canadian Marc Stehle (BirelART) won Masters for the second year in a row. Last year, he outlasted Eric Fagan (MGM) for win, and this year he crossed the stripe ahead of Todd Baron (Mach1) and Chris Carroll (Coyote).

Marc Stehle (34) races Todd Baron in Masters
Marc Stehle (34) races Todd Baron in Masters

After dominating wins in the two even group heats Saturday, Carroll had to fight back to the top three in the final after a bad start that dropped him to P10. He’d end up second.

Unfortunately for Baron, he’d get DQ’ed for running the wrong set of Vega tires in the final.

Shoutout to John Price (Coyote). The Maryland driver was solid all event in Masters on his Snap Ya Neck-powered Zenith. After a couple of P2 finishes to Stehle in the odd heats, Price capped his weekend with a P3 to Stehle and Carroll in the final.

8. LEGENDS — Todd Baron had an up-and-down weekend in his first CKNA race on the Mach1 chassis. His Legends final was a rollercoaster; after advancing though the top five, he made a pass in the double-left on Tim Hannen for P3 just before halfway and there was some contact.

Baron would go on to cross the checkers a couple kart-lengths ahead of Todd Bolton (Margay), but officials were still determining if he should get a penalty for the pass on Hannen. After discussion with Hannen, Baron was declared the race winner. But this lasted only minutes, as Baron was bounced in post-race tech for an engine infraction.

The DQ cost Baron his third career SpringNats win and it would have been his third in a row in Legends after winning the class in both 2022 and 2023.

Todd Bolton (22) leads Phil Pignataro in Legends
Winner Todd Bolton (22) leads Phil Pignataro in Legends

9. Illinois’ Todd Bolton was quick all weekend in Legends and he’d benefit from Baron’s DQ to pick up the victory. Bolton was riding a 2015 Margay Brava and he was looking sporty on the nearly 10-year-old chassis throughout the event.

10. Where was Eric Fagan? He was working for Nitro Kart in his new position as a driver coach on the team’s return to kart racing. Always a perennial favorite in any class he enters, Fagan still had plans to run Senior Medium with the No. 175 MGM, but his kart owner Rob Krout opted to not make the trip, possibly due to the unfavorable weather forecast, so Fagan sat it out.

Next up on the CKNA schedule is rounds 4-5 of the South Division, set for April 12-14 at Atlanta Motorsports Park. The event will mark the first ever CKNA race at AMP.

CKNA North opens April 19-21 at the historic G&J Kartway in Camden, Ohio.

CKNA NorthEast opens May 3-5 at United Karting BWI in Baltimore, Md. This will mark the first CKNA race at that track.

CKNA Canada opens June 14-16 at Academie Tag Karting in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.

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