Story and interviews by Keith Shampine; photos by Jon DeMaster
CONCORD, N.C. – A cold, breezy but perfectly clear Sunday capped off an outstanding weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first-ever Cup Karts North America Spring Nationals where eight different drivers recorded wins in the eight classes offered at the approximate 300-entry event.
Keelan Harvick scored the first win of the day in Sportsman. North Carolina’s Tim Shutt won Legends. Georgia’s Aren Lloyd won the 30-kart Senior Heavy final. Pennsylvania racer Jacob Donald earned the win in Senior Light. Cooper Mull won the Kid Kart final. Iowa’s Michael Dittmer won a close Masters final over Shutt. Owen Lloyd made a last-lap on pass to win Junior, and Florida’s Sean Meier closed the day out with a last-lap pass to score the Senior Medium main event.
As expected, nearly every class’s final came down to the final corners. Here’s a recap of each main event Sunday afternoon and some audio interviews from many of the top finishers.
The driving talent of these youngsters continues to amaze. In the second largest class of the weekend that required an Last Chance Qualifier to bring the starting field down to 40, Keelan Harvick and Isaac Malcuit solidified themselves at the front of the field early in the 18-lapper.
Harvick and Malcuit traded the lead several times throughout the race. Cade Jaeger, Nash Gierke and Jase Petty ran third through fifth and hung with the top two until the last several laps when Harvick and Malcuit began to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the top five.
The last lap saw a lap kart make things interesting. Malcuit led most of the final lap until the tight right-hand turn 14, where Malcuit had to check up for the lap kart which gave Harvick and his Nitro the opportunity to slip underneath the Kart Republic driver.
Harvick’s last-lap pass gave him the win as Malcuit could do nothing but watch as the No. 62 crossed the stripe 0.053 seconds ahead of the No. 475. Jaeger was third, about three-tenths back of the winner. Gierke settled for fourth and Petty rounded out the top five. Aryton Grim, Holden Harder, Wes Hundler, AJ Stoner and Ty Arbogast finished sixth through 10th.
Fifteen karts entered the new Legends class at the Spring Nationals and Tim Shutt and Tim Clark brought the field to the green flag after scoring the best average finishes in Saturday’s heats, which saw Shutt win both and Clark finish second in both.
Shutt was the class of the field all weekend but he had to work hard for everything he won.
Five karts broke away from the rest of the field in the main event with Shutt leading ahead of Clark, Jody Covington, Todd Baron and Duke Zink. Neil Breitenbach ran sixth about 10 to 20 kart-lengths back of the lead pack.
Baron moved past Covington for third on lap 6 and Zink soon followed Baron to move into fourth on lap 7.
Clark began to fade from his P2 position just before halfway. Baron made it past Clark’s MGM for second at halfway and Zink wheeled his MGM past Clark for third about a lap later.
Baron began to go to work on Shutt and made the pass for the lead on lap 11. Shutt settled his No. 1 into second and the top two began to move away from Zink, Clark and Covington.
Shutt didn’t wait for the final lap; he shot his CompKart past Baron’s Deadly on the backstretch with a lap and a half to go to retake the lead. But Baron wasn’t done; he’d go back to the inside of Shutt in turn 1 after taking the white flag. The two would trade the lead three more times on the final lap before Shutt made the final pass and scored the win by a kart-length over Baron.
Covington found some speed late in the race to make it back to third. Zink would finish fourth and Clark fifth. Three of the top-five (Shutt, Baron and Zink) were racing in their home state of North Carolina. MGM Chassis was represented well with three of the top-five finishers but not the top two as Shutt won on his CompKart and Baron was on a Deadly.
Shutt made a strong bid to become the only two-time winner of the day when the Masters feature hit the track a few classes after Legends. He’d have to deal with Michael Dittmer in this one and would come up just short.
Shutt and Dittmer led the field to the green and Dittmer put his No. 77 Comet Eagle out front. The two settled in a left the rest of the 40-kart field.
Chris Cline passed several karts early in the race to move into third, but by the time he got his IONIC Edge into P3 Dittmer and Shutt were half of the backstretch ahead. With Shutt glued to Dittmer’s back bumper and for the most part not challenging the Iowa driver, Cline was never able to make up any ground on the leader.
While the leaders were smooth out front, there was plenty of battling further back in the top five and top 10. Paul Rice, Chris Cirillo, Todd Baron, Phil Pigataro, Tim Skinner and others all diced it out making contact along the way. It came to head with a couple laps to go when Pigataro and Rice came together in turn 11. Both drivers went around and neither were terribly happy with each other. Pigataro would settle for ninth and Rice 12th.
Up front, Shutt made several bids for the lead but wasn’t able to pull it off. Dittmer would take the win on his new Eagle and Shutt would settle for P2. Cline ran uncontested in a third-place result and Cirillo had his best run of the weekend for fourth. Baron rounded out the top five, joining Shutt as a top-five finisher in both Legends and Masters.
Tim Skinner, John Price, Jeff Hill, Pigataro and Matt Skaggs crossed the stripe sixth through 10th.
We caught up with Dittmer and Shutt after the races.
Listen to Masters winner Michael Dittmer:
Listen to Legends winner and Masters runner-up Tim Shutt:
Jacob Donald and Eric Fagan entered the Senior Heavy final as the favorites after splitting the heats Saturday.
In both heats, Donald and Fagan left the rest of the field but that wasn’t the case in the 18-lap final. Teammates Aren Lloyd and Jacob Duvall, both on Eagles, hung with Donald and Fagan in the opening laps and didn’t stop there. Duvall moved his Eagle past Fagan’s MGM to take second on lap 4 and quickly moved past Donald to take the lead.
Fagan and Donald moved back into the top two on the backstretch on lap 5, putting Duvall back to third. Donald continued to solidify himself as the driver to beat on his Kart Republic, moving back into the lead on lap 7 as Duvall and Lloyd relegated Fagan back to fourth.
Lloyd moved into second at about the halfway mark and immediately went to challenge Donald for the lead. The two made contact in turn 9 after racing side by side down the backstretch. Donald slid off the track on exit to turn 9 and was thrown from his kart. He skidded down the pavement and jumped up as quick as possible to get out of harm’s way. In a shocking few seconds, his race was over.
This left Lloyd, Fagan and Donald to settle the score. Fagan went into the final lap with the lead and blocked the best he could. He led most of the final lap until Lloyd slingshotted past on exit to the right-hand turn 14. With Fagan entering low, Lloyd was able to get the better apex to race past and head to victory. Fagan would take second, Duvall third, Ryan Bennett fourth and Sean Meier fifth.
Connor Yonchuck, Ethan Dietrich, Eyan Casper, Logan Stephens and Tyler Lloyd finished sixth through 10th.
Listen to Senior Heavy winner Aren Lloyd:
Listen to P2 finisher Eric Fagan, who admitted he raced most of the contest without brakes:
Senior Light was next up after Heavy and once again Donald was the driver to beat. With tar tracks on the back of his drivers suit from the previous race’s incident, Donald moved his Kart Republic to the lead early in the going with Colin Warren and Dylan Amundsen riding second and third.
Warren began to fade about five laps in as Amundsen settled into P2. The pair raced nose to tail and moved away from the rest of the 40-kart field. Back in the top five, Pauly Massimino, Corey Towles, Brandon Jarsocark and Warren all battled for position.
Up front, Amundsen pressured Donald throughout the second half of the race. The pair took the white flag and Amundsen immediately shot his MGM underneath Donald’s Kart Republic into turn one. Amundsen led the next several corners before Donald found his way back underneath to retake the lead. The two would cross the finish line at nearly a dead heat with Donald getting the win in the closest margin of the day at 0.011 seconds. Amundsen would settle for second with Massimino third, Towles fourth and Warren rounding out the top five.
Mick Gabriel was sixth, Jarsocrak seventh, Emily DeMaster eighth, Hayden Jones ninth and Eli Fox 10th.
Listen to Jacob Donald talk about his Senior Light win and Senior Heavy misfortune:
Listen to Dylan Amundsen discuss his close P2 Senior Light finish:
The 12- to 15-year-old Junior drivers waited most of the day to get onto the track for the final as the second-to-last race of the day.
James Overbeck jumped out to the early lead on his Nitro with Carter Pryor right behind on his IONIC Edge. The duo raced nose to tail for the opening laps while Owen Lloyd moved his Coyote into P3 past a group of Nitros including Christopher McKeithan, Parker Delong, Spencer Conrad and Eli Warren.
Lloyd was looking good on his Coyote and began pressuring Pryor for the second spot. He’d finally make his way past on lap 12 of 18 and close in on Overbeck for the lead.
Overbeck crossed the white flag in the lead but Lloyd wasn’t giving up. The Georgia driver raced to the outside on the backstretch on the final lap with Pryor pushing him. Overbeck blocked the bottom but Lloyd crossed him up on exit to turn 8 and had the inside line into turn 10.
Lloyd muscled his way past Overbeck to take the lead. Overbeck’s work wasn’t done as he had to fend off more challenges from third through sixth in the final corners. This gave Lloyd the cushion he needed to cruise through the final corners and take the big win. Overbeck would stop off the track and not complete the final lap, relegating him to a 34th-place finish.
Delong was second, McKeithan third, Conrad fourth and Warren fifth. Pryor would slide back to sixth on the last lap. Katie Yonchuck was seventh, Hudson Brown eighth, Racyn Hayes ninth and Addison Ianniello 10th.
Listen to Owen Lloyd recap his Junior win:
The final race of the weekend was, arguably, the headliner of the Spring Nationals. Forty karts started Senior Medium’s 18-lapper after the LCQ and as we noted in Saturday’s heat race recap story, it was anyone’s guess who’d end up on top.
Towles brought the field to the green flag after his pair of heat race wins Saturday. The Florida driver would lead lap 1 on his Eagle with Gabriel riding in second. Cole Nelson was slipping back through the top 10 early on his Invader.
Donald was back at it after his Senior Light win and shot past Gabriel for second a couple laps into the contest. Donald would go to the lead, moving Towles back to second while Gabriel moved into P2 and relegated Towles to third.
Five laps in the leaderboard showed Donald leading ahead of Gabriel, Towles, Massimino and Meier. Warren was fading and rode P6.
The top-five broke away as Warren continued to fade into the grips of seventh through 10th, including Brandon Jarsocrak, Zach Linsell and others.
Up front, Massimino went past Towles for third as Donald continued to lead Gabriel. With two to go, Gabriel finally made his move past Donald for the lead and brought Massimino with him. Massimino would take the lead away from Gabriel coming to the white when contact occurred in turns one and two.
Gabriel wouldn’t come out of the corners and Towles would momentarily gain the lead. But the quiet Meier was still stalking the top group and moved passed Towles and into the lead with a half lap to go. While Towles battled with Donald and Massimino, Meier was able to distance his Coyote from the rest of the group throughout the final corners and score a popular win.
The Jacksonville, Fla., veteran couldn’t have been happier after one of the biggest wins of his career.
Listen to Sean Meier after his Senior Medium win:
Donald would take second, Towles third, Massimino fourth and Warren fifth. Linsell, Amundsen, Jarsocrak, Nelson and Keegan Clark finished sixth through 10th.
Listen to P3 finisher Corey Towles:
Cooper Mull continued his string of wins in the Kid Kart division at the Spring Nationals. After winning both heat races Saturday, Mull scored the win in Sunday’s final and it was a close one. Camdon Clay came on in the 12-lap main to finish right behind Mull in second. The margin of victory for Mull was only 0.451 seconds.
Jaxon Stone was third, Zion Dyer fourth and Elam Stoner fifth. Titus Roberts, Parker Stewart and Canon Love completed the eight-kart field.