JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The first Cup Karts North America race in 2024 took place Feb. 2-4 at 103rd Street Sports Complex in Jacksonville, Fla., where dozens of MGM Chassis racers and teams enjoyed a successful event at the historic 0.7-mile kart track.
MGM teams from up and down the East Coast and as far west as Texas traveled to Jacksonville for the race, which served as Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2024 CKNA South Division after the series opened with the Winter Nationals at NOLA Motorsports Park in early December.
With the Spring Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway fast approaching in early March, the winter Jacksonville event was an important one. Teams wanted to have a strong weekend at 103rd Street to carry momentum and confidence into Charlotte, where over 400 entries have already registered which will likely make it the second largest 206 race of the year behind the Grands.
The MGM team had a strong showing at Jacksonville, always a tricky circuit when it comes to finding and keeping the right setup.
Owen Lloyd had no problems at his home track, where he’s always one of the favorites. The Waycross, Ga., South Georgia Karting racer entered his three Espionage chassis in the three senior divisions and he was consistently at the front of the speed charts and result sheets all weekend.
Saturday’s action saw Lloyd capture two pole awards in Senior Heavy and Senior Light, and he’d follow it up with heat wins in both divisions. Lloyd would finish a close P2 in the Round 2 Senior Heavy final and go purple in the Senior Light final and finish P4 of 30 starters.
With heavy rain predicted for Sunday, CKNA officials moved Round 3’s qualifying and heat to Saturday night after the Round 2 finals. The South Georgia Karting team made some minor tweaks to Lloyd’s Espionages for competition under the lights, and they kept him up front. Lloyd recorded Round 3 heat finishes of P1, P4 and P3 to set himself up nicely for Sunday’s final round.
After finishing P2 in the Round 3 Senior Heavy main (more on that below), Lloyd would score a convincing win in the Senior Light final, finishing over a second ahead of P2. He’d close out the weekend with a P3 result in Senior Medium, giving him incredibly consistent final finishes of P1, P2, P2, P3 and P4.
One of Lloyd’s runner-up finishes came to his MGM teammate William Lessig, who picked up a popular win Sunday morning in Senior Heavy.
Lessig and Lloyd worked together in the 16-lap race to open up a small gap on the competition. Both drivers kept it clean to the finish with Lessig crossing the stripe 0.138 seconds in front of Lloyd for his first career CKNA feature win. The South Carolina racer has put in the time the last several years at tracks and events around the country and it was great to see the hard work pay off with a big win on a big stage at Jacksonville.
The Heavy class was loaded with MGM drivers. Of 22 starters in Saturday’s race, over half of them were on Espionages.
Mikey Bowlin followed Owen across the finish stripe in Saturday’s Heavy final with an awesome P3 run. Bowlin traveled from Texas for the CKNA race and proved he has the speed and skill to compete with the best on the East Coast.
Lessig was 4th on Saturday, Cale Martin a solid P7, Elmer Edmonson finished P8 and Junior Downs rounded out the top 10 on his MGM. Jacksonville regular Aiden White was P12, Georgia’s Noah Rivers P14, Brad Davis on his brand new Espionage P15, Bryce Frank P16, Bryce Downs P17 and Macon Moore was a DNF in P19.
White would improve Sunday for a top-five finish in the Senior Heavy main in the rain; he’d finish P5 and only a few kart-lengths back of the Lessig-Lloyd top two. Edmonson was P7, Moore improved for a P8 run and the two Bryces — Frank and Downs — rounded out the top 10 in P9 and P10.
Ryder Thompson joined Lloyd and Lessig in the win column at Jax with an impressive victory in the Round 2 Cadet final Saturday afternoon. Thompson outlasted the tough Cadet field for his first CKNA win since moving up from Kid Karts. He’d add a P2 finish in Sunday’s final to cap an outstanding weekend for the Florida youngster.
The RPM Karting team entered brothers Reed and Blaise Hindrey on their MGMs at Jacksonville CKNA. Reed did a great job and came away with a pair of P2 finishes in Kid Kart.
Blaise entered the Cadet division for one of the first times and he also had a solid weekend. He raced inside the top five for much of the weekend in the tough field but missed the gearing in the finals and finished P8 and P12. Look for Blaise to continue to gain experience in Cadet after moving up from Kid Kart and we’re sure he’ll be on the podium soon!
Zeb Turner just moved up to Cadet from Kid Karts and he’d drive his MGM to finishes of P9 and P11.
Harley Andrews, Ryan Sukeena and Javier Soto all entered their Espionages in the 29-kart Junior class.
Andrews qualified inside the top 10 both days and finished P15 Saturday before a DNF Sunday. Sukeena finished P15 Saturday and improved for a top 10 in P9 Sunday. Soto was 22nd in Saturday’s final and improved for a P15 in Sunday’s main.
The Senior Light division had a large contingent of MGMs.
Florida’s Jake Duvall, who joined Owen under the SGK tent, was a top Light driver. Duvall has adapted nicely to the MGM after switching over to the chassis a few races ago, and he was solid all weekend at Jax.
Duvall would record a P3 podium finish in Saturday’s Senior Light main for his best final finish of the weekend.
Also in Lights, Xing would finish just outside the top 10 in P11 Saturday.
Austin Speck is a new driver to the MGM team. His second Espionage was delivered to Jacksonville and the team worked fast to get it together for the weekend. Speck entered Light and Medium and showed good speed in both classes.
After qualifying P4 for Round 2 Light, he was involved in some on-track incidents that cost his track position for most of the rest of the event. Speck would end up with a couple of P16 results in Saturday’s finals, but he’s still feeling good with one more NFKC local before heading to Charlotte in March.
Trackhouse Motorplex regular Austin Johnson traveled to Jacksonville for CKNA South. Johnson is a rookie in senior competition and he’s earning his stripes against the tough competition. Johnson had an up-and-down weekend in and out of the top 10 in the Light division. Austin will be back at Trackhouse and Charlotte to continue his senior rookie season in the coming weeks.
Saturday’s Legends final saw Mark Abitabilo lead the way for MGMs with a P9 finish. Joining Abitabilo in Legends was Ron Tipton in P13, Stuart Keller in P16, Pete Laches in P19 and Steve Mox in P20.
Elliott Fitch was impressive on his No. 44 Espionage in Masters. Fitch gets faster every time out and he showed awesome speed all event at Jacksonville. He’d finish just outside the top five in Saturday’s Masters main with a P6 result. Terry Downs, James Perkins and Jorge Ruiz joined Fitch in the top 10 in 8th, 9th and 10th. Grant Lockwood, Brandon Hollenbaugh and Ron Reiter finished in the top 20 on their MGMs.
Fitch did even better in the rain on Sunday. With many drivers opting to not run in the rain, Fitch took advantage of the shorter field and drove to his first CKNA P3 podium finish in the 11-kart field. Keep an eye on Elliott Fitch in the Masters class!
Senior Medium was a stacked field as it usually is.
In Saturday’s 16-lap Medium final, Lessig led the way for MGM drivers with a P4 result. Jed Perkins was a solid P7 on his Espionage and Bryce Frank inside the top 10 with a P9. Edmonson finished P13, Speck P16, Rivers P23, and Duvall, Lloyd and Junior Downs all ran into problems and finished outside the top 20.
Duvall would return Sunday for Medium to round out the top five in the rain. Junior Downs would round out the top 10. Bryce Frank was the only other MGM to run in the rain race, and he’d finish P14 of 18 starters.
The 2024 season is officially underway and MGM Chassis is ready for another busy year. Next up is the Trackhouse Motorplex Karting Challenge opener Saturday, Feb. 24 followed by the CKNA Spring Nationals at Charlotte March 1-3.