Story by Keith Shampine / interviews by Steering Wheel Nation’s Tom Baker
CONCORD, N.C. — Cup Karts North America held their second annual Spring Nationals this past weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 0.65-mile kart track, where by our count 278 entrants took time in Saturday morning qualifying to again solidify the event as one of the biggest LO206 races of the year in North America.
The big crowd at Charlotte was one of three national-level karting events held over the weekend in the Southeast and all three combined to show karting is alive and well in the US.
On the 2-cycle sprint scene, the United States Pro Kart Series (USPKS) had well over 300 entries in seven divisions at Orlando Kart Center for what the series announced was the biggest USPKS event ever, and a strong entry count including around 40 LO206s were in action at the WKA / Southern Kart Club Road Racing Nationals at Roebling Road Raceway in Georgia.
At Charlotte, James Overbeck of Cincinnati, Ohio, was the big winner as the only driver to score a pair of feature wins Sunday afternoon in the eight divisions on the card. Overbeck, who also won two heat races Saturday, drove his Tony Kart to exciting victories in the Senior Light and Senior Medium finals, arguably the two most competitive divisions of the weekend.
Todd Baron, Eric Fagan, Mick Gabriel, Sean Meier and more all had legitimate shots at double wins Sunday after solid qualifying days Saturday. Baron, Fagan and Meier were all able to score one feature win on the day, while Gabriel came away with P2 and P3 efforts to Overbeck in Light and Medium after leading all but the last half lap in Medium.
South Carolina’s Parker Stewart dominated the 10-kart Kid Kart final, Maryland’s Brady Atwood made a last turn pass of two drivers to win Junior, and Ohio’s Isaac Malcuit edged Derek Wargo in late-race lap traffic to win a fast-paced Cadet final.
Here’s a recap of each class from Saturday and Sunday’s 4-cycle sprint action at Charlotte including audio interviews with the winners by Steering Wheel Nation’s Tom Baker.
The Cadets were first out Sunday for their feature after a morning LCQ, won by Alex Masci, brought the 46-kart class down to 36 for the main event.
These youngsters put on an outstanding show and none were more impressive than Isaac Malcuit and Derek Wargo.
Early in the race, Malcuit, Wargo and Josey Chambers drafted away from the rest of the field while Ezekiel Haight, Jaxon Young and Carter McMurray ran in a close pack fourth through sixth.
Malcuit, who started pole, led early and Wargo worked to push him away from Chambers as the race neared halfway. Now a two-kart duo out front, the leaders entered lap traffic just past halfway and began slicing their way past the slower karts as Wargo appeared to be getting impatient in P2.
Late in the 16-lapper, Wargo made his move and took the top spot away from the Ohio driver. They’d trade the lead over the last several laps as lap traffic continued to play a factor.
Meanwhile, Haight would retire from the action on lap 9 and McMurray would be involved in a wreck on lap 11.
With a number of karts sitting across the Charlotte kart track’s infield, Malcuit and Wargo were still going hard past lap karts in the final laps. They’d each pass at least four lappers on the final two circuits and split a kart on the backstretch on the last lap. Malcuit would get the edge and lead the final half lap to take the win by a 0.205-second gap over Wargo. Chambers held on for third with Young a solid fourth. Robert Arana rounded out the top five.
Paxton Dyson, Holden Harder, Caleb Tarter, Asher Donnelly and Ty Arbogast finished sixth through 10th.
Young won the RLV pole award by a 0.074-second margin over Chambers. Malcuit and Chambers won the first round of heats (split into odd and even groups) with Malcuit and Arana scoring wins in the second round of prelims.
Listen to Cadet feature winner Isaac Malcuit —
The Legends division for drivers age 50 and up continues to grow in CKNA and 21 drivers made the call for Saturday’s qualifying.
Todd Baron of Chapel Hill, N.C., a double feature winner at the CKNA’s Jacksonville Winter Nationals in January, scored the RLV Tuned Exhaust Products pole award Saturday morning over Don Newman and Doug Cook. The three drivers would go on to be the main players in Legends throughout the rest of the weekend.
Cook, riding a Margay Ignite, would win heat one over Newman and Baron and come back later Saturday to win heat two by a close margin over Baron. James Inscoe on a Coyote ran third with Newman and Jim Fry rounding out the top five.
Cook, Newman, Baron and Inscoe raced away from the rest of the field in Sunday’s 16-lap main event before Inscoe lost the lead trio about five laps into the race.
With Cook leading, Baron moved into P2 and tried pushing the pair away from Newman. But Newman was strong, keeping his No. 05 Praga within striking distance of the the lead pair.
With two laps to go, Baron had enough of following Cook and made the inside pass into turn one for the lead. It would prove to be the winning move, as Cook appeared to be fading late with Newman going by into turn one for second a lap later.
With Newman making the pass on Cook, that was enough for Baron to pull his No. 11 OTK Exprit out to about a 1-second lead on the final lap and ride uncontested to the feature win. Newman crossed the stripe second with Cook third. Inscoe and Fry were each all alone for most of the race and finished fourth and fifth. Eli Yanko, Jody Covington, Randy Raridon, Tim Stiefel and Ken Paulson finished sixth through 10th.
Listen to Legends winner Todd Baron —
Thirty-four drivers made the call for Senior Heavy qualifying and all would start the final.
After a competitive Friday practice that saw six or seven of the best LO206 Heavy drivers near the top of the speed charts all day, Ohio’s Eric Fagan would get the edge in Saturday morning qualifying on his No. 115 MGM Espionage, winning the pole by a 0.192-second gap over Washington state AEM Karting driver Gabe Sessler.
Sean Meier, who qualified P4, made his presence known in heat one, racing his Coyote Zenith to the front and winning by a 0.401-second gap over Fagan. Jake Duvall was third ahead of Sessler and Gary Lawson.
Heat two once again saw Meier and Fagan at the front of the field with Meier again getting the victory by about a kart-length over Fagan. Duvall again placed P3.
The start of Sunday’s final was wild with Fagan losing a number of spots from his outside pole starting position and Lawson getting shoved wide and dropping at least 10 positions.
Unfortunately, a scary three-kart accident occurred on lap 2 of the final causing a red flag. One driver was injured, and we wish him the best of luck during his recovery process.
A single-file restart based on the original starting order was a break for both Fagan and Lawson, who returned to their P2 and P4 starting spots. Once the green waved on the restart, Meier jumped out to a quick lead while Fagan would again drop through the top five and as low as P6 early in the race.
While most expected a torrid battle up front for the win between Meier, Fagan and others, that wasn’t the case. Meier was smooth as silk throughout the 16-lap affair and held a comfortable lead from about lap 3 until the end. The Jacksonville, Fla., veteran would go on to give Coyote another Spring Nationals feature win after the Rochester, New York, chassis manufacturer won two finals in 2021.
The win marked Meier’s second career Spring Nationals victory after he scored the Senior Medium win last year.
Listen to Senior Heavy feature winner Sean Meier —
Duvall would make it two Florida drivers across the finish stripe first with a strong P2 run on his Eagle chassis. After a rough start to the race Fagan recovered for a third-place result on his MGM. Lawson was fourth and Georgia’s Aren Lloyd fifth to make it three Eagles in the top five.
Sessler was strong early but faded later in the race to finish P6. GoPro Motorplex champion Connor Yonchuk was seventh, Iowa’s Mike Dittmer eighth, Ryan Bennett ninth and Tyler Lloyd 10th.
A second Sunday afternoon red flag halted the Senior Light feature a few laps into the race when Luke DaCosta, Scott Kleman and a couple others were involved in a hard accident at the end of the backstretch. All drivers were sore but otherwise OK.
Once racing resumed Tristan Farber of Waukesha, Wis., jumped out to an early lead with Colin Warren, James Overbeck, Mick Gabriel and Zach Linsell filling out the top five. Overbeck made the pass on Warren for second just before halfway while Gabriel followed him through. Warren was now back to P4 with Linsell still P5.
The top five would stay in that order until just before seeing the white flag, when Overbeck made an inside pass on Farber for the lead in turn 14. Gabriel would get by Farber into turn one just after taking the white and go to work on Overbeck to try to score his first Spring Nationals win.
Overbeck would block the bottom into the turn 10/11 double left and Mick would follow. Meanwhile, Warren, also searching for his first Spring Nationals win, made it by Farber for third and tried to make a late bid for the win. With Overbeck still blocking the bottom into turn 14, Warren hit the corner perfectly and shot out like a canon, going past Gabriel for second and nearly stealing the win at the finish line.
But Overbeck had just enough to hold on for his first win of the day on his No. 48 Tony Kart, crossing the stripe a mere 0.062 second in front of Warren for the victory. Gabriel would settle for P3 with Farber P4 and Linsell P5. Florida’s Dylan Amundsen would take sixth, Austin Hill seventh, Eli Fox eighth, Jed Perkins ninth and Nicky Palladino 10th.
Listen to Senior Light winner James Overbeck —
Gabriel won the RLV pole award Saturday morning while Overbeck won both odd qualifier heat races while Warren and Farber split the even qualifier heats. Forty-six drivers entered the class; Parker Maull won the LCQ Sunday morning.
Ten LO206 Kid Karts entered the Spring Nationals and Parker Stewart of Bluffton, S.C., was the driver to beat all weekend.
Stewart would win three of the four rounds of competition and looked very strong doing it. He’d qualify 0.741 seconds faster than Liam Fohr to win the RLV pole award and return later Saturday to win heat one by about 20 kart-lengths over Georgia youngster Barrett Turley.
Parker ran into problems in heat two Saturday afternoon, only completing one lap and opening the door for a new winner in Kid Kart competition. Cooper Mull would take advantage, scoring the victory by a close margin over Turley while Fohr was third.
Sunday’s 12-lap main event was all Stewart as 7-year-old pulled his Nitro out front early and would never relinquish the lead. He’d cross the finish line 4.2 seconds ahead of Turley for the big win with Giovanni Fiorita taking third. Brayden Clossey was fourth just ahead of Fohr in P5.
Arlo Barr, Lincoln Willey, Mull, Ryder Thompson and Myles Wilson finished sixth through 10th and all completed the full 12-lap distance.
Listen to Kid Kart winner Parker Stewart —
After Todd Baron won his second pole Saturday in Masters qualifying, Eric Fagan went on to win both heat races over his fellow MGM driver Tim Skinner in heat one and over Baron in heat two.
Fagan and Baron would start on the front row for Sunday afternoon’s main event with Fagan looking for his first feature win of the day and Baron making a bid for the double after his Legends victory a couple hours earlier.
The early stages of the 16-lap main saw Fagan out front with Baron hanging tough in second and Skinner a close third. The top three moved away from the rest of the 32-kart field as Mike Dittmer and Jakab Nyiri battled for P4 and P5.
Baron continued to stay within striking distance of Fagan’s rear bumper throughout most of the race, but as the race wound down, Fagan opened up the gap a little each lap with Baron now working to hold off a closing Skinner.
Fagan had over a 1-second lead when the white flag waved as Skinner now rode right behind Baron for P2. The Ohio driver would give MGM their first win of the day by a 1.258-second advantage over Baron’s OTK and Skinner’s MGM. Dittmer crossed the stripe fourth on his Eagle and Nyiri fifth on his AEM Karting-prepared EOS.
Derek Hastings, James Perkins, Darin Marcus, Jamie Bradford and Chris Cirillo finished sixth through 10th.
Listen to Masters winner Eric Fagan —
Forty-three karts entered 206 Junior and a Sunday morning LCQ, won by Mason Macrander, brought the feature starting field down to 36.
Maryland’s Brady Atwood scored the pole with a 47.865 in Saturday qualifying, nearly two-tenths better than Nitro driver Spencer Conrad.
A couple of females showed out in the first odd heat with Addison Ianniello winning over Katie Yonchuk. Christopher McKeithan and Spencer Conrad made it a pair of Nitros across the finish line first in the first even heat.
Round two of heats saw Atwood pick up the victory in odds and Ronnie Klys win over McKeithan in evens.
McKeithan jumped out to the lead in Sunday’s main event with Ianniello, who was racing on her birthday, sitting second and Atwood third. About two seconds back was the group of Owen Lloyd, Conrad and Brently Miller riding P4 through P6 as the rest of the field battled for positions.
Conrad and Miller both moved past Lloyd late in the race for fourth and fifth while Lloyd’s Coyote now ran outside of the top five. Up front, there was no change in the running order until the final lap with Ianniello finally made her bid for the win. Ianniello and McKeithan ran side by side through the last several corners and it looked to be a near dead heat coming to the finish.
Atwood, who rode single-file in third all race, shot his MGM to the inside of both drivers coming to the checkered and the thee-wide finish saw Brady get the win by just 0.084 seconds over McKeithan with Ianniello a close third in one of the most exciting finishes of the day.
Conrad would take P4 with Miller a solid P5. Lloyd would settle for sixth, Cash Wyke P7, Klys P8, Nash Gierke P9 and Darryl Moglia rounding out the top 10.
Atwood’s win gave the American-made MGM Chassis two in a row on the day.
Listen to Junior winner Brady Atwood —
The Senior Medium division hit the track for their final just past 2pm Sunday as the last race of the weekend. With many of the best 206 sprint drivers in the country in the field, Mick Gabriel’s EOS and Sean Meier’s Coyote started P1 and P2 with Gabriel moving into the early lead.
Meier ran second for a short time before being overtaken by Keegan Clark and soon falling back to sixth behind James Overbeck, Jake Duvall and Colin Warren.
With Meier now out of the lead mix, Overbeck moved into second behind Gabriel and Keegan Clark dropped out of the action on lap 4 after an incident in turn 2. Florida drivers Colin Warren and Jake Duvall raced in fourth and fifth ahead of Meier and Zach Linsell.
The OTK drivers of Gabriel and Overbeck ran nose to tail at the front of the field with Warren and Duvall chasing. Finally on the last lap, Overbeck moved to the inside of Gabriel at the end of the backstretch to take over the lead. Mick tried to fight back to retake the lead in the final corners, but Overbeck again blocked the bottom after making the winning pass and had enough to stay out front, crossing the finish stripe 0.112 second ahead of Mick for his second win of the day.
Overbeck became the only driver to win two 2022 Spring Nationals finals and Gabriel was denied of a first Spring Nationals win after racing at the front of the field for much of the weekend.
Listen to Senior Medium winner James Overbeck —
Listen to P2 finisher Mick Gabriel —
Duvall completed his excellent weekend with a fine P3 result — less than a half kart-length back of Mick — after finishing P2 in the Senior Heavy feature earlier in the day. Like Gabriel, Warren was also denied of his first Spring Nationals win and settled for fourth. Meier was denied of a potential double-win day, rounding out the top five.
Pennsylvania’s Linsell took sixth to compliment his P5 run in the Senior Light final. Tristan Farber was seventh, Eli Fox eighth, Dylan Amundsen ninth and Austin Hill rounded out the top 10.