Ten-driver Spring Nationals lineup opens arrive-and-drive season for AEM Karting

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. — It’s race week for one of the biggest karting events of the year as Briggs 206 racers from across North America head to the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway for this weekend’s third annual Cup Karts North America Spring Nationals.

The Illinois-based OTK USA-backed AEM Karting will be one of the top teams in attendance with 10 drivers of all different age levels running under their tent at the prestigious March 3-5 event. The Spring Nationals kicks off a formidable arrive-and-drive service schedule for AEM in 2023, which includes 2-cycle and 4-cycle programs at the CKNA North Division, Stars Championship Series and Route 66 Sprint Series.

2022 CKNA Grands Senior Medium champion Mick Gabriel and his dad, Mike, will head up the tuning duties for the team at Charlotte. All drivers will be riding OTK chassis powered by potent AEM Engines 206s.

While Mick will be coaching and tuning for AEM drivers at Charlotte, he’ll return to the wheel the following weekend at the USPKS opener at Orlando Kart Center in the IAME X30 Pro Senior category.

Here’s a look at who will be racing AEM Karting machines this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s fast 0.6-mile kart track.

Justin Wishard in 2022 CKNA North action with AEM Karting (CKNA photo)
Justin Wishard in 2022 CKNA North action with AEM Karting (CKNA photo)

Justin Wishard — The Illinois veteran will be one of the leaders of the AEM team at Charlotte. Wishard, who’s rode several different chassis makes over the years, has found speed and consistency on AEM OTKs over the last year and he’ll race with the team for the first time at Charlotte. The former CKNA Grands and Rock Island King of the Streets champion will be running in the Senior Medium and Senior Heavy divisions.

Jeremy Hood — The Indiana racer will make his return to Charlotte for the first time aboard an AEM-tuned machine. Hood ran the inaugural Spring Nationals in 2021 and showed good speed in Masters throughout the event with qualifying and heat race finishes inside the top 10 of 37 entrants that year. Hood is confident the move to an AEM Engines-powered OTK will give him the boost he needs to compete for wins in both Masters and Senior Heavy.

Summer Whited — The female racer has become a top 206 senior competitor in South Florida over the last year. Whited won an SSKC Senior Medium final at Homestead in December, and she’ll be making her first start at Charlotte at this year’s Spring Nationals. Whited will be one of the drivers to watch in the Senior Light division as she tries to make the final in the stacked 68-kart division.

Summer Whited

Gunnar Ray — The Arizona racer will join Whited in Senior Light and similar to Whited this will be his first try at Charlotte. Ray is a senior rookie and he has some good accomplishments in the Junior ranks out west. He’ll be looking to qualifying for his first Spring Nationals main event.

James-Michael Sullivan — Hailing from Colorado, Sullivan will be riding with AEM for the first time as a part of the new AEM-Performance Racing Development partnership. This won’t be Sullivan’s first time at Charlotte as he ran a WKA Road Racing National on the CMS Roval a few years ago. JMS has entered Senior Medium and Senior Heavy and the multi-time Colorado champion will be eager to see how he stacks up against the best 206 drivers in the business.

Jeff Hill — Hill makes it two Hoosiers on the AEM team at Charlotte with Jeremy Hood the other. Like Hood, Hill will run in Masters for drivers age 35 and up. Hill is a well-known racer throughout the Midwest and he’s rode several different chassis over the years. This year’s Spring Nats will be Hill’s first time racing an AEM-prepared OTK. He has solid finishes of P8 and P12 in the two previous Spring Nationals Masters finals.

Hudson Williams at a GoPro Motorplex test day in February 2023 (AEM photo)
Hudson Williams at a GoPro Motorplex test day in February 2023 (AEM photo)

Hudson Williams — A Marylander, Williams is another new face to the AEM team and he’s entered Junior at his second Spring Nationals. Williams is a Sandy Hook Speedway regular, where he was a feature winner in 2022. Hudson tested with an AEM-powered Kosmic in February at GoPro Motorplex, where he showed some good speed. He’ll be going against 60-plus other juniors at Charlotte. 

Max Sonnet, Jayson Johnson and Kai Larson will complete the 10-driver AEM lineup. Each driver will be looking to learn fast during Friday practice in their first attempts at qualifying for a Charlotte Spring Nationals final. 

Sonnet and Larson will join Sullivan as drivers coming from Colorado to race out of the AEM Karting tent. Sonnet will be one of 60-plus entrants in Junior and Larson will be running in the 8 to 10-year-old Cadet division.  Johnson, from Iowa, will compete in Senior Light.

This year’s Spring Nationals action gets under way Friday with five rounds of controlled practice. Saturday will start with a quick single round of practice before qualifying and two rounds of heat races. Sunday is the big day with LCQs first thing in the morning na main events running from about Noon until 3pm to determine 2023 CKNA Spring Nationals champions.

While AEM tent space is full for the Spring Nationals, the team has openings for CKNA North, Stars and Route 66 events. For information on AEM’s arrive-and-drive programs, AEM Engines and the team’s growing kart shop, visit the team’s official website at aemkarting.com, email info@aemkarting.com, call 630-863-7898, and follow AEM on Facebook and Instagram.

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