2018 CKNA Grand Nationals

We capped the 2018 sprint kart racing season with a national level race the weekend of September 28th 2018 at New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle Indiana for the Cup Karts Of North America Grand Nationals.  The CNKA Grand Nationals brought dedicated and skilled drivers from all over the US and Canada.  New Castle Motorsports Park is a world renowned track that challenges any driver with long fast straights and technical corners.  Precision and focus from both driver and crew is required reach peak performance at the end of three days in the final race.  At most races by the Sunday final we had things in some sort of order to race the top 5, however, for this race we are aiming for top 10 due to field size, competition, and the need to learn a new track.  We still wanted to focus on having a relaxed and fun weekend of determined racing. 

Jason has never been to New Castle before and he needed to be a quick study to hit his marks.   We spent Thursday night at a local Walmart sleeping on the trailer floor, we missed the 7pm arrival dead line, sigh.  Friday morning we unpacked the trailer for 5 rounds practice.  Jason’s day started with just walking the track to get a feel for the racing line and and track conditions.  The first session was primarily focused on learning the track and getting some initial validation of the work in the garage setting up the kart.  As it turned out we had setup nearly right and as the day progressed we only made minor adjustments.  Jason got faster every session as he acquired a better track sense and we both scouted the competition.  At the end of the day he was just a bit off pace from the lead pack but a top 10 finish seemed in sight.  

Unlike most race weekends where Saturday is a two to three practice rounds, qualifying, two short heats and a feature, the day would be one pre-qualifying warm up, a qualifying session, followed by three 8 lap heats.  The total points from the heats(link to scoring) would set the grid for Sunday’s pre-final.  In the pre-qualifying warm up Jason got stuck behind some slower traffic and was not able to get any open laps and his qualifying start position behind much slower karts which he quickly caught.  They were supposed to yield position to faster karts with a tap from behind but this driver instead ‘raced for position’, Jason was able to eventually make the pass but did not have enough remaining laps to get up to full speed.  Despite this he still managed to qualify 11th and knew he could make short work of a couple of karts in front of him in each of the three heats.   He was crashed out of the first heat on the first lap when another driver went wide and the group scrambled to clear, finished 28th.  The second heat went much better,  Jason made quick work of 10th and then 9th in the first lap and held them off for the rest of the race.  In heat 3 Jason put on a great display of his driving prowess starting 11th and jumped up to 8th in the first lap but as he moved for 7th and was forced wide and shuffled back to 10th in the second lap.  Over the next six laps Jason battled back up to 8th but fell to 9th in the closing lap.  His hard work and recovery put him on the grid at 13th for the pre-final on Sunday despite the poor first heat.  

Throughout the day Jason said the kart was OK but was handling weird, we did find a crack and had that welded back up, but it really wasn’t an issue.  It was in a spot that was previously cracked and my not have been new.  We consulted with Jim from Coyote about the handling and suggestions.  After Jason and I careful went over the kart we found a setup error in the front caster.  It was set to 9 degrees on the left and 15 degrees on the right.  It should have been 15 on both sides.   We worked together to replace some  washers and reset the caster correctly before dinner and had a quiet evening before heading to the trailer for the night with racing dreams

The Sunday morning warm up Jason put the kart though it paces and found it was better than Saturday.  Most of the days setup discussion was about what tire pressure to run in the longer races and as the day warmed.  The kart tends to get really tight after about 7 laps and we have been working on finding the right pressure to go fast for the 12 pre-final and 16 lap final.  Lower tire pressure makes the kart loose and the tires are slower to warm up.  At higher pressures the kart comes in faster but becomes tight sticky as the continue to heat.  

Jason started the pre-final in 13th and at the end of the first lap was up to 12th then picked up 2 sports for 10th by the end of the second lap.  Over the next couple of laps fell down to 12th then 13th.   He pushed hard and through moving for the openings and some luck he moved up to 10th and was battling with 8th and 9th.  As the lap closed he changed focus to defending his position and finished 10th.

The final race of the weekend started with the pomp and circumstance of a professional race.  First there was a parade lap followed by driver introductions and mini interviews.  Of course Jason, having been with the series for sometime and a character was giving a loud “Number 59 ‘Racin’ Jason Pribyl” introduction.  The race got off to a rough start with a kart in the back field getting hooked up and rolling over as they exited turn one bringing out the red flag.  The driver was OK but his day was over and the field was reset for another attempt.   This time they got off with out issue and Jason again picked up a spot for 9th in turn one and then two more up to 7th in the second lap.  As they battled Jason again was shuffled down to 12th and started to work his way back up again.  Lap 4, back to 11th, lap 7 to 10, lap 8 to 9th.  Then in lap 9 while moving up to 8th the rear right wheel studs broke and the rear wheel flopped around as he slid off the track into the grass ending the race for him.  He enjoyed a great seat as the last 7 laps ticked down without him.   In the end he finished 24th of 29, despite that we both had a great time working together.  We even had a good laugh on the way back from the tech barn about him driving the kart until it broke.  

I really want to thank our family for support this silly think called kart racing.   To the folks thank make our karts go Jim Lipari at Coyote Motorsports ,  Rob at Kart City Performance , Brian Jacobson at Viking Kart Products. None of this would have been possible with out your support and assistance.  

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