For the last 8 weeks the team has been working and racing hard. The only weekends we did not race were rain outs. The club race was rained out and Gateway was too but the preparation was done to get there. The weekend of May 17-19, we had a chance to try a new to us track. Dart Kart Club held their first race of the season at Nelson Ledges Road Course in Garrettsville, Ohio. It’s been nearly 30 years since the last kart race there and we were very excited to have a go at it. The track is similar to Blackhawk Farms in terms of style, long straights with sweeping turns an a few technical bits that should provide a weekend of close high speed racing, perfect for Animal Nation racers.
The rain followed us form Illinois and the track was wet and green Friday morning. The track crew worked quickly to dry the track and after a short delay it was open for practice. Jason went out with instructions for a Sunday drive(he never holds back, sigh) and came back grinning and chattering about the speed and complexity the track. It took him a few rounds of practice and some tuning on my part to get the kart really fast. As the day wound down, we discussed possible changes for race day, he was starting to slow as the tires wore out and fell off. After much discussing, we choose to swing pretty big, changing gearing(up a tooth, less pull but faster), wheel width(looser kart), and put on new tires(more grip). We hoped that the changes will keep him up to speed with the rest of the pack.
Again, the day started with rain, this time a few hours. The track was ready for practice just before noon, and practice one gave us a gear change to drop the rpm again. Then as the second round practice started a dog ran on to the track and a red flag halted the session. Jason pulled around to the last corner to come off, the motor shutdown with a bang. We don’t exactly know what went wrong but the rod gave way busted the cam, and damaged the case. With only one real session available to tune now with a new motor, gearing, wheels, and tires, it was questionable if he would continue to be a front runner. Jason is used to driving an kart out of tune, hopefully he could work through any issues as he races.
Jason will be racing two classes with the Dart Kart Club, Animal 350 and Animal 370. Both races will be 25 minutes, the only difference being weight. The first of our day was race 2 in Animal 350. Right from the start, Jason and his kart where with the lead pack the whole race and was battling for position every lap. After race time ended the karts 2 by 2 and within 0.15 seconds as they crossed the line. Jason set the fastest lap but finishing 4th, just missing 2nd by 2.6 hundredths of second. In the day’s 370 race he was again in the hunt but a loose motor forced him to retire early but still finished 4th. The karts were very fast and close, anyone could pull out a win this weekend, including Jason with a little luck.
Sunday started no kart changes and two of quick rounds of practice. The weather was just about perfect for racing warm track for good grip and cool air for great horsepower. Jason got a great start in the 350 race moving up to third by the frist bend. As the opening laps wound up so did Jason as he picked off second and then a took the lead. He started to pull away as the pack battled behind him for second. Jason continue widened his gap, no up to 5 or 6 seconds, as the 25 minute race reached the halfway point. The karts behind stop fighting and started to together to drafting and pushing to catch up again. As race time ticked down final minutes the pack caught up to Jason but he kept his foot down and this elbows out for the last few laps. As they exiting the last corner Jason manged to have a half second game and crossing the finish for his first win of the season and as a senior. Unfortunately, in the final 370 race he lost the draft and was in 5th place by a wide margin for most of the race. Despite his gap, he ended up finishing 3rd as attrition picked off karts in front of him.
After this great weekend, we are taking some time off for Memorial day, but will still be hard at work in the garage as we prepare for the next race at Blackhawk Farms(Championship Enduro Series) the first of two races in June. The turn out for Blackhawk is looking very good, there should have some great racing. We are looking forward to trying to repeat last years great finish. We are sad that we will be missing the Cup Karts of North America at Michiana Raceway Park. Good luck to all the drivers wish we could be there too.
Thanks to all the guys at Animal Nation for accepting Jason as a young driver and working with us all these years. We really love hanging out at the track and racing with you guys. Thanks to Reagan at 4 Cycle Central and for the great motors and Jack Reall the advice and support.