Friday July 30 through Sunday August 1, 2010
St. Louis Karting Association (SLKA)
A Proud Papa’s Perspective by CJKC Staff Writer Marc DesLauriers
The 8th Annual Kid Kart Nationals were held at the usual location…I-55 Raceway in St. Louis, MO owned by NASCAR driver Ken Schrader. A total of 44 kid karters from all over the country descended on the 0.55 mile SLKA circuit to do battle in three classes at this year’s Nationals…the Kid Kart Restricted class, the Kid Kart Unrestricted class, and the brand new Junior 206 class featuring the Briggs 206 Animal engine package. This year’s event took on an International flavor as well with Kid Karter Harry Coulton coming all the way from Great Britain via Connecticut to do battle with the Yanks! Three of the top four Kid Kart contenders from the CJKC chose to participate in this year’s Kid Kart Nationals…the “three amigos” were Liam Letzsch, Cole Thompson, and Derek DesLauriers. All three drivers chose to compete in the Kid Kart Unrestricted class, while Derek decided to go for the double by racing in the Junior 206 class as well. Little did the competition know that there was a National powerhouse lurking under the familiar Broncos tent in the pits.
Friday July 30th – Practice Day (weather permitting)
The practice day opened at 1:00 PM after a brief morning shower with two successful practice sessions in each class. Then the skies really opened up in the afternoon and deluged the entire track with a torrential downpour. While other kid karters and their crews scrambled for cover, the CJKC team put the rain tires on and prepared to go out after the rain subsided. As the Colorado kids approached the starting grid prepared to go out on the “slip n’ slide”, the race organizers advised all competitors that the track would be closed for the remainder of the practice session due to over 6” of standing water. The rain didn’t deter the spirits of the CJKC kids as they were suited up for battle!
Saturday July 31st – Qualifying (CJKC team working issues)
The morning practice sessions yielded all sorts of challenges for the CJKC team including broken clutch springs, bad coils, fouled spark plugs and a spin by another driver that collected both Derek and Liam, bending Liam’s frame in the process. While the dad’s worked feverishly to fix all the Comer 50 issues, Derek calmly went out in the Junior 206 practice sessions and scorched the track in his Jake Boyz Racing/Birel chassis set up by CJKC VP Jay Jacobellis.
When it came time to qualify, Derek easily grabbed the pole for the Junior 206 heat race with a fast lap of 51.510 seconds, setting the fastest qualifying time for all competitors in the process! In the unrestricted class, Derek qualified seventh out of 27 racers with a time of 53.550 putting him on the outside front row of heat 3. Unfortunately, mechanical issues continued to plague many drivers with 11 total drivers in the unrestricted class (including Liam and Cole) being DQ’d after a strict qualifying technical inspection.
Sunday August 1st – Race Day (great expectations)
The Kid Kart Nationals offered a unique format for race day that provided great wheel to wheel racing in all classes and multiple opportunities for kids to improve their position prior to the feature races. Race day would begin with a 10-lap heat race for each class (3 heats in the unrestricted class) with the top 5 from each heat (15 karts) moving directly to the 10-lap pre-feature race and the remainder (12 karts) moving to the 10-lap last chance qualifier (LCQ). The finish in the pre-feature would determine the starting order for the 15-lap feature race for the top 15 karts, while the finish in the LCQ would fill the rest of the field from 16 on down.
Heat Races (Derek establishes his dominance)
First up in the morning was the Junior 206 heat race with Derek DesLauriers on the pole. When the green flag dropped, Derek grabbed the holeshot and led the field through turn one. Lap after lap, Derek pressed his advantage until it became clear that the race was for second place. At the finish, it was Derek taking the heat race win by over 7 seconds setting a new fast lap with a time of 50.997.
Next up was the restricted heat race and finally the unrestricted heat races. CJKC racer Liam Letzsch was the first CJKC racer up in unrestricted heat # 2. As the kids lined up for the heat race, Liam’s kart quit running on the starting grid and Jay, Bill & Marc worked frantically to get it restarted. The problem was traced to a bad coil and there wasn’t sufficient time to change it out for the start of the heat race. This unfortunate circumstance would mean that Liam would have to transfer to the feature race directly from the LCQ later in the day.
Unrestricted heat race # 3 featured the other two CJKC racers, Derek (outside front row) & Cole (outside row 4) pitting their skills against a stacked field of National caliber competition. When the green flag dropped, Derek slotted in behind the pole sitter into second place and Cole settled into eighth place. After a few laps of relentless pressure from Derek, the race leader went off track and Derek assumed the lead. From that point, Derek stretched his lead to 3 seconds and held on for the heat race win transferring to the pre-feature race while Cole finished seventh and transferred to the LCQ with Liam.
Pre-Feature Races (Derek carries the flag for CJKC)
By this time, Derek was considered a serious threat to win both classes on the day so the other dads were coaching their kids how to get around him early. That’s exactly what happened at the start of the Junior 206 pre-feature as three kids jumped past Derek at the start and pushed him back to fourth place through turn one. Derek answered the challenge by patiently and methodically picking off the three front runners and moving to the lead by lap seven. From that point, Derek continued his undefeated streak by checking out to a 3 second victory.
There was little time for celebration as Derek had to jump from his Junior 206 kart into his familiar Pitts/Emmick kart for the start of the unrestricted pre-feature race. Derek had the third fastest heat race winning time which placed him on the inside of the second row. At the start of the race, one of the other kid karters shot out from behind slotting Derek back to fourth place through turn one. As the race unfolded, the top five “freight trained” around the track putting distance on the rest of the field. Derek continued to hold onto his fourth place position to the checkers putting him on the outside of the second row for the unrestricted feature race.
Last Chance Qualifier (Liam & Cole looking to transfer)
With one race to go before the feature races, Liam & Cole were looking for a solid finish to punch their tickets to the unrestricted feature race. At the drop of the green flag, Liam moved into tenth place and Cole settled in behind him. Unfortunately for Cole, his engine quit running after the second lap putting him out of the race. Liam continued on and finished in ninth place transferring to the feature race.
Feature Races (A Kid Karter’s Dream come true)
The Junior 206 class was up first with Derek in his now familiar spot on the pole for the 15-lap feature race. After some coaching by Dad, Derek dropped the hammer at the green flag and rocketed to the lead through turn one. Vastly improved British racer Harry Coulton slotted in behind Derek and the two racers began to immediately check out on the rest of the field. As Harry valiantly tried to close the gap, a very determined Derek began to pull away. By the time the white flag flew, Derek had a 7 second lead and was closing fast on a lapped driver. He passed the lapped driver without incident on the final lap and brought home the National Championship with both fists pumped in the air!
One of the very cool things the track organizers did was to hand out checkered flags to all competitors at the end of each feature race to do a parade lap. All kids felt like Champions as proud parents lined the track and applauded their collective efforts while some parents were bursting with pride and wiping away tears (you can guess who).
Next up was the restricted feature race and finally the “granddaddy” 15-lap unrestricted feature race. While dad was taking care of the Junior 206 tech inspection (Jay’s kart passed with flying colors), mom was getting Derek prepped for the final race of the day. When the final green flag flew, Derek slotted into his fourth place starting position through turn one and joined another freight train of front runners. In a carbon copy of the pre-feature, the lead pack of five checked out from the rest of the field with Derek firmly entrenched in fourth place. A caution flag on lap five caused a little jostling up front and Derek ended up spinning out just before the far hairpin turn. When the leaders came around again, Derek had dropped back into a solid fifth place and wasn’t challenged for the spot again throughout the remainder of the race…although he lost touch with the leaders as well. As all this was happening up front, the man on the move in the pack was Liam Letzsch. Liam started 24th due to his earlier engine issues but never gave up, passing all the way up to an eventual 14th place finish in his Pitts/Top Kart (CJKC Hard Charger Award). Cole finished the day with his Bennett/Top Kart in 21st place in his first ever National race.
Final Tally (two podiums for CJKC)
With one National Championship in the bag, the only question was whether Derek’s unrestricted kart would pass the post race tech inspection and he would finish with two National podiums (a feat unequalled by any other kid karter during the weekend). After one of the most thorough tech inspections this dad has ever experienced (his engine came back in a box), Derek’s Pitts Performance/Emmick kart passed tech with flying colors. Unfortunately, one of the top five unrestricted karts did not pass tech and was DQ’d moving Derek up to fourth place overall. One interesting side note was that the top two fast laps of the feature races were set by Derek (50.987) and Harry (50.992) in the Junior 206 class (only 5/1000 of a second apart)!
A final reflection on the events of the weekend made me realize we have a lot to be thankful for. Derek & his family would like to thank all those who supported our efforts in getting to the top step of the National podium including: The Colorado Junior Karting Club, Action Karting at Bandimere Raceway, Jake Boyz Racing, Pitts Performance, Emmick/Cobra Racing, Birel Karts, Red Line Oils and Bridgestone Tires.
We’d also like to thank the event sponsors: C.R.P. Racing, Briggs & Stratton, EVS Sports, Sieveking Inc., PKT Axles, Margay, and Viper Racing.
A special thanks goes to Mark Freeman and the SLKA track organizers/tech reps for putting on a safe, fair and professional event as well as Jay Jacobellis for providing the Junior 206 kart/engine package that allowed Derek to win the National Championship!
Congratulations to 2010 Kid Kart Restricted National Champion Austin Kendig, 2010 Kid Kart Unrestricted National Champion Zach Preiser, and the first ever Kid Kart Junior 206 National Champion Derek DesLauriers!
Derek now joins Mario Jacobellis (2007 restricted class) and Flynn Lazier (2007 unrestricted class) as National Champions from the CJKC…way to go Derek!