01 Jul Event Coverage: Ignite Race #4 Recap
Round 4 of the Ignite Series concluded the first third of the racing season on Saturday, June 28th. Competitors were finally gifted warm temperatures and sunny skies helping ensure a smooth and fast race day. Championship battles have been forming over the first three races, but some fresh blood was looking to spoil the fun at the front of the pack.
REID SWEENY – IGNITE ROOKIE WINNER
The Ignite Rookie class was first to take the track. So far this season, it has been the Evan Zarbo show. Zarbo has yet to finish worse than third and had won two races entering round four. Close behind Zarbo in the championship hunt is Ignite Series sophomore Reid Sweeny, who has twice finished runner up this season, and is on the hunt for his first victory of the year. Heat 1 saw Sweeny jump out to the early lead from his third place starting position, with Nolan Baltz pursuing close behind. After some close racing between the top three, contact was made on lap 4. Sweeny got the raw end of the altercation and was pushed back to fourth position, with Zarbo claiming the lead. They would settle in and complete the race with Zarbo taking the heat win, followed by Baltz, Pruitt and Sweeny. Zarbo would start from pole position for Heat 2, but was overtaken quickly by Sweeny. The top three put on some close racing, but the finishing order would remain unchanged with Sweeny splitting the heat races with Zarbo and Nolan Baltz in third position. With close lap times between the top 4, the Final was set to be a close race to the checkered. Reid Sweeny would start the Final from pole position, and would get the holeshot in the first turn. As expected, the top 3 were running nose to tail. Heat 1 fast time setter, Nolan Baltz, began to set his eyes on the top spot. Baltz was able to work past Zarbo on lap 8, putting himself in position to make a run at the win. He made his move down the back straight on lap 11. Sweeny was able to keep the outside line, and they tried to shuffle two wide into the tight turn 9 right hander. Something had to give, contact was made and this time it was Baltz hopes who were nullified as he went over curbing and out of the hunt. Sweeny would cruise to victory from there, claiming the win by 0.760 over Zarbo. Hunter Pruitt picked up the most improved award, finishing on the podium in two consecutive races now and closing the lap time gap each week. Although little consolation, Baltz was able to pick up the fast time of the Final with a 36.335.
AUSTIN BLAIR – IGNITE SENIOR WINNER
The Ignite Senior championship chase has been simple so far this season: Nick Todtenhaupt has won three straight races, Ryan Bettenhausen has finished second three straight races and Colten Dudici has finished third in three straight races. With Dudici absent for round four, the battle for the podium was renewed as competitors began trying to find a few extra tenths to take the fight to the front two. Austin Blair drew pole position for his first career Ignite Series race and he maintained that position on the opening circuit followed by Bettenhausen and Phillip Pennell. Todtenhaupt was on the charge from sixth on the grid, making it up to third position by the end of the opening lap. Blair would continue to lead the field as Todtenhaupt worked by Bettenhausen on lap 4. Contact between the front 3 entering turn one on lap 8 allowed Todtenhaupt to escape to the lead with a large margin over Blair. Bettenhausen was forced back to fourth and Pennell would slot into third. Matthew Pyatt led the field to the green flag in Heat 2. Todtenhaupt would hold the outside advantage going into turn 2, and would lead the field to their first green flag lap followed by Ryan Rethy, Pyatt and Paul Fodde. Bettenhausen had a monster third lap, moving up to fourth from seventh. He then made a pass on Pyatt for third on lap 7 and a pass on Rethy for second on lap 9. Todtenhaupt would get another heat win, followed by Bettenhausen, Rethy, Pyatt and Pennell. The Final saw a familiar front row in Todtenhaupt and Bettenhausen. Todtenhaupt was able to gain the advantage in the first section of corners, but Bettenhausen made a pass down the back straight and would lead the field on the opening circuit. Todtenhaupt would return the favor a lap later, gaining the advantage for lap 2. After a tough second heat, Austin Blair was back in the mix after a great start, moving past Bettenhausen for second position on lap three. The top 3 ran nose to tail until lap 8, when Bettenhausen turned on the gas and made a move for second, followed by a move to the top on lap 9. Contact with a lap kart at the end of the back straight would force Bettenhause and Todtenhaupt to check up in the tough turn 6/7 complex opening the door wide open for Ignite rookie Austin Blair. Blair was able to put down some fast laps and would take the checkered flag in his premier in the Ignite series. Todtenhaupt recovered for second and Phil Pennell was able to score a career best third. Bettenhausen escaped with a fourth place finish, and Paul Fodde’s last lap woes handed the final podium spot to Ryan Rethy. Bettenhausen was awarded the fast lap time with a 35.412.
EVAN STAMER – IGNITE JUNIOR WINNER
The Ignite Junior category has seen two different winners over three races, but several competitors were hoping to call the top step of the podium their own after round 4. Heat 1 saw pole sitter Aiden Roosevans quickly jump to the lead, followed by Trevor Lovatto and Evan Stamer. Stamer made his move on Lovatto on lap 2, and Spike Kohlbecker did the same on lap 3. Stamer and Kohlbecker began catching Roosevans, until contact between the front 3 on lap 6 handed the top spot to Lovatto. Roosevans was able to regain the top spot on lap 7, which he would hold until the finish. Lovatto would fall to Stamer on lap 8 and they would finish second and third respectively. Kohlbecker would be awarded fourth position and Conner Skinner rounded out the podium. Heat 2 was the Evan Stamer show, as he started from pole position and never looked back. The battle for second was a close one, as Roosevans worked by Kohlbecker on lap 7. Spike was able to use his experience and regain the runner up spot on the final circuit, moving Roosevans back to third. Lovatto would finish in fourth and Gage Rucker would round out the podium. The Final event validated Stamer’s dominance in the second heat, as he jumped to the lead and started to pull a gap on the rest of the field. Kohlbecker and Roosevans hooked up and began to work together to track down Stamer. They were able to close the gap, but ultimately, Stamer was just too strong. Stamer picked up the victory by 1.647 seconds over Kohlbecker and Roosevans. Lovatto finished fourth and Rucker rounded out the podium.
KEITH SCHARF – IGNITE MASTERS WINNER
Through three round, the Ignite Masters class has featured three different winners. Would another name top the charts in round 4 or would we see our first repeat winner of the season? Heat 1 started with Robert Davis leading the field to the green flag, followed by Jean Roux and Jon Vernier. Vernier would move by Roux on the second lap, where he would focus his efforts on tracking down Davis. Vernier was able to work his way to the point on lap 3, followed by Keith Scharf and Jean Roux. Davis would be shuffled back to fourth. Scharf would make his move on Roux and lap three and Vernier on lap 4, taking over the lead of the race. The top three would remain unaltered, as Scharf drove to a 2.971 second victory over Vernier and Roux. Mike Lebrun was able to get around Davis coming to the white flag for fourth. Scharf and Vernier would slot into first and second on the start of Heat 2, followed by pole sitter Mike Lebrun and Mark Hudspeth. The race would be pretty uneventful from there, ending with Scharf claiming a 4.589 second victory followed by Vernier and Lebrun. Hudspeth would finish fourth and Roux would round out the podium. In a race thought to be controlled by Scharf, Vernier came shooting out of the starting gate to take the early advantage in the Final. Scharf would slot into second, followed by Lebrun, Roux and Hudspeth. The front two would break away, with Vernier still controlling the race. Robert Davis had a mega second lap, moving up to third positon from sixth on the opening circuit and Hudspeth moved up to fourth. At the front, Scharf made his move on lap 5 and never looked back, claiming another 5+ second victory over Vernier. Lebrun moved into the third spot on lap 8 followed by Davis and Hudspeth.
Round 5 of the Ignite Series is set to take place in two weeks on July 11th. Point’s battles are heating up, but with drop races it is still anyone’s race. New members are joining the scene which is sure to shake up championship fights all across the series. For more information on how to get involved with the Ignite Series, or to test drive and Ignite kart, please contact the Gateway Kartplex at 618-219-8515 or visit gatewaykartplex.com.