03 Jul Ignite Mega Weekend Draws Record-Breaking Fields
More than 100 competitors flocked to the Gateway Kartplex for Ignite Mega Weekend’s two full days of action-packed racing on May 22-23. Saturday packed the track with 114 entries for Ignite Race #3, setting a new Kartplex record for most race entries, while Sunday kicked off Margay Racing’s Ignite Challenge regional series with a strong 91-entry field. Ten states were represented, with drivers coming from as far away as Florida, Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio to put their talents to the test against some of the nation’s best four-cycle racers.
Ignite Race #3
Huge fields meant fierce competition on the Kartplex’s extended track, which featured an 1,150-foot back straight, no kink and extended Turn 3. Kid Kart Honda opened the weekend, with eight earnest young drivers giving it their all in a 10-lap final. Jack Mayer continued his undefeated Ignite season, building up an insurmountable 16-second lead over Sloan Bettenhausen. Bettenhausen is working on a streak of her own, with her third consecutive second place Ignite finish of the year. Eve Pope rounded out the podium in third, two laps back of the leaders.
In the Junior class, it was once again 2020 Ignite Junior champion Reid Sweeney on top of the podium. Like Mayer, he’s won three in a row this year, and will definitely be the driver to beat in this class. Isaac Wells improved on his 2021 Ignite record, adding a second place in Race #3 to a pair of third place finishes from the first raceday of the year. Finally, Owen Thierauf maneuvered his way onto an Ignite podium for the first time this season, jumping from a seventh place start to a third place finish.
It was Greg Mefford on the top step in Heavy class, edging out last year’s champion Craig Loddeke (second) and Blake Galloway (third). Loddeke is always tough to beat and this year is no exception, though 2020 iDrive Heavy champ Rick Neal kept him on his toes for the season’s first two races. Neal qualified second in Race #3 before an early incident dropped him to the back of the 13-kart field, where he ended the day in 10th place.
In a triumphant return to the track, 2018 Ignite Senior champion Evan Stamer was victorious in a huge 32 kart Senior final. The Glen Carbon, Ill. native may be racing USF2000 cars in the Road to Indy program now, but proved he can still seal the deal in an Ignite K3 after qualifying fourth and getting by pole sitter Alexander Searle (third), second-fastest qualifier Adam Crepin (second) and 2020 Briggs Senior champion Trevor Eggemeyer in just three laps.
2019 Ignite Master champion Brandin Moore took home his second win of the Ignite season in Master after qualifying half a second faster than than Blaine Finnegan. Moore, always a strong competitor, has returned to the Kartplex after taking most of the 2020 season off. And it doesn’t get much closer than Micah Floretta (second) and Nick Todtenhaupt (third), who set identical fast lap times in qualifying before finishing just over a tenth of a second apart.
Rookie class was full of talented young drivers, helmed by Race #3 winner and reigning Ignite Rookie champion Race Beckman. Aidan Liber, who qualified on the pole with a 43.686 second lap, finished second while “The Green Machine,” Carter Riddle, rounded out the podium in third. This is the second podium appearance this season for all three drivers, and Beckman’s first 2021 Ignite win.
The final group of the day was Legend class, where Loddeke became the only driver to double his podium pleasure for the day with a victory over Scott Blind (second, for his first 2021 Ignite podium) and Jimmy Miller (third). This was Loddeke’s third win in a row as he dominates the new Ignite Legend class and a return to the podium for Miller, whose last top three was a second place in Race #5 of the 2019 season.
The day concluded with the 2020 Season Gateway Kartplex and Ignite Challenge Awards Ceremony – for all those celebrations and to find out who won the Kartplex’s special recognition awards, check out the 2020 Awards Ceremony recap.
Ignite Challenge Round #1 and #2
Fewer classes and a smaller field didn’t mean there was any less action for the Sunday portion of Ignite Mega Weekend. The Ignite Challenge series put on a show for spectators with two 20-lap races in each class on the Kartplex’s extended track, this time in the backwards direction with a kink and no chicane, but still featuring the huge 1,150-foot back straight.
In this 10 race, five track regional series, drivers qualify for their starting positions in Race #1 and then use their fastest race lap to set the grid for Race #2.
Rookie class opened the day with some familiar faces from Saturday’s podium returning to celebrate top three finishes Sunday. Race Beckman (first) and Aidan Liber (second) made it three 1-2 finishes in a row for the weekend, sweeping the top two steps of the Rookie class in Race #1 and #2. Connor Strohm (Race #1), who started sixth, and Tyler Johnson (Race #2), fourth on the second race grid, rounded out the podiums in third.
Up next was Heavy, where Craig Loddeke took home a pair of victories and brought his weekend record to an impressive three wins and one second place. Rick Neal qualified first in Race #1 but came home second followed by Blake Galloway. Galloway returned to the podium in Race #2 for an improved second place, while Saturday Ignite Heavy winner Greg Mefford finished third.
Unsurprisingly, it was all about veteran drivers in Masters class. Brandin Moore built up a nearly three second gap to seal his victory over Ken Williams (second) and “Pistol Pete” Vetter in Race #1. Vetter’s fastest race lap seeded him third for Race #2, but he crossed the finish line first with Williams once again second. Nick Todtenhaupt was one of the biggest movers of the day, climbing from an eighth place start to finish third in the 13 kart field.
Reid Sweeney joined Beckman as an Ignite Mega Weekend three-race winner, leading two identical Junior class podiums in the first races of the 2021 Ignite Challenge series. Christian Miles was second and Jaiden Beckman was third in both races. Jaiden Beckman was another driver who raced her way into the top three, having qualified fifth for Race #1 and seventh for Race #2.
Wrapping up the weekend was the ever-exciting Senior class. Florida native and 2020 Ignite Challenge Senior champion Alexander Searle captured his first Kartplex win in Race #1. Joining him on the podium was Adam Crepin (second) and Evan Stamer (third). Crepin had the longest journey to the top three of any Sunday driver after qualifying ninth of 30 karts for Race #1. Crepin (first, after qualifying fourth) and Stamer (second) repeated as podium finishers, this time with Trevor Eggemeyer (third) in his best result of the weekend.
Don’t miss out on any of the action – the Gateway Kartplex Ignite Series is back for Race #4 on June 12. Feel like taking a summer road trip? Visit Motorsports Club of Cincinnati in Ohio on June 26 for Round #2 of Margay Racing’s Ignite Challenge regional series.
For full class and event Ignite Series results, visit the 2021 Results and Point Standings webpage. To view event results from Round #1 of the Ignite Challenge series, check out Gateway Kartplex on Speedhive. For Ignite Challenge point standings, visit the Ignite Karting website.
Recap by Rose vonHatten