14 Sep Blue Skies Finally Prevail for August Ignite Races
Mother Nature may have succeeded at raining on everyone’s parade more than a few times this summer, but she couldn’t keep it up forever. After multiple Ignite Series schedule shifts and track layout changes, the fifth and sixth rounds got underway for a rare Ignite Sunday race day on August 1, followed by the return of the always-exciting SuperTrack for Race #7 on August 14. With the halfway mark now past, season points battles are also starting to shape up.
One driver with a dominant performance no matter the day or the track layout was Paxton Cowden. The Kansas kid kart standout currently has a perfect record at the Kartplex, making his debut in Ignite Race #4 and winning all three of the August Kid Kart Honda races. Current points leader Jack Mayer went home with a pair of second place finishes in Races #5 and #6, as well as a third place finish in Race #7. Third generation racer Sloan Bettenhausen rounded out the Race #5 podium, while Rhett “Scooter” Johnson placed third in Race #6 and second in Race #7.
With Cowden’s mid-season arrival, it will be interesting to watch the points battle in this class. Mayer swept the first three races and has strong finishes, but will need to get Cowden off the top step of the podium to have a shot at winning the title.
Another couple of young drivers with consistent podium finishes can be found in the Rookie class. Aidan Liber (first, Race #5 and #7; second, Race #6) and Tyler Johnson (third, Race #5; first, Race #6; second, Race #7) both added a sizable amount of points to their season totals as the only Rookie drivers to make all three August podiums. Joining them in second place for Race #5 was 2020 Ignite Rookie champion Race Beckman. Oliver Rettinghaus claimed his first podium of the year with a third in Race #6, while it was the green machine of Carter Riddle rounding out the top three in the seventh race.
Liber currently leads Rookie, but Tyler Johnson is only 30 points back. Both drivers have a comfortable 200+ point gap to Riddle, but with four races yet to come there’s no telling how the standings will shake out by the end of the year.
The same can’t be said of Junior class. 2020’s champion, Reid Sweeney, has won all five races he’s entered so far, including Race #7. He may technically trail Isaac Wells by 200 points and Lane Mayer by just 16, but it’s hard not to see him ending the season with a championship if he continues to perform at the same high level. That doesn’t mean Wells and Mayer aren’t doing their best to stop him – both finished August with a first (Mayer, Race #5; Wells, Race #6), second (Mayer, Race #6; Wells, Race #7) and third (Wells, Race #5; Mayer, Race #7). Joining the trio on the Junior podium were Owen Thierauf (second, Race #5) and – in his first top three – Jake Walsh (third, Race #6).
Over in Senior, Adam Crepin was the only driver on all three August podiums. He took home wins in Race #5 and #7, and finished second to Spike Kohlbecker in Race #6. In addition to his win, Kohlbecker also claimed second place in the first race of the August 1 doubleheader. Trevor Eggemeyer (Race #5) and Hunter Richardson (Race #6) rounded out the doubleheader podiums in third. Later in the month, it was Luke Webster in second place (his first Senior podium of the season) followed by Cory Osborn in third.
Crepin has a strong 450 point lead over Osborn, who sits 70 points ahead of 2020 Briggs Senior champion Eggemeyer. As the only driver to finish on the podium in every race so far, including four wins, Crepin has almost certainly sewed up the Senior title. Eggemeyer and Osborn have both had some uneven finishes this season and will definitely be looking to drop some of their earlier scores, but Osborn has a win under his belt from the 2021 opening round that is going to help in the championship standings.
Webster could also be found competing in Master class, where the 2020 class champion showed off his chops with a hat trick of August wins. In Races #5 and #6, he bested 2019 Master champion Brandin Moore (second), Blaine Finnegan (third, Race #5) and Todd Martin (third, Race #6). Later in the month, it was James Newbold (second) and Matt Krechel (third) joining Webster on the Race #7 podium.
With Ignite Senior and Ignite Master champions required to step away from the championship hunt for a season following their big win, Webster isn’t in contention for the year-end Master trophy despite his August success. Moore is definitely the likeliest champion, with a 200+ point lead over Finnegan. Things are tight in the race for second place, with Newbold – Finnegan’s teammate – just 35 points back.
There was a first-time winner in Legend class – Darryl Cooney. Cooney took the win in Race #7, along with fellow victors Craig Loddeke (Race #5) and Scott Blind (Race #6). Blind and Loddeke traded off finishes, each taking second to the other (Blind, Race #5; Loddeke, Race #6) during the August 1 doubleheader. Jimmy Miller rounded out the podium in Race #5, while Randy Murdick had back-to-back third place finishes (Race #6 and #7). Dennis Wilburn finished things off with a second during the August 14 race.
Loddeke sits at the top of the leaderboard after seven races, with Wilburn 104 points back. Murdick is keeping close to Wilburn – just 28 points separate the two drivers. Meanwhile Miller and Blind are slugging it out for fourth place with a narrow 20 point difference. Miller has the edge seven races in, but Blind only looks to be getting better as the season rolls on. Keep an eye on this class – there’s a lot of talent here and a lot of close finishes yet to come.
Finally, it’s on to Heavy class where perennial favorite Loddeke continues to be a dominant presence as he snagged a hat trick of wins in August. Joining him in second place each time was Wilburn, followed by thirs place finishers Greg Mefford (Race #5 and #6) and Doug Stroud (Race #7).
As has been the case for several seasons now, it looks like Loddeke has the Heavy championship firmly in grasp. Second place could have a battle – as of Race #7, it’s Wilburn leading Mefford by about 150 points. Rick Neal, who secured his ride this season by winning the 2020 iDrive Heavy championship, started the season strong but has faltered in the past few races and could start to have a fight on his hands to stay in the top five despite a trio of early second place finishes.
As always, you can view all Gateway Kartplex event results on Speedhive and be sure to check out the season standings there as well.
Recap by Rose vonHatten