How’s it going CKN Nation!!!
It’s been over a year since I’ve seen everyone due to the COVID travel restrictions between Canada and the US. Hopefully, all of you enjoyed the Canadian karting season and are doing well during these crazy times we live in. For me, 2020 was a pretty busy year where my main focus was on professional growth in my career which meant I wasn’t really around the karting scene this summer. However, I couldn’t stay away from the track too long as I eventually caved and decided to head down to Pittsburgh International Race Complex to take part in the season finale of the Stars Championship Series in the LO206 Stars category. With the Stars Championship series being so close to many karters in Southern Ontario, I figured I would give everyone a glimpse of what the series is all about, the Track at PITT and finally talk about how my weekend went.
Hey Neelan, what is the Stars Championship Series?
The Stars Championship Series is a regional karting championship by karting veteran Joe Janowski and his team at the National Karting Alliance. It was rebranded in 2020 from the SKUSA Great Lakes championship. The mission of the series is to have a series in the Great Lakes Region for karters who want to make the jump from the club scene but don’t want to spend the amount of money it takes to compete at the national level. Janowski’s goal is to have a laid-back, competitive atmosphere where competitors can battle it out on track then come off and have fun with their family while making friendships that can last a lifetime.
Registering for the event was a breeze as the online registration process was very user friendly and it made coming to the track stress-free. Series admin Nicci Senter sent updates to all competitors via email on facility instructions due to COVID-19, as well as other updates about the race weekend prior to the event. At the track, the series utilized the Discord app, which sent announcements from the series officials as well as posting documents such as updated event schedules making it easy for everyone in the pit area to stay informed. For me, the utilization of the Discord app was actually very useful and I think it should be a concept used by more series in the future. As a society that is always connected with their mobile devices, this reduces the chance of someone in the pits missing an important announcement on PA because they can’t hear it clearly.
The event format is quite unique with Friday being the event practice day with six 8-minute practice sessions. Saturday starts with a morning warm-up, then a 10-minute timed Qualifying, followed by two 12-minute heat races in the afternoon. Sunday ends the weekend with another morning warm-up, followed by a 15-minute Prefinal based on heat points which then leads to the 18-minute Finals. The series utilizes time sessions to ensure the race weekends can prevent delays especially if there is rain that could drag out the day-long that it needs to be.
For me, one of the coolest parts of the series was that the race officiating crew was from my generation of karting. The NKA race officiating crew is comprised of Alec Coates, Bobby Radivoy, and Rusty Ferguson all of whom are in their mid to late twenties. Now, this might be kind of controversial but I am going to say it anyway because it needs to be said. In Canada, for the most part, we have been running with the same National/ Regional officiating crews for the past 20 years. I think it’s time that we start getting some younger karters into these race officiating roles in order to get a fresh perspective as well as allowing the younger generation to learn from the current officials so we know our sport is in good hands moving forward in the future. If some of you are questioning the maturity of these individuals, I can say all three of the Star’s race directors were very professional when dealing with the competitor’s concerns and they were consistent with their calls throughout the weekend. Their performance is also validated by the complete trust they have from Janowski who spent the majority of the last decade being the SKUSA Protour race director.
All of this led to the series actually had a pretty good debut season with the amount of success that it has had while also having to deal with the challenges of organizing races during Covid-19. The majority of the karters in the paddock had very little to complain about as they all are looking forward to next season already. The 2021 season looks to be a promising one with the series adding a fourth round to the championship, which should add to the success the series already has had. The season starts at Go Pro Motorplex on the 9-11 of April than from June 11-13, the series will go to their home track, New Castle Motorsports Park. The third round of the season will see the series return to the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati in Ohio from July 23-25 for the second straight season. Finally, the finale will be held on October 8-10 at a location to be announced. Also, for 2021, the series is looking to bring back Friday appreciation night where they host dinner and games for competitors to enjoy before racing begins on Saturday.
After talking to series promoter Joe Janowski about the future of the regional program he stated that he would love to bring the series to Canada in the future with the potential of having a race in southern Ontario as many of the tracks are in a close radius to the majority of the competitors who race in the series. Also, Janoski would love to see more Canadians coming down to race in the series especially in the Lo206 and shifter categories after fielding interest from some Canadians earlier in the year prior to Covid -19 pandemic closing the border.
Sounds like a lot of fun but how was your weekend?
After reading about the series, I bet quite a few of you are like “Neelan, how did you do?” Well, I am just going to come out and say I wasn’t really that competitive but my goal was to improve every session and have a fun weekend. I rented a kart from Dan Schlosser at Kartwerks to race the LO206 Senior category. The weekend started off with me being nowhere close to the rest of the competitors but by the end of it, I was able to put in lap times to keep fairly close to some of the drivers in the mid-pack.
For those who haven’t been to the Pittsburgh International Race Complex, I would highly recommend everyone to take the drive across the border and race at the facility as it probably is one of the best tracks I have been to. It has some technically challenging corners as well as high-speed sectors with tons of elevation changes making it a real driver track.
It took a few sessions to get adjusted to the kart since it was more than a year since I last raced. Once I started to get up to speed, I was able to consistently improve upon my times and even put in consecutive lap times within the same tenth of a second in the Final which is something that I haven’t done since I was a kid. If there was one area that I do need to improve on it probably would be my physical fitness as by the end of the Final my times dropped off significantly resulting in a seventh-place finish out of the eight karts in the class. But, all in all, I still think it was a great weekend since the goal was to have fun.
I really need to give a special shout-out to Dave Ciotti for helping me out this weekend. It was awesome working with him this weekend and he definitely helped me get up to speed along with the guidance of Dan.
Shoutout for doing right by karting
So, I know this blog post was meant to be written about the Stars Championship and talk about how my weekend went but while thinking about what I wanted to write about I also wanted to mention one of the cooler things I witnessed this weekend. As I had already mentioned I raced on a kart that was provided to me by Dan Schlosser, which was a former TonyKart used by Speed Concept Racing. Instead of trying to sell people at the track new karts, Dan prefers to sell karters well maintained used chassis from various teams and manufacturers to grow the local karting scene at PITT. Let’s face it most people can’t afford to purchase a brand-new kart every year but what Dan has been able to do is provide well-maintained karts no matter what that individual’s budget is, allowing for more families to get into the sport. In fact, he even sold two used Energy Karts on Sunday to two individuals who are new to karting.
When talking to Dan about it he was honest about wanting to help grow karting and for him, it was all about helping out anyone who needed it at the track in order to make them fall in love with the sport. He was previously part of a chassis importer roll but he says by selling used chassis to the local karters he has been able to get more new people in the sport and see them stay in karting for multiple years. He even has been able to get some of the locals who had raced in the past against his son Andy to start racing again. So I just want to thank Dan for being a great ambassador for the sport and that we need more people like him at our local tracks in order to further grow karting.
Anyway, all in all, it was a great weekend. For those of you who are interested in learning more about the Stars Championship Series and their E-sports division feel free to visit their website http://www.starschampionshipseries.com/. They can also be found on their Facebook and Instagram accounts as well.
Photos courtesy: Christian Marsh / NKA Online