Wicked weather in the Pacific Northwest couldn’t slow down these drivers from making history. In the debut of the NWKA ICP Cup, formerly known as the Northwest Gold Cup, 360 entries over two days of racing set the record for the largest karting event in the region and one of the best attended regional karting events I have ever experienced as CKN.
From the moment I stepped foot at Horn Rapids Karting Track in Richland, Washington, home of Tri-Cities Kart Club, there was a refreshing vibe circulating the paddock. No, it wasn’t a major national event that I’ve become used to attending, but a regional race where everyone was involved, smiling, excited and proud to be a part of the history. It brought me back to the days when I raced as a kid, seeing the different levels of experience by teams, drivers and parents acting as mechanics. I got to meet many people who couldn’t believe a member of the karting media from Canada was in attendance, and couldn’t hold back telling me how they’ve never witnessed the paddock and parking lot so full.
On the grid, it was a steady roll of karts all day long, with only one category under ten karts, TaG Cadet had nine. On the flipside, 43 drivers entered Briggs Junior 2, Briggs Junior Heavy for those on the east, which required them to be split into two groups for qualifying and their heat races before an LCQ helped set the final grid.
Sure there were hiccups throughout the weekend, but when an organization is breaking records, they are challenged with situations they’ve never experienced before and from my eyes, everything was handled in a professional manner and no sessions were cut short.
On the track, the racing was spectacular on a very exciting Horn Rapids Kart Track. The narrow circuit had some old school tight-knit racing vibes, while a four-part chicane section to end the lap separated the strong from the weak when setting a fast time. Saturday started out very wet and barely dried out, while Sunday was the opposite, dry all day with the exception of a short downpour of rain during the first Final of the day that also featured a little hail for good measure. It truly was a challenging weekend for everyone and still, the smiles were present.
It is pretty rare these days that I show up to a race track and recognize less than a dozen racers, especially with 180 entries, but by the end of the weekend there were more than a couple drivers that really stood out to me.
Juniors Jesse Webb, Caleb Shrader, Mario Gil and Kason Lau all pulled double duty this weekend and were constant front-runners. Each won a Final and added at least a second top-five result while racing in the most competitive categories on track. Trey Arnzen and Evan Arnold were also right in the mix all weekend and deserve a shout out.
Massimo Valiante, the son Italian Motors great Michael Valiante, along with Kaleb Keck and Ben Corkery were the class of the Cadets. In the rain, Valiante won a Pre-Final by 28 seconds and swept both the TaG Cadet finals. He had to settle for second in the Briggs Junior 1 races though as Corkery and Keck won by nearly identical margins of victory, 0.165 seconds on Saturday and 0.164 on Sunday.
Taking to the track in Senior TaG and Shifter, Kyle Wick was a man on a mission. He swept both races on Saturday and nearly did the same on Sunday, except he spun on lap one of a wet TaG Final and clawed his way back to the leader, only to cross the finish line a mere 0.013 seconds behind race winner David Schorn. So close!
The other race winners were Monroe Jordan and Richard Carson in Briggs Senior, Nikolas Goodfellow doubling down in TaG Heavy and David Schorn doing the same in World Formula.
With the mix of rainy and dry conditions and drivers only allowed one set of slick and wet tires for the entire weekend, tire management was vital. The Le Cont tires handled both conditions very well and it was great to see WR Motorsports trackside to support the Le Cont brand and provide insight to those with questions.
There was a representation of a number of kart brands throughout the paddock but I couldn’t help but notice how many Italkart’s there were on track. Italian Motors was a very busy operation on the weekend and a huge reason for the successful growth of the series. The fifth and final stop of the ICP Cup will travel the home of Italian Motors USA, Sumas International Motorsports Academy, in August and there could be even more Italkart machines on track.
My final thought from the great race weekend was the use of standings starts. I was advised about trouble in years past with the Briggs Junior 2 grids that saw many crashes and the requirement of the red flag. New in 2019, the ICP Cup introduced standing starts for Briggs Junior 2 and Briggs Senior and for regional competition with a wide array of experience levels, this was a great way to keep turn one clean for the classes with big grids. Part of me would like to see them do this for the Junior 1 drivers as well, as it was a struggle to get them to stay in their formation before the green flag was waved. While the Briggs 206 karts aren’t quite like shifters when the green flag waved, it added a new challenge for drivers to learn and develop a talent for.
Round two of the NWKA ICP Cup will hit the track in just over a months time. Racers will invade the circuit at the Spokane Kart Racing Association in Spokane, Washington on May 24 to 26.