Preview: Rock Island Grand Prix

The countdown to "The Rock" has begun.... this Labor Day weekend race drivers from all over the world will gather in downtown Rock Island for the world's largest go kart street race. Junior Open Wheel Talent will be on hand to provide live updates and coverage throughout the weekend for the King of the Streets(KoS) event and the CIK ICC class.

With the anticipation building, I figured now would be a good time to do a preview of the upcoming weekend and it's gearbox competitors. (KoS, ICC)

I received the current entry list this morning (8/27/08) for both the King of the Streets class and the CIK ICC class. I must say I was rather surprised at the lack of entries (at this point) in the two headline classes considering the $11,000 purse between the two. The King of the Streets or SuperPro class is the headline class and will provide the winner $4000 in prize money and a free entry into the SKUSA SuperNationals in Las Vegas, Nevada. It's important to note that the registration for the RIGP doesn't close until Saturday morning, so the entry numbers may increase. With that in mind, I was still shocked to see the lack of numbers, so I decided to dig into the situation....

SKUSA (Superkarts USA) sanctions the King of the Streets event and has been a huge promoter of the race in past years. After doing a little research, I was shocked to see that SKUSA had actually overlapped their final Southern California ProKart Challenge event with the Rock Island Grand Prix. On top of this, their website www.superkartsusa.com has only one event featured: The SKUSA SuperNationals XII. I found all this rather intriguing after reading Tom Kutscher's statements in May regarding the King of the Streets event...

"Tom Kutscher, CEO of Superkarts! USA says, “Since purchasing SKUSA a few years ago, I’ve been bombarded from all karting circles with a message that stands out: ‘Please continue to support the King of the Streets program, as Roger’s tireless efforts have made the race and the RIGP the backbone of the Midwest karting scene.’ I couldn’t agree more. I’ve raced it more than once, and it’s a terrific weekend. The atmosphere is truly a slice of Americana, and that makes Roger’s event the ideal pillar for continuing to position our sport globally as well. Thanks to MG Tires for their support, too.”
In all fairness I will say that Tom and SKUSA have done a fantastic job promoting the SKUSASupernationals and their ProKart Challenge events, but it seems that the RIGP has fallen off their radar since May. Hopefully the RIGP (KoS) entries are just slow and we will see a much larger/deeper field come Saturday. I pondered the entries for quite awhile this morning, thinking the low numbers might just be due to the high gas prices... which may and probably does play a major role in your average privateer effort, but I find it hard to believe that some of the "Stars of Karting" ICC factory drivers couldn't afford the trip. After looking at the Stars of Karting divisional points this year, I began to wonder what the purpose of a East/West division is, ...with many of the top pilots running both coasts.

The Rock Island Grand Prix is my favorite event of the year and I truly hope to see more of you out there. Without further ado, here are your competitors.....

King of the Streets and ICC field (Entry as of 8/27/08)

Scott "Skitchy" Barnes
: The 24 year old from Bermuda will make his return to the Rock after winning the 125cc Moto class in 2007. Barnes has never had much success in the ICC or the KoS class, but this may be his year. (KoS & ICC entry)

Patrick Malacarne: of Belleville, Ill. is another returning driver (known mostly for his road racing efforts) who finished inside the top ten last year in ICC but failed to finish the KoS event as he was out on lap 28. Malacarne finished fifth in the 2006 125cc Moto class. (KoS & ICC entry)

Jonathan Koorsen of Marshalltown, IA is no stranger to the Rock, a loyal attendee who has raced both 80cc and 125cc gearbox karts through the downtown street circuit. (KoS & ICC entry)

Nick Johnson of Maple Grove, Minnesota has been racing at the Rock since 2004. The University of Minnesota engineering student has never had much success at the Grand Prix but has shown his speed on several occasions... Most recently by completing a top 10 finish in the Stars of Karting ICC race at Shawano, WI. (KoS & ICC entry)

Derek Crockett of Cahokia, Illinois has a decent resume, but has failed to finish in his last two attempts at the KoS Crown. If the PG Racing driver can put together a solid qualifying run and stay out of trouble during the race, he should place well. (KoS & ICC entry)

Justin de Sa of Edwards, Ontario, Canada will be making his first Rock Island appearance. The now 22 year old, focused his efforts on the K1 80cc kart prior to making the jump to the 125cc ICC class. The Canadian recently swept the WKA 125 Shifter class at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (KoS & ICC entry)

Alex Conlin of Indianapolis, In. has been focusing on seat time this season, running uncontested (due to a lack of entries) for the most part in the Great Lakes Pro 125 shifter category. He could be sharp this year if he manages to stay out of trouble. He participated in Rock Island last year, driving in the ICC class, unfortunately his weekend came to an early conclusion on lap one. (KoS & ICC entry)

Kyle Wiegand, another Indiana native, is the clear favorite this weekend based on past results. Enough said.
2007- 2nd (KoS), 1st (ICC)
2006- 1st (ICC)
2005- 1st (KoS), 1st (ICC)
2004- 1st (KoS)
2003- 2nd (KoS)
2002- 1st (ICC)
2001- 2nd (K1-80cc)
(KoS & ICC)

Alex Speed of Manteca, California is the younger brother of Scott Speed (ex-Formula One driver) and the two have grown up dominating the U.S. shifter kart scene. Alex took nearly a two year hiatus from the seat, but has come back right where he left off. He is one of the smoothest drivers I have ever watched, making him another clear favorite for a win this weekend. (KoS & ICC entry)

Cole Mathewson of Indianapolis, In., will be making his second King of the Streets start driving for Evolution karting. This kid could make a splash, should he find the right set-up and put in a solid qualifying effort. Michael Crawford of Michael Crawford Motorsports is a believer. (KoS & ICC entry)

Kevin Broderick of Plattsburgh, New York has been around the 125cc scene for awhile now and will be trying his hand at the ICC category. Broderick has been running select road racing events this year, competing alongside Justin de Sa. (ICC only)

John Meier: Local racer from Bellevue, Iowa will try his hand at the Rock this year after finishing second in the Sprint Kart Speedway Sr. Briggs category in 2007. (ICC only)

Don't forget that the driver with the best combined results for the KoS and ICC events will receive an Indy Lights test with SWE Racing. Kyle Wiegand took advantage of the opportunity last year and has been working on putting together the funding for a ride with SWE this season.

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