The 2017 season is one of the most intense schedules I’ve attempted in years, but along with more races in new locations, we have also made sure to add a few new fun things to the mix, and to start that off we decided to enter a Kart Enduro with the Mid Atlantic Kart Series at the new Dominion Raceway. Having never competed in anything beyond your basic 10-minute race at most rental kart tracks, I knew a 3-hour endurance race would be interesting and exhausting to say the least. As usual, my two main partners in racing crime; Savanna Little and Brian Kleeman, joined me as a trio of over-qualified and under-experienced kart drivers. We were excited to get started and had no clue what to expect.
We were told by the organizers that the karts would only last a max of 45 minutes on fuel and we had better bring them in before that to swap karts and potentially swap drivers with a mandatory minimum of 4 driver/kart swaps throughout the 3-hr race. We had Kleeman start and immediately realized most of this race was going to be based on which kart we received and how well the strategy worked for us. After a solid start we called him in at 40 minutes and we put Savanna in the kart. As she left pit lane and was immediately passed by most of the field on the banked straightaway, we realized she had gotten a bad kart. And by bad I mean like half speed at best. We waved her in and had her switch karts, thinking it was just bad luck, only to have the marshal put her in a new kart that was just as slow.
After a quick and frantic discussion with the organizer we called her back in and realized the person prepping the kart had left the choke on the first two karts, slowly it down dramatically. Finally, after losing 3 laps to the field, Savanna got into a fast kart and quickly got to work. Having burned up nearly 12 minutes, and checking off 3 of our mandatory 4 pit stops in swapping karts, we ended up keeping her for a full stint and she made up multiple laps with some of the fastest laps in that group of drivers. As the sun set and fell into darkness under the oval track lights, it was about to be my turn to hop in the kart and do what would have to be the longest stint of the day. If we called Savanna in with 46 minutes left, we were hoping I could finish the race one tank of gas, saving us from a costly final kart swap.
Following a heroically fast stint by Savanna, I hopped in the kart in 3rd place and got to work. I quickly realized how demanding the karts where and 10 minutes into my stint I realized that 45 minutes in the small metal kart was going to be a reaaaalllly long time on such a bumpy track. In a few laps I learned the track and settled into a rhythm and focused on where was fastest to apex and where was fastest to slide. After the first 20 minutes (thanks to notifications on our dry erase pit board) we had gotten back on the same lap as 1st and 2nd place and we were fighting on the lead lap. Working harder and harder every lap and our strategy starting to pay off, I dug through another 15 minutes and with 10 minutes left on the clock for the race I was informed that we were P1 after the leaders had to pit.
It was a great feeling knowing after all of our issues with bad karts, we had made the strategy work and Savanna’s fast laps and my long stint had us in position to win our first every Kart Enduro. As the last few minutes clicked by I began to slow down my pace a bit and make sure our 45+ minute stint to finish the race wouldn’t leave us out of fuel on the last lap. Luckily that never happened and we ended up crossing the finish line to see the checker flag. I was ecstatic, but upon looking at my team mates on the straight away and seeing another group cheering, I realized we may not have won. Completely and utterly exhausted, Savanna and Brian helped my crippled body out of the kart and informed me that the transponder system had double pinged a few times early on in my stint, giving the timing people, and our team, the impression that strategy had launched us to 1st place. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and after removing 3 false laps we were relegated to 3rd place, a solid but disappointing finish given the fact we had thought we won. It was a great experience and we can’t wait to do it again later this season, only this time with a bit more prep and hydration, because it was rough!
For video of some of my stint check out my Go Pro Helmet Cam Video on Facebook.