Penultimate event of 2021 sends program back to greater Chicago area
The third stop of the 2021 Route 66 Sprint Series – presented by MG Tires and Franklin Motorsports – was a return to the Kart Circuit Autobahn facility in Joliet, Illinois. The kart track inside the Autobahn Country Club, south of downtown Chicago, has gone over a makeover since the last series visit in 2017 with the near 100 entries enjoying the expanded layout and new amenities surrounding the circuit. Four of the seven categories on the weekend saw the main events swept by one driver.
Former series champion Brandon Lemke put on a clinic throughout the weekend in the Woltjer Racing Engines KA100 Senior class. A field of 32 drivers took to the track over the two days with Lemke finishing P1 in all six official sessions. With pole position for the Prefinal after posting a 51.822-second lap in qualifying, Lemke led all 10 laps of the Prefinal. Round Four winner Alexander Kardashian stole the led from Lemke at the start of the Final, leading just one lap. Lemke took back control, and showed the way for the rest of the 14-lap main event to earn the victory by just over two seconds. Kardashian ran second with Alex Bertagnoli in third. Nicholas Terlecki was fourth with Josh Hotz in fifth. Lemke bettered his performance on Sunday for Round Six, sweeping the entire day, leading wire-to-wire. Lemke led all the laps of the Prefinal and Final, earning his third victory on the season by 3.3 seconds. Bertagnoli and Kardashian swapped positions on the podium with Hotz improving to fourth ahead of Aidan Fox.
It was nearly the same course of action for Austin Jurs in the KA100 Junior by BBS Race Engine Development division. Austin was the only driver under the 53-second mark in qualifying on Saturday before leading every lap of the Prefinal and Final for a near seven-second advantage. Ava Dobson drove to second ahead of Oliver Cunningham with Quinten McPherson and Austin Olds completing the top-five. Jurs was unable to complete a lap in qualifying on Sunday, allowing Ava Dobson to take top honors. He would come from sixth to take over first by lap three and go on to win the Prefinal. Austin then led all 14 laps of the Final to win by over seven seconds for his fourth victory in six rounds. Dobson repeated as runner-up with Cunningham in third. Tripp Hiller improved to fourth with McPherson in fifth.
A close perfect score on the weekend in the Advance Design Studio Briggs 206 Junior category by Matthew Miller. Zach Kubinski, making his 2021 series debut, set fast time in qualifying with a 59.155-second lap. Miller was second in the session, and then edged out Kubinski for the win in the Prefinal by 41 thousandths. In the Final, Miller led all 14 laps but had to hold off Luke Wackerlin at the line by 55 thousandths. Lukas Kilmek drove to third with Drew Szuch finishing ahead of Kubinski. Miller went on to dominate the action on Sunday, sweeping the day unchallenged. His victory on Sunday was an eight-second advantage, becoming the third different double weekend winner on the season. Kubinski improved to second with Wackerlin in third. Szuch and Bacon Zelenka completed the top-five.
The championship is all but locked up thanks to another two-win weekend for Ava Hanssen in the One Powersports Briggs 206 Sportsman class. The path to both victories was a fight all weekend for Hanssen. Jackson Wolny recorded his first top qualifier honor on Saturday, edging out Ava by 31 thousandths. Wolny led the majority of the Prefinal for the win with Hanssen slipping back to fourth. She quickly moved forward in the Final, and into the lead by the second circuit. Hanssen led the remainder of the race, holding off fast lap driver Brady Schad at the checkered flag for the victory. Wolny ended up third ahead of Jase Petty and Landon Buher. Schad carried that speed overnight into qualifying on Sunday with fast time in the session, quicker than Hanssen by just three hundredths. Hanssen jumped out to the lead and led all 10 laps of the Prefinal. Schad recovered from an issue in the Prefinal to battle Hanssen for the top spot in the Final. He led on lap 10 before Hanssen took back the position. She went on to reach the checkered flag first for her fifth victory of 2021. Schad slipped down to fifth on the final circuit as Petty, who posted fast lap of the race, slipped by for second along with Wolny, and Sarah Bradley.
The Briggs 206 Medium by RLV category welcomed its first two-time winner of 2021, but not before another first-time victor triumphed on Saturday. Round One winner Bryce Mersberger set fast time in qualifying and came away with a tight win in the Prefinal over Jerry Fandrey and Jacob Bolen by five thousandths. The Final was back and forth between Mersberger and Fandrey. The latter was able to reach the checkered flag first with Fandrey earning his first victory of 2021 by 43 thousandths ahead of Mersberger. Bolen was a close third until a bumper penalty dropped him down to fourth, moving Myles James to third while Corey Domenick completed the top-five. Things continued to be close on Sunday after Mersberger set fast time in qualifying. Bryce was able to cross the line first in the Prefinal by only 15 thousandths ahead of Bolen. Mersberger opened up in the Final and went wire-to-wire for his second victory of the season. Bolen settled in second with Nathan Trapp winning the battle for third ahead of Fandrey and Peyton Polarek.
The Mills Pallet Mini Swift division welcomed two new two-time winners on the season. Saturday began with Round Four winner Cash Perkins at the top of the time sheet following qualifying. He and Round Three victor Jackson Wolny battle in the Prefinal with Wolny clipping the line first by 48 thousandths. They continued their fight in the 14-lap Final, coming down to Wolny reaching the checkered flag first by twenty thousandths over Perkins. Round Two winner Sarah Bradley was third with season opener winner Indy Ragan fourth. Brayden Zirves rounded out the top-five. Sunday, Perkins found more speed to be able to sweep the day unchallenged. He went wire-to-wire in the Prefinal after setting fast time in qualifying. He led the first 12 laps of the Final until it was red flagged. Perkins was named the winner after the race was not restarted with Acen Dramailev improving up to second ahead of Bradley. Wolny and Zirves were classified fourth and fifth.
Ethan Tovo and Brady Schad continued their winning ways in the DNJ Intermodal Services Micro Swift class. Schad opened the weekend with fast time in qualifying by two tenths over Tovo. In the Prefinal, Tovo made up for it with a win in the 10-lap race. The two fought for the top spot until the final inches, with Tovo scoring the victory by 55 thousandths at the line for his third on the year. Jackson Tovo was third with Landon Buher fourth and Jacob Modjeski in fifth. The roles flip-flopped on Sunday with Tovo starting out with quick lap in the qualifying session. Schad, who qualified third, found a bit more pace to control the Prefinal for the win. That speed continued into the Final, as Schad led all 14 laps for his second victory of the season. Ethan and Jackson flanked him on the podium with Buher and Isaac Nowlin rounding out the top-five.
The Route 66 Sprint Series concludes the 2021 season with the series finale, scheduled for the September 18-19 weekend at the home of the Badger Kart Club – the Wolf Paving Raceway in Dousman, Wisconsin.