ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – Mason Chelootz and Connor Lund were double winners on the weekend and Jordon Musser won the King of the Streets crown at this year’s Rock Island Grand Prix kart races. Presenting Sponsors are AT&T and Casey’s General Stores.
More than 230 race entries representing competitors from coast to coast as well as Bermuda and Canada competed for cash payouts sponsored by Jumer’s Casino & Hotel, a rich list of contingency prizes, and the coveted “Rock” trophy.
With an economy still struggling, the 4-cycle classes produced the largest fields of the weekend – both the utilitarian Clone classes and the new sealed, purpose-built for racing Briggs & Stratton 206cc motor.
Chelootz (Top Kart) from Hoston ,Texas, and Lund (Arrow) from Davis, Illinois, were the big winners. Chelootz won the TAG Senior race sponsored by AT&T and Rotax Senior sponsored by Sunbelt Rentals. He also crossed the line in first in the Leopard event, but was DQ’d in tech giving the win to Canadian Cory Cacciavillani (Kosmic). Lund edged Cale Downs (Coyote) and Scott “Skitchy” Barnes from Bermuda (Birel) to win the Briggs & Stratton 206 race, sponsored by Briggs & Stratton, and followed with an easy win in 4-cycle Clone Heavy sponsored by Schurr Power Racing while finishing third in Clone Medium.
For the second time in his career, Musser (Birel) won the King of the Street stock Honda race sponsored by McDonalds Restaurants, with Jake French (Birel) second and Colton Aldridge (Tony Kart) third. Lance Lane (DR Kart) won the 125cc gearbox Masters class sponsored by CBS Channel 4.
"In 2009, four of the top six qualifiers were all from the same town, but we were friends, not teammates,'' Musser said. "This time, three of the top four finishers were working together. Both feelings are pretty cool, getting bragging rights on the guys you see all of the time, to being part of a real team effort this weekend.''
Runner-up Jake French, the polesitter, and fourth-place Cordell Secrest (Birel) are teammates of Musser's. Together those three also swept the top three qualifying spots.
"I don't think a team has ever done that here,'' said Musser. "After the rain in qualifying, we all got together and said, `What can we do to get faster? What do we know works here?' So we made some great adjustments together that paid off.''
The big prize of the weekend was awarded to Brennan Harrington, a 17 year-old driver from Illinois. He received a scholarship to the three-day Skip Barber Driving School at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. That will be followed by a scholarship to the Skip Barber Karting Shootout at Virginia International Raceway where he could win a fully-paid season in the Skip Barber racing series. Scholarships were presented by Skip Barber Racing Schools and the IZOD IndyCar series. Alternates are Alex Mayer of Pennsylvania and Georgia Henneberry from Missouri.
All winners also received Oakley sunglasses and top finishers in the Briggs 206, Clone Medium Series and Komet Senior received a karting jacket and gloves from K1 Race Gear. There were also contingency prizes from Honda Performance Development, Rotax Max Challenge/MAXSPEED, MG and Vega tires, X30 engines and DR chassis.
A number of regular winners did not make the trip this year, opening the door for a number of first-time winners to take the checkered flag from flagman Tommy Argy III. Tony Jump (Margay) from Illinois won Yamaha SuperCan Heavy sponsored by Casey’s General Stores, Wisconsin’s Jesse Clossey (Coyote) won Clone Medium, Dustin Stross, Florida, (DR Kart) won the TAG Junior race sponsored by 61 Kartway, Killian Keaveny from Minnesota (Top Kart) won Junior SuperCan and Bill McLaughlin Jr., Indianapolis, (Birel) won the Yamaha SuperCan Medium race.
After a four-year drought at Rock Island Grand Prix, Jump said winning one of the Rock trophies ranks right up there with anything else on his racing resume.
"I'm going to take this flag and plant it right in front of my house so everybody can see it,'' Jump joked while waving the winners' checkered flag. “`The Rock' will go right up there on the mantel with the national titles. This has been a long time in coming. Finally I got one.''
Jump said the win was important because the world's largest karting street race is an unofficial national title, with top-flight competitors coming from all over the country, as well as some other parts of the globe.
"We always seem to contend here, but we always seem to run into bad luck, too,'' Jump said. "Last year, I was running second when I hit the barrier. But this time, we finally got it done.''
There were some repeat winners. Caleb Loniewski from New York (Margay) won the Pro Open class sponsored by L&W Bedding, Ohio’s Brian McHattie (Exprit) won TAG Masters and Tony Neilson, Iowa, ((Margay) won Komet Senior.
Loniewski, 26, a professional mechanic and tuner at a New York kart shop, used his knowledge to craft a dominating winner in the unrestricted class with Lynn Haddock providing the engine.
"We just had a beast to handle,'' Loniewski said after a seven-second victory over Jump. "I wonder what we could have done if we would have been able to turn her loose Saturday instead of running in the rain.''
The only challenge for the polesitter was on the start, where Indiana's Bill McLaughlin Jr. got the jump. Loniewski quickly regained control and clipped off record-setting laps after that.
"I wish more pros would race in this class,'' said Loniewski. "It's a blast, getting to do anything you can think of to go faster. It's a flashback to the old days of karting. It's pure racing.''
McHattie was equally thrilled with the win.
"So it's nice to finally turn it around,'' McHattie said. "We spend god-awful amounts of money to compete in this sport, but to take the checkered flag, and do a victory lap, and get a chance to talk to (the media). Well, hey, that makes it all worth it.''
His winning margin was the smallest of the day -- 0.274 seconds ahead of defending champ John Dixon of Indiana. The victory also was McHattie's first since claiming a Superkarts! USA national title last year.
"We made a last-minute change going to a different wheel set on the kart and it made a big difference,'' McHattie said. "I can't thank my guys enough.''
Neilson was happy to win in front of home-town fans.
"It takes a lot of hard work and effort to win at this race and a lot of people don't understand that,'' said Neilson. "You don't just show up and drive here. The wins are not just given to you.”
The weekend started out with a show and race demonstration by the Vintage Kart Association in light rain Saturday featuring karts from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Despite the lack of rain tires, these old-timer racers took to the track and put on a show.
There was also a Car Show, Super Cup Car demonstration and nightly outdoor concerts and other entertainment.
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AT&T is the largest telecommunications company in the United States and one of the largest in the world. AT&T is the recognized world leader in providing IP-based communications services to business and the U.S. leader in providing wireless, high speed Internet access, local and long distance voice, and directory publishing and advertising services. As part of its "three screen" integration strategy, AT&T is expanding video entertainment offerings to include such next-generation television services as AT&T U-verse TV. With 55.8 million subscribers, AT&T provides international voice services to virtually every country and territory in the world. It is a global company that sets the industry standard for a new era of integrated communications and entertainment services. The AT&T Foundation has contributed more than $1.8 billion to nonprofit organizations around the country, putting it among the five largest corporate foundations in the United States. (www.att.com)
Casey’s General Stores, with headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa, operates 1,645 stores in 11 Midwestern states. The first store was opened in 1968 by founder Don Lamberti. The majority of the group’s stores are in communities with a population of 5,000 or less. Casey’s success has been attributed to clean stores, restrooms and the friendly employees who pride themselves on customer service. Casey’s customers know that inside each store they will find dedicated, helpful and well-trained employees, exceptional prepared food and a clean environment in which to shop.(www.caseys.com)
The Rock Island Grand Prix is hosted by the Downtown Rock Island Arts and Entertainment District which features retail shops, excellent restaurants, live entertainment, dinner theater, art galleries and comedy clubs all within walking distance of the host hotel. Jumer’s Casino & Hotel is just a short drive away. Rock Island is located on the Mississippi River three hours west of Chicago in an area known as the Quad-Cities which straddles the river and the Illinois/Iowa border. It is at the intersection of Interstate highways 74, 88 and 80 and is served by Quad City International Airport in Moline, Ill. (www.ridistrict.com