Wednesday: Testing (4 Sessions)
Thursday: Testing (4 Sessions)
Friday: Testing (1 Session) / Qualifying / First Heat
Saturday: Testing (1 Session) / 2 Heat races
Sunday: Morning Warm-up / Final
(Heat Races 12 laps, Final 25 laps)
What was new?
Almost every aspect of the SuperNationals 17 was different for me as a driver. My regular team Energy Corse Factory had opted to miss the SuperNationals in order to complete the CIK World Championships in Bahrain. I opted to do the SuperNationals, mainly because this race had been on my mind the whole year. It is without a doubt the most fun race on the calendar and I honestly did not want to miss it. It was disappointing to miss the World Champs after such a strong year in Europe with Energy Corse but I could not pass up the Supernats! With Energy Corse not there I would partner with Buddy Rice Racing on an Energy chassis. My regular mechanic had to be with Energy Corse Factory in Europe, so I had the opportunity of Buddy Rice tuning for me. For my engine package I had Jesus from P1 Engines supply me with some rockets. I have worked with Jesus since the beginning of my karting career back in the comer cadet days in IKF so it was awesome to reunite with my long time engine builder. I want to thank everyone involved for making this race happen.
The Track: SuperNationals XVII
The track was located in the parking lot of the Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. It was definitely the most abstract racing circuit I have been on this season racing on nothing but proper racing circuits with Energy Corse in Europe. In dry conditions on a parking lot you really had to adapt your driving style. By adapting I mean drive the chassis into the corner as hard as you could, and slide the thing around the corner. It seemed the more aggressive you were the more time you lost. That was just the fastest way around I found. Definitely a lot different from Europe where you find the rubber groove and let the chassis do the work while maintaining roll speed. The special details about the SuperNationals XVII track was of coarse the low grip level conditions, and the famous orange barriers that surrounded the outskirts of the track. If you slightly got it wrong in any of the corners it could have deadly consequences. Overall I thought the layout was good, it was fun to drive with 3 good passing spots and a fourth if you had enough guts. The track created for some good racing and I was pretty happy with it.
Track Facility: 7/10
Track Layout: 7.5/10
Track Location: 10/10
The Location: Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Nevada and the county seat of Clark County. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city known primarily for gambling, shopping, fine dining, and nightlife and is the leading financial and cultural center for Southern Nevada. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its consolidated casino–hotels and associated entertainment.
Promising looks to a long event ahead.
The first test day on Wednesday was a pretty standard first test day. All we wanted to do was run over everything, we knew that the track would change a lot after the first day so we didn’t go for a track record on the first day, we just wanted to be in the ball park so when it came to crunch time we could challenge for a top position. Another thing about the first test day was the last session set the fast and slow group for the rest of the week so it was extremely important to make that fast group which was the top 40 drivers out of the 90 driver field. The first session for me did not go as planned. We warmed the engine up on the stand and got it up to temp where it should be. On the first lap I was easy as it was slightly off temp of where you can run it on kill mode. Second lap I kept it flat on the straight when the temp was within a high enough temp you could do so. Unfortunately I should have given it another lap, because at the end of the straight the piston stuck. Really disappointing on your first run out, due to it putting you behind a session at all times compared to your competitors. All sessions after that we’re easy sailing. The kart and engine combo was solid and my driving was up to par. We we’re top ten from there on overall. Really happy that we overcame the rough start and at the end of the day I knew we could challenge for P1 in qualifying if we opened up the wick but it was the first day.
Rain brings new challenges to the table
Thursday brought completely new challenges to the game. With the skies opening up and rain being poured down in Vegas I knew it was going to be a rough day. Don’t get me wrong, I love racing in the rain. But Tag Sr. was set to practice in the night and the Supernats was already 3 hours behind schedule before we even started our sessions. On top of that, the parking lot the track sat on was the run off for the Rio. So there were huge puddles for us to deal with on track. One slight mistake and it would have been disastrous for any driver. Lucky team BRK and I we’re prepared for the rain bringing plenty of rain tires for our team to compete in the wet conditions unlike many other competitors. All throughout the rain we we’re fast but nothing special. We knew that when it counted we would probably pull of a top ten wet qualifying if that was the case of conditions. So there was still room for improvement. All throughout the day of sessions we we’re top ten again playing with many different setups as I was struggling with trust with the chassis. In the rain I am really particular with the chassis. In the dry you can give me a cardboard box and I will push the thing as fast as I can get it to go. With the rain I need to be comfortable. I am not very tall and in Tag Sr. there was a lot of weight so I could not make the chassis work as I had been able to do in KF Junior in Europe. That being said even when our complete package driver included wasn’t perfect we were still a force to be reckoned with. In the end Thursday was a decent day, but we would be brainstorming for more speed for Friday.
Vegas lives up to its expectations
Vegas lived up to it’s expectations, gambling. But instead of playing black or red, it was wet or dry. Friday started off decent with a top ten overall in full wet conditions. Who would have guessed it though, as the rain stopped at lunch it started to dry. No sun would mean it was a slow drying process and of coarse when it came time to qualify half our Tag Sr. field was wets and the other half was dry’s. I knew it would be dry enough to run slicks. That wasn’t the gamble really. The gamble was the setup, what sprocket, and what do we do with the chassis? B. Rice and I discussed it but I mean it was so hard to assume. We had never faced these conditions with the track before so we took an estimated guess that didn’t put us where we would have liked to be which was 21st overall. But one upside to the situation, group A qualifying meant I was on the inside in 11th for my heats! I knew we could do it, but there was a lot on my plate now as I needed three solid heats to put us in our goal range which was a top ten starting position.
On grid for our first heat in the night on Friday it starts to rain. I couldn’t believe it, again we would have to quickly make a huge choice that would decide our fate for the first heat. B. Rice made a great call and opted to just keep our dry setup on, and that the rain would shortly pass. Luckily as soon as the green flag dropped the rain had quit. For the first 2-3 laps of the heat the rain tires we’re slightly faster but the slicks by the end dominated. We moved up from 11th to 8th. Not bad but not great, we just needed a better start. That was our major problem for the first heat but it was difficult to have a better start then we did due to the tricky conditions. All in all it was a solid first heat with the difficult conditions and it was definitely something we could build off of.
The BRK boys and I came back with vengeance with the third day of rain on Saturday in the morning warm up. We we’re P4 overall in the rain and I felt very comfortable in the car. Both heats we’re completed with rain tires, but the track was drying. Again we we’re faced with new conditions that we had not come upon before in the weekend. The first heat was another solid run to P7. The second heat was pretty much dry but rain tires were what everyone ran. On this particular heat we we’re off with chassis and sprocket. It was our most difficult heat, as I really had to defend my position to not loose much ground from a stellar start. In the end we took P11. Not bad, our finished maybe weren’t impressive but we finished all three. That is what gave us a P10 start position for the final. We knew we could work with that, just had to have a good start for the final and we we’re in line to win the thing if it was dry like it forecasted.
Sun breaks the dark for SuperSunday
Sure enough after three straight days of cold temperatures and rain in Las Vegas, the sun that arrived on scene for SuperSunday and added some much-needed positive buzz in the SuperNationals paddock. I was ecstatic with dry conditions because I knew we we’re very competitive when the track was dry and the conditions were constant. The warm-up was a throw away for us as I found the correct carb setup and I didn’t want to run my girl to hard. Save the horses when you need them!
Finally what everyone had been working all week for, it was the Main Event! Starting on the outside wasn’t an end to the world. I though it would work out fine. Boy did I think wrong. The rows in front of me we’re outrageously aggressive with each other and before I knew it most of the mid pack of the Tag Sr. field was in a crash in corner one. There
was literally not away around this one. With determination I pulled my kart out of the carnage, jumped back in and fired it up. Half a lap behind the next driver I would finally catch a break. On a separate incident a driver cracked the water barrier with water leaking onto the track, which brought out the double yellow. I regained the half a lap and got to start at the tail end of the 40-kart field single file. They red flagged the race, and then restarted single file in the same order as we last crossed the line. From dead last on the single file restart which was around 40th I drove all the way up to 11th by the end of the 18 laps they gave us to finish the race. Pretty impressive drive to claw my way back up the field with a bent chassis. Of coarse not what we we’re looking for, but at the end of the day we turned a bad situation into a good one and for that I was happy with my SuperNationals XVII Tag Sr. debut! Big things to come for next year and my career, and I cannot wait! Stay tuned!!
This all could not be possible without the supporters and partners of Parker Thompson Racing. Thank you very much to Sylvan Lake RV, RLV, Bell Racing Helmets, Tillett Racing Seats, Active Enterprise, Polen Designs, St. Gabriel Cyber School, CanadianKartingNews.com, Racing Against Cancer, Tillotson Carburetors, Energy Corse, P1 Engines, Buddy Race Karting. For more information check out www.parkerthompsonracing.com or Parker Thompson Racing on Facebook and Twitter @parkertracing.