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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | MOTOR SPORTS

Herta Event Tabs Drivers on the Go

November 08, 2000|DARIN ESPER

Kudos to champ car Bryan Herta of Valencia for organizing the Stars of Tomorrow go-kart race Friday through Sunday at the Las Vegas Karting Center.

In the event, drivers from the Valley area bolstered its reputation as a fertile area for producing motorsports talent.

Herta and his peers from the Championship Auto Racing Teams series gave an inkling of what go-kart racing is all about during the 20-lap Stars of Today race.

Memo Gidley, who turned in an impressive performance in the CART series as a midseason replacement for Norberto Fontana in the Reynard-Toyota owned by John Della Penna, took the lead from Paul Tracy at the halfway point when Tracy's kart got up on two wheels in a tight corner.

Gidley ran away from the field, but Herta, Glendale-native Richie Hearn and Casey Mears staged an exciting battle for second place.

Local go-kart racers Kevin Christensen of Castaic and Charlie Kimball of Camarillo earned potential career-advancing opportunities, as did a driver who competes for a team owned by Tim Holden of Canoga Park.

Christensen, 20, who has been a racing fan for 15 years, will realize a life-long dream Dec. 11-12 when he tests a champ car owned by Bobby Rahal, 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner, on a temporary road course set up in the parking lot of California Speedway at Fontana.

Christensen's first-place finish in the pro superbox race earned him the test-drive, and a three-day scholarship to the Skip Barber Racing School beginning Nov. 28.

Holden's driver, Jason Bowles of Ontario, won the pro 80cc gearbox race to earn the same prize as Christensen.

Kimball, 15, finished second in the junior superbox and junior 80cc gearbox races to earn a test with a 125cc gearbox team owned by Tracy, and a 125cc Gearbox Driving School scholarship.

Christensen used drafting and a slingshot pass on the final lap of the 30-lap event, made possible by the unique configuration of Las Vegas Karting Center's 13-turn, seven-eighths-mile road course, to earn his prize.

"With such a long straightaway, there's a lot of drafting, which is unusual for a go-kart track," said Christensen, who competed in the Barber Dodge series this year on a scholarship. "That last lap of the race was pretty nerve-racking. I wanted to wait a little longer, but the other guys started going for it with six or seven laps to go.

"The draft really evens out all the karts, and you just had to be in the right place at the right time, which I was. Being in the second spot at the white flag is the choice spot to be."

Christensen finished eighth in the Barber Dodge points standings, with a victory at Road America and two other top-five finishes. He plans to compete in the series next year if he can secure the $40,000 in sponsorship money needed to campaign in the series, and will again compete in pro superbox and pro 125cc gearbox go-kart races for Dave Thompson of San Diego.

Bowles, who celebrated his 18th birthday Saturday, qualified sixth for the pro 80cc gearbox race but moved up four places at the start. He spent the first half of the race running nose-to-tail behind Brett Buckwalter of Novato before assuming the lead when the chain on Buckwalter's go-kart broke.

"I got a really good start, and the guy at the head of my row bogged down and almost stalled," Bowles said. "Everyone else stacked up behind him so I moved up the outside and into second place. The start made all the difference. I saw a hole open up for me and I took it."

Jonathan Bomarito, 18, of Salian, Calif., won the pro 125cc gearbox race to earn a test drive of Rahal's car and a scholarship to racing school.

Kevin Cross of El Cajon was briefly knocked unconscious in a crash on the 16th lap of the pro 125cc gearbox race when his go-kart went over the rear wheel of a kart driven by Matt Jaskol of Las Vegas and into a retaining fence. Cross regained consciousness and was transported to University Medical Center for observation, where he received a post-race visit from Herta.

A.J. Allmendinger of Hollister, 17, competing in his first race as a member of Tracy's team, was one of two drivers selected by a panel of champ car drivers and Barber Racing School instructors to test Rahal's car and receive a racing school scholarship.

Buckwalter was another recipient of a test-drive and scholarship.

*

The Los Angeles Kart Club will hold its final race of the season Saturday at Saugus Speedway, starting at noon. . . . Cory Kruseman of Ventura will attempt to duplicate his success in the Non Winged World Championship for sprint cars Friday and Saturday at Perris Auto Speedway. Kruseman, who finished second in 1999, is second in the points behind Richard Griffin of Silver City, N.M. . . . The SpeedFreaks radio program, hosted by Kenny Sargent of Van Nuys, will feature National Hot Rod Assn. drivers Jack Coughlin, Gary Scelzi and John Force during a two-hour program Sunday at 9 p.m. on KLSX-FM 97.1. The NHRA season concludes Thursday through Sunday at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona.

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