SuperNats XXII

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SuperNats XXII

Supernationals

SuperNationals I - 1997
Looking back into the history of karting, and primarily the last ten years, it would be virtually impossible to identify a race that has become more prestigious than the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals. Sure, there are other events that have been around longer, but none has risen to the same level as this annual Las Vegas spectacular, where one driver comes away each year as the outright victor. When the dust settles, only one star is left standing. Last year, it was Canadian Lorenzo Mandarino, and his name was immediately added to a very select list of just eight winning drivers.  

The event itself is massive, drawing a huge entry list every year that features the best of the best in gearbox karting. Drivers who have competed in this special race include current car racing stars like Alex Barron, Memo Gidley, Patrick Long, AJ Allmendinger, Alan Sciuto, Bobby Wilson and two-time winner Scott Speed, America’s current F1 star. The venues have changed over the years, but they have all offered their own panache. From the early days at the Las Vegas Karting Center to the amazing Rio Hotel and now the superb Sam Boyd Stadium, the SuperNationals have always enjoyed an exciting backdrop. And, in this ten-part series, we’ll look back at the last nine editions of the ‘US Open of Shifter Kart Racing’ and then top it all off with a preview of SuperNationals 10, which is shaping up to the best ever.



The inaugural Superkarts! USA SuperNationals was run in November of 1997, although the event was truly the evolution of an existing race held during the previous years by shifter enthusiast and race promoter JR Clasen. After struggling with the program, it was time for a new crew to step in. After taking the reigns of the SKUSA program earlier in the year, developing the package and its solid event staff in the Midwest, SKUSA’s new manager Jim Murley assumed control of the event in ’97 and he was ready to take it all to a new level. A total of 180+ entries turned up at Race Kart City Raceway (later renamed as the Las Vegas Karting Center) that year, all looking for a new organization to provide them with an improved event and a dedicated focus. Shifter kart racing was primed for an explosion, and the inaugural edition of the SuperNationals in 1997 was excellent, providing the platform for the breakout event that would occur just one year later.



The inaugural SuperNationals main event in 125 Moto was won by none other than Alex Barron, one of the most famous American karters to make good in professional motorsports. Barron was a top driver for the Arcadia, CA based JM Racing juggernaut of the 90s, winning kart events all over the country on a Tony Kart. That fall, Barron had just won the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship in a battle over fellow karter and Lynx Racing teammate Memo Gidley by taking the season finale at Laguna Seca. Barron arrived in Las Vegas looking to put an exclamation point on his karting career before heading to CART with Dan Gurney’s All American Racers squad, and he did so with a bang, topping a star-studded field.



Barron bested a tough 125cc Moto grid, edging Bobby Oergel, Curtis Cooksey, Bonnier Moulton and Joe Janowski for the win. Michael Valiante won the 125cc Open class over Jesse Rooke and Philip Giebler while future 125cc frontrunner Steven Robertson bagged the 80cc Junior win over some kid named Jonathan Bomarito (current Atlantic hotshoe) and Colorado’s Ryan Bailey.



Words and photos kindly provided by Rob Howden of eKartingNews.com and Jim Murley. Be sure to check out future installments recounting the events leading up to this year’s 10th annual SKUSA SuperNationals, coming soon.