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Santa Maria host IKF National Championships

Santa Maria host IKF National Championships

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The engines were roaring once again on the south side of the Santa Maria Public Airport Thursday.

Not the roar of the jet engines, although they could be heard in the background.

These were the engines of finely tuned karts – the small race cars that used to be called Go Karts.

The International Karting Federation (IKF) is staging its 2-cycle Sprint Grand Nationals on the Santa Maria Karting Association’s (SMKA) .7-mile championship track this weekend.

“This is a great track – no doubt about it,” said race director Don Maloney, who’s come down from his Hollister home to oversee the action. “The weather here is the best. Last year, we held the Grand Nationals in Riverside – it was 110 degrees. The year, before we were in Bakersfield and it was also 110 degrees. The year before that, we were in Medford, Ore. and they had a heat wave – and it was 110 degrees. Santa Maria has the best racing weather. It’s good to be back.”

The last time the IKF held a Grand National championship in Santa Maria was in 2008.

The IKF held its Region 7 championship (the IKF has 13 California regions) at the SMKA track in 2010 then the track shut down after the club’s lease was terminated by the Santa Maria Airport board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

It took nearly two years before the board and FAA approved a new lease that got our local speed demons – mostly youngsters between the ages of five and 17 with a handful of adult racers thrown in – back on track.

Now the IKF has chosen Santa Maria as the host of one of its premier events.

“We’re glad to be back. It should be an exciting weekend of racing,” said IKF president Roger Miller, a San Jose native who is also happy to beat the heat just down the 101 from his hometown. “Today is a practice day, then Saturday and Sunday we’ll be racing all day.”

The drivers come from all over to compete in seven championship divisions Friday and six more on Saturday.

“There will be practice sessions on both Saturday and Sunday,” said Miller. “Then we’ll have qualifying, pre-main racing and the main event championship finals.”

“So after practice, we go out to see who can qualify that fastest. The fastest qualifier in each class wins a “Screaming Eagle,” said Senior Division racer Chance Skaufel. “You earn your starting position for the pre-main race through qualifying. Then your finish in the pre-main determines your starting position for the main event. That’s where you can win a ‘Duffy.’”

The ‘Duffy’ championship trophy is named for Duffy Livingstone, who is considered the godfather of the go-kart.

Skaufel, 17, just graduated from Pioneer Valley High School and will be attending Hancock College in the fall.

When he wasn’t on the PVHS campus, or, before that, a student at Kunst Junior High, he was a familiar face around the SMKA track and a regular winner of local, regional and national races.

“I kept racing when the track closed down,” said Skaufel. “I was racing on tracks in the Los Angeles area and on IKF tracks all around California.”

“We had to do a lot of traveling to keep racing,” said Chance’s father Kirk at the time. “It’s a least three or four hours to the nearest track.”

When the club resumed racing, Skaufel was among the first back on the track.

He was joined by his longtime friend, fellow champion and racing rival Kyle Blum, 20, a St. Joseph High grad who is now attending Hancock.

“Chance has been going to more races than I have these last couple of years,” said Blum. “I’ve raced in a few club races since the track re-opened but it’s been a year-and-a-half or two years since I’ve been in any type of big event.”

The big event will feature nearly 90 racers in 13 divisions – Kiddie Kart, Junior and Senior divisions.

The Kiddie Kart racers are as young as five years old but they are as determined to win as their older counterparts and regularly hit speeds up to 40 or 45 miles per hour on the starightaways.

The Juniors are generally teenagers, up to 16-years-old, with all older drivers racing in the adult divisions. Their cars top out closer to 65 or 70 mph.

And there are several different engines that help account for the high number if divisions.

“Friday I’ll race in the KPV 4 Senior class then Saturday I’ll race in the Yamaha Senior Super Sportsman,” said Skaufel. “Those are two different engines, although both are 100cc. I’ll keep the same body for both races but it will be on a different chassis with the different motor each day.”

Blum is also trying to bring awareness to Cystic Fibrosis (CF) through his racing.

“I have four younger brothers and my youngest brother Kaiden has Cystic Fibrosis,” said Blum.

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs but can also impact other internal organs. People with CF have trouble breathing and regularly have other symptoms that make life difficult.

“I’m trying to raise awareness of CF,” said Blum. “(NASCAR racer) Denny Hamlin is trying to do the same thing. We’re hoping to find the cause and the cure. I’ve done a few walkathon and marathon events to try to get the word about CF out there. It’s pretty hard to deal with by Kaiden is doing fairly well.”

“Kaiden would really like to be out here racing with his brother,” said Jon Blum, the boys’ father. “But the motor fumes are not good for him.”

There will be a food truck on site from 8 a.m. each day until the end of the day.

Admission is $15 and covers a pit pass so spectators can meet the racers.

“Because it’s a motor sport, we need insurance to cover all the people who come in,” said Miller. “The admission fee all goes to the insurance.”

The on-track action begins on Friday and Saturday at 8 a.m. when the racers take to the track for practice.

Qualifying follows at about 12 p.m. then the pre-main and main events will cap off each championship day.

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