The inspiration came from a veteran racer trying to find a kart his wife could race and it quickly grew, first with his sister then with others. Now the new Clone class has some of the largest fields in the NNKC and as well as the most women racing in it.
It all began when Terry West brought home some karts.
"Terry raced everything under the sun and he just comes home one day with go karts," Becky Knapp, his sister said.
Then his wife, Jamie West added, "He raced karts in '01 then did everything and pretty much went back to the beginning. Last September he came home with a shifter kart one day, took it out to the track and said, 'hey Jamie, you've got to try this.' I got into it and said, 'this is really cool but I need something that's a lot slower and where I don't have to think but just push the gas pedal and go.'"
While the women grew up with racing; Knapp watching her brother while Jamie, the twin sister of Sean Berryman, watching her sibling start in motocross then race in the MRANN desert series.
But until this year, neither of them had raced themselves.
Describing how the Clone class concept started Jamie West said, "Terry bought my clutch kart from Mitch Kennedy, decided he was going to take it for a test drive up the street and blew the motor up. So he looked online and realized that KT100 engines were one thousand dollars and said you're out of luck."
After that West began checking with clubs in California and found they were running box stock Honda Clone motors for some classes. After finding that ARC had these motors fully assembled he bought one and put it on Jamie's kart.
"So we get the motor from ARC, throw it on the kart then I realized it's a blast and I want to race it," Jamie said.
Only problem was that NNKC had no such class. So after much discussion and negotiation, as well as putting together a rules package that combined what several clubs used, Terry West got the green light and the Clone wars began this season.
There have been some unexpected problems dealing with cams and other parts so the rules are still being adjusted. Despite this a motor, mounting and exhaust package are only about $300, which is very cost effective.
"So we started the class with mine being the first one then Terry built Becky's, his dad's and others," West said. "So he's become the master of the clones and is always willing to loan out karts if someone wants to try it out."
"At our first race it was friends of friends and we all knew each other then at the June race there were 33 karts and we didn't know who everybody was," Knapp said.
That was the race where Knapp totaled her kart but during the main race the entire field spread out so much they encircled the entire track.
One unexpected result is that the Clone division probably will become a stepping-stone to the faster, more powerful TAG classes.
"It seems like s smart move, going from one clutch kart to another clutch kart but with more power," West said.
And there's another reason, beside the relatively low entry cost to racing a Clone before tackling the more powerful and faster racers.
"Now talking with people they're saying that Clones are the way to start because they're so slow and are such a momentum kart that we all learn how to carry our speed through corners a lot better than any of the other guys that have started in faster karts because they have to brake so much in the corners," Knapp said. "There're only two spots on the track that a clone has to brake but it's full throttle the rest of the time."
Clone motors put out less than 10 horsepower, which puts a premium on driving as smooth as possible and finding the most efficient line through the corners.
"So for people just getting into the sport it's the way to start as you're learning things that some of these guys in faster karts don't even know," Knapp said.
For Terry West, the initial Clone champion at NNKC, this season was very busy as he not only worked on his kart but his sister's and wife's as well.
"The whole season started off as a rivalry between Becky and I as it was always, like who has the fastest time," West said. "Like Becky is faster than me, what did you do to her kart? Or it was like, Terry what am I doing wrong, Becky is faster than me."
Then Knapp said," It's like, she's my wife and I'd say, I've been your sister for 21-years. Come on, you can't take sides, it's not fair."
Then both shared a good laugh at what they put him through this past season.
Eventually Knapp pitted away from them as she started getting help from several drivers including John Morgan and Bill DeMent.
"When she started getting help from some of the guys in the club it's like, 'I'm doomed,' because Terry will wrench on his stuff all day but if it's mine, it's on the back burner. He's been taking care of our karts all season and I don't know how he does it."
However, West added she wasn't mad at Knapp but felt it was cool since this was their first year and they finished third and fourth in overall points so there are two women in the top five.
"And the funny thing was when we first got started we were so gung ho on trophies and Terry kept telling us, 'it's your first year, don't expect trophies, podiums and don't expect to finish high in points,'" Knapp said. "So now it's like, 'look at what we did and you said we couldn't.'"
Not only were the women rivals on the track but also for Knapp, her brother was a special target and challenge.
"That happened the last race as it was the one time I've been able to slam his bumper and I did all day," she said. "It was a great day because Terry is the one person I just want to beat at least once. I look up to him, he's my brother, he's been racing all this time and he's good. But I really wanted him to beat Dave Schilt (2nd in points.) so I wasn't going to pass him. So if Terry and I are in the same class next year, you can bet I've got his number and we'll be at it all year."
Asked why there are so many women racing Clones, West said, "I think it's not intimating as you know you're slow and you know that people aren't going to be running you off the track because we're all going the same speed," West said.
Knapp added there is another reason for the women wanting to race.
"As a girl you always want to beat the boys and it doesn't matter, you can be in second to last place as long as there is one boy behind you," she said.
Both added that due to the gear drivers wear, it's hard to tell the men from the woman so during a race they're just one of the guys. And afterwards everyone gets along although the women do enjoy beating the guys whenever possible.
"We're all out there "Driving Miss Daisy," in our 50-mile per hour karts," Knapp said. "So I mean, it's a great place for girls to go. And now I've raced and beat some boys so I'm totally stuck on the fence whether to move up and go faster or keep in the clone class and keep beating on the boys."
They also mentioned that in a race luck does play a part since the entire field, at the start, arrives at the first turn together. And both said that's where wrecks usually happen so everyone feels lucky to get through it cleanly.
"We're determined to go through that, side-by-side every race. It's luck as sometimes we get gung ho and those karts are so slow you can really get tangled up there," Knapp said.
Still, once a race or heat ends things change.
"We all get along really well," West said. "I mean we're all out to beat each other and run each other off the track but we're all so friendly with each other."
This isn't to say both women didn't have their moments during the season. This is partly due to the fact they both have different cases of nerves before a race.
Knapp admitted that of the two she gets extremely anxious before any big competition as well as getting stressed.
"That's the reason why there is about two-dozen cookies floating around the pits because I bake the night before a race," Knapp said. "So my tension level is really high."
West added, "Tensions have been high at times. I get nervous before a race but I kind of shut down and focus on what I'm going to do in a race."
Several people like Bill DeMent, John Morgan and Matt Dixon have helped calm Knapp down.
Another technique Knapp uses during a race is talking herself around the track, sometimes with words that are better kept inside her helmet. And sometimes both will play mental games with each other.
"I think it's because we're so different how our nerves affect us and we're so competitive out on the track that I know which buttons I can push to make her mad and she knows what she can push and make me mad," West said.
Knapp explained it as, "We have sibling rivalry but because we're adults we take it up three notches as we're big kids."
But at the end of the day, we're still sisters and we still love each other," West said. "I have to say it's much more gratifying to race with people you know have your back at the end of the day and my dad always said, a family that races together, stays together."
Then Knapp said, "Because you love them and they have to love you no matter if you beat them or they beat you."
Right now the future for both women is a bit up in the air.
Terry West may move into TAG Masters next year and if he does neither of the women could as due to their age so if they moved up their class would be TAG Novice.
And West's plans are subject to change due to other circumstances.
"I'm not really sure what my plans are for next year as I have a TAG and a Clone. Terry and I are up in the air as we might plan to start to have a family so if that happens I definitely will not be racing," West said. "If the time comes and there's nothing in the works, I'm not sure what my plans will be."
For Knapp, there are a couple of options she's weighing.
"At first I was all about staying in the Clone class, I've gotten better, getting faster and I finished on the podium all but twice last year," she said. "But everyone says, 'you have to get into a TAG,' so I really don't know yet. Have a couple of months to decide but at the very least I'll probably be running a TAG for IKF next year."
The success of the Clone division might inspire two other related classes. A junior class might replace what is now Junior 1-2 Cycle and, if trials work out, the Kid Kart machines might also start using these inexpensive motors.
A clone motor is much simpler and easier to work on than the Komer motors used in the two lower classes, which are separated by age groups for the younger drivers.
At the season's final race West had some problems when she bent her front bumper down. A quick pit stop corrected the situation and she joined the fray well behind the pack but one lap on the track secured her fourth place in the points.
"All I had to do was finish one lap and no one could take fourth place from me," she said.
Knapp had a better day and even led for a lap or two before being passed. In the end her fourth place finish, behind her brother Terry, secured third place in the points.
All in all it's been a great season for these two women, who did their part to help this newest class have a successful initial year. No matter what Terry and Jamie or Becky do next year they can look back on 2010 as a wonderful time they shared together with family and their racing friends.
The next order of business for NNKC is the awards banquet then everyone will start counting the weeks until April when racing and the Clone wars resume.
OTHER RACING NEWS
•Halloween weekend will have two different motorcycle series in action as they both stage two-day events.
The MRANN series visits the Moon Rocks area off Winnemucca Ranch Road with Saturday's action beginning at 9:15 a.m. followed by the Mini Bikes, V Women and Vintage Bikes. That evening there will be trick or treating for the youngsters.
There will be costume contests for the youngsters as well as everyone who races in a costume. Sunday's action for the big bikes begins at 10 a.m. as they tackle a challenging 46-mile long course.
Further to the east the Sierra MX series visits Winnemucca. The Pee Wees, 65cc and Quads all race Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. and there will be a costume contest that evening.
All the rest of the classes race Sunday with a start time of 9 a.m. for the first motos.
•NASCAR's Las Vegas Trio spent the weekend at two different tracks this weekend. Brandan Gaughan didn't have much luck at Gateway International Raceway as he finished 26th after starting 16th in Saturday's Nationwide event.
•Both Busch brothers were at the "Paperclip," or Martinsville Speedway where Kyle was second in Saturday's Camping World Truck series race Saturday. In Sunday's Sprint Cup event he finished fourth while older brother Kurt ended up 19th.