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Karting champ plans on faster future
by Dan McGee
Dec 13, 2009 | 1547 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Dan McGee - On his way to winning one of his three karting national championships this past summer, Cody Kay (2) had to hold off his teammate Taylor Minch (20). Here they head down from the hill at Desert Park Raceway during the Sprint Grand Nationals.
Tribune/Dan McGee - On his way to winning one of his three karting national championships this past summer, Cody Kay (2) had to hold off his teammate Taylor Minch (20). Here they head down from the hill at Desert Park Raceway during the Sprint Grand Nationals.
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Tribune/Dan McGee - Cody Kay, a freshman at Galena High School, holds one of the three Duffys (National championship trophies) he won this past summer at the Sprint Grand Nationals held here at Desert Park Raceway.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Cody Kay, a freshman at Galena High School, holds one of the three Duffys (National championship trophies) he won this past summer at the Sprint Grand Nationals held here at Desert Park Raceway.
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RENO - Winning one championship is quite a feat for any driver and to win three in one year is amazing. Cody Kay accomplished such a feat this summer at the Sprint Grand Nationals, staged by the Northern Nevada Kart Club this summer.

Racing has been an almost life long passion for this 14-year-old.

"When I was 5 years old, I started racing so it would be my first sport," he said. "But I also played basketball and currently playing basketball right now."

Kay comes from a family of racers and while his father, Chad raced a car, his uncle Randy is the one that really got Cody interested in the sport.

"My uncle started then had my dad check it out and had me come one time and we just loved it," Kay said.

Beginning in 2000 Kay first raced in the Junior Kadet class, a division for the youngest and most inexperienced racers. Here the karts are low powered and offer these youngsters a chance to get their feet wet before moving up racing's ladder.

Asked about his very first race he said, "Being behind the wheel at such a young age it was a lot different than normal football, baseball or basketball. I really liked it as for a whole year, when I was 4, I practiced and did the track backwards and forwards."

Kay played basketball for a year at the YMCA when he was 7-years-old then stopped until this fall when he joined the freshman team at Galena High School.

He added his high school teammates are very supportive of his racing and think it's very cool.

When Kay was turning 8 years old he moved to the Junior 1-2 class, which means a faster and more power full kart. For the next three years he found success in that division.

"The first year, 2003 we got Rookie-of-the-Year and we won the points championship," he said. "And we won the championship the other two years. My next step was Junior 2, which we took up to national and regional as I had been doing mostly club racing."

That year, when he was 9-years-old, Kay not only won the Junior 1 Animal 4-Stroke regional title but earned his first Duffy trophy when he won a national championship.

"It was in Santa Rosa, California and it felt really good but it was pretty hard to win. I think it came down to a last-lap pass like these Nationals," he said.

When school began that fall he had an interesting time during a show-and-tell session in his third grade class. Something he still laughs about.

"Nobody really knew what I was talking about as I brought the Duffy to school," he said. "My teacher was reading the trophy and was like, 'what!' you won the national championship. Then she was like, 'I don't know if anybody is going to do any better tomorrow.'"

His father added, that when they moved up again in 2007, Kay raced at a regional in Redding, California. There he won in Junior TAG, HPV-2 and HPV-4.

In karting the classes are structured around minimum kart weight, engine types and how the exhaust pipes are configured.

"In TAG, it's an electric starter and in HPV you have to have a manual starter but you have to press a button that starts the engine," he said. "They both have pipes but they are different shapes and headers."

Over the past 11 years Kay has earned 11 regional championships and has a pretty full trophy case by his bedroom to prove it.

The news that NNKC would host this year's Sprint Grand National Championships came as good news for Kay.

"It made me feel I would have a really good chance because not a lot of people don't know or come to this track," he said,

Preparation was one key factor and according to his father they did a lot of that. Kay practiced every weekend, ran seven races with NNKC and had track time all 10 days the event ran.

His younger brother, 8-year-old Jeremy, raced and scored a second during his very first nationals. Big brother Cody not only roots for him but also helps Jeremy during their practice sessions at the track.

Success didn't come easy at the nationals for Kay.

In his first race he had to overcome having a heavier kart than his competition as the class is for younger, smaller drivers. Kay's father explained they cut off bolts, took off stickers and did everything they could to bring the kart weight down but still wound up 19 pounds heavy.

"So we were thinking that race would be practice for the other two days where we would be at weight," he said. "But we just kept going faster and faster until at the end we won."

In that event both Kay and teammate Taylor Miinch pushed each other to help with their speed. At the checkered both boys, who were the heaviest in the field, ended up first and second.

After a race long duel with Miinch the next day, Kay won his second Duffy by nor more than six inches if that much. Then, on the third day, there was another challenge to overcome.

This time, after going through one corner four-wide, which usually never works, there was a scramble. Due to having the inside line, Kay came out of it in the lead and stormed off to claim his third Duffy.

His feelings before the event turned out to be well founded and he came away with championships in Junior Sportsman, Junior Super Sportsman and Junior Super Sportsman Heavy. Not a bad showing for the 14-year-old.

Kay expressed his appreciation for the help he received from three mechanics, Neil McCoy, Fritz Leeseman and Jess Petersen, who helped make this effort possible.

There is also a list of appreciated sponsors and supporters. Among them are RC Electric, Peterson Wealth Group, PKS, Graphics Plus, Mitch Kennedy, Jess and Scott Peterson and Postion One Engines, which powered him to his three national championships.

Like any athlete Kay has his favorite and not so favorite parts of his chosen sport.

"My least favorite is losing and practice sessions but my favorite is being in the races, like the nationals, where you're on the edge of the seat until the last second of the race," he said.

Now that he's a four-time national champion, Kay and his father are turning another page in his racing career.

"We're going to do IMCA Modified dirt cars," he said. "I haven't been in an IMCA but have driven a Dwarf Car. I'm really excited to try something new, something really, really fast and to be with my cousin, that's going to be really fun."

His cousin Gene Kay, who is returning to the IMCA ranks, will act as crew chief for both of their cars.

This past summer Kay attended an open test in USAC Midgets given by Ron Sutton at Stockton 99 Speedway, a paved quarter-mile track. Out of 614 entries Kay got to the last level.

He was picked to be one of the six that got a free test, had the fastest time of the juniors but didn't win the first prize. Kay was offered a sprint car ride but the travel distance and lack of dirt experience convinced his father to stay with their planned goal of IMCA racing.

Before any future plans can happen there was one bit of business to attend to; this weekend's NNKC banquet. There Kay was honored as the HPV-2 champion and picked up another trophy as well as his champion's jacket.

This was his 12th championship in 11 years of racing with the club. Then, at the end of the ceremony, he was picked as NNKC's Karter-of-the-Year, the highest award the club gives to any driver.

The award has had an impact on Kay and he's pleased to end this championship year with this honor.

"I'm very excited and happy to be picked as Karter-of-the-Year," he said. "Getting this is like getting an award in the middle of an English class, you're just like, 'I have no idea what to say but thanks.'"

For this young champion the future holds faster times and more opportunities.

RESULTS

NNKC Points Results*

Kid Kart: 1. Tyler Dean, 2. John Paul Maxwell, 3. Connor Van Cott, 4. Christi Ana Bickford, 5. Jerett Tachovsky, 6. Enrique Jaime

Jr. 1-2 Cycle: 1. Tyler Burk, 2. Garrett Dixon, 3. Jeremy Kay, 4. Justin Hoekman, 5. J.R. Raczko

HPV-2: 1. Cody Kay, 2. Logan Wyman, 3. Austin Elliott, 4. Tyler Palmer, 5. Dylan Lupton

TAG Novice: 1. Thomas Koerner, 2. Javier Avila, 3. Peter Murphy, 4. Matt Koerner, 5. Jim Foff

TAG Jr: 1. Austin Dement; 2. Cody Kay, 3. Chelsi Wagner, 4. Christian Scholz, 5. Austin Elliott

TAG Sr: 1. Curt Baker, 2. Lionel Fayet, 3. David Brant, 4. Mike Botelho Jr., 5. Ray Andrews

TAG Masters: 1. Dan Harris, 2. Nick Wadlow, 3. Derrick DeLong, 4.bob Hoekman, 5. Marty McNew

F80 Masters: 1. Darrel Dean, 2. Dave Shilt, 3. Mike McMullen; 4. Mike Roes; 5. Ben Fisher

* - For complete results go to: www.nnkc.com
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