The top 27 positions of the Purdue Grand Prix were set on the warm asphalt of the Grand Prix track, with Pi Kappa Phi Racing’s Chip Challis taking the pole. With temperatures soaring to the mid 70’s, the 10-turn circuit proved to have much more grip than in previous sessions. The new-found grip led to a number of entries adjusting their setup through the qualifying sessions to find the best time possible.
The format for the April 16 session involved two warmup practices for each half of the 48-car qualifying field. Qualifying commenced with groups of four karts, randomly selected, attacking the Grand Prix circuit for seven minutes at a time for the single best lap of the session. Pole position and the next 26 positions are determined by qualifying with the final six positions of the 33 kart field being determined in the three qualifier heats the day of the main even.
The most exciting portion of the day involved defending three-time race champion, Jimmy Simpson, Chip Challis, Brenden Johnson, and Alex Offenbach took to the track in their group. Simpson in the No. 1 Delts Racing machine has won the race the past three times, the second to ever do so, and has led every practice session he participated in this year. Rookie, Johnson, in the No. 4 Motorsports Club at IUPUI and Challis in the No. 22 Pi Kappa Phi Racing have also been near the sharp end of the field all year-long in practice. The three karting aces dueled on the dedicated circuit, taking turns frantically diving into pit lane for tire pressure adjustments.
When the dust settled, Chip Challis’ No. 22 kart had put in a lap 0.062 ahead of Jimmy Simpson’s No. 1 machine. Challis’ time of 25.493 ensures that he’ll be starting ahead of our reigning champion, with that much more of an advantage for the 59th chapter of the greatest spectacle in college racing. Challis also had a strong run in last year’s race finishing in second, behind Simpson.
Simpson followed closely behind with a 25.555. Citing a fuel flow issue due to a bubble in the fuel line, Simpson was understandable frustrated with his run. But being upset with second fastest time in qualifying is not a bad place to be leading into next week’s main event. Johnson, the rookie from IUPUI, put in an impressive time of 25.586. His 12 years of karting experience lend him an advantage at the Purdue Grand Prix, giving him a promising outlet for the foreseeable future. The top three drivers qualified all within 0.093 of one another, showing just how much depth of talent is in this year’s field.
Rounding out the top five, Cary Racing’s rookie Jacob Knueven recorded a time of 25.913 with Camden Speth recording at time of 26.061. Knueven has been impressive this year in the No. 03 kart. The Cary Racing team, with teammate Eli Salamie, have been strong in recent years, showing no signs of letting up. Speth will be seeking redemption in the No. 88 entry this year as early contact put him out of the main event in 2015.
Sixth starting position went to Salamie in the sister Cary kart with a time of 26.426, followed by James Schnabel in the sister IUPUI Motorsports Club entry with a 26.503. Ross Rankine put in a time of 25.524 in the No. 23 Delta Upsilon Larry Miller Racing entry. Just 0.070 behind Rankine, T.J. Higgins of Fairway Cooperative put in the ninth fastest time. Finishing out the top 10 was Ryan Keene in the No. 13 Student Veteran Organization kart. The entire top ten qualifiers were all within 1.315s of one another.
The final position set for the day went to Jeremy Millerin in the No. 10 Pike entry. His time of 27.619 was good enough to bump 21 other entries out of contention. Of note, Brandon Newey’s No. 98 The U Racing entry experienced some sort of failure, rendering him to retire without a time. He will join the rest of the bumped entries in the three heat races that will take place on race day, April 23, just one week from today.
No on-track activities are scheduled for the next week, leaving drivers and teams time to make sure all the bolts are tight and the ensure adequate rest before race day. The first of the 25-lap qualifier heats will commence at 11:30 on April 23, serving as an appetizer for the main event. The 59th running of the Purdue Grand Prix will also take place on Saturday, April 23. Green flag is scheduled for 2:30 PM ET and will be able to be streamed live on BTN2GO. The race will also be streamed live in audio, at no cost to you, through the Slipstream Network at Slipstreamnetwork.com. Tickets for the event are $5.00 in advanced and $10.00 at the door. Links for buying tickets and Purdue Grand Prix Apparel can be found at Slipstreamnetwork.com/PurdueGP.