Drivers Return To Karting Roots

ORLANDO, Fla. - NASCAR drivers Scott Speed, Jamie McMurray, Max Papis and AJ Allmendinger returned to their roots at the Performance Racing Industry Show in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday when they competed in the All-Stars Karting Classic.

The third annual event featured 23 drivers in the masters division that came not only from NASCAR, but IndyCar, NHRA, Grand-Am, and more. Also, six drivers from the professional karting ranks transferred into the feature "Masters" event as a result of their finishes in the pre-final race.

Speed, who won several karting championships early in his career, was the top performing NASCAR driver in the event. He started the 40-lap feature on the outside of the front row alongside eventual race winner Jay Howard, the 2006 Indy Pro Series champion.

Once the race began, Speed put on a charge for the lead against Howard, but began to fall back. Just before the halfway mark, Allmendinger came up and passed Speed while Howard was out to a big lead. Shortly after, Joey Hand passed Speed for third. Allmendinger looked like he was going to finish second, but his kart was hit from behind by Hand on the last lap, which ultimately let Speed move in to take third.

"We had a great kart out there," Speed said. "It was a shame we got stuck in traffic. I think we definitely had something for the leader at the beginning. We got shuffled back there.

"Being out there with Joey and AJ, it was a flashback to seven years ago. So it's really cool for all of us to still be battling."

Earlier in the day, Speed topped the qualifying session with a lap of 17.672 seconds around the .25-mile track.

Allmendinger wound up fourth in the final with Oswaldo Negri Jr. rounding out the top five.

Papis and McMurray finished 17th and 21st, respectively.

After receiving his second-place trophy, Hand, who co-drove the Ruby Tuesday Grand-Am Daytona Prototype this season, talked about the incident in the last turn with Allmendinger.

"I got into dinger (AJ) a little bit, 'sorry dude I didn't mean to hit you so hard' I thought he could hold on to it but he got a little sideways," Hand said. "That's racin' though we had a great time and I hope we put on a great show."

Cory Pollock was the top finishing Stars of Karting Series driver in the "Masters" race in eighth. He also finished second in the "Karters" final to Joel Miller.

Howard now joins Buddy Rice (2006) and Michael Valiante (2007) as champions of the special event that helps open the PRI show and promote the sport of karting.

"It's a casual event that's not so casual anymore," said Snap-on Stars of Karting Series President Paul Zalud. "More than anything else this is a great opportunity for the sport of karting. Steve Lewis and the PRI staff have given us a great chance to come out and promote a fabulous sport, one that's kind of unknown."

The course, which was set up in the parking lot of the Orange County Convention Center is a unique track for the series.

"It's small in terms of where we usually race," Zalud said. "We are typically running on eight-tenths of a mile and we can get up to speeds of anywhere between 85-90 mph. Here we have a straightway which is half of what we usually run and it's the total of six corners instead of 14-15.

"It's maximizing space while still creating passing zones, creating a lot of excitement, and keeping it safe for everybody."

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