Karting Shoot-out: Vernon & Karam Both Win Top Prize

Tuesday, December 30, 2008 SEBRING, Fla. – At the 12th annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out at Sebring International Raceway, 51 star karters spent three days driving Skip Barber F2000 open-wheel race cars in hopes of winning seat-time scholarships for 2009. In what the judging panel claimed was one of the most closely contested Shoot-outs in its decade-plus existence, four drivers earned scholarships.

The competition was so close, in fact, that an unprecedented award scenario played out: Not one but two paid seasons in the 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda were presented, each with a value approaching $50,000: Court Vernon, 16, of Key Biscayne, Fla., and Sage Karam, 13, from Nazareth, Pa., will both race under the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development ladder system banner. Karam is the youngest driver to win the Shoot-out’s biggest prize.

With 41 drivers from the U.S. and 10 others from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Russia, Spain and Puerto Rico, the 12th annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out was at its most international in its history.

MAZDASPEED’s John Doonan with the two big-prize winners, Court Vernon (blue suit) and Sage Karam.

In addition, Dennis Trebing and Nick Andries were awarded half-seasons in the Skip Barber National for 2009. Both drivers are from Florida: Trebing, 16, is from Cape Coral, while Andries, 18, hails from Pinellas Park.

All four winners celebrate on the post-Shoot-out podium. Left to right are Nick Andries, Court Vernon, Sage Karam and Dennis Trebing.

Skip Barber V.P. of Competition Todd Snyder said, ‘‘The field this year was ridiculously deep – we had many, many good drivers worthy of recognition. When it came to the top prize of a season in the National, well, it was just impossible to choose between Court and Sage. They’re both very quick, very smart… complete packages. So they both won.’’

Vernon said, ‘‘Oh, man, this is soooooo good – absolute highlight of my career. I had butterflies in my stomach all three days! But now that I won this… It’s hard to describe. All I know is I can’t wait for the season to start.’’

Karam said he came into the Shoot-out ‘‘…with high hopes. I mean, I knew I could place well. But to win it, wow. It was such a long weekend, so many sessions… This is tremendous, and I plan on making Skip Barber Racing and Mazda proud.’’

Mazda’s John Doonan, who leads the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development team, said, ‘‘The Skip Barber Shoot-out is a perfect reflection of Mazdaspeed’s ethos – get bright, young talent started on the best ladder system. Significant help within a proven system of Skip Barber, Star Mazda, Atlantic Powered by Mazda and beyond is what Mazda racing is all about.’’

The Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out has been responsible for launching the auto racing careers of dozens of topline drivers including A.J. Allmendinger, Scott Speed, Patrick Long, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Michael Valiante, as well as numerous others who have gone on to post significant achievements in the world of racing. Two recent champions of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda – Jonathan Goring in 2006 and Joel Miller in 2007 – won scholarships at previous Shoot-outs.

The 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda opens its 14-race season with rounds one and two at Sebring International Raceway March 17-20, supporting the 12-Hour. The Skip Barber National’s Spring Training test days are also at Sebring, February 28 – March 1.

Sage Karam headed to the apex of Sebring Modified’s third-gear Turn Five.

Same corner, Court Vernon putting in one of his fast laps.

Nick Andries turns-in at Three.

This is Dennis Trebing in Turn Three during one of his runs.

One of the ‘‘scariest’’ parts of the Shoot-out was the media interview with panelist Bob Varsha. Here we see Nick Andries (l.) and Ashley Freiberg (r.) get grilled by the veteran SPEED broadcaster.

Words & photos, Rick Roso

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