UMI Motorsports Park August 25-26, 2023 Clearfield, PA
UMI’s King of the Mountain 5.0, presented by Airflow Research, maintained its title as the biggest, most exciting night in autocross. 123 drivers from 28 states (and Canada) descended on UMI Motorsports Park for two days of intense qualifying, followed by the Turn One 48-car shootout under the lights. Fans lined the hillside, filled the grandstands and tuned-in online to watch the action unfold.
King of the Mountain is an invitation only event, meaning all drivers participating have received an invitation to compete. There are many ways people are offered invitations: they could win their way in from one of UMI Motorsports Park's other events that season, or have been a participant of the prior year's shootout. The racing is so elite that racers must be approved and good enough to handle the challenging KOTM courses.
Another aspect that adds to the competitive nature of KOTM is the $25,000 purse. With the top eight Shootout racers winning their portion of the prize and the overall winner or the King taking home $15,000!!
KOTM 5.0 drivers were split into four classes; Early, Mid, Late, and Super Late. Early class consisted of traditional Amercan muscle cars such as Chevelles and C1-C3 Corvettes. Mid class contained the 2nd Gen Camaro and Firebird platforms along with Pony-Cars like Fox Body Mustangs. Late Class was filled with your 3rd-4th generation Camaros, S550 Mustangs, as well as imports such as S2000’s, and Mazda RX8’s. Super Lates consisted of C5-C8 Corvettes along with mid-engine, AWD cars and supercars like Porsche GT3 and Dodge Viper.
Friday was the first day of qualifying rounds. Each class got a total of 7 runs throughout the day. UMI’s course designer, Roger Irvine, gave racers a preview of the shootout course by incorporating elements into Friday’s course. As always with UMIMP hosted events, Friday concluded with a community party at the Finish Line Pavillion presented by A+ Powder Coaters. Attendees gathered for cheese steaks, lawn games and live music. Racers also brought items to auction off at this year's charity auction benefiting the Emily Whitehead Foundation and Spina Bifida Foundation.
Saturday's qualifying rounds met drivers with a different course and different challenges. Once again, Roger threw in a few elements from the upcoming big showdown’s course just to give drivers another chance to work on their rhythm.
To get into the shootout, the drivers’ fastest time from both days are added, and the top 12 drivers with the fastest times move on. This year, the top qualifiers from each class got to lead the parade laps with their very own Turnone fastest qualifier flag!
KOTM 5.0 Fastest Qualifiers:
Early Class: Josh Leisinger, KOTM 4.0 Early Class King
Mid Class: Andrew Chenoweth, who is also the Operational Speed Supply rookie of the year.
Late Class: John Vitamvas
Super Late Class: Josh Luster
During the parade laps, local teens battling cancer, Zoey Bryan and CJ Coudriet lent a hand as our guests of honor riding along in the top qualifiers cars and waving their flags proudly out of the window.
Each class competes in an F1 knockout style bracket (12-6-2-1). With the winner of each bracket (dubbed the class king) moving on to the championship rounds to compete for $15,000 purse and the title of King on the Mountian!
The shootout started with a bang and quickly, 12 racers in each class got whittled down to 6. Round 1 was over and round 2 had started. Bangshift Chad Reynolds and UMI’s Ramey Womer were on the mic to keep both the live and online audience updated.
The Early Class, presented by Summit Racing Equipment, featured some intense muscle cars, including several members of the summit racing team. The top two racers, Nathan Johnson and Jared Leisinger, battled for their spot in the championship rounds. Jared Leisinger won and became this year’s Early Class King!
During the Mid Class rounds, Presented by Smitty’s Custom Auto, the drivers put on quite the show with Chris Jensen and Chris Wheatcraft taking the lead. Jensen had been to the grand finals in prior years but didn’t quite have the pace to topple UMI Equipped Chris Wheatcraft. Wheatcraft took home the title of 2023 Mid Class King!
The Late Class, presented by Gordon Automotive Specialties, brought all the twists and turns of the evening. In the past, at KOTM 2.0 and KOTM 3.0, the overall king came from this class. One of which, KOTM 2.0 champ Andy Smedegard, returned to attempt to regain the title. And he looked like he may have succeeded when his Honda S2000, newly equipped with nitrous power, caught fire in Round 2. Smedegard himself was uninjured, but this incident took him out of the running. In the end, the late class competitors came down to a set of co-drivers! John Vitamvas and Sam Strano battling for their spot in the championship rounds… in the same car, having to switch quickly between the final class round. In the end, Sam Strano took the lead and became this year’s late class king and ultimately this year’s King of the Mountain as well!!
The Super Late Class, presented by Trackspec Motorsports, featured some of the fastest cars in the competition, including the Evo of KOTM 4.0’s King, Shawn Krebsbach. Aaron Shoe and Josh Luster behind the wheel of their Evos had some major speed but also had an unhealthy attraction to cones. Brian Peters laid down an amazing time in Rounds 1and 2 but tapped a cone with the splitter to end his night. In the end, it was Eric Peachey’s Viper against the boosted four-banger of Krebsbach, with Krebsbach taking the win and the title of Class King.
The night came to a close with the championship rounds. Our class kings, Jared Leisinger, Chris Wheatcraft, Shawn Krebsbach and Sam Strano, were prepared to battle to become 2023’s King of the Mountain!
Each of the class competitors got three runs and their times were added to create an overall time. Of course, the fastest overall combined score would give us the King. Wheatcraft and Leisinger put on a heck of a show for the 3-4 spot with just 0.202 seconds total combined time separating them.
KOTM 4.0 King, Shawn Krebsbach, found himself in a familiar situation leading the pack for most of the event. Sam Strano stayed close behind him with a fraction of a second time difference at times. This meant Krebsbach had to go push his limits as far as he could, in hopes of remaining the reigning king! In round 1 of the championship rounds, Shawn Krebsbach managed to set a track record with a 53.923, the fastest time KOTM’s Shootout course has ever been run!
In the final run of the night, Krebsbach picked up two cones on hot tires. When the tire smoke cleared, Sam Strano was crowned UMI’s 2023 King of the Mountain with a combined time of 164.431 seconds!
Great Job Sam Strano!