The inaugural Keith Kunz Motorsports Giveback Classic at North Carolina’s Millbridge Speedway has yet to even begin, but it’s already solidified itself as one of the biggest events of 2018. With a guaranteed ride in a Keith Kunz Motorsports-prepared Midget for the 2019 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals on the line, the KKM Giveback Classic is going to be a life-changing event for one driver. But for Karsyn Elledge, the event serves more as a homecoming than anything else.
Elledge, daughter of Kelley Earnhardt-Elledge and niece of Dale Earnhardt Jr., is midway through her first semester of class at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in Indianapolis. She hasn’t raced at her home track of Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, North Carolina since mid-summer.
“I’m just excited to get back home. I’ve been in Indy for months now and I haven’t been home yet. I’m ready to come back home and see my friends and family and my racing people and get back in my kart. It’s something that I’m actually decent at and I know what’s going on,” Elledge said with a laugh.
Elledge scored a couple of victories at Millbridge earlier this season before departing for the Midwest where she’s been doing some Midget racing with Tucker-Boat Motorsports throughout this summer and early this fall.
The Midget has proven itself to have a learning curve for Elledge, and she joked about that being one of the reasons why she can’t wait to get back in her Outlaw Kart at Millbridge.
“I was just telling someone the other day that I’ve been running the Midget a lot and that’s something new and something I’m not too familiar with so I’m excited to get back to Millbridge and something that I know and am comfortable in.”
The 18-year-old driver has turned plenty of laps at the challenging 1/6-mile clay oval that is Millbridge Speedway in the past. She said that she feels her experience at the track will give her a bit of an advantage over some of the invading drivers coming from places like California, Texas, and even Canada.
“I think we have a pretty decent advantage. I think we’ll definitely be one of the front runners. But then again, a lot of these people coming from California and Canada and all over the place are really great challengers as well. A lot of them have been racing a lot leading up to this. I think it’s going to be a wild race.
“Millbridge is a tough place, especially when you’re riding high on the top side. It can be dangerous and you have to be ready for anything.”
What makes this race even tougher than usual is the fact that it’s 50 laps. A normal race length at Millbridge is 20 laps and even those are physically and mentally demanding. The only race longer than Wednesday’s KKM Giveback Classic feature is the Speed51 Open in May, which is 51 laps in length.
“50 laps is a long time around there. It can get pretty tiring. I still to this day get worn out. The end of the race is going to be challenging and in 50 laps a lot can happen. Someone who has been killing us all night could have something unfortunate happen to them. There’s just so much that can happen in 50 laps.”
Elledge said she believes that the keys will be qualifying well on Tuesday night to get a good starting spot in Wednesday’s heat races, and then just surviving the feature to be in a position to win at the end.
She added that no matter what happens, whether she wins the race or doesn’t, she loves that Millbridge Speedway, Keith Kunz and Toyota Racing Development have come together to make this unique event possible.
“I think this is awesome,” Elledge said. “I think it’s super awesome of Keith and Toyota to be willing to do something like this. It’s going to change someone’s life. I think it’s so cool. The idea is so out there. All you have to do is win a race and you get to run with the top guys at Chili Bowl. There’s nothing else like that. Whoever does win it, it’s going to be life-changing for sure. I’m proud that I’ve raced at Millbridge all these years and Jeremy and Ashly, Keith and Toyota were able to put this together. It’s kind of cool that where I’ve grown up racing gets to host such a big and prestigious event.”
The inaugural Keith Kunz Motorsports Giveback Classic kicks off Tuesday night with qualifying action for the Open division, plus local division feature racing. Race fans can watch Tuesday’s racing action live with a premium membership to Speed51.com.
The action continues on Wednesday night with the running of the Keith Kunz Motorsports Giveback Classic. The inaugural event is available as a pay-per-view broadcast for $24.99 and can be purchased here.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Associate Editor - Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com