SALISBURY, N.C. – Lucas Sipka survived a steep learning curve to record a top-10 finish in his Open division debut on Wednesday night at Millbridge Speedway.
Sipka, who jumped from Box Stocks right into the premier class for outlaw karts at the sixth-mile dirt oval, started 12th and battled back from three spins and contact with the turn-one wall to finish 10th.
Driving Kyle Beattie’s No. 21 SKE Chassis house kart, Sipka ran solidly during the early laps and found the second groove during a mid-race green flag run, picking off several positions before contact with the outside concrete spelled an end to his night with just two laps left.
Just before the crash, Sipka was running eighth – the highest position he had been in all night long.
“The whole night, honestly, was amazing … right up until I found the wall,” Sipka told SPEED SPORT. “We did pretty well on the start, even though I made a rookie mistake and flooded the engine on the green flag, but the rest of me restarts were fine, I felt like. I was making up positions and felt comfortable.
“Then the car just sucked around on me in turn one. I don’t know exactly how – I didn’t jam the brakes or anything – but it went spinning and the next thing I knew, I was in the wall and pretty much tipped her over,” Sipka added. “Thankfully, it stayed on four wheels and wasn’t damaged too badly. It’s certainly not the way we wanted to end our night, but I’m trying to take the positives out of it.”
Though Sipka had to retire from the feature after 18 of the 20 laps, he was trying to soak in as much knowledge as he could throughout the night, qualifying 14th and then finishing sixth in his heat race.
The higher speeds of the 500cc Open engines were a big part of Sipka’s on-track education Wednesday.
“It’s just a completely different thing than anything I’ve raced before here,” Sipka noted. “It’s just so much faster than anything else. The Opens are a lot harder to control, but I think with some more practice and some more seat time I’ll be able to get the hang of it.
“I was having to learn everything on the fly. The starts were crazy, passing is so much harder (than in Box Stocks) … it’s just a completely different ballpark because I’m racing against people who had done it for years and the competition level is that much higher,” he continued. “Going from running up front to fighting in the back is a little discouraging, but I have to remember that I’m new at this level and I have to expect these kinds of challenges.”
Sipka even battled rough seas as a car owner on Wednesday night, as the Box Stock he piloted last year finished second in a dead-heat photo finish with Tyler Conover at the controls earlier in the evening.
“I couldn’t win for losing all night,” Sipka joked. “But I’m proud of Tyler; he did a great job for us. It’s just hard to see one slip away in a finish that was as close as that one was. It was exciting to watch, though.”
Though his maiden Open division voyage didn’t go exactly as planned, Sipka’s anticipation for his second time out is just as high – if not even more so – compared to his first start on Wednesday night.
“I’m very ready to do it again,” Sipka grinned. “Hopefully the next one ends up better than this one did.”