BHS Student, Tim Benningfield, to Compete in National Go-Kart Racing Championship

Photos courtesy of Tim Benningfield

Fig. 1. Benningfield at an outdoor go-karting track. July 2021

Fig. 2. Benningfield after winning the qualifying race for the championship. Aug 2021

BHS Student, Tim Benningfield, to Compete in National Go-Kart Racing Championship

By Anna Schneider

Freshman Tim Benningfield has been racing go-karts competitively since he was eight years old, but this is his first time racing in the American E-Karting Championship (AEKC). Benningfield won the qualifying race for the championship back in July 2020 and will be one of over 50 regional champions from across the U.S. competing for a grand prize of $10,000 and a spot in the international championship in Europe. 

The American E-Kart Championship is an annual indoor electric go-kart championship sponsored by Monster Energy. It is the only electric go-kart racing series in the U.S. that is officially sanctioned by the World Karting Association.

Benningfield will be competing in the 2021 championship. Due to COVID-19, the race was pushed from Fall 2021 to Sept. 2022. The championship will take place at Autobahn Indoor Speedway in Jacksonville, Fla. Because the championship was pushed back so much, the qualifiers from 2020, 2021, and 2022 will all be competing. The winner will be determined through a series of races instead of just one race.

Benningfield said he has “attended some important races, but for go-karting this would be the first time [going to an important race like the championship].”

At 15, Benningfield is the youngest racer in the championship, though he isn’t worried about it. “It’s not too much different because the majority of the drivers I go against now are adults. There’s a couple kids, but I’m used to racing against adults, so it’s nothing new.” The second youngest racer in the championship is 17 years old.

Benningfield started go-kart racing in the junior electric kart league but he recently started racing in the adult league. By competing in the adult league while the championship was coming up, he was eligible to race in the qualifying race.

Benningfield said he’s “definitely excited” for the championship and that he wants to do it “more or less just for fun, and… the credibility you get from going to a championship.” He sees winning as a way to show the world that he is “a good driver.”

Winning the championship is also a step further towards his goals to become a professional racer. Benningfield said “recently there’s been people going from the type of karting that I do to actual racing. So my goal is to do [Formula 1] racing.”

Though he’s mostly excited for the championship, Benningfield still has some worries. “I am a little nervous because I want to get some more practice in…when I won the qualifying I just did electric karting and now I do a bunch of other racing, so hopefully I can… transfer a bunch of skills from my regular racing into this. I should be… better than I was when I qualified.”

Benningfield also said he was concerned about the strict rules at the championship. “The problem with that is I could basically somehow get tangled up with someone, my fault or theirs, but the problem is the rules being so strict [that] if I slip up a little bit it could cost me positions.”

One thing he isn’t worried about is losing. “I’ve lost races before, so I’m not worried about losing, you know, even going there is just a win for me… I’m only a tiny bit worried about being terrible compared to the other guys…[I] don’t want to come in last.”

Zachary Lyons races with Benningfield at Autobahn Indoor Speedway in Jessup, Md. He competed in the 2019 American E-Kart Championship where he came in second to last out of 22 racers. He said “the championship is very fun. I’ve done it once and failed but [I] can’t wait to see Tim go beat some ass.”

Tim Benningfield Sr. is Benningfield’s father and manager. He “supports Tim’s karting in every way possible.” Mr. Benningfield said the race “will be a great experience for Tim and myself whether he wins or loses. Of course I’d like to see him win, but just having the opportunity to compete at this level is amazing… I am proud of Tim’s accomplishment.”

Mr. Benningfield also does go-kart racing. He was the one who signed Benningfield up for his first race. Mr. Benningfield said “go-karting is Tim’s passion. It’s the most exhilarating thing anyone can do. It satisfies his ‘need for speed.’” He also said Benningfield puts “a lot of commitment/effort into his go-karting… Lots of time goes into preparing for the race and the race weekend itself.”

In order to prepare for the championship, Benningfield said “typically it’s just extra practice… maybe workout for… endurance.” Endurance is important for go-kart racing because steering and driving for a long time can get tiring.

Go-kart races are judged on who completes 12 laps around the track and crosses the finish line first. Benningfield said “the winner usually has the best understanding of how the kart works.” Even though it’s a competition, Benningfield said the atmosphere at races is “super friendly, [because] everyone’s talking with each other, [and] helping each other out.”

Benningfield races at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway in Jessup, Md. He drives up every few weekends to practice. He has around 16 races each year, most of which are local and in Jessup. It’s mainly big races, like the championship, where he has to travel. Benningfield also does other types of racing that are similar to go-karts, but bigger and faster, more like a car.

The American E-Kart Championship was started in 2018. The championship was previously held in Chicago in 2018 and 2019. The American E-Kart Championship commissioner, Donald Wagner, and Autobahn Indoor Speedway partnered with Visit Jacksonville to host the championship in Jacksonville.

One of the things that makes the American E-Kart Championship special is that the winner isn’t decided through the amount of money they have or their sponsors. Everyone competes with the same equipment. Like the American E-Kart Championship website states, “the series offers practically anyone the opportunity to be a champion racer.”

The championship will be live-streamed and updates will be posted throughout the race weekend on Facebook and other platforms. The American E-Kart Championship was also featured as a special titled Anyone’s Race on ESPN and can be watched on Prime Video.

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