|Southern Nevada competitor Matt Jaskol, left, and seven-time Formula One World Michael Schumacher, extreme right, participated in the SKUSA SuperKarts Supernationals last week in the parking lot of the Rio Hotel (Tom Donohue photography).
When the Caesars Palace Grand Prix began a four-year run in 1981 in the parking lot of the famed hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, Matt Jaskol wasn’t even born yet.
The event hosted Formula One and Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) events until 1984, but fans of last weekend’s $20,000 SKUSA SuperKarts Supernationals VIII at the Rio had to be thinking about the Caesars Palace Grand Prix for several reasons.
First, like the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, the Supernationals were presented in another parking lot across I-15 directly west of Caesars.
In addition, the Supernationals also featured Formula One drivers including Nelson Piquet, Jr., whose father Nelson Sr. competed at Caesars; along with seven time world champion Michael Schumacher of Germany and Sebastian Buemi of Switzerland.
Just as impressive was that the 25 year-old Jaskol was included in the mix of F-1 drivers in the Supernationals field competition over a 14-turn, 66-mile track that drew a capacity crowd during Sunday’s final which culminated a five-day run.
|Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, left, is shown with former Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice in the pits of the SKUSA SuperKarts Supernationals Sunday at the Rio..
Jaskol was one of only 13 Americans in the lightning-fast class and the only Las Vegan in what had to be one of his most memorable auto racing experiences. His Super Pro category was star-studded, to say the least.
Jaskol survived a war of framming and banging with Schumacher in Saturday’s heat race and finally settled for a 35th starting spot in the 43-car field of the 30-lap feature Sunday with high-pitched sounds that undoubtedly bounced off the towers at Caesars.
"This event started in Las Vegas in 1997," explained Jaskol adding that the most recent race was the fourth time it has been held at the Rio. "I can’t imagine a better venue than the Rio since it’s right in the middle of town and when you add in the fact that we had three F-1 drivers, we had a race perfect for Las Vegas.
"There was everything from the action to the color. It was truly like the F-1 stories I have heard about Caesars Palace."
Jaskol further explained that the Supernationals was one of the biggest karting events in the world with more than 400 entries.
"In the past, the Supernationals has always been just go-kart drivers," he said. "But within the last two years, we had Indy 500 champions like Buddy Rice and Dan Weldon and we have also had a NASCAR driver in Jamie MacMurray (2008).
"The addition of the Formula One drivers literally took the Supernationals to another level this year."
To Jaskol, the weekend package was as good as it gets and in fact, the mixture of more than 45 top-notch drivers in his category combined with colorful displays in the pits created a go-kart version of Monte Carlo.
"This wasn’t just some sort of exhibition either," Jaskol explained. "Michael Schumacher was driving his butt off. He has the best record in F-1 history – and he had a hard time getting into the top ten. This just shows that the competition was here."
The Super Pro category was won by Bas Lammers of the Netherlands followed by French drivers Norman Nato and Jeremy Iglesias.
|Matt Jaskol was the only Las Vegas entry in last weekend’s $20,000 SKUSA SuperKarts Supernationals VIII in the parking lot of the Rio Hotel. (Tony Scodwell photography)
"An event of this stature is truly a world-class race," said long-time auto racing enthusiast Tony Scodwell of Las Vegas. "To have so many superstars gracing Las Vegas is a true tribute to both motor racing and Southern Nevada. So many Formula One stars get their start in karting and as was evidenced by those who participated here during the weekend, they all love coming here to maintain their skills through karting.
"In fact, the grandson of two-time Indy 500 winner and two-time Formula One World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi was in the field. This event will only grow as time goes on."
Jaskol will next compete in the Karting All Star Classic the second week of December during the Performance Racing Industry show in Orlando, Fla. He won the race in the rain in 2006 in an event so popular that it is now carried by Speed Channel.
"It just gets bigger every year," Jaskol said of the classic which this year will include Weldon, Rice and McMurray along with motocross champion Kevin Windham and NHRA Funny Car standout Ron Capps.
Jaskol’s career has also included Formula BMW, Indy Lights and ASA Speed Trucks. He also won the Fall Classic at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Bullring in 2008.
Further information regarding Jaskol’s racing career can be found at www.mattjaskol.com. Other information about the go kart event can be found at www.superkartsusa.com.