The History of Machismo

Indy. Le Mans. Monaco. To the average onlooker, these are simply motor racing events. To those most intimate with their nuances, they transcend time and evoke a passion bordering on obsession. Whether standing atop the podium in 1967 or 2007, to earn victory here is a championship in and of itself. To win is vindication, a tangible acknowledgement of greatness, and an open invitation into the most exclusive of company. To come close and fall short is heartbreak, agony, and utter despair.While the Machismo Enduro doesn’t yet have the same mass brand recognition (or revenue stream for that matter) as those legendary events mentioned above, there is a definite aura surrounding the race that draws a similar passion from those looking to conquer it. In it’s brief but storied existence, the race has drawn team’s from several continents, speaking several languages, all seeking a single win… but only a select few have found what they came looking for.
The Background
In 2001 Rob Niles would turn his passion for team endurance kart racing into a career by purchasing a fleet of karts and promoting a pinnacle level racing experience to the general public under the ‘Karting Ventures Inc.’ banner. Based primarily out of Southern California, Niles had a vision of hosting an annual team endurance event adjacent the glow of the Las Vegas strip. While the early years featured an 8-hour event running at the now defunct X-Plex karting facility just outside of Las Vegas, the annual race immediately began attracting karting enthusiasts and professional drivers alike, ensuring that the foundation for a premier level event had been laid.

2008 would be a huge year for the evolution of the event as former Dromo One General Manager Brad Packard joined Rob Niles and Karting Ventures with sights set on taking the event to a National level. Packard, the innovator of the original 12 Hours of Dromo, would bring a renewed sense of passion to the event after a multi-year hiatus for the program. It would be in a passing conversation about the branding of the event that Niles would offhandedly suggest it be coined “The Machismo”, a nod to the Spanish word referencing “a prominent exhibition of excessive masculinity.” Nothing else seemed more appropriate, and from that passing comment the ‘Machismo 500’ would officially be born.
2008: The Inaugural ‘Machismo’ & The Final Ten Minutes

Niles and Packard would agree early on in their discussions that for the event to reach it’s potential, the selected venue would be of paramount importance to its success. Enter the 12th annual SKUSA SuperNationals and its temporary circuit at the Rio Hotel and Casino scheduled for late fall of that year. The ‘SuperNats’ had established itself not only as the biggest sprint karting event in North America, but one of the largest in the world, drawing international factory teams and drivers to compete. It seemed only logical that the Machismo, with aspirations of becoming the biggest endurance event in the country, be run in conjunction with the SKUSA juggernaut.

The inaugural edition would draw 12 teams from around the country to compete, boasting a roster chalk full of talent from around the motor sports world. Unlike the popular “two-class” format now common to the Machismo, 2008 would feature a single class of competition on track utilizing Karting Venture’s fleet of modified 270cc Sodi karts. That year drew some of the best in the business as Gatorz Eyewear President Kerry Lynch would enlist the services of Sports Car Champion Joey Hand and IndyCar pilot Alex Tagliani, while karting veteran Jim Russell Jr. would enter just a two man effort in his quest for victory. 2008 also saw Rob Howden and Dave Cole put down the microphones, and put on the driving suits as they would take to the track representing ‘Team’ in an effort that would see them bested by a miniscule 13 laps for an 11th place finish.

The 2008 contest would conclude in legendary fashion as IndyCar star Alex Tagliani held the lead with just 10 minutes remaining. Running low on fuel, Tagliani would decided to go into conservation mode in hopes of avoiding a lengthy trip down pit lane. It would all be for naught as Tagliani ran the tank dry, resulting in the Canadian feverishly pushing his kart back to pit lane as the sun rose on over the strip. The beneficiary of that crucial misstep would be the ‘Sonoma Valley Racing’ squad comprised Ray Zanotto, Renn Ortenburger, and former karting champion Robby Mott. The trio would sail to a convincing victory that first year in truly amazing fashion, setting the bar high for exciting finishes in future years.
2009: Michael Schumacher & The Introduction of the Multi-Class Format
Building upon the momentum gained the year prior, the 2009 Machismo would again return to the Rio Hotel alongside the SKUSA SuperNats, and would again look to take things up a notch. 2009 would see the introduction of the Le Mans inspired two-class format, changing the dynamic of the event for years to come. Teams would be given the option to compete for the win in either the quicker (but delicate) 390cc Pro Class, or the full-bodied 270cc Sport Class. The intriguing new format would draw a total of 19 teams to the grid including Pro’s like Rafa Matos, Craig Stanton, and Tanner Foust. The new format would instantly create a new dynamic to the race where smoothing overtaking of lap traffic would become more critical than flat out speed… patience and planning would quickly be proven key.

Adding to the buzz that year was news that Formula One superstar Michael Schumacher would be competing in the SuperNats. This meant that Machismo pilots would not only have a chance to meet the F1 legend in the paddock, but would also have the chance to watch ‘His Schu-ness’ compete on the very track that they would be taking to later that same weekend.

Evidence of the increased level of competition was evident as the 2008 championship effort from ‘Sonoma Valley Racing’ would be relegated to just a sixth place finish in 2009. The multi-class structure proved favorable for the returning two-man effort of Jim Russell Jr and Chuck Gafrarar, who had finished as runners up the year before. Running under the ‘Russell Dunlop Karting’ banner, they would not be denied for a second time, going on to take the win by a full lap over their closest rivals and securing their place in Machismo history.

The Sport Class victory would not be as close. and Karting Ventures would put together a driver search that summer aimed at pulling together a handful of the best indoor karting pilots from around the country to form team ‘IKN All Stars’. A roster would be produced which featured former National Champion Mike Smith, Mid-West hot shoe Justin Kelley, Pennsylvania native Mike Bednar, and Floridian Jean Hoy. The group, joined for a stint by IKN honcho Rob Howden, would claim a convincing victory by a margin of over four laps. They would leave little doubt regarding the level of talent being fostered among the indoor ranks around the nation.

After nearly 8 hours of racing thru the night, both ‘Russell Dunlop Karting’ and the ‘IKN All Stars’ would pop the cork on the champagne and begin the celebrations as daylight broke over the Vegas Strip. Both squads had successfully navigated multi-class traffic, managed their fuel, and displayed brilliant speed on their way to Machismo immortality.
2010: Mandalay Bay & The Battle of Attrition
2010 would bring an interesting new challenge to the Machismo, venturing away from the Rio Hotel, it instead headed down Las Vegas Blvd to the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. The event would join the ‘Championship Karting International’ season finale on yet another challenging temporary circuit. The race would also be extended to run for 10 full hours this time around, and would include several mandatory kart swaps for the Pro Class, adding yet another twist of strategy for the third consecutive year.

The pole-sitting squad of ‘Night Shift Racing’ would have their hopes dashed just three hours in as pilot Anthony Razo would catch slower Sport Class traffic at an inopportune time, and contact would result in a damaged tie-rod for the more fragile Pro Kart. It would be a disappointing end to what looked to be a very promising night for the former endurance champions. ‘Team IronClad’ would find themselves in a similar situation heading into the 7th hour as contact with a Sport Class kart lead to a bent axle and significant time in pit lane for repairs for them as well.

For the second year in a row the Sport Class featured another runaway victory. This time it was the unlikely grouping of several individual entries labeled ‘Team B3RP’ putting several laps on the rest of the class. The group featured Brian Guevara, Bryan Armbrust, Brian Starr, Paul Ciralli, and Richard Griffin, all of which had been placed together by Karting Ventures in order to form a single team. A strong two team effort from the ‘Spectrum Racing’ camp would fill in the rest of the podium in 2010, however anything but a win leaves something to be desired at Machismo.

As the hours wound down and the sky began to illuminate with the rising of the sun in the distance, the overall Pro Class win would come down to two. The ‘Magnus /’ group comprised of Grand-Am Champ Craig Stanton, Efrain Olivares and Mike Kai had executed a very clean race, relying heavily on their work through traffic. Similarly, Jober Velasco’s ‘’ squad featuring Southern California sport karting veterans Tayor Hays, Sam Brumley, and Dave Messimer had also put themselves in position for a run to the checkers. ‘Magnus /’ would trust the final stint to Mike Kai who would not disappoint, putting distance between himself and the trailing Sam Brumley.

The ‘Magnus /’ trio would claim victory by a full lap on their way to a breakfast of chilled champagne atop the podium. While Kai, Stanton, and Olivares have each collected their fair share of wins over the years at various levels, they will all attest that there is something special about a Machismo Trophy on the mantle.
2011: Machismo Heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on IndyCar Weekend
The 2011 Edition of the “Super Bowl of Endurance Karting” has taken yet another leap forward as the Machismo is set to join the IZOD IndyCar finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this October. The race is set to run again on a temporary circuit, this time within the banks of the 3/8 mile Bullring facility which will feature a custom designed “Roval” configuration reminiscent of Daytona’s annual 24 Hour spectacle.

The Pro Class finish is one that will go down as one of the better in Machismo history as defending champions Team Gatorz / Shift Group battled back and forth with Team Le Mans Karting 1 out of the Northern California area in the final hours. With time running out, both squads found themselves on the same lap, separated by a mere 40 seconds. Gatorz / Shift Group pilot Efrain Olivares finished the final stint in conservative fashion, successfully keeping the nose clean to the checkers as a valiant charge and brilliant effort from the LMK boys came up just short at the midnight mark. With the win, team principals Efrain Olivares and Mike Kai returned to the top step for the second straight year, joined by newcomers Clement Ng, Kerry Lynch, and Byron Bishop as the group hoisted the trophies and showered in champagne.

The Sport Class results would not be so straightforward as quite a bit of shuffling in the finishing order would happen in the final minutes, not just with the Team Trunk Monkey shunt, but also after the checkered flag had been shown to the field. Timing and scoring had Team Titanium of Octane Raceway claiming victory over rivals SPV Sport by a full lap with a fantastic effort from the Arizona-based squad, however before the results could be made official, Race Directors found that the group had inadvertently violated the “drive time” rule outlined in the Official Event Rulebook. The rule instructs that no team driver can run more than an hour over any other team driver. A small miscalculation placed Team Titanium of Octane Raceway in violation of this rule by a mere 8 minutes, and a devastating disqualification would be forced upon them by race officials after a magnificent drive by the team. The DQ would elevate Team SPV Sport into the top position after playing brilliant pit strategy off of the multiple safety car deployments. Team Fluo Development went from a potential P4 finish up to a P2 when all was said and done, and Team Spectrum would make the odds-defying leap from a likely P5 finish right up to a third step on the Sport Class podium. Team SPV Sport would also have their champagne celebration as Sport Kart veterans Patrick Britain, Miles Calvin, and Logan Calvin joined team development drivers Darren Mercer and Andrew Brown, all claiming their first Machismo victory.
2012: Battle at the Bullring – Round 2
The 2012 Machismo 12Hr returned to the famed Las Vegas Motor Speedway and its banked ‘Bullring’ facility for the fifth consecutive installment of the popular multiclass endurance kart racing program. Eighteen teams would make the trip to sin city for the 2012 edition with arguably the most talented and competitive field of drivers to date.

he 2012 Sport Class would ultimately be decided by pit lane strategy and strong on-track pace, as no team would find themselves in the mechanical repair area due to damage at any point during the 12 hours. Always in the hunt for a win would be the Phoenix based ‘Team Titanium’ group headed up by Steve Lattanzi and anchored by top indoor karter Chaz Baca Jr. The group suffered a brutal disqualification in 2011 for a minimum driver time error, thus wiping away the would-be class win. 2012 would bring the same speed [less the accounting error] as they aimed for redemption. They would have their hands full as several other strong teams emerged to challenge for the win, including Team Trunk Monkey, which suffered heartbreak of their own in 2011 as a crash with 10 minutes remaining would cost them a podium finish. This year they would successfully avoid damage, while simultaneously balancing the logistics of having two drivers on their roster, Tony Severson and Kirk Feldkamp, that would be performing double duty by driving for a Pro Class team as well. Meanwhile, the surprise squad of 2012 would be Team DRS Enabled. The group would feature Steve Wetterau and company, no strangers to the motorsports scene, as they contested their first major endurance kart race. After holding the lead near the halfway point, their strong run would continue as they would find the podium with a third place finish when all was said and done. Ultimately though, the T4 Autosport – Tanto group would not be denied. The core of Steve Jasinski, Steve Hansen, and Dave Messimer have enjoyed much endurance karting success in the CalSpeed program over the past couple years, but it would be a brilliant drive from former Machismo winner Paul Ciralli that would send them over the top for 2012 Sport Class win by a margin of just over two whole laps. Team Titanium would claim second place hardware [and get to keep it this year], while Team DRS Enabled drove their way onto the final podium position.

Back in the Pro Class, Team NightShift Racing, a perennial Machismo favorite, would be forced to stretch fuel economy late in the race as they tried to hold on for a podium finish, but an unscheduled earlier kart swap left them a few laps short of the checkers. The team’s final stint driver, Patrick Britain, would feel the kart sputter and die with minutes remaining, dropping them to a disappointing sixth place finish. Team Norcal’s Finest would edge its fellow bay area rival, Team LeMans Karting Uno after both squads suffered pit lane setbacks, while Chris Huerta put in a brilliant performance in the final hour for Team Over The Hill to lead them to a podium finish in third. Huerta would finish just two seconds back of T4 AutoSports Taylor Hays, as Hays pushed hard to hold off the charge in the waning minutes. In the end, it would be the group representing Victory Lane Karting that would be the first to see the checkers after twelve hours of competition, taking a well earned win as the entire podium was separated by just over a minute when the dust settled. In addition to the team victory, Fred Ogrim would be named ‘Most Valuable Driver’ for the squad after a flawless performance on the day. With the win, the VLK trio now join an elite list of drivers to have stood atop the Machismo podium, a title they will have to press hard to keep as the event looks towards its sixth annual running next year.