October 8, 2012 - Connecticut brothers Neil and Alex Verhagen made their presence known in 2012 in the World Karting Association Manufacturers Cup Series, the six-race national touring series that features some of the best karting competition in the United States.
In their first full seasons on the WKA circuit, both Neil and Alex raced their Haase chassis to multiple feature wins. Alex's success, which included wins in eight of the 12 Yamaha Rookie Sportsman main events, led the 9-year-old driver to a prestigious national championship.
While Neil wasn't able to equal his younger brother's win total, the 11-year-old up-and-comer finished the WKA season as hot as any Junior Sportsman racer. After improving throughout the year, Neil broke through for his first Man Cup feature win in Yamaha Sportsman at the series' fifth round in August at Concept Haulers Motor Speedway in Illinois.
At the series' Grand Nationals season finale in September at New Castle (Ind.) Motorsports Park, Neil earned a pair of wins in Yamaha and Cadet Sportsman. He nearly won a third race but finished a half-kart-length back of David Malukas in Sunday's Yamaha Sportsman contest.
Neil ended the year the 2012 Man Cup finishing fifth in Yamaha Sportsman 2 points and seventh overall in Yamaha Sportsman 1 and Cadet Sportsman. All three divisions routinely started 30 or more karts throughout the year.
"We had a really good year," Neil commented. "I'm happy we were able to get some wins at the end of the year. We kept getting faster and things came together at the last couple races. I want to thank my family, Chi Chi Racing and Woltjer Racing Engines."
Alex Verhagen had a season for the ages in the Yamaha Rookie division. In his first full season in the class, Alex started out slow with bad luck and a pair of DNF's at the Daytona KartWeek opener in December. Behind the "eight ball," Alex entered round two at Kershaw, S.C., with something to prove. The youngster proceeded to race his Haase chassis to a weekend sweep at Carolina Motorsports Park in impressive drives that saw him weave in and out of lap traffic with competition challenging throughout the races.
Alex continued his success with another pair of wins at round three of the series at Pittsburgh Int'l Race Complex in May. Alex won on Saturday at round four at Michiana (Ind.) Raceway Park to bring his winning streak to five races. Sunday's Rookie final at MRP saw Alex get involved in an incident while racing for the lead; he recovered for a third-place finish.
In August, Alex left little doubt he was headed toward the Yamaha Rookie national championship. He swept the mains at Concept Haulers and then closed the season with first- and second-place finishes at New Castle to win the Rookie championship by nearly 400 points.
"After such a disappointing weekend in Daytona I thought I was going to have a terrible season," Alex began. "But after winning in Kershaw, I knew the season wasn't over and I had the confidence to win! My favorite win was at MRP on Saturday because I really had to battle to win that one. It was an incredible year and I would like to thank my family, Chi Chi Racing, Woltjer Racing Engines and all my friends who supported me."
Next up for the Verhagen Racing team is the Robo Pong 200 at New Castle, where Neil and Alex will compete in the Yamaha Jr Sportsman class, which pays a cool $5,000 to the winner. The event is this Saturday, Oct. 14.
The WKA Man Cup Series will return to action with the Sprint Championships December 27-30 at Daytona International Speedway.
Verhagen Racing is a national-level 2-cycle sprint kart team based in Ridgefield, Conn. Alex Verhagen, 9, is a WKA national champion on the Manufacturers Cup circuit while his older brother, Neil, is a three-time WKA national feature winner. The team's new website, VerhagenRacing.com, will debut this winter.