EKN Trackside: Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SpringNationals – Preview Series – Part 3
Star-studded lineup to contest S1 Pro Stock Moto and TaG Senior for $3,500 in cash
The 2013 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour is set to begin April 12-14 as the SpringNationals will take place at the Musselman Honda Circuit outside Tucson, Arizona. A record number of drivers – 220 in eight categories – have registered to take part in this historic event, a good mixture of returning drivers and new faces. A season high $96,000 prize purse is to be awarded on the year, with up to $9,600 in cash available this weekend, as the journey to the SKUSA SuperNationals XVII in Las Vegas. The circuit hosting the opening two rounds of the SKUSA Pro Tour is the 8/10-mile replica of the famous Suzuka track in Japan. Built in 2005, the facility was site of the 2011 SpringNationals, which produced some of the best racing seen in recent years.
eKartingNews.com will once again be on site – from Friday to Sunday of the race weekend – providing the ‘EKN Trackside Live’ broadcast presented by Champion Racing at http://www.ekartingnews.com/live . Live play-by-play action, live timing and forum discussion is available all on one page, and a mobile audio link is available to those on the go.
EKN, the official media partner of Superkarts! USA, is set to provide a three-day preview program leading up to the SKUSA Pro Tour SpringNationals highlighting each of the eight classes. Follow updates at the Official Discussion Thread, Facebook, Twitter and now on Instagram. The series ends with the Pro categories – S1 and TaG Senior.
S1 Pro Stock Moto
The top level of the Superkarts! USA Stock Moto ladder system welcomes the largest field in SpringNationals history, with 18 of the best in the country contesting the S1 category in Tucson this weekend. Despite the record entry total, more drivers will be at home listening into the EKN Trackside Live coverage, planning to compete at the SummerNationals and SuperNationals in Vegas, which is a positive sign for the future. This weekend however will be focused on drivers competing for the $1,750 in cash while setting the stage for the chase to the championship.
Two-time and defending champ Fritz Leesmann is returning for his fourth season on the Pro Tour. The benchmark for all shifterkart drivers in the United States, the PSL CRG/Diede Racing pilot will have the target on this back once again after scoring two race wins and three runner-up finishes. Going toe-to-toe with Frtiz all season was S1 rookie Joey Wimsett. Another veteran of the sport, the Oregon driver won the opening round and scored another victory at the SummerNats. The CRG-USA driver ran second to Leesmann in the other two races with a fourth at the SuperNationals. Not content with second place, Wimsett will carry the #2 SKUSA plate with intentions of stealing the #1 spot for 2014. New Zealand driver Daniel Bray puts the top three from last year back on the Pro Tour, and both former S1 champions in the field for the weekend. The 2011 title winner was unable to match the pace set by Leesmann and Wimsett last year, but the Kiwi has been preparing hard for the upcoming season.
Behind them were a number of rookies, primed to improve in their sophomore season in the S1 category. Jake French transitions to the DRT Racing/Pole Position Raceway operation aboard the DR Kart, teaming up with Josh Lane. Kyle Hathcox (GP) and Cory Milne (Aluminos/CRG) experienced up and down seasons last year, with the goal of improving in 2013.
The eldest driver in the field, 2011 S4 Pro Tour champion Jimmy McNeil (CRG-USA), returns again to do battle against the young guns. A former ProKart Challenge competitor makes his return to the shifterkart ranks this year, as former regional title winner and Rotax Grand Nationals champ Cody Hodgson (Double Nickel Enterprises/Tony Kart) will make his Pro Tour debut this weekend.
A solid group of graduates will begin their S1 rookies seasons this weekend. S2 Pro Tour champion Sabré Cook and SuperNationals winner Billy Musgrave lead the new crop of drivers. Cook (CRG-USA) become the first female driver to earn a Pro Tour title, and has her sites on running at the front in S1. Musgrave won at the SpringNationals last year, and back it up by edging out Cook in Las Vegas. Two wins at the California ProKart Challenge already have this SoCal driver primed for the big show that is the Pro Tour. The weekend will be interesting to see if anyone can run, or even pass the top two from last year and watch the development of the rising stars.
S1 Provisional Entry List
|1||Fritz Leesmann||PSL CRG / Diede Racing||CRG||Elk Grove||CA||USA||26|
|6t||Jake French||DRT Racing / Pole Position Raceway||DR||Sachse||TX||USA||17|
|15b||Alec Gumpfer||Pure Karting||Tony Kart||Kula||HI||USA||17|
|25u||Mike Beeny||MSquared Karting||Tony Kart||Sandy||UT||USA||33|
|44j||Josh Lane||DRT Racing||DR||Algonquin||IL||USA||24|
|88c||Matias Podboj||Kimball Williams Racing||CRG||Anaheim||CA||ARG||18|
|124u||Tyler Bennett||MSquared Karting||Tony Kart||Farmington||UT||USA||23|
|141b||Lloyd Mack||Musgrave Racing Company||Tony Kart||Beaumont||CA||JAM||29|
|155y||Cody Hodgson||Double Nickel Enterprises||Tony Kart||Escalon||CA||USA||21|
|317d||Sabre' Cook||CRG-USA||CRG||Grand Junction||CO||USA||18|
|322c||Billy Musgrave||Musgrave Racing Company||Tony Kart||Norco||CA||USA||21|
|324d||Christian Bird||GP Arizona||GP||Grand Junction||CO||USA||19|
People say professional spots are a game of inches – basketball, baseball, football, hockey, golf. The list goes on and on. Motorsports is the same, and by looking at this entry list primed for this year’s SpringNationals in Tucson, there is no room for error. This stacked roster of drivers will battle the track and one another in what could be one of the top race weekends of the season.
Leading the charge toward the $1,000 to win from the $1,750 in prize money up for grabs are the returning top-three drivers from a year ago. Arizona driver Phil DeLaO dominated the SpringNationals and backed it up at the SummerNats to claim the championship in Las Vegas. The current EKN Driver Rankings #1 driver was among, if not the best last year racing aboard the Top Kart brand. This year, he’s moved over to the KartSport North America program and the Arrow chassis, winning two of the four races he contested at the Rotax Challenge of the Americas.
His top challenger throughout the Pro Tour was Canadian Remo Ruscitti. The Italian Motors USA/Italkart USA driver has become a very well-rounded driver, making his way up the karting ranks over the past several years, winning at the SummerNationals and claiming the vice-champion position in the standings last year. Behind him was the top rookie of the Pro Tour campaign – Joel Jens (Tony Kart). The Wisconsin driver was impressive in Phoenix and backed it up with a runner-up behind Ruscitti in Utah.
As you peer up and down the driver roster, the eldest drivers in the field are some of the most experienced in the sport. Matt Johnson (Buddy Rice Karting/Energy) was one of the winners on last year’s Pro Tour, and is the only driver to win in multiple years. Aside from the win, it was a challenging 2012 season but Johnson is hoping to put the bad luck behind him moving forward. Ruscitti has had the benefit of learning from one of the top karters in North America over the last few decades. Italian Motors’ Michael Valiante – a three-time SuperNationals winner – returns back behind the wheel. A contender at the SpringNats and the SuperNats last year, Valiante will be on the stop watch of everyone this weekend. Alongside him is Brazilian Andre Nicastro, the 2010 SuperNationals TaG Senior winner. Not one to race for points, Nicastro is all-in on each and every weekend for the win. Another driver returning to his roots is the 2004 SuperNationals SuperPro champion Jason Bowles. The 2009 NASCAR K&N Pro Series champion and 2012 full-time Nationwide Series competitor will make his Pro Tour debut this weekend, teaming up with the Phil Giebler Racing operation aboard the familiar OTK brand with FA Kart.
A number of the drivers are competing are still unable to vote yet, and are either entering their first or second season at the Senior level. Austin Elliott and Jake Craig were just behind Jens in the rookie title chase, finishing the season fifth and sixth in the standings. Elliott (Top Kart USA/Grand Product) stood on the podium in his first weekend in TaG Senior last year, and was in the hunt for a spot in the top-three of the standings until a wreck in Vegas took him out of contention. Craig (Tru Tech Racing/Kosmic) – the 2011 TaG Junior Pro Tour champion – had a rough start to last season but continued to improve racing against the top drivers in the country.
The 2011 vice-champion in TaG Senior was the young Dakota Dickerson (Phil Giebler Racing/FA Kart). His amazing performance at the SpringNats propelled him into championship contention that year. Bounced around some last year, Dickerson could shine again at one of his favorite tracks. Among the rookies this year is Michigan driver Derek Dignan (KartSport North America/Arrow). Coming off two wins at the WKA Manufacturers Cup Series race in Kershaw last weekend, Dignan will need to adjust to a new track and the MG Tires quickly in order to be among the contenders this weekend.
A lot of familiar names can be found throughout the entry list, many that we could see toward the top of the results sheet on the weekend. Turning in their wrenches for helmets are veterans Mike Giessen and Brandon Jones. Giessen (Mike Manning Karting/DR Kart) is a WKA Triple Crown member and has won a race in the last two WKA events. Jones has been working with a number of the young drivers under the KartSport North America/Arrow tent and will now put his knowledge to the test against this stacked field. Another former Pro Tour winner returns for 2013 as TJ Koyen will make the trek from Wisconsin. A winner at the 2010 SummerNats in Shawano, the DB Motorsports/Exprit pilot put on a show in the LCQ at the SuperNats last November, coming from roughly last to qualify for SuperSunday. Former EKN Driver Rankings #1 driver Mason Chelootz (Top Kart USA/Grand Products) is back to tackle the Pro Tour after running not as expected at the SummerNats and SuperNationals last year.
Overall, each and every session on the weekend is going to be intense as this driver line-up exemplifies experience and youthfulness. For those able to be successful, the first step in the journey to claim part of the $6,000 in the championship prize fund.
TaG Senior Provisional Entry List
|1||Phil De La O||Kartsport North America||Arrow||Leopard||Peoria||AZ||USA||19|
|2||Remo Ruscitti||Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA||Italkart||Leopard||Burnaby||BC||CAN||19|
|3||Joel Jens||Joel Jens Racing||Tony Kart||Leopard||Manitowoc||WI||USA||16|
|00t||Mason Chelootz||Top Kart USA / Grand Products||Top Kart||Leopard||Spring||TX||USA||17|
|11y||Roberto Manduchi||Italcorse America||Italcorse||Leopard||Henderson||NV||ITA||20|
|12h||Kindra Hurlbert||Franklin Motorsports||Merlin||Leopard||Northfield||MN||USA||16|
|13b||Dallas Hollins||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart||Leopard||Fontana||CA||USA||15|
|15x||Andrew Wiener||ART GP America||ART GP||Leopard||Spring Valley||CA||USA||17|
|15y||Austin Dement||Nevada Kartsports||FA Kart||Leopard||Reno||NV||USA||16|
|16e||Mason Daughters||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart||Rotax||Polo||MO||USA||16|
|22s||Jason Bowles||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart||Rotax||Mooresville||NC||USA||30|
|25o||Nick Martin||Russell Karting Specialties||Parolin||Leopard||Overland Park||KS||USA||16|
|33c||Brandon Reed||Tony Kart||Leopard||Yucaipa||CA||USA||17|
|38j||Scott Kopp||Innovative Performance||Praga||Vortex ROK TT||Big Bend||WI||USA||23|
|42j||Derek Dignan||KartSport North America||Arrow||Leopard||Rochester Hills||MI||USA||16|
|44x||Matt England||Top Kart USA / Grand Products||Top Kart||Leopard||Phoenix||AZ||USA||15|
|55a||Andres Ceballos||ART GP America||ART GP||Rotax||Santa Ana||CA||COL||16|
|60c||Jake Craig||Tru Tech Racing Engines||Kosmic||Vortex ROK TT||Mission Viejo||CA||USA||15|
|63x||Travis Lowe||Nash's Motorsports||Tony Kart||Leopard||Pasadena||CA||USA||25|
|68j||TJ Koyen||DB Motorsports||Exprit||Leopard||Sun Prairie||WI||USA||22|
|68n||Mike Giessen||Mike Manning Karting||DR||Vortex ROK TT||Deer Park||NY||USA||25|
|72y||Tazio Ottis||Infinity Kart Services||Energy||Leopard||Berkeley||CA||USA||17|
|73z||Andrew Zimmer||ART GP America||ART GP||Leopard||Spokane||WA||USA||22|
|78y||Austin Elliott||Top Kart USA / Grand Products||Top Kart||Leopard||Shingle Springs||CA||USA||17|
|84s||Brandon Jones||KartSport North America||Arrow||Rotax||Mooresville||NC||USA||27|
|88a||Juan Jimenez||ART GP America||ART GP||Leopard||Santa Ana||CA||COL||15|
|92a||Andre Nicastro||Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA||Italkart||Leopard||Sumas||WA||BRA||32|
|95r||Michael Valiante||Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA||Italkart||Leopard||Sumas||WA||CAN||33|
|97r||Jamie McAllister||Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA||Italkart||Leopard||Vancouver||BC||CAN||16|
|113x||Bailey Murphy||AZ Kart Werx||Arrow||Leopard||Phoenix||AZ||USA||16|
|126c||Alejo Fernandez||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy||Rotax||San Bernardino||CA||USA||17|
|138r||Scott Hargrove||Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA||Italkart||Leopard||Surrey||BC||CAN||18|
|150n||Dan Roeper||Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA||Italkart||Leopard||New Hyde Park||NY||USA||16|
|197x||Jonathan May||Nash's Motorsports||FA Kart||Rotax||San Marcos||CA||USA||16|
|255y||Jess Peterson||Leading Edge Motorsports||Praga||Leopard||Sparks||NV||USA||25|
|341s||Nick Rivellini||Team WRS||Kosmic||Rotax||Great Falls||VA||USA||17|
|380c||Dakota Dickerson||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart||Rotax||San Diego||CA||USA||16|
|412y||Matt Johnson||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy||Vortex ROK TT||Las Vegas||NV||USA||33|