EKN Trackside: Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SpringNationals – Sunday Report
Zimmer doubles up in TaG Senior as Leesmann evens things in S1
The final day went into the books for the 2013 SpringNationals to kick off this year’s Superkarts! USA Pro Tour. The weather at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona was perfect, with just a little bit of strong wind gusts testing the many tents that jam packed the paddock. It was a busy day of action from sun up to sun down with eight categories completing the second round of competition for the weekend. Great racing took place in the many categories, but the day did have some drama and controversy. When the final rulings came out, it was Andrew Zimmer securing his second big victory of the weekend in TaG Senior with Fritz Leesmann evening things out in the S1 category.
The TaG Senior group was the last to hit the track and was given the hot pit to make any changes during the 12-minute session. For many, it was hit the track for the quick lap and then start making changes for the opening heat race. The pole position was a dual between defending champion Phil DeLaO (Arrow) and Louie Pagano (Birel). Each took multiple turns over the first four laps with DeLaO posting a 49.884-second lap aboard his KartSport North America entry to secure the position. Pagano was just six thousandths of a second off his time. Saturday winner Andrew Zimmer (ART GP) was third with Alejo Fernandez (Energy) and Dakota Dickerson (FA Kart) completing the fast five. The top six, including Arizona driver Bailey Murphy (Arrow), were within a tenth of each other with the top 13 powered by a Rotax kart.
Up front, the opening heat race was uneventful as DeLaO and Zimmer drove away with the top two positions in the 10-lap event. Dickerson held the third spot after the opening circuit with Matt Johnson (Energy) and Pagano trailing. Dickerson fell down the order as the race progressed, finishing ninth. This put Johnson and Pagano up to third and fourth with Jake Craig (Kosmic) into fifth from 11th, but was disqualified for oil on the clutch, moving Jonathan May (FA Kart) into the position.
DeLaO was able to drive to the win in heat two unchallenged, crossing the line over one second ahead of Pagano. The Birel America/DPK driver was the early driver on the move, and was up to second quickly. He put a gap on the rest of the pack but Zimmer was able to run him down to put a little pressure on as they completed the 10-lap event. May finished fourth and Johnson dropped back to fifth.
The controversy continued to the very end unfortunately in the TaG Senior class, with a decision made by a few competitors we have not seen on the Pro Tour. DeLaO and Zimmer broke away from the field as a great battle settled in for third with a number of drivers. Coming up through the field however was Michael Giessen, driving for Mike Manning Karting with a Motori 7 engine. Running just outside the top-10 all weekend long, he began picking off drivers at random. He worked his way to the fight for third, and knifed through them and started running down the leaders. It was then discovered that Giessen was running non-compliant with the minimum weight rules. He caught the leaders and eventually took over the top spot. Zimmer and DeLaO raced as they, trying to find a way around and taking chances as best as they would in a normal racing situation, however this was not normal. Thankfully, no contact was made as Zimmer came through to score the victory with KartSport North America’s DeLaO in second.
It was a great moment for the Washington driver, making his debut with the new ART GP America operation and handing them their first two major victories. Giessen crossed the line third but came across the scales well below the minimum weight and was disqualified. Johnson won the battle for third, but was given a one position penalty for blocking which promoted May to the podium and Johnson back to fourth ahead of Pagano. Joel Jens (Tony Kart) was another driver who crossed the scales below the minimum weight after he original placed inside the top-10.
S1 Pro Stock Moto
As the S2 group set a new track record to start out Sunday’s qualifying rounds, it was expected to see a new mark set by an S1 driver. That would end up being defending series champion Fritz Leesmann as the PSL CRG/Diede Racing pilot posted a 47.920-second lap. Interesting, he would be the only driver to do so with the track changing over the hour after the S2 group. Saturday winner Joey Wimsett (CRG) ended up second with Cory Milne (CRG) finding speed overnight to end the session in third. Jake French (DR) found more as well, placing fourth with Sabre Cook (CRG) in fifth.
Thing up front stayed the same as Leesmann and Wimsett went 1-2 in the opening heat race. Leesmann drove away to a 1.6-second advantage, with Wimsett recording the fast lap of the race. The rest of the top five shuffled up in turn two of the opening lap as French and Cook made contact, ending both of their races early. This put Milne holding off 2011 champ Daniel Bray (GP) and Cody Hodgson (Tony Kart) early on. Milne pulled away some as the Kiwi and Hawaiian native fought for the fourth spot. Bray would come away with the spot however and was able to run down Milne for the third spot. Milne held on to fourth with Hodgson in fifth.
Things ran unchanged at the front in heat two, as it was 1-2-3 for the drivers from last year’s point standings as Leesmann won another one over Wimsett with Bray three seconds back. Hodgson fought strong once again as he kept Milne off for the fourth position. Eyes were on the 2012 S2 champ Cook as she made her way up from 17th on the grid. Into the top-10 quickly, she fought her way up to seventh to finish behind her CRG-USA teammate Jimmy McNeil (CRG).
Wimsett again grabbed the holeshot to begin the main event, as he’s been solid off the line. Leesmann slotted into second with Hodgson up to third. Bray was fourth with Cook in fifth as Milne was a no start after losing a tire on the warm-up lap. By lap two, Leesmann was at the point and established a good size lead. Wimsett could only watch as Fritz pulled away to a 1.4-second advantage for the victory, matching last year’s SpringNats results from a year ago. Cook continued her charge forward after the heat one DNF, muscling by Hodgson and then Bray for the third spot on the podium to put CRG-USA drivers second and third. Bray ran alone in fourth aboard his Aluminos entry the remainder of the race as Hodgson had to fight off McNeil for the fifth spot.
S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto
Saturday’s run for Axel Matus (GP) was an impressive day for the S2 rookie as he nearly pulled off a podium finish. The Mexican driver backed it up by setting fast lap in the qualifying session on Sunday. The GP Texas USA driver posted the only lap below the 48-second mark to set a new track record (47.955) as the session ran before the S1 group hit the track. Garrett Boone (Birel) and Ryan Kinnear (Intrepid) finished the timed run where they ended up after the main event yesterday, second and third. Christian Schureman (CRG) was fourth with Alan Michel (Tony Kart) in fifth. Saturday winner Augie Lerch (Tony Kart) could only muster a sixth in the timed session.
The S2 group was not satisfied with where they were after qualifying, as the front five did not settle down and provided an action packed opening heat race. Kinnear grabbed the holeshot from row two to start the race with the lead as they shuffled in behind. Boone would take over the top spot before the end of lap one, with Matus working past Kinnear as well into turn one. Boone and Matus engaged in a great battle for the lead, swapping the position numerous times until the final few corners. By then, Pure Karting’s Lerch was up to third and challenged Matus for the runner-up spot, allowing Boone to score the victory unchallenged. Lerch placed second with Matus to third. Schureman ran fourth as Kinnear dropped to fifth.
Not as heated as the opening run, heat two provided its own bit of drama for the win. Lerch was able to grab the holeshot with Matus coming through to take the second spot from Boone. Matus kept up the pressure and took the lead on lap two. The duo went back and forth until Matus secured the position and scored the win. Kinnear was the driver on the move after bogging on the start, moving back into the top five and challenging rookie Curtis Paul Jr. (Tony Kart) for the fourth position when contact was made. That dropped them both down the order and allowed Boone and Schureman to race for third. The new CRG-USA driver ran down the 3G Kart Racing pilot and took the position to the checkered flag. Alan Michel (Tony Kart) was fifth for some time before Connor Wagner (FA Kart) continued advancing forward, taking the spot over Cody Diede (CRG) and Kinnear with Michel ninth and Paul tenth.
The S2 main event experienced its own bit of drama as we see in many of the Pro Tour events. The top two of Lerch and Matus set the pace early on as they put some distance on the rest of the top-10. They swapped the lead a number of times during the first half of the race, but lap 10 was a crucial moment. As they swapped again in turn four, as they reached turn five contact was made. Matus got the worse of it as he spun around to the outside, allowing four drivers past with Lerch continuing on in fifth. Matus regroup and got going again until he went off in turn one the next time around, ending his race. This put Boone at the front of the field with Schureman, Kinnear and Paul. Schureman took his turn at the lead briefly before he went wide at turn 11 on lap 15.
This put Boone back to the lead, but was being hounded by Lerch making his way back toward the lead. On lap 17, he regained the top spot and went on to hold off the challenges to cross the line first. Officials however penalized Lerch for the contact made with Matus, giving him a four position penalty which removed him from the win and the podium. That handed the win to Boone, putting Champion Racing’s Kinnear second and Paul his first Pro Tour podium in S2 in his class debut. Lerch was classified fourth with Acceleration Karting’s Joshua De Losier (CRG) coming home fifth.
S4 Master Stock Moto
It was a new day and a new round for the S4 category, but the same name at the top of the order in qualifying. Round one winner Jordon Musser (Birel) returned to the front of the class as he posted a 48.904-second lap for the pole position, nearly two-tenths clear of Willy Musgrave (Tony Kart). DRT Racing’s Brian Fisher (DR) put in a better performance this time around, suffering from a shifted axle yesterday to sit outside the top-20. Today, the DRT Racing driver was third in the order of Acceleration Karting’s Curtis Cooksey (CRG) and Leading Edge Motorsports’ Trevor McAlister (Praga). T-Mac experienced his own troubles in yesterdays’ session as a loose motor mount put him at the back and he was never able to recover.
Heat one was thrilling each and every circuit as we saw multiple position changes throughout the top 10. Musgrave grabbed the holeshot as the lights went out with Musser dropping to fifth from the pole position. Fisher was second with McAlister up to third on the opening circuit while Musser was back to fourth by the time they reached the stripe. McAlister was quick early, working past Fisher and then Musgrave in a matter of a few corners. In the process, Musser began moving up as well until he reached second and the back bumper of T-Mac. Lap six, Musser made a move past McAlister and imidiately into defense mode. This allowed Fisher to pressure McAlister for the second spot and allowed Musser to pull away. Fisher worked past McAlister for the runner-up position lap seven and held it to the end as McAlister settled for third. Cooksey fought with Robert Marks (CRG) in the end, until Marks got sideways trying to make a pass in turn four, spinning around and falling down the order. This gave Cooksey the position with Musgrave back to fifth after leading the opening circuit.
Fisher launched off the line perfectly to begin heat two as he pulled away from the field with the lead. Musser dropped back to fourth on the opening lap behind McAlister and Cooksey. Musser recovered to take back third and then second, setting his sites on Fisher. By lap eight, Musser was back in the lead and scored another heat race win. Fisher ended up second again. McAlister and Cooksey fought for the third position until contact was made on lap five in turn two. Cooksey climbed the rear bumper of McAlister, spinning them around and taking both out of contention and to the back of the field for the main event. This moved Musgrave up to third as he fought off Olpin to the checkered flag. Rob Logan (CRG) ran fast laps of the race up to fifth but Marks came away with fast lap honors as he drove from 15th to sixth.
Musser was better the third time around when the main event began as he launched in front of Fisher and Musgrave to being the 18-lap race. Musgrave made quick work on Fisher, stealing the second spot as the top three drivers were able to pull away from the battle for fourth that included a number of drivers. The top three seemed evenly matched, running a few kart lengths away from each other the entire course of the event. At the checkered flag, Musser secured his second victory of the weekend for the 3G Kart Racing operation with Musgrave and Fisher completing the podium. Logan won the fight for fourth with Marks taking fifth place honors over Texan Mike Smith (CRG) and defending champ Olpin. Jet Davis (CRG) was credited with the fast lap of the race, placing 15th and just ahead of Cooksey who advanced forward after the heat two incident.
The two quickest drivers from Saturday’s main event returned the next day to lead the qualifying session on Sunday. Paul Bonilla (Tony Kart) set fast lap in the 20-lap final in round one, and came back to duplicate that in the timed session to begin round two. The Full Throttle Karting driver was a full two-tenths clear of Saturday winner Scott Falcone (Arrow). Billy Cleavelin (CRG) was third in the order as Brian McHattie (Exprit) and Anthony Honeywell (Tony Kart) completed the fast five.
Bonilla and Falcone walked away from the field in the opening heat race. Bonilla led the early portion but Falcone was able to slide past for the lead and the win at the end. The fight for third featured Cleavelin and McHattie going back and forth, with Cleavelin earning the position with McHattie fighting off a charging Mike Jones (Sodi Kart) in the final few laps.
Falcone got the jump as the lights went out to begin heat two with Cleavelin jumping past Bonilla for second early. The defending champ came back for second and ran down Falcone. Once there, Falcone would not allow him by and this in turn brought Cleavelin in closer as they reached the checkered flag. With no change in position, Falcone took the win over Bonilla and Cleavelin with McHattie and Honeywell completing the top-five. Jones was unable to leave the grid with a mechanical issue and forced to start the main event from the last position.
It was a two driver walk-away in the TaG Master final as the top two from a year ago went toe-to-toe for the Sunday victory. Falcone took advantage of the pole position and set the pace early while Bonilla was shuffled back to third behind Cleavelin. Bonilla needed three laps to work past the three-time SuperNationals winner to take second spot and set his sights on Falcone. Just one lap later, Bonilla drafted past Falcone for the lead and began stretching out a gap. With the fast laps of the race, Bonilla pulled out to a near three-second advantage by the 18th and final lap for his first win of the season. KartSport North America’s Falcone finished second to make the points battle more interesting heading to the SummerNationals. Cleavelin fell behind McHattie after Bonilla went by and then pulled off on lap seven with a flat left front tire. McHattie held the third spot comfortably until Honeywell, Mizzoni and Kevin Manning (Vemme) ran him down. The final few laps, McHattie fought off Honeywell and scored the final podium spot to make it DB Motorsports third and fourth. Manning was able to work past Mizzoni for the fifth position to recover from a DNF in yesterday’s main event.
S5 Junior Stock Moto
The second day of any two race day weekend offers the possibility for back to back wins. In the ItalCorse sponsored S5 class that was the goal for Carter Williams (FA Kart) after holding off Jared Campbell (Intrepid) for the main event win Saturday evening.
Sunday, Williams sat on the grid for nearly half the session before he took to the track. The gamesmanship paid off, as his first lap earned him the pole. Williams managed to improve on his first lap before the checkers flew. Raul Guzman (G.P) had a better day of qualifying as he earned the second starting spot. Patricio O’Ward (Birel) and Campbell filled out the second row.
The first heat saw Guzman get the hole shot off the lights only to see Williams take the lead back one lap later. Williams never looked back and scored the first heat win over Campbell and Patrico O’Ward (Birel).
The second saw Campbell get an excellent jump off the lights which earned him the hole shot from his outside row one starting spot. Campbell drew from experience he gained by racing Williams the day before, stretching to nearly a two second lead at points in the race and repeated the previous day’s events as he beat Campbell for the win in the second heat.
The main event was all Campbell as he earned his first Pro Tour win Sunday. Campbell kept all three of last year’s national podium placers behind him and picked up the win with a one second gap back to second place Williams. O’Ward finished third, while Guzman just missed out on a podium finish after a solid third fourth place run that came after battling last years national champion Jim McKinney (KGB) for the last half of the race. McKinney rounded out the top five.
After missing the qualifying session yesterday, flying in from Portland after finishing some school commitments, Luke Selliken (Kosmic) made good for Sunday’s timed session by clocking in the quickest lap to earn the pole position. The Rolison Performance Group driver laid a 50.364-second lap as the defending champion edged out last year’s vice-champion Carter Williams (FA Kart) to make it a 1-2 front row. Nick Ramirez (Top Kart) was third, just six-hundredths off the quick lap with Austin Versteeg (CRG) and Kale Kunicki (Vemme) completing the fast five. Saturday winner Blaine Rocha (Kosmic) was seventh in final order.
Selliken used his pole position to lead all 10 laps of the opening heat race. Luke got the jump as Williams was caught off guard and dropped back through the opening corner. This allowed Ramirez to slide up to the second spot where he sat on Selliken’s bumper. The fight for third included Versteeg, Rocha and Davey Manthei Jr. (Arrow). Versteeg got away and ran down the top two with fast laps of the race. Versteeg caught them with a few laps remaining, but defensive lines by Ramirez gave Selliken the advantage enough to win. Rocha and Manthei caught second and third, as they along with Versteeg worked past Ramirez to drop him to fifth. Versteeg locked on the bumper of Rocha as the drafted up to Selliken to finish second and third. Manthei placed fourth with Ramirez fifth.
It was Selliken once again in heat two, this time hounded by Versteeg. Rocha was shuffled back at the start, dropping down outside the top-10. This gave the CRG-USA driver a clean path to the defending champ. They ran 1-2 the entire time to the checkered flag. Ramirez ran third early on as he and Yurik Carvalho (Italkart) pulled away from the rest of the field. In the end, Carvalho secured the position as Ramirez settled for fourth. Manthei was with the duo early, but dropped back and fell into the clutches of Jake Preston (FA Kart), who crossed the line in fifth.
Selliken displayed the SKUSA #1 plate proudly throughout the day as he completed the sweep with main event victory. Selliken led early with Carvalho sliding through in second briefly before Versteeg, who fell back to fourth after the opening corner, fought his way back. Versteeg attacked quickly, taking over the lead from Selliken on lap four. They went back and forth over the course of the next few laps before the defending champ took control. From there, he pulled away while posting his fast laps of the race and the group behind him fought for second. In the end, Selliken scored the victory by four seconds. The second spot looked to be Versteeg’s until Carvalho and Rocha worked together to catch him. When Versteeg went into defensive mode, Manthei and Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) caught the group to make it five racing for the final two podium positions. On the final lap, they went side by side through the final corners as Versteeg fought them off for the spot. Carvalho crossed the line in third, Manthei in fourth and Ramirez fifth. Contact sent Brooks and Rocha off the track on the final corner, with Rocha crossing in eighth and Brooks backwards in the tenth position. Williams came from 17th to sixth with Emerson Reed (Top Kart) in seventh and Grey ninth.
After winning his first SKUSA Pro Tour race on Saturday, Chase Farley (Energy) maintained his momentum in TaG Cadet qualifying on Sunday by posting a 56.340-second lap to take the pole for the opening heat race. Roy Fulmer IV (Arrow) was just three hundreths of a second off the pace to hold second, ahead of Jackson Logdson (Tony Kart). Dezel West (Nevoso) and Jagger Jones (Tony Kart) rounded out the fast five in the 12-minute qualifying run. Saturday podium finishers Anthony Willis (DR Kart) and Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) had rougher times in qualifying, as Willis ended up ninth. Robb was battling an engine issue and was mired back in 23rd. Robb’s would swap engines on his kart and the subsequent 10-position penalty put him at the tail of the field for the first heat race.
Farley continued his impressive weekend performance in the heat races, winning both 10-lappers in style. In the opening heat, he outran Jones for a 1.3-second victory. Logsdon chased Jones to the stripe to take third. West was fourth on the track, but received a two-position penalty for being out of the position at the start, eventually finishing sixth. From his starting spot at the back of the grid, Robb was able to advance to 22nd to begin his recovery attempt.
In the second heat, which was used to set the grid for the main, Farley continued to lower the fastest race lap en route to a dominant eight-second victory. A great battle developed for second between Logsdon, Trenton Sparks (FA Kart) and Myles Farhan (DR Kart), and in the end, Sparks would take the position to secure a front row starting spot alongside Farley for the main. Farhan edged out Logsdon to set row two. Nick Brueckner (Birel), Jonathan Shone (Top Kart) and Oliver Calvo (Tony Kart) fought it out for fifth with Shone winning the position. Robb continued his recovery and worked up to 15th in the second heat race, putting him on the eighth row for the start of the 14-lap main.
In the main, Farley had Farhan latched to his rear bumper for the opening laps, but he would eventually pull away to another dominant win. Farhan leveraged his early draft on Farley to finish second, while Logdson completed the podium. Jones and Sparks wrapped up the top-five.
Despite the different situations that arose throughout the weekend, there is one thing that is certain, the Pro Tour is the top level in North American karting. There was a more competitive vibe surrounding the paddock, with everyone trying to be at the top of the game. It’s always been there, but it appears it gone to the next level if not higher. A lot of interesting stories came out of the weekend, but there were a lot of good stories to hit on as we prepare for the SummerNationals in July at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway. Eight drivers leave the SpringNationals the leader in the championship chase, and that will be the focus heading to the Colorado in three months.