EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – New Castle – Saturday Report
Rogero smokes field in Pro, Jens earns third straight in Yamaha
It was an exciting day at the New Castle Motorsports Park as the second event of the United States Pro Kart Series – presented by Bridgestone, FranklinKart.com, and L&T Manufacturing – contested the first round of competition on the weekend. The seven Yamaha and Leopard categories fought around the 1-mile course for a qualifying session, two heat races and a main event. Many of the victories were decided in the final few feet, bringing about a patient and calculating approach to the racing for the day, which was sponsored by DRT Racing and Ribtect3.
Veterans know how to get around technical circuits such as the New Castle Motorsports Park, so it was no surprise to see Chris Wehrheim’s name next to P1. The Top Kart USA pilot laid down the fastest lap of the session (1:04.724), to edge out rookie Kyle Kalish (Merlin) by a slim 56 thousandths. Local driver Sam Cate (Tony Kart) showed his local knowledge and was third in the final order over Colton Ramsey, who switched to a Tony Kart. Joel Jens made it green in third, fourth and fifth, capping out the fast five.
The youngster made quick as the green flag waved to begin the opening heat race, securing the lead from Wehrheim in the first circuit. He retook the position the following lap, as Kalish seemed to go to school, trailing the vet. Kalish looked for a last lap move, but came up short at the line by just 95 thousandths. Ashley Rogero (Tony Kart) charged up from tenth, getting to third in just eight laps. Billy Lewis finished fourth after starting sixth in his American-made Ultimate Kart, as Ramsey rounding out the top-five.
Running similar laps as she did in qualifying and the first heat, Rogero stormed from 10th again, but this time went all the way to first. Kalish and Wehrheim swapped the lead early on, and this time allowed the charging Rogero to close up before the race was over. By lap three, the Ocala Gran Prix driver was into the third spot and led for the first time as she took the white flag. She pulled away more on the final circuit to score the win, as Kalish held off Wehrheim for the runner-up spot, while Lewis and Ramsey repeated their positions from the first heat.
With their finishes in the heat races, Wehrheim and Rogero filled out row one for the 20-lap main event. Rogero was able to secure the lead through the opening lap while Wehrheim fended off Kalish. Lewis, who started third, ran fourth with round two winner Mike Giessen (iKart) up to fifth from the seventh grid spot. As they swapped the second position, Rogero was able to run clean out front and continued to record quicker lap times. By the halfway mark, Rogero began recording her quick laps of the race and extended out her lead to 1.4 seconds. At the time, Jens had caught the duo fighting for second and was mixing it up with them. This later brought on a charging Jacob Donald (Arrow) and Giessen into the fray, giving Rogero even more breathing room. Leading all 20 laps, Ashley drove to her first USPKS victory and the $750 check with a 2.5-second advantage at the checkered flag. Kalish was able to win the fight for second over Donald, as Wehrheim ran fourth. Jens placed fifth with Giessen earning fast lap honors in sixth. Lewis placed seventh, holding off Jack Weprin (FA Kart) for the position. TJ Koyen (Exprit) came back from on off-track excursion on lap five to place ninth, running similar lap times as the leaders. Cal Stewart (Parolin) rounded out the top-10.
Despite the very long circuit of New Castle Motorsports Park, qualifying was a close affair at the top of the time sheets. The top three were within two tenths with Braden Eves (PCR) earning the pole position. His 1:06.780-lap was just ninth thousandths quicker than Dustin Stross (Tony Kart), the championship leader heading into the event. International driver Yurik Carvalito (Italkart) was third, making his first USPKS start. Local drivers David Durrett (Tony Kart) and Chandler Horton (Tony Kart) filled out the fast five.
Stross was able to secure the lead and score the win in heat one for the Semi-Pro division. Stross showed Mooresville was no fluke, and he was in it for the championship chase. Carvalito ran second with Mike McAndrews (Birel) improving to third. Durrett was fourth as Eves dropped to fifth in the order. In heat two, Stross backed up the first win as he cross the stripe first. This time, McAndrews pressured all eight laps, running second. Carvalito was third with Gresham Wagner (Arrow) and Eves completing the top-five.
Stross and McAndrews filled out the front row for the main event, with Stross resuming his role at the front of the field. McAndrews filed into second but was shuffled out after contact from Carvalito on the opening lap. That sent both to the tail of the field and moved Eves, Wagner and Durrett to the bumper of Stross. While they kept it close, they had nothing for the Ocala Gran Prix driver as Stross went wire-to-wire for his second victory of the season and extend his championship lead. They battled for second to the very end with Eves holding the position as they entered the I-70 corner for the final time. He went wide on the exit and that allowed for some side-by-side action down the final straight. This allowed the charging McAndrews to join the fight at the very end. Wagner appeared to have the position in hand, but drifted wide and into the grass on the final corner. Eves edged out McAndrews for the runner-up spot, while Wagner finished fourt in the grass ahead of Durrett.
At the top of the time sheets was first time USPKS racer Dan Stempfley (Tony Kart) as he bested the field in the time qualifying session. His 1:07.021-lap was better than round two winner Brian McHattie (Exprit). Canadian Don McGregor (Italkart) made the long trip with the Italian Motors operation and began his event in the third position. Brian McEvoy (Merlin) was fourth with championship leader Chuck Gafrarar (Parolin) in fifth.
Jim Russell Jr. (Parolin), another first time USPKS racer, put in a solid drive in heat one to earn the victory. The quickest driver on the track, he came from sixth on the grid to score a solid victory over early leaders Stempfley. Top local driver Steve Schiewer (Top Kart) followed Russell through to finish third, ahead of McGregor and McHattie.
Coming from sixth spot once again, Russell advanced his way to the by end of lap two in heat two. He was challenged early on by McHattie with Schiewer once again charging forward. On lap six, all three were dicing for the lead when racing contact on lap six sent Schiewer up and over McHattie’s right rear, and dropped him down to last. This gave Russell a clean run to the win with McHattie in second, hounded by McGregor. Gafrarar finished fourth with McEvoy in fifth.
Russell and McHattie filled row one for the 15-lap main event, but the pole sitter would get shuffled back to eighth in the opening circuit. This gave McHattie the lead, followed by Stempfley, McGregor, Schiewer, and Gafrarar. McHattie was then shuffled back to on lap two, falling to fifth but back to P3 the next time by. This shuffling saw the top seven running together with McGregor able to get out in front. Russell fought his way up through the pack and began running down the leader. Once he caught McGregor, he quickly put the pressure on and was around for the lead on lap 12. Receiving the two laps to go signal, the two continued running nose to tail until entering turn four when McGregor drove over the bumper of Russell. The result cost them both a chance at the win. This move Gafrarar into the lead as he led the fight for third ahead of McHattie, Stempfley and McEvoy. Just as quick as Gafrarar would take the lead, he lost it with McHattie working around before they took the white flag. From there, the DB Motorsports driver was too quick and went on to score his second straight USPKS feature win. Gafrarar had to settle for second with McEvoy edging out Stempfley for fourth. Russell continued on to finish fifth.
The Yamaha Senior category saw some close fast laps in the final practice session, but it was double winner from Mooresville Joel Jens (Tony Kart) earning the pole position. Jens was the only driver to drop a lap below the 1:12 mark, clearing the field by over three tenths. Local drivers filled out second through fourth with Camden Speth (Arrow), Sam Cate (Tony Kart), and Billy Lewis (Eagle) while Tony Jump (Margay) was fifth.
Pressured early, Jens was able to break away from the field and score the win. Three drivers trailed in the opening laps until Jens drove off to a 1.7-second win as they battled for second. Much of the advantage was due to the drivers fighting for the runner-up spot. At the checkered, Speth retained the second spot with Cate still in third. Lewis ran second at one point but was shuffled back to fifth behind Jump.
Jens got a great jump on the field at the start of heat two, but Speth was quick to close him back in. As they completed the opening lap, Speth took over the lead to put Jens out of the top position for the first time today. The two swapped the lead over the next few laps with four others right there waiting for their opportunity. By the halfway mark, Jens retained the lead with Jump now on his bumper, away from the pack as Speth fell to fourth behind Lewis. Jens was able to hold off Jump all the way to the checkered flag, with Lewis closing in on the final few feet. Cate ended up in fourth with Speth back to fifth after leading early.
Jens and Jump filled the front row to begin the 15-lap main event with Cate and Speth in row two. The green flag waved and Jump was quick but contact shuffled him back to third with Jens dropping to fifth. Speth took over the lead with Morse able to slide past for second from sixth with Jump on her bumper. Jens was back up to fourth by the time they completed lap one with Lewis in fifth. Lap two, Jens was around Morse and by lap four, he and Jump were on the bumper of Speth. Patrick Olsen was the next driver on the charge, as the Top Kart USA driver moved into the fourth spot after starting seventh. Down the long final straight on lap five, Jens and Jump drafted pass Speth for the top two positions, where they began the event. The two J’s pulled away as Jump stayed on the back bumper of Jens, waiting for the final moments. Coming to the checkered flag, Jens held inside line until just before the braking point, moving out to enter the final corner. Jump took the inside line but went in too deep, and Jens crossed under as they exited the corner to win the drag race to the line for the victory. Cate spent the race climbing back from a bad start where he dropped to eighth, battling with Speth for the third position during the second half of the race. It went down to the wire with Speth crossing the line first, but was penalized one position for a blocking move to the checkered flag. That put Cate to third on the podium and Speth back to fourth and Olsen finishing fifth over Lewis.
Only a half-second separated the top nine drivers in the Yamaha Junior qualifying session, led by Gresham Wagner. The Arrow driver posted a 1:10.701 lap to secure the spot and cleared the field by two tenths. Braden Eves (PCR) was second with Brandon Lemke (Merlin) making his Junior debut in third. Emerson Reed (Top Kart) was fourth with David Malukas (Birel) rounding out the fast five.
A small breakaway of two drivers formed early on in the opening heat race for Yamaha Junior, but it became five in the closing laps. Reed and Eves swapped the lead early on, with Eves taking the lead as they took the white flag. The final lap however was Malukas’ turn at the point, driving up to the lead and holding on for the win. They shuffled behind him in the final corner, with Reed taking second and Eves in third as Wagner and Kaden Harter (Top Kart) went off in the grass, but continued on to finish fourth and fifth.
Six drivers battle once again in the second heat for the Junior class. It came down to the final corner of the final lap, with Harter scoring the win by a scant 83 thousandths over Reed. Malukas was third with Zach Holden (Top Kart), Eves and Wagner rounding out the top-six.
Reed and Malukas filled out the front row for the main event with Malukas grabbing the lead as the green flag waved to begin the 15-lap run. The top two broke away early as Holden advanced up to third early on from sixth, ahead of Wagner while Eves and Harter completed the top-six after only three laps. The race became four as Wagner and Holden caught up, and then began the chess game to see where and who was quickest. Lap 10 however the shuffling cost Malukas a chance at the victory as he went out at the I-70 corner. The race became just a dual with Reed and Holden getting away from Wagner. The race however ended with a bit of controversy as the head flagman waved the checkered flag on lap 14, completing the race one lap early. Reed would cross the line first with Holden in second, not expecting the checkered flag. Wagner held on for third with Lemke in fourth. The second half of the race was a great drive by Becker Reardon (Birel), who started 15th. Fast at Mooresville, issues in the first two heats dropped him down the grid. With laps as fast as the leaders, he was able to work up to the fifth position, working past Eves with just a few laps remaining and closing up on Lemke.
John Paul Southern Jr. (PCR) was able to squeak out the pole position in Yamaha Cadet, edging out Drew Lindley (Birel) for the spot. They were separated by just 52 thousandths of a second with Southern’s lap of 1:15.302 the best. Simon Sikes (Arrow) was third with Giovanni Bromante (Top Kart) and Neil Verhagen (Arrow) capping off the fast five.
Southern appeared to have the speed to score the win in the opening heat race, but Lindley and Sikes kept it close. After leading the first half of the eight lap race, Sikes and Lindley each took a turn at the lead. It came down to the final corner with Lindley working past Sikes in the final corner while Southern jumped pass Sikes at the line for second. Bromante ended up fourth with Verhagen fifth.
Lindley and Southern were the top two once again in heat two, as they fought it out for another eight lap run. Lindley would again cross the line first with Southern in second, setting them up for the front row for the main event. Sikes was third with Sam Mayer (Merlin) up to fourth and Austin Schaff (Merlin) in fifth.
A duplicate of the heat races, Lindley and Southern were out front but this time Mayer and Sikes kept them within range early on. The four shuffled around during the second half of the race after running nose to tail in the first half. Sikes found himself leading with two laps to go with Southern, Lindley and Mayer trailing. They ran that way until the final corner, going three wide and keeping it clean through the exit. Southern was able to drag race Sikes to the line for the victory by a scant four-thousandths of a second. Lindley was third with Mayer fourth while Verhagen beat out his brother Alex for fifth. The results changed following tech as Southern’s engine did not pass tech, thus giving the win to Sikes and moving everyone up a position. The $500 courtesy of Lonici Rental Group for the pole position would then go to Lindley.
Griffin Kunz (Praga) was the top qualifying in the Yamaha Rookie session, posting a lap of 1:17.600. Only four drivers were into the 1:17-lap mark, including Mark Fineis (Birel), James Lynch (Tony Kart) and Nic Sheppard (PCR). Andrew Castelucci (Birel) rounded out the fast five.
The opening heat race saw Kunz, Fineis, and Aiden Lindley (Birel) up from sixth on the grid break away from the field for a three driver battle in the eight lap run. They fought for the lead until the final corner, with Kunz scoring the win as they went two wide for second. At the line, Lindley took the position over Fineis. Kyle West (Merlin) took fourth with Lynch back to fifth with a host of others trailing.
In heat two, Sheppard was able to fight his way toward the front and hold the field off for the win. It went down to the wire with Sheppard holding on by just 95 thousandths at the line over Fineis. Lindley was a close third while Kunz and Lynch capped off the top five.
The 15-lap main event began with Fineis and Lindley on the front row and showed the way early. Aiden was the leader before he was shuffled back to fourth on lap five, as Sheppard and Kunz assumed the top two positions. By the halfway mark, the lead pack shuffled around more with Sheppard falling off the pace some and Kunz, Fineis and Lindley making up the lead group while Lynch trailed in fourth. They ran nose to tail for the rest of the way until the final lap. Kunz was leading with Fineis second and Lindley third. As they exited the famous I-70 corner, Lindley got a great run and was able work past Fineis and pull alongside Kunz. His momentum carried him right past on the outside as Kunz ran the inside line. Clear as they entered the final corner, Lindley crossed the line first as Kunz edged out Fineis for third. Lynch ended the day in fourth as Cass was moved to fifth after Sheppard was penalized one position.
Action continues Sunday as the fourth round of action will take place in New Castle. EKN will continue its ‘EKN Trackside Live’ broadcast presented by Bridgestone athttp://www.ekartingnews.com/live . Live audio play-by-play action, live timing and forum discussion is available all on the one page, in addition to a mobile audio link for those on the go. Follow updates at the Official Discussion Thread, Facebook, Twitter and now on Instagram.