EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – New Castle – Sunday Report
Rogero doubles up, earning $3,500 on the weekend as event end with solid racing
The second stop of the United States Pro Kart Series – presented by Bridgestone, FranklinKart.com, and L&T Manufacturing – completed Sunday at the New Castle Motorsports Park. The DRT Racing – Ribtect3 sponsored event saw 129 entries in seven classes battle hard all weekend long, featuring over 30 laps of racing around the 1-mile course both days. Sunny skies were felt throughout the day, with rain threatening late in the event and held off until after all the races were complete. The big winner of the weekend came in the Leopard Pro category, as Florida driver Ashley Rogero earned the main event victory both days, taking home a solid payday of $3,500 total.
Early laps were the key to scoring a fast time in the Leopard Pro qualifying session. Strapping on new Bridgestone tires for the day, Joel Jens (Tony Kart) found extra speed to post the quickest lap of the weekend, a 1:04.605 to secure the pole position for the heat races. Jacob Donald (Arrow) slowly worked his way up the order to end up second overall, just five thousandths off of Jens time. Kyle Kalish (Merlin) was strong once again, placing third overall with Saturday winner Ashley Rogero (Tony Kart), starting her drive for the $1,500 bonus if she wins today from the fourth position. Mike Giessen (iKart) was fifth, putting yesterday’s top qualifier Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart) in sixth.
Donald got the jump at the green flag waved to begin heat one, as Jens fell to third with Rogero sliding up into the second spot on the opening circuit. As they completed the lap, an incident occurred in the I-70 corner that required a red flag. Once restarted, Donald led Jens and Rogero until they drafted past for position as they completed lap two. They matched each other up over the next few circuits until the halfway mark when the spark plug boot was knocked off Rogero’s powerplant, ending her race. This shuffled up the group as this brought in Kalish and Mason Chelootz (Top Kart) as Jens and Donald had to avoid Rogero. Kalish jumped in behind Donald with Chelootz up to second and Jens back to fifth. Kalish would hold on to score the win with Donald and Chelootz trailing. Jacob Knueven (Arrow) came from ninth on the grid, running nearly the fast lap of the race to place fourth over Brazilian Andre Nicastro (Italkart), quickest driver of the warm-up session this morning.
Rogero bounced back from her DNF in heat one to drive away with the win. Donald took the lead at the start but she was quick to take over. She slowly pulled away with the fast laps of the race to earn a two-second advantage after eight laps. Donald ran comfortably in second as they fight for third went the distance. Wehrheim slotted into the position but was quickly run down by Mark Dismore Jr. (FA Kart). The Comet Kart Sales driver showed great speed down the long straight, as he and Wehrheim shuffled for the position like they had for many years now. At the line, Dismore took the spot. Behind them, Derek Dignan (FA Kart) was making up great ground, starting 13th and up to fifth. He ran over the turn two curb and kicked off the chain, ending his race. This gave Nicastro the spot as he followed Dignan through, and charged up to fifth once again.
A few rain drops fell as the race progressed, including the start but thankfully it held off until the race was completed. Two runner-up finishes placed Donald on the pole position while Kalish earned the outside front row spot. Donald would retain the lead through the opening lap of the main event, scheduled for 20 circuits. Nicastro, starting third, moved up to second as Kalish fell to fourth behind Chelootz. Having not led the entire weekend, Nicastro was looking to get away early, taking the lead from Donald and trying to establish some distance on the field. A group of about five drivers formed the lead pack, with Kalish making the charge forward with some nice maneuvers. He would take the lead on lap five, passing the former SuperNats winner Nicastro.
At the same time, another young gun was working her way up from the 11th spot on the grid. Rogero was seventh after the opening lap and methodically put herself in the top-five chase. When Kalish took the lead for the first time, Rogero was up into the third position. Nicastro, Kalish and then Rogero shuffled the lead until lap eight when contact was made between Kalish and Rogero while navigating the final corner. Both continued on but Kalish went well off course in the hard braking turn four. He rejoined the track but later pulled in suffering from a shifted axle, eliminating any brake performance and ending his shot at the victory.
Out front, Rogero led the way with Jens now the lead challenger in front of Nicastro, Donald and Knueven. As the clouds continued to surround the area, the drivers were getting faster as the race wore on, but Rogero was just a little bit better each time, extending her lead lap after lap. With no challenge from behind and never putting a wheel wrong, Rogero would cross the line first for her second victory of the weekend. The Ocala Gran Prix driver secured the $750 check for her effort from the USPKS series, a bonus check of $1,000 for winning both feature races in the same weekend, including another $1,000 total from HYTORC. In total, Rogero left the weekend with $3,500 and put her in the championship chase.
The fight for second came down to the wire as Nicastro dove inside Jens in the I-70 corner and led the group to the final corner. Jens made an inside move, and the two made contact. Nicastro went off into the grass, while Donald dove under both and stole the second spot. Jens finished third with Nicastro unhappy with his fourth position. Knueven was fifth for some time before Dignan came on strong late in the race. Starting 16th, the KartSport North American driver worked himself into the top-10, running behind Knueven and Dismore for some time before taking over the fifth spot for good on lap 13. Dismore ended up a solid sixth at his home track. Knueven ended up seventh ahead of round two winner Giessen. Florida driver Jack Weprin (FA Kart) was ninth and Darin Marcus (Merlin) tenth, up from 25th on the grid.
Saturday winner Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) return to the top of the order in Semi-Pro, posting the fast lap in the qualifying session. His 1:06.899-lap was the only fast lap under the 1:07 mark. Braden Eves (PCR) was second in the order with Davis Durrett (Tony Kart) and Killian Keaveny (Top Kart) close in time. Chandler Horton (Tony Kart) rounded out the fast five.
After two false starts, officials moved the front row to the second row, giving Durrett and Keaveny the clear path to the green flag. Keaveny was able to grab the lead in the opening circuit with Eves coming up to second with Mike McAndrews (Birel), starting ninth after missing the qualifying session due to an engine issue, advancing to third ahead of Stross. He needed just another lap to move up to the lead, working past Keaveny and Eves. Stross followed through a few laps later, setting up for a dual to the checkered flag. Swapping the lead a few times on the final circuit, McAndrews held on to take the win. Stross was second with Yurik Carvalito (Italkart) third, Eves fourth and Durrett fifth.
Stross and McAndrews proved to be the quick drivers once again, as they ran 1-2 throughout the heat race. The race was for third with Carvalito scoring the spot over Wagner and Durrett in the final corner. Their results would put Stross and McAndrews on the front row for the main event.
The top two were the class of the field all weekend, and it looked like McAndrews had the pace to challenge for the victory early on in the 15-lap main event. Securing the lead from the outside of row one, the MRP Birel America driver set the pace with Stross trailing. At about the halfway point, Stross took his turn at the point and that trigger an exchanged that lasted a few laps before McAndrews took over again. The final two laps, McAndrews pulled away just enough to not feel any pressure as he took his first Semi-Pro feature win. Stross had to settle for second, but finished the weekend with a solid gain toward the series championship. Carvalito held the third position through the main event, pressured late by Wagner with Eves rounding out the top-five.
The early driver to beat in the Masters qualifying session was Steve Schiewer (Top Kart), looking to come back from a DNF in Saturday’s main event. With about three minutes to go, things began to shuffle at the top with Jim Russell Jr. (Parolin) coming through with a solid lap, as the only driver to dip below the 1:07-lap mark. His 1:06.766 time would stand as the veteran earned the pole position by a four tenths margin. Dan Stempfley (Tony Kart) was second with Chuck Gafrarar (Parolin) in third. Michael Burton (Margay) joined the field for Sunday and ended the session fourth with Brian McEvoy (Merlin) in fifth. Burton would be moved to the tail of the field after coming in lite, jumping McEvoy to fourth and Schiewer to fifth. Saturday winner Brian McHattie (Exprit) ran two laps, suffering from engine issues and will start the heat races in the 10th spot.
Russell took advantage of the pole position and was able to drive away early in heat one. The fighting for second also allowed for more space as he was more than a second out in the lead at the halfway mark. Schiewer looked to be the driver that could match Russell’s pace, working up to second but the rest of the group kept him within reach and they continued fighting for position. Russell drove to a near three-second victory as Stempfley edged out the group for second. Gafrarar was third, McEvoy fourth and Schiewer fifth with McGregor trailing.
It looked to be all Russell in the second heat, as he once again broke away from the field. This time, Gafrarar was up to second, trailing his Russell Karting Specialties teammate with Stempfley and McGregor just behind. Stempfley was the quickest driver on track in the first half, and was able to close up on Chuck G. Receiving the white flag, Stempfley took over the spot from Gafrarar as Russell continued to stretch his lead. At the flag, Russell won by 1.4 seconds as Gafrarar nearly nipped Stempfley for second with McGregor riding in fourth. Schiewer ran fifth, working past McEvoy.
Russell kept himself on the pole position for the main event with his two wins with Stempfley and Gafrarar holding their positions through the heat races. Stempfley was able to get the jump on Russell to secure the lead. He was the quickest driver early on, as he put a few kart lengths on Russell. Schiewer then became the driver on the move, coming up from fifth to third and looked to have a pace to run with the leaders. That was until they stepped up the pace, running their fast laps of the race on the tenth circuit, setting up for a dual to the finish. Russell appeared to want to take the lead away, rather than wait for the final lap, attempting numerous times in the tight sections of the track to no avail. Russell thought he had something at turn nine on lap 14, but lost ground. He made it up on the final circuit, moving pass Stempfley into the I-70 corner. Running down the inside line, he went deep and slide out just wide enough for Stempfley to duck under for a drag race. Russell kept up his momentum just enough to score the victory by 0.042 seconds. Stempfley ended with a solid second place run in his first USPKS event.
Schiewer’s pace slowed some in the second half of the race, while McGregor was the quickest of all in the closing laps. Once by Schiewer, he was able to close up just behind the lead duo as the checkered flag waved to earn a respectable third place finish. McEvoy was able to run down Schiewer as well, working past on the final lap to steal the fourth position. Gafrarar ran off the pace late in the race and finished sixth while McHattie was a DNS with engine issues.
With $2,100 up for grabs on the day, the action was hot and heavy in Yamaha Senior. A number of the front runners ran around the 1-mile circuit together, trading off fast laps in the 10-minute qualifying session. With two minutes to go, Camden Speth (Arrow) was the first driver below the 1:12 mark. The time would stand until the final kart to take the checkered flag – Saturday winner Joel Jens (Tony Kart) stole the spot with a 1:11.950-lap. Speth was dropped to second with Sam Cate (Tony Kart) in third. Collin Griffin (Tony Kart) found speed overnight and jumped up to fourth, as did Cole Fink (Top Kart) who qualified a solid fifth.
Jens led the train of Yamaha Senior drivers to open up the first heat race, with Speth and Cate right on his bumper with Patrick Olsen (Top Kart) and Griffin trailing. After Speth and Cate fought for the second spot for a few laps, Cate secured the spot and ran down Jens who established a bit of a gap on the two. On the final lap, Cate lost ground at the I-70 corner and allowed Jens to cruise to the win. Speth ran to third with Griffin edging out Olson for fourth.
Heat two turned the page on the story that is the chase for the $2,100 in cash purse with Jens retiring after just two laps. He led the opening circuits until he lost the chain exiting the last corner to complete lap two. This gave Speth the lead with Olsen and Jump trailing and a host of others in the mix. Speth and Olsen swapped the lead all the way to the checkered flag. They went side by side into the final corner of the eight lap run, with Jump pushing Olsen through for the win. Jump was second with Speth crossing the line in the grass for third over Griffin as Adam Crepin (Merlin) drove to fifth.
Olsen was awarded the pole position for the main event with Speth lined up on the outside of row one. He took advantage of the opportunity to lead the opening circuits of the 15-lap main event. Speth, Griffin and Cate tucked in behind to form the lead group and ran nose to tail with Billy Lewis (Eagle) and Jump trailing. Jens, starting ninth after his DNF in heat two, was quick early and eventually caught the two veterans in fifth and sixth. After passing both, he ran down the front four alone and methodically worked pass all of them. On one lap, he went from fourth to first around the 1-mile course, drafting by Olsen for the lead in the turn 15. From there, no one could match his pace as he went on to score the win and the $750 check. The fight was for second, won by Cate who also scored the fast lap award and an extra $100. Olsen held off Griffin for third with Speth shuffled into the grass at the finish, ending up fifth.
Two drivers were the quickest of the 16-driver field in the Yamaha Junior category. Gresham Wagner (Arrow) and Nick Luedeke (PCR) swapped the pole position with Luedeke scoring the spot with a 1:10.725-lap. Wagner was second, off by 43 thousandths with his fast lap. Kaden Harter (Top Kart) jumped up to third late in the session, moving Brandon Lemke (Merlin) to fourth and Braden Eves (PCR) to fifth.
A pack of three drivers pulled away from the field with Luedeke getting pressured from David Malukas (Birel) and Emerson Reed (Top Kart), starting sixth and 12th. They knifed through the field quickly to reach the pole sitter and worked to get away cleanly. They shuffled for the lead numerous times with Malukas securing the spot at the checkered flag. Luedeke edged out Reed for the second spot as Harter drove to fourth over Lemke. Wagner fell to sixth with Eves in seventh.
It was a solid lead group forming once again in the second heat race for the Junior group, led by Luedeke and Wagner at the green flag. Malukas however charged forward once again early and was leading by lap three. Reed once again drove from the back of the field forward, as the Top Kart USA driver found his way to the bumper of Malukas, and pushed them away from the field in the closing laps. It came down to just those two at the checkered, with Malukas able to hold on for the win. Reed ran to second with Holden up to third over Harter and Eves.
Malukas and Reed scored the front row start and as they did in the heat races, showed the way early on. After just three laps, they accumulated a 2.5-second lead over Wagner, Harter and Holden. They shuffled the lead a few times over the 15-lap event, measuring up each other for the final circuit. They two went side-by-side on the final run to the final corner, with Reed on the inside as Malukas held tight on outside. They gave each other room, but Malukas dropped a tire on the exit and allowed Reed enough space to edge him out for the victory at the line by 63 thousandths. Harter ran third, just unable to close up on the top two as he held off a late charge by Holden. Wagner lost the draft late in the race and ran solo to be classified fifth.
Things were interesting early as the USPKS matched another $500 for the fast time in qualifying for the Yamaha Cadet division. Redeeming himself from yesterday’s technical mishap, John Paul Southern Jr (PCR) returned to the top of the order to score the pole position with a 1:15.442-lap. He edged out Michael Cruz (Birel) by just two thousandths with Drew Lindley (Birel) another seven thousandths off. Neil Verhagen (Arrow) was five hundredths off Southern’s with Saturday winner Simon Sikes (Arrow) in fifth.
A red flag for an opening corner incident stopped the opening heat race early. A number of drivers were involved but thankfully, no one was seriously hurt with only Alex Verhagen (Arrow) unable to continue with a bent axle. After a complete restart, a long trained formed early, but it eventually became four with Neil Verhagen, coming back from the incident to jump into the lead by the halfway mark. The finish came down to the final corner with Lindley and Bromante drafting by Verhagen for the top two positions. Cruz ended up fourth with Sam Mayer (Merlin) climbing up from tenth to fifth.
The second heat began with JP out front from the pole position, until Southern spun lap one on exit of turn 15 in front of the entire field. Thankfully everyone in the field avoided him, but he would drop to the tail of the field. This left four drivers to fight it out for the heat race win, as Verhagen once again led the way to the checkered flag. Top Kart driver Lance Fenderson was able to edge out Cruz for the second spot with Lindley trailing. Mayer drove to another fifth place finish, improving his starting spot for the main event.
Verhagen and Lindley earned the front row start for the Cadet main event, both earning a victory in the heat races. The two lead a group early on as it fluxuated from about six to eight drivers in the first half of the 15-lap race. Southern was one of the drivers to join the fight, starting from 12th after his DNF in heat two. By the end of lap one, he was into eighth and challenging within the top-five by lap four. The second half of the race saw six make up the lead pack, including Verhagen, Lindley, Fenderson, Mayer, Bromante and Southern. Verhagen led most of the race, as Lindley was setting up him for a last lap pass. Coming to the checkered flag, Verhagen went low while the rest of the group went high. Lindley led a train of karts past Verhagen as they entered the final corner. Crossing the line first, Lindley would earn the victory by 88 thousandths. Bromante, who ran the quick lap of the race, shuffled himself up to second with Southern and Fenderson also working past Verhagen for a step on the podium while Mayer came one position away from earning hardware.
The qualifying session went down to the wire, with Parker Abed (PCR) scoring the pole position. Andrew Castelucci (Birel) held the position for most of the session, until Abed dropped a 1:17.646-lap to edge out for the spot by six-thousandths. In fact, the top-six were within seven-hundredths of a second, with Kyle West (Merlin), Aiden Lindley (Birel), Griffin Kunz (Praga), and Nic Sheppard (PCR) filling out the positions.
A four driver breakaway form, minus top qualifier Abed as he was shuffled back in the order and out of contention. Castelucci, Lindley, West and Sheppard filled out the lead group as they ran nose-to-tail the entire eight laps. On lap seven, Castelucci and Lindley were able to gap the other two, setting up for a dual to the checkered flag. The two went side by side to the line with Castelucci scoring the win over Lindley. Sheppard won the fight for third with James Lynch (Tony Kart) coming up late to steal fourth from West and Mark Fineis (Birel).
Once again, four drivers were able to break away to fight it out for the win in heat two. Lindley, Castelucci, Sheppard and Fineis were the contenders with Lindley out front after six laps. At that time, a red flag came out for Elliot Budzinski (Birel) and Talan Drake (Margay). Both were able to walk away but the race was called. Lindley was credited with the win, putting Fineis second, Castelucci third and Sheppard fourth. Mason Maine (Tony Kart) was classified fifth.
Lindley and Castelucci filled out the front row with their heat wins, leading the field to the green flag for the 15-lap main event. Lindley took over the point as Castelucci was shuffled off the track, along with Fineis and Maine. This put West up to second followed by Sheppard, Aidan Harrington (Birel) and Lynch. Sheppard fought his way back into the lead group by lap three as Harrington lost the draft and steadily fell further back from the front runners. Shuffling for position at the front, Lindley was pushed wide as they entered turn 15. It caused him to run over a cone that thankfully, he was able to detach from his kart while not losing the top two of Sheppard and Lynch. West was in the group until lap seven when he had an off-track excursion, dropping him down to ninth in the order. More drama unfolded as we hit five laps to go. Harrington spun on the main straight, dropping down the order, Sheppard and Lindley went off as well later in the lap. This put Lynch out front alone with a large lead. Kunz inherited the second spot over Abed and Chandler Moran (Birel). Lindley fell to fifth with Fineis in sixth and Castelucci now into the seventh spot. When the checkered waved, Lynch scored the victory by seven seconds and the new KartLift Pit Stand. Kunz ran to second for another podium finish as Abed held onto third position with Fineis moving up to fourth and Castelucci ending in fifth.
The series will be back in action, just five weeks, as the teams and drivers head to the Briggs & Stratton Raceway Park – home of the Badger Kart Club in Dousman, Wisconsin on the July 12-14 weekend. The points chase will begin the second half of the season, with just four more rounds remaining with the finale in September.