Rocky Mountain ProKart Challenge Hosts Colorado’s Largest Regional Race of Season
Hot temperatures matched the exciting racing in Grand Junction
Grand Junction’s Sabré Cook was victorious in the overall battle in the S1-S2 group Saturday
(Photo: Grand Junction Motor Speedway)
The fourth and fifth rounds of the 2013 Rocky Mountain ProKart Challenge took place at the challenging Grand Junction Motor Speedway last weekend, and the racing was as good as the state has seen in many years. A long list of RMPKC regulars and championship contenders traveled in for the third stop of the season, and they were joined by quite a few out-of-region drivers who came to town to prepare for the upcoming Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SummerNationals, which will take place on the weekend of July 19-21. The event welcomed a season high number of race entries, and the racing easily matched the high level of participation, as those in attendance saw some of the best racing that has occurred within the state of Colorado all summer.
“A big thank you goes out to the racers who attended and the staff who kept the entire weekend on schedule,” commented Rocky Mountain PKC series director Stan Bryniarski. “The intense temperatures were a challenge, but it was still a fantastic weekend. The regular series competitors stood strong against the visiting Pro Tour pilots all weekend, and certainly have set up what will be an exciting three days at the SKUSA SummerNationals next weekend.”
The S1 Pro Stock Moto and S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto categories added up to nearly 30 drivers in the combined race group, highlighting the weekend’s racing action. S1 driver Cory Milne led the qualifying session overall, but Texan Ryan Kinnear was only a scant 39 thousandths of a second off his pace in S2. Milne would be shuffled back in heat one as Kinnear drove to the overall win, while S1 driver Sabré Cook advanced up to second ahead of S2 driver Christian Schureman. Kinnear and Cook led the way in heat two, but not without pressure from S2 driver Augie Lerch in the closing laps. Coming from the fourth spot on the grid, Utah’s Tyler Bennett was quick off the line and jolted into the lead on the opening lap, with Cook and Schureman trailing closely. By lap six, Cook took over the lead and held it to the checkered flag for the victory. Behind her was a great battle for second, mixing S1 and S2 drivers. Kinnear, who was shuffled outside the top-five at the start, drove his way forward through the entire 20 laps to secure the runner-up spot overall, and the S2 class victory. Schureman was a close second – and third overall – edging out Bennett and Mike Beeny, who rounded out the S1 podium. Kolton Griffin was classified third in the S2 class.
Sunday’s qualifying session was led by S1 driver Christian Bird, as he edged out Bennett by 60 thousandths of a second, followed by Beeny in the order. Augie Lerch was the top S2 driver, fourth overall in the session. Bennett and Beeny were able to outrun Bird for the opening heat win, with Kinnear coming up to fourth, first in class. Bennett continued to show the way through the second heat race, with Kinnear advancing up to second overall, with Lerch and Schureman close behind. Bennett led early on in the 20-lap main event, until he began to fade with a deflating tire and eventually retired on lap 10. This turned the battle for second into a fight for the win, and it included Lerch, Bird, Kinnear and Beeny. Several lead changes took place until Bird secured the point, holding off Lerch at the checkered by just 72 thousandths. The duo would earn the first place finish in their respective categories, while Schureman placed third overall. Beeny would end up fourth, second in S1, with Milne completing the podium. Kinnear was sixth, rounding out the S2 podium.
Tennessee’s Brian Fisher swept the S4 Stock Honda Masters events. The path to the sweep was not an easy one, however. An absolutely loaded field of S4 drivers showed up to Grand Junction to compete in rounds four and five of the RMPKC. Along with Fisher, the field included Texans Chris Jennings and Mike Rhodes Jr., defending SKUSA Pro Tour champion Eddie Olpin and Las Vegas veteran Curtis Cooksey. RMPKC regulars Jet Davis, Dave Conyers, Justin Peck and Scott Allen would have their hands full. On Saturday, Fisher beat Jennings for the pole position by two tenths of a second, with Olpin and Cooksey trailing. Fisher paced the field in heat one, as Jennings and Olpin raced behind him for second, swapping positions before halfway. The theme continued in heat two, with Fisher checking out and Jennings racing with Olpin for P2 once again. The final ran relatively calm as Fisher led all 20 laps for his first victory of the weekend. Olpin held onto second the entire race, while Davis raced with Jennings for the final podium spot. Jennings got around Davis on lap 10 and held off the Rocky Mountain PKC championship contender for the final podium spot.
Sunday was more of the same as Fisher ran up front the entire day. In the main event, Cooksey got around Fisher on the opening lap and Olpin joining the mix as well, to make it exciting. While racing for the lead on lap two, Cooksey did a half spin in turn four at the end of the backstretch, causing him to stall, unable to finish. Olpin took over the lead while Fisher fell back to mid-pack. By lap five, however, Fisher returned to the point and went on to finish the weekend with a clean sweep. Olpin would have his own issues, retiring on lap nine while running second. This moved Jennings into the runner-up spot, with Davis earning the final podium position.
Perhaps one of the most exciting races of the weekend was the Micro Max class. Kicking things off on Saturday was Denver racer Liam Letzsch, as he out-qualified Filip Niemkiewicz for the pole position. Letzsch went on to sweep the day in round four, as he won both heats and then raced back and forth with Niemkiewicz, swapping the lead five times before securing the top position, with Corbin Emery in third. On Sunday, the racing was easily the best of the year as the young drivers battled every session on the long, flowing 11-turn circuit. Emery qualified on pole position and went on to lead the opening lap of heat one. Niemkiewicz took his turn at the point for the next four laps, until Letzsch took over the top spot. Emery regained the lead on the final lap to score the race win. Letzsch grabbed the lead to start the second heat race before trading the spot again with Niemkiewicz and Emery throughout, with Emery earning the win again. The main event was a showcase in racecraft. Between Letzsch, Emery and Niemkiewicz, nearly 20 lead changes took place over the span of the 15-lap main. From lap six to eleven, there was a different leader every time the drivers came across the starting line, not counting the numerous lead changes in the midst of each lap. With four laps to go, while running nose-to-tail with the other two leaders, Emery spun in turn nine and fell from the lead pack. Emery would charge back to finish third, but up front, Niemkiewicz would cross the line first ahead of Letzsch. An issue in post-race tech would move Niemkiewicz from first to second, handing the win to Letzsch.
Sharing the track at the same time as Micro Max were the older Mini Max drivers. Derek Deslauriers grabbed the pole position and first heat race win over Cody Dempster. The second heat race saw Dempster take the lead on the opening lap and drive to the win ahead of Utah racer Tevin Robbins. Starting the main event in third, Deslauriers went back and forth with Robbins early on for second place, eventually securing the position and running down Dempster to challenge for the lead. Just before the halfway point, Deslauriers stole the point from Dempster and from there he went on to win Saturday’s main event, with Robbins completing the podium. Sunday was all Deslauriers once again. Grabbing the pole position during qualifying and winning both heat races set up the possibility for back-to-back main event wins on the weekend. Deslauriers led the first four circuits, before seeing Dempster take the top spot away. He led until four laps to go, at which point Deslauriers reclaimed the lead and drove to the checkered. However, an issue in tech would take the victory away from Deslauriers, putting Dempster on the top spot, with Robbins moving up to second and Brody Shucard in third.
The TaG Cadet racers produced yet another exciting weekend of racing. On Saturday, Jagger Jones did what no one has been able to do in class so far this season, as he beat out Payton Durrant. Jagger won Saturday’s main event, while Liam Letzsch was also able to better Durrant, who finished in third. On Sunday, Durrant fought back as he led the first four laps before pole winner Jace Jones took the lead on lap five. This led to a great race between the two for the lead as they swapped the position numerous times. All the tight racing up front provided Jagger Jones with the opportunity to close in and he eventually entered the mix. Durrant would prove to be too strong on the day, reclaiming the lead for the final four circuits to score his fourth main event victory of the season. Jace Jones finished second while brother Jagger was third.
Jess Peterson decimated the combined TaG Senior and Master field for most of the weekend. Peterson beat Jason Dempster out for the pole position by a solid margin and continued this pace throughout the day, driving to a six-second victory over Dempster and Charlie Craig. Similar results occurred Sunday, as Peterson matched his victory to secure his second win of the weekend. Dempster was once again in second ahead of Max Mallinen in third. Mirko Mizzoni won in TaG Master both days, outrunning fellow Pro Tour competitor Anthony Honeywell. Bob Rodrick finished third on Saturday, while Federico Aquini took the spot on Sunday.
SKUSA Pro Tour TaG Junior point leader Austin Versteeg got the party started in TaG Junior on Saturday, as he earned the pole position in qualifying and the win in heat one. The second heat and main event would go to Canadian Kale Kunicki. Trailing Versteeg for much of the main event, Kunicki secured the lead on lap 13 and held it to the checkered flag, with Walker Hess in third. On Sunday, Versteeg could not match his speed from Saturday as Kunicki earned the pole position and the heat one win. The second heat went to regional newcomer Hess, after he passed Kunicki in turn one on the final lap. The main event saw Hess lead the first lap, after which championship challenger Angus Watkins moved to the point to lead his first lap of the weekend. Watkins held the lead from lap two until the halfway mark, when Kunicki took over. From there, he would control the field and secure his second victory of the weekend. Despite a last corner pass attempt, Watkins held Hess off to finish in second place after Versteeg retired early with a shifted axle. As the only Rotax Junior all weekend, Max Fedler ran uncontested for both victories.
S3 Novice Stock Moto belonged to Lauren Stark both days, as she out ran Leo Ahearn on Saturday, and ran as a sole entry on Sunday. S5 Stock Honda Junior saw defending SKUSA Pro Tour champion Jim McKinney come away with both main event victories. Saturday was a perfect day for McKinney as he was P1 throughout round four, outrunning regional racers Evan Roshak and Duncan Biles. Sunday was not as smooth for McKinney. After failing to complete a lap in qualifying and the opening heat race, Jim returned to the track in heat two, jumping right back to the top of the order and holding it through to the checkered flag in the main event. Roshak would finish second once again, with Biles in third.
The Rocky Mountain ProKart Challenge drivers will now look to next weekend’s SummerNationals to face off against the country’s best drivers on one of their home tracks. The next RMPKC race is the series finale on August 23-25 at The Track at Centennial, where the champions will be crowned, each earning the coveted guaranteed SuperSunday starting spot at this fall’s SuperNationals in Las Vegas. The series would like to thank all of the competitors, as well as recognize the following supporters for the 2013 season: American Medical Response, Falcone Custom Homes, CRG-USA, Miller Motorsports Park, Billet Performance, Woodsource, Unser Racing, Honda Performance Development and Karting Coach.
Be sure to visit http://www.superkartsusa.com for more information on both events, along with RMPKC updates on the new RMPKC Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RockyMountainProkartChallenge).