EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – Pittsburgh – Saturday Report
Dismore earns second straight as a handful of drivers secure titles on day one
The first round of racing at the United States Pro Kart Series finale weekend went into the books Saturday with a great day of action at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. The Wampum, PA facility was busy with racing all day long, as the seven categories moved one step closer to end the inaugural season. On the day, seven drivers triumphed the nearly 100 entries for the weekend for the first victories to be awarded. On the championship side, three drivers secured the inaugural series championships with victories- Chuck Gafrarar, Mike McAndrews and Zach Holden. Others to hold up the victory trophy on the day included Mark Dismore Jr., Joel Jens, Giovanni Bromante, and Griffin Kunz.
Home track advantage was evident in the Leopard Pro qualifying session as Checkered Motorsports/PCR drivers took the top two spots. Robert Bujdoso secured the top spot in qualifying on the final circuit, posting a 55.765-second lap. Kyle Smith was second, just 86 thousandths off his time. Dousman winner Mark Dismore Jr. (FA Kart) was third with Dousman top qualifier TJ Koyen (Exprit) in fourth. Derek Dignan (FA Kart) was fifth as championship contenders Kyle Kalish (Merlin) and Joel Jens (Tony Kart) eighth and 11th.
The class was clean through the opening corners with Bujdoso out front leading the way as Smith and Dismore slotting in behind. Roger Ralston Jr. (FA Kart) was the driver on the move, up to fourth from seventh with Jacob Donald (Arrow) following him through starting 10th. Dismore broke up the PCR duo as he helped push Smith to the lead as they began lap two, heading into turn one. The top three ran static to the halfway mark with Donald making ground, working past Ralston and closing in on Bujdoso. With three to go, it was two by two as Dismore was on the bumper of Smith and Donald up to Bujdoso. Smith was able to hold to the checkered flag and score the win over Dismore. Donald worked past Bujdoso for the third spot with two to go. The polesitter then came under heavy pressure from Ralston. On the final lap, the FA Kart driver was able to secure the pass. Bujdoso continued on but saw his engine shut off and retire one lap short. That moved Mike Giessen (iKart) up to fifth over Jacob Knueven (Arrow) and Kalish. Jesus Rios (iKart) drove a great race, coming from 18th to eighth, with Trent Walko (Exprit) and John McCusker (Haase) rounding out the top-10.
Smith got the jump on his PCR teammate Bujdoso and drove out to a solid lead to begin heat two. Bujdoso would not complete lap one as engine issues once again put him on the sidelines. Smith would quickly get run down by Dismore and Dignan, moving past for position with Smith coming under pressure from Ralston. After that, the action was calm up front as no change for position took place. Dismore went on to the win over Dignan and Smith. Ralston ran a close fourth with Knueven in fifth.
Dismore and Smith led the field to the green flag to begin the 22-lap event. Smith was able to take the lead on the opening circuit, dropping Dismore back to second with Knueve, Walko and Giessen making up the top-five. By lap three, Dismore moved back to the point. With Donald joining the lead group, it became six drivers out front. The championship battle saw a turning point on lap two, as contact took Jens out in a turn one incident, as he was classified 22nd. The lead group lost one driver, as Knueven was making his way up the order and lost power with a broken coil wire. By the halfway mark, Dismore held a solid lead over Smith with Donald moving his way up to third ahead of Walko and Dignan. Towards the end of the race, Smith’s pace began to slow as his battery lodged itself under the left side of the kart, hampering his corner speed in the many right hand corners. Donald move past for second, with Dignan around for third. Walko moved to fourth on lap 21 with Smith holding on to fifth at the checkered. Out front, Dismore cruised to his second straight victory in the series, holding a 2.5-second advantage over Donald. Dignan and Walko joined them on the podium. Rios had a great drive back from as low as 14th to finish sixth over point leader Kalish. Giessen was eighth with McCusker and Brandon Jarsocrak (Haase) from 24th to 10th.
Championship leader Chuck Gafrarar (Parolin) was able to secure the pole position to start his drive toward the USPKS title. He was the only driver to dip into the 56-second bracket, posting a 56.903-second lap. His Parolin teammate was second with Brian McHattie (Exprit) third. Dan Stempfley (Tony Kart) and Lamar Humphries (Margay) were fourth and fifth. Semi-Pro title leader Mike McAndrews (Birel) set the pace in the category, as he has the last three rounds. Braden Eves (PCR) was just 77-thousandths off his time with Austin McCusker (Haase) a close third. Gresham Wagner (Arrow) was fourth with Julia Boos (Top Kart) making her first start in the category set to go from fifth for both heat races.
Russell got the jump on Gafrarar to begin heat one for the Masters group. Out to at least a five kart lead, Gafrarar would close in quickly, take the spot and drive to the race win. Russell held on his bumper to end up second. McHattie finished third, but not without some shuffling with Michael Burton (Praga) for the spot. Stempfley held the fifth spot after 10 laps. McCusker was the top driver in Semi-Pro, as he outlasted Eves and McAndrews for the win. Boos was fourth with Chandler Horton (Tony Kart) in fifth.
The second heat began with Gafrarar able to jump Russell at the start, and go on to score the win. The Parolin’s ran 1-2 the entire time with Gafrarar scoring the win over Russell. McHattie had his hands full of Burton the entire time with Stempfley right there. McAndrews was able to score the win in Semi-Pro over McCusker and Eves. The three ran close together the entire time with the championship leader earning the win. Wagner ran fourth with Boos in fifth.
The main event was all Gafrarar and Russell in the Masters category. The two broke away early and continued to run quick laps the entire 18 laps. Toward the end of the race, Russell was able to close up on Gafrarar, and passed for the lead on the final lap. Gafrarar made his way back around for the lead and the victory in the closing corners to secure his third victory of the season. Russell settled for second. McHattie and Burton battle for third, until McHattie went off track and out of the race. Burton would drive to the third spot with Stempfley and Humphries the top-five. The Semi-Pro race was a great battle all race long between McAndrews, McCusker and Eves. Each took a turn at the point with McAndrews earning his fourth victory of the season, edging out McCusker. Wagner was able to come up and steal third from Eves as Boos rounded out the top-five.
Championship leader Joel Jens (Tony Kart) responded to the Dousman weekend and yesterday’s happy hour. Struggling in both, Jens posted a 1:01.158-lap with some draft help ahead and behind him, to secure the pole position. Eric Jones – KartSport North America team manager – is taking to the driver’s seat on the weekend, placing first in Friday’s Happy Hour aboard the new Arrow X3 chassis. His time was good enough for second in qualifying with Sam Cate (Tony Kart), Tony Jump (Margay) and Derek Dignan (Tony Kart) rounding out the fast five.
Jens got the jump as the green flag waved to begin the first 10-lap heat race. Jones however would steal the top spot in turn five to pace the field on the opening lap. Jens came back into turn three the following lap to retake the spot. The top five with Dignan up to third, Jump fourth and Cate fifth pulled away from the field. Lap four, Jones and Dignan drafted past Jens for the top two spots. Lap five began with contact involving Jump, Cate and Camden Speth. Jump and Speth would continue with Cate on the sidelines. Out front, Jones and Dignan ran nose to tail to pull away from Jens in third, with Jacob Donald (Arrow) up to fourth and Collin Griffin (Tony Kart) fifth. Dignan would move into the lead, but at the same time his exhaust can lost the cap. He would pull off at the white flag lap, handing the lead and the win to Jones. Jens finished second with Donald edging out Griffin for third and Brandon Adkins (iKart) up to fifth.
Jens and Jones led the field to green flag to begin heat two with Jones once again getting the jump. Jens slotted into the second spot with Jump losing the battle for third with Cate. Jones had a stellar opening lap, jumping out to a half-second advantage. It grew on lap three as the battle for second heated up. Cate, Jump and Dignan all worked past Jens for position through turns one, two and three. Beginning lap six, Cate and Jump were able to draft past Jones for the top two positions as the top three continued to pull away from the battle for fourth. Taking the white flag, Jump moved to the inside of Cate to hold the lead for the first time. Jones followed him through to take second from Cate. On the far end of the track, Cate was able to move past Jones and the Jump as they all shuffled for position. At the line, Cate scored the win over Jones with Jump in third. Dignan won the fight for fourth as Jens, and Speth trailed.
The 18-lap main event began with a lot of shuffling with a handful of drivers getting collected in a turn one incident. Out front, Jones and Jens led the field to the green flag, with Jones getting shuffled back to fourth as Jens and Jump powered ahead. Donald would move to third with Jones on his bumper. Shuffling for position on lap three put Donald to P2 as Jump held off Jones for third, but that brought in Speth running fifth to make it five in the lead group. As they completed the lap, Donald and Jump pushed past Jens, with Jones and Speth also working by. Jones would move past Jump as well to put the two KartSport North America drivers out front, nose to tail. Lap five, Jump was a full three tenths quicker then the top two running together, and was able to close up on the leaders all by himself. Beginning lap eight, Jump was able to move past Jones for the second spot, but this allowed Jens to close in some, and again the next lap as he was quicker running along in fourth. Jens ran another personal best on lap nine, closing up on the bumper of Jones to make it four drivers in the lead pack. Lap 10, Jens dove to the inside at turn three to secure the third spot, but this put a couple kart lengths for the top two. Jump finally made his move on Donald entering turn nine on lap 12. Jens went with him to put the two championship contenders out front. Jens went around Jump in turn three as the began the 13th lap, putting himself back into the lead. They would hold until the final lap. Jump selected turn nine to make his move, but Jens went defensive forcing Jump to go outside. He tried one more time in turn 11, but Donald was there to take the second spot. Contact with Jones and Jump allowed Speth to come through. Out front, Jens held on to take his fifth victory of the season, with Donald in second.
It was a shake up at the front of the order, as Sheldon Mills (Top Kart) backed up his solid run in Friday Happy Hour to secure his first pole position on the season. The 1:00.202 was good for the top spot in the session, just ahead of new Top Kart teammate David Malukas (Top Kart). Nick Luedeke (PCR) was third with Jacob McWhirter (Tony Kart) and Evan Fritts (Merlin) rounding out the fast five. Championship contenders Zach Holden and Emerson Reed (Top Kart) were eighth and 11th.
Malukas got the jump on the field to begin heat one, as he stretched out to a one-second advantage after the opening circuit. Mills came under pressure from McWhirter and Luedeke for the second spot. Malukas would eventually get run down by McWhirter, who was looking for a way past for the lead. Luedeke and Holden, up to fourth, would hook up and run fast laps of the race, inching closer to the top two as the laps clicked off. As they took the white flag, McWhirter took the point into turn one. In turn five, Malukas tried to retake the spot. Side-by-side, Malukas was shuffled out and dropped to fifth as Holden and Luedeke pushed past. McWhirter was able to hold off Holden at the line for the win, with Luedeke in third. Mills would finish fourth with Malukas in fifth.
At the wave of the green flag, Malukas used the outside lane once again to get the jump on Mills to start the main event. McWhirter however was quick on the opening lap, able to pass Mills for second and then by Malukas as they began lap two. Holden, who had his axle shift over during qualifying, was flying as well. Able to advance up to second by the end of lap two, he was able to move around McWhirter for the top spot and began pulling out a strong advantage. Malukas and Mills responded as they fought McWhirter for the second spot, eventually seein Malukas at the front of the group. With Malukas and McWhirter running nose to tail, they were able to track down Holden by the halfway point. They continued to fight to the final lap with Malukas able to move up to the point Holden right there. At the line, Malukas held on for the win with Holden edging out McWhirter for the second spot. Mills was right there in fourth with Reed up to fifth after 10 laps.
McWhirter and Holden led the field to the green flag, with Malukas starting third slotting into the second spot. The top three were able to break away from Luedeke and Ruocco to form a lead group. Reed, who started sixth, was on the charge as he picked off Luedeke and then Ruocco to move himself to fourth. The top three continued to exchange positions during the first half of the race, but continued to maintain a gap over the fight for fourth with Reed getting pressure from Ruocco, Luedeke, Wagner and Evan Fritts (Merlin). With five laps to go, Holden and McWhirter broke away from Malukas to decide the victory on their own. Holden led as they took the white flag and McWhirter tried through turns nine and eleven, but went off track. This gave Holden a clear path to the victory, his fourth of the season. Malukas slipped in to finish second with Luedeke third, Ruocco fourth and McWhirter down to fifth.
At the end of the five minute session, Giovanni Bromante (Top Kart) jumped to the top of the order to steal the pole position. His 1:04.091-lap edged out Austin Schaff (Merlin) by eight hundredths of a second. Neil Verhagen (Arrow) was third with point leader Sam Mayer (Merlin) and John Paul Southern Jr. (PCR) completing the fast-five.
Mayer used the outside of row one to take the lead as the green flag waved, with Bromante getting shuffled back to third behind Schaff. A large group formed to make up the lead pack, that was until some three wide action shuffled up the order. Mayer was sent towards the back of the field, with Luke Fineis (Birel) out of the running after starting sixth. This put Verhagen out front with Schaff, Southern and Bromante trailing. With two laps to go, Schaff was able to take the lead away and hold it to the flag for the win. Verhagen placed second as Bromante won the fight for third over Southern. Simon Sikes (Arrow) came from eight to end up fifth in the order.
Bromante got the jump as the field took the green flag for heat two as Schaff slotted into second with Mayer, Southern and Fineis making up the top-five. Add in Sikes, the group became six fighting it out in the early stages of the race with some exciting shuffling for position. Each and every lap was a change for position somewhere in the group. Southern was able to lead at one time but Bromante took over. As they took the white flag, Sikes was able to take the lead with help from Schaff giving him a push. In the back section of the track, Bromante took the lead again and for the final time, holding it to the stripe. Southern slotted into second with Schaff back to third. Sikes ended up fourth with Mayer to fifth and Fineis sixth.
It was Bromante and Schaff on the front row for the 18-lap main event with the top two able to break away with four others – Southern, Sikes, Lance Fenderson (Top Kart) and Drew Lindley (Birel). The opening lap saw a number of drivers involved in a wreck, including point leader Mayer. He would get shuffled to the back, looking to gain every position he could during the next 18 laps. Lap three, more contact was made with both Sikes and Fenderson getting sideways. They collected Schaff in the process, taking him out of the race while the other two continued on. This put Bromante out front alone with Southern leading a new group, filled with Verhagen and Lindley trailing. By lap six, the group of three ran down Bromante with Southern taking over the lead as they entered turn one. They shuffled position for a number of laps before Verhagen and Bromante were out front. Southern was able to close up the gap to make it three for the lead with two laps to go. Receiving the white flag, Bromante took the lead with help from Southern entering turn one. Southern tried for the lead in turn five, but Bromante shut the door. This brought Verhagen back to second and set up for a drag race to the line. At the stripe, it was Bromante scoring the win by seven thousandths of a second over Verhagen. Southern gave Verhagen the push to make it close at the finish for third place. Lindley was fourth with Sikes coming back to win the battle for fifth.
Starting out the weekend was the Yamaha Rookie category as they took to the track for their qualifying session to set up the day’s action. James Lynch (Tony Kart) set the bar as he posted a 1:05.495-lap to secure the pole position. Home track driver Griffin Kunz (Praga) was second with point leader Mark Fineis (Birel) third. Nic Sheppard (PCR) and Talan Drake (Birel) completed the fast five.
Kunz set the pace to begin the opening heat race, as he led a six driver breakaway for the 10-lap event. By the halfway point, he along with Sheppard and Lynch were out away from the other three, staying nose to tail. Sheppard stayed on the bumper of Kunz as they made it a two driver fight for the win as Lynch came under pressure from Fineis and Parker Abed (PRC). Taking the white flag, Sheppard was able to cross-over Kunz as he defending the inside line going into turn one. Sheppard blocked on the exit of the final corner, and got to the line first. Officials however assessed a blocking penalty on Sheppard for blocking, thus giving the win to Kunz and pushing Sheppard back to second. Fineis won the fight for third with Abed and Lynch filling out the top-five.
It was a two driver battle for the heat two win early, this time with Kunz and Fineis out front for the 10-lap race. Behind them was a great battle for third with a host of drivers in the mix. The top two set up for a drag race to the line, with Fineis scoring the win over Kunz. Sheppard won the fight for third over Abed with Drake in the fifth position.
Kunz and Fineis led the field to the green flag for the 18 lap main event. The top two were joined by Sheppard and Abed to form a four driver lead group. The quartet stayed static for the first half of the race. After receiving the halfway mark, Fineis and Abed battled for position, losing about one second to the lead duo. The top two remained locked until the white flag lap. Kunz began to defend the inside around the first half of the track. The two went side-by-side entering the esses, with a little contact. That was all Kunz needed as he would beat Sheppard to the line for the victory. Fineis would end up third with Abed and Luca Mars (Praga) completing the top-five.