Team News: ART Grand Prix America Clinches SKUSA California PKC TAG Senior Championship
Following a three month break since the last SKUSA ProKart Challenge California event, the series returned to Buttonwillow Raceway Park this past weekend to battle the triple digit temperatures as well as racing the circuit in the reverse direction for the first time in series history. Entering the penultimate round with the points lead in three different categories, ART Grand Prix America would look to build on those leads and return to the podium with eight drivers.
Brenden Baker would lead the TAG Junior contingent, focused on building his narrow points lead with teammates Phillippe Denes and Chase McDaniel both searching for strong results following successful testing weekends. A strong qualifying session saw Baker secure the 4th starting position for the first heat, with Denes 7th, and McDaniel 8th in the talented 21 kart field. The heat race action would prove very aggressive and Baker would run a smart race to keep himself out of trouble and finish where he started in 4th. Denes and McDaniel both were caught up in incidents knocking them back in the field, but both ran top 3 lap times showing they had the pace to get to the front. The second heat would be even better for Baker as he crossed the line in 2nd and would line up on the outside front row poised to extend his championship lead. Unfortunately, racing luck would just not be on the young Palmdale driver’s side as contact with a competitor dislodged the rear bumper and resulted in an early DNF. Disappointed, Baker will now turn to his home race of the Streets of Lancaster where he will look to dominate as he did last year to battle back into the championship race. Denes, following a first lap crash in the second heat, had a great drive back through the field climbing all the way to 9th with a pinched nerve in his shoulder. McDaniel was running solidly in the top 10 before a small off track excursion late in the race knocked him down the running order, but a great weekend as far as pace goes for all the young pilots and hopefully luck will be on their side on the high speed street race in three weeks.
Steve Wiener battled hard all day in TAG Masters to back up his strong performance from the Summernationals in Colorado. After missing the Friday practice, the team played catch up all day and made progress testing a number of different set ups in the high rubber conditions. The second heat was the highlight of the day as he had a spirited battle for the 8th position coming out on top.
Gianfranco Casadei once again dominated the S3 category taking the pole and first heat victory. Running just as strongly in the second heat, contact with a competitor in another class on track unfortunately knocked him off the track and to the back of the pack for the start of the main event. Making very quick work, he was able to regain his place as the leader and even with a damaged cylinder was able to nurse his kart to a commanding 4th straight victory. Unfortunately, the cylinder was deemed to be too damaged by the technical staff and instead of stretching his championship lead the shifter rookie was excluded from the results putting a grey cloud on a fantastic drive all day.
Leading the way in the headline TAG Senior category, Jake Craig would look to clinch the championship a round early following a string of three straight victories. Andrew Wiener and Chris Cricca would join him and both would look strong in unofficial practice as two of the fastest karts in the paddock. Qualifying would start well for the team as Craig and Wiener would both share the second row for the first heat. Looking to work together, Craig was able to quickly jump into 2nd place where he would run comfortably for the rest of the heat. Wiener would be shoved off track where dirt would fill his air box, but he still was able to climb back to 10th place. The second heat would be a bit more eventful in the front pack with lots of contact throughout the race, but Craig was able to survive in 3rd place while running the fastest lap. Cricca, after a tough first heat, rebounded with a strong 8th place. The 20 lap final would take place in the hottest part of the day and Craig would quickly move into second place and begin putting pressure on the leader around half way. Not able to quite make the pass, Craig would eventually settle into 3rd place and finish on the podium for his 4th straight event, even more impressive being he was the only Rotax and had to carry an extra 20 pounds for this event. Cricca would be amongst the fastest karts on the track and after losing some ground early fought all the way to a 5th place finish. Wiener’s tough luck continued after not being able to start the second heat, but was able to put in a strong drive back through the field to 8th. Following the calculation of points with the drops, Jake Craig has clinched the championship an entire round early, a fantastic accomplishment for both the driver and the team.
“It’s absolutely awesome! To be able to win the TAG Senior championship in our first full season is a huge testament to the strength of the ART Grand Prix chassis, Jake’s driving abilities, and the entire team working every weekend to make this happen,” explained Team Manager Kyle Kuntze after the race. “It’s extremely disappointing about the TAG Junior and S3 results, but we will keep pushing and make sure we do everything we have to in order to secure the rest of our championships later this month at the Streets of Lancaster event. As always a big thank you to all of our drivers, mechanics, and supporters for making this possible.”
ART Grand Prix America is the exclusive U.S. importer for the ART Grand Prix chassis and distributor for Starlane Electronics and Lucky Design. For more information on how to become a dealer or race with the team, e-mail email@example.com and follow us on Facebook: ART Grand Prix America. Visit www.dpowerracing.com for more information.