EKN Exclusive: Big Names Entered for Superkarts! USA SuperNationals XVII
Total entries surpass 500, still two months before epic battle in Las Vegas
In just over 60 days, it will be go-time at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas when over 500 of the best karters from around the world take part in the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals XVII. The November 20-24 event is shaping up to be another record-breaking year, as the entry total for the 2013 edition has already passed the 500 mark. The 11 categories slated for action boast solid driver rosters, including countless stars from the karting scene and from the upper echelon of the motorsports ranks as well. As the official media partner of Superkarts! USA, eKartingNews.com has enjoyed an early look at the entry list, and we’ll highlight a number of names who will compete at this year’s star-studded SuperNationals.
One of the most exciting classes in the last five years has been TaG Senior. Reaching the maximum amount of drivers year after year, the competition on track never disappoints. With the 80 slots already booked, another 20 drivers are on the waiting list, all looking to get into the greatest karting spectacle of the year. In surveying the entry list, most if not all of the top-50 pilots from eKartingNews.com TaG Driver Rankings are among those entered. One interesting note: as of now, there are no former winners registered in the class.
Big names, however, are always found in TaG Senior, and this year we’ll see three former SKUSA superstars. NASCAR/IndyCar driver AJ Allmendinger will make his second straight SuperNationals start, this time in the TaG division with the KartSport North America operation, which is based in Mooresville, North Carolina. Late breaking news is that former Shifter Kart Illustrated Driver of the Year and three-time SuperNats winner Scott Speed is set to make his return to the Vegas event. An ex-Formula One and current NASCAR and Global Rallycross driver, Speed was the first SuperPro winner back in 2001 at the final event at the X-Plex facility that was located just south of the Las Vegas Strip. Another three-time SuperNats winner – Michael Valiante – will once again strap on the helmet in TaG Senior, as he has yet to taste victory in the TaG category after competing in the class for the past few seasons. The Italkart chassis that he pilots under the Italian Motors USA banner has always been successful at the Rio course, earning top honors in 2010 with Brazilian Andre Nicastro. Aside from a number of top North American drivers, many pilots from overseas will take part once again.
This year’s S1 Pro Stock Moto is shaping up to be the largest gathering at the SuperNationals since the class was re-introduced under the Stock Moto banner in 2010. The category is expected to reach 30 drivers come November, with 20 competitors coming from this year’s Pro Tour line-up. A number of top drivers who are currently racing in other forms of motorsports will also have their hand at the S1 division, including former F1 pilot and current NASCAR star Nelson Piquet Jr. The Brazilian is a former SuperNats competitor, but will be making his first start in the Stock Moto class. Canadians Matthew Di Leo and Scott Hargrove are each making their way up the Mazda Road to Indy motorsports ladder, and are each set to join the S1 crowd. Two-time SuperNats winner Tom Dyer is set for his return to the SuperNationals, looking for that elusive third victory.
One of the first categories to fill up in the opening 36 hours of registration was the TaG Master division. A solid group of racers from around the country are committed to the class, and this annual trip to Vegas is motivated by both hardcore racing and fun. Joining in on the excitement this year will be former SuperNats competitor and NASCAR star Jamie McMurray. A karting fanatic who is a huge supporter of the sport, McMurray will make his first TaG Master start.
The addition of the Rotax Max Challenge categories of DD2 and Rotax Junior have helped to boost the number of international drivers to attend the SuperNationals, among them two top professional drivers. Frenchman Sebastien Bourdias is a driver of all trades, having competed in IndyCar, Formula One and sports cars. Now, he will add the SKUSA SuperNationals to his CV as he will take part in the DD2 category. Another former SKUSA racer – coming back to his roots – is Canadian Robert Wickens, who is a current Mercedes AMG DTM driver in Germany. Wickens will run with his brother Trevor’s Prime Kartsport team in DD2. The class is stacked with a host of international stars, including 2012 Rotax Grand Finals champion Ben Cooper and 2009 Masters Rotax Grand Finals title winner Christophe Adams.
This year, scheduling conflicts will hurt the big name attendance in the KZ division, which has seen many of the top international karting stars travel to Vegas for the past six years. The CIK-FIA World KF and KF-Junior championship will be held in Bahrain on the same weekend, so this has resulted in the travel of many top factory pilots to the Middle East, rather than to the United States to join in on the Vegas fun and monster purse. In recent talks that EKN has had with SKUSA boss Tom Kutscher, it was inferred that the continued inclusion of the class was in part due to the request of the factories, who were able to show off their top drivers and equipment to the US market. This lack of attendance and their decision to choose a different race over the SuperNationals, may very well end in the KZ category being on the chopping block for 2014. The growing support for the domestic classes has to be noted, and Kutscher is on record stating that he wants to support the racers who run with him all year. There is only so much room in the weekend schedule, having SKUSA regulars on the waiting list is not something that Kutscher wants to see. Still, some top KZ drivers from Europe are expected to attend, including former winner Anthony Abbasse and last year’s third place finisher Patrik Hajek. With two months remaining, the list of big names could still grow.
One of the first categories to sell out was the S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto division, as 40 drivers got locked in very quickly. The class nearly reached that mark throughout the Pro Tour, so there was no question it would be full for the Vegas event. The racing has been some of the most exciting for fans to watch from along the fence line, and the SuperNationals should not disappoint. The same can be said for S4 Master Stock Moto, which is once again open to 80 competitors. There are only 14 spots remaining in S4 before the category is sold out, and the class will no doubt set a record within the category for number of competitors. Among them is a huge name in the sports world, who is just now enjoying his time in motorsports. Three-time world champion figure skater Elvis Stojko took to karting in 2011, and is making it his full-time hobby. He recently qualified to be part of Team Canada at the 2013 Rotax Grand Finals, following his runner-up finish in DD2 Masters at the Canadian Karting Championships. Living near Guadalajara, Mexico, he’s competed in Superkarts! USA’s Mexico series and will have his first taste of the SKUSA SuperNationals come November.
The numbers in the Junior ranks are astonishing once again. TaG Cadet has sold out, as 80 drivers will compete in the youngest division, increasing from the 67 total drivers from last year’s event. The new Rotax Junior category is another sold out class, with a mix of North Americans and international pilots. Like S1, S5 Junior Stock Moto continues to make strides in the number category. Many of the Pro Tour competitors will take part, with the addition of new drivers to the class. In TaG Junior, the number of entries is currently sitting at 62, but looking at the potential of drivers still not entered, the category is set to sell out once again, with 80 sure to do battle in Vegas.
While this year’s star-studded entry list continues to grow, rumors of more high-profile entries still loom – with nearly two months to spare before the karts hit the circuit outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. eKartingNews.com will once again provide the exclusive ‘Trackside Live’ broadcast during the November weekend, including a full preview series, live coverage, daily reports, photos, videos, social media updates and more.