EKN Trackside: Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix – Sunday Report
Leesmann and Lerch defend victories, Cricca goes zero to hero in TaG
Defending race winner Fritz Leesmann held off the young Musgrave to conquer the S1 field (Photo: DromoPhotos.com)
The final day went into the books for the 2013 Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix Sunday under bright sunny skies in the southern California city. Nearly 150 racers from coast to coast, throughout North America, took part in the fifth annual event that served as the finale weekend for the California ProKart Challenge in addition to a great tune-up event for the upcoming Superkarts! USA SuperNationals XVII in November. The headline shifterkart group, featuring the S1 Pro and S2 Semi-Pro categories, put 31 drivers on the 7/10-mile course with defending winners Fritz Leesmann and Augie Lerch coming out on top in their respective divisions. TaG Senior witness one driver move from the back to the front on Sunday as Chris Cricca recorded the big victory. The remaining categories welcomed new winners, all able to outlast and conquer the Streets of Lancaster.
During the podium ceremonies, Superkarts! USA and the City of Lancaster announced the winner of the California ProKart Challenge Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix Driver Scholarship program. A number of factors went into deciding the driver and family that would represent the event throughout the 2014 season, including support at the CPKC and SKUSA Pro Tour with complete safety gear to promote the event, totaling over $11,000. Double-duty driver Carter Williams will don the SOLGP colors in 2014 after being named the winner.
S1 Pro/S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto
It was a CRG front row for the Heat 2 race as top qualifier Jimmy McNeil and last year’s winner Fritz Leesmann started from the first two positions. McNeil grabbed the holeshot with Leesmann slotting into second with Billy Musgrave (Arrow), S2 driver Josh De Losier (CRG) and Daniel Langon (CRG). The driver on the charge was Alec Gumpfer, starting 24th and up to 13th by the end of lap two. Lap three, Leesmann was into the top spot, dropping McNeil back to second while both Langon and last year’s S2 winner Augie Lerch (Tony Kart) dropped to sixth. McNeil however would not come around to complete lap four, dropping down the order and set to start from 29th in the main event. That put Musgrave on the bumper of Leesmann as the current SKUSA #1 plate holder and the provisional California PKC champion out front. At the halfway point, Gumpfer was the quicket driver on the course and was nearly into the top-10. Lap seven, Musgrave moved to the inside of Leesmann entering turn five, and took the lead for the first time on the weekend. Leesmann came back with a slide job the following lap to take over the lead with Lerch now into the mix as the S2 leader. With Lerch moving by Musgrave the next time through turn five, that was all Leesmann needed to secure the win. Lerch would end up second, first in class. Musgrave ended up third with Langon and De Losier rounding out the top-five. Gumpfer ended up moving to ninth, now in range to contend for the podium.
There was a bit of carnage in the final main event of the weekend, but the S1/S2 group put on a show for the many fans along the fence line. Following driver introductions, the 31-pilots lined up and bolted off the starting grid when the lights went out. All got through the opening corners clean, with the drivers slotting in for the 20-lap battle. Musgrave was able to grab the holeshot from row two, moving inside of Leesmann and Lerch. Leesmann however retook the top spot and led until a full course caution came out on lap four. When the race restarted, Lerch got the jump and was into the overall lead entering turn one. Leesmann would get his Aluminos CRG back around however, and Lerch was shuffled down the order to seventh, moving Ron White (CRG) and Christian Schureman (CRG) now in the top-five. Top qualifier McNeil was working his way up the order and by the halfway point was nearing the top-10.
Out front, the top two of Leesmann and Musgrave were alone out front with the rest of the group fighting for third. Lap 12, White made contact with the barriers in turn three, ending his race. The following lap, a number of drivers racing for the top-10 were collected in turn two, including McNeil and Ben Schermerhorn (FA Kart) – who suffered a deep gash in his leg and overall was fine, but needed medical attention at the end of the race. At the same time, De Losier was up to third and began closing on the top two. As he sat behind the top two, Lerch and Schureman locked up to run down the Acceleration Kart Racing driver. It was lap 18 with Lerch moving inside and bringing Schureman with him as De Losier was hung out and had to back off before making contact with the barriers. Out front, Leesmann was able to keep Musgrave at bay, and earn his second straight SOLGP victory. Musgrave drove his Arrow to second, and locked up the California PKC title as a S1 rookie. Lerch placed third overall and once again put Pure Karting atop of the S2 podium. CRG-USA Schureman place second in class, setting up for a run at the Pro Tour title come the SKUSA SuperNationals, with De Losier an impressive third as he continues to get better. Gumpfer would place sixth overall, and third in the S1 class.
Heat 1 race winner Wesley Boswell (Top Kart) and Andres Ceballos (ART GP) led the 28 driver field to the green flag for heat two. Boswell held the lead through the opening lap with Travis Lowe (Kosmic) jumping up to the second spot with Austin Elliott (Top Kart) right there, dropping Ceballos back to fourth. Lap two, Parker Thompson (Energy) was on the move and was up to third and began trying to run down the top two. Boswell however was on cruise control as he held a one-second advantage with Lowe looking to hold off Thompson and Ceballos. Lap six, Lowe was shuffled out as he fell all the way back to 10th, moving Thompson into second and Johnson no third as Ceballos dropped to sixth. Boswell continued on and ended up scoring the win by roughly 1.5 seconds. Thompson drove to second as Johnson came under pressure from Elliott. They went side-by-side with Johnson taking the spot, and allowed top qualifier Chris Cricca (ART GP) to steal the fourth position. He was the hard charger of the event, coming from 24th on the grid after an opening lap wreck. Elliott capped off the top-five with Ceballos and AJ Juergens (Intrepid).
Veteran Boswell and rookie Thompson would set the pace for the large field charging to the green flag for the 20-lap main event. Thompson would score the lead through the opening corner with Boswell would be slotted into second. It was Cricca however on the move, jumping from third to first on the second circuit. Lap three, Boswell would take over the challenger role, dropping Thompson to third with Elliott and Ceballos making up the top-five. Lowe, a DNF after a broken throttle, started 21st and was up to 11th by the completion of lap four. By lap seven, it was the top three out to a lead as Elliott had his hands full of about seven drivers behind him. At halfway, Thompson was around Boswell, but trailed by one second to Cricca out in the lead. The top three would run static the remainder of the race with Cricca scoring the fast lap of the race and the victory for ART GP America. Thompson held second aboard his Buddy Rice Karting entry with Boswell on the final podium step for Top Kart USA. Elliott would drop down the order with three laps remaining after contact with John Wallace III (Tony Kart) as his rear bumper wedged between the chassis and the tire on the left side. That moved Grayson Browne (Energy) to fourth and Lowe putting in an amazing drive to fifth in his Nash Karting entry.
Outside pole sitter Billy Cleavelin (CRG) was able to get away as the green flag dropped to being the second heat race. Top qualifier Ethan Wilson (FA Kart) fell back a few kart lengths but closed it up as they began the second half of the 10-lap battle. Kevin Manning (MMK) secured the third spot with Andy Seesemann (Arrow) coming under pressure from Will Jadiker (CRG). Cleavelin fought off the defending race winner to score the pole for the main event. Wilson will slot in the second spot with Manning third. Jadiker was able to move past Seesemann for fourth with Steve Brackett (MMK) winning a great fight for sixth.
The outside line had the jump with Wilson and Seesemann each gaining a position at the start of the 20-lap main event. Wilson and Cleavelin exchanged the lead a couple times before Cleavelin secured the spot while Seesemann fell to fourth behind Manning. By the halfway point, the top two held a three second advantage with Cleavelin beginning to stretch out his lead even more over Wilson. Lap traffic would not give Wilson a chance to close up, as Billy drove around the lapper cleanly while Seesemann used it to close back up on Manning. Seesemann kept the pressure on Manning, waiting for a spot to make a move for the final podium position. Lap 17, Seesemann was able to dive inside at turn five but Manning came back at the following corner. The FTK owner kept the pressure on, while out front, the Mike Manning Karting driver drove to the victory and the California PKC championship. Wilson would settle for second in his Phil Giebler Racing entry, while Manning would put two MMK drivers on the podium in third. Seesemann (#notenough), placing fourth with Jadiker in fifth.
S4 Master Stock Moto
Last year’s winner Trevor McAlister (Praga) and top qualifier Mike Mantel (Tony Kart) sat on the front row for heat two, with McAlister grabbing the holeshot. Nick Firestone (Tony Kart), Curtis Cooksey (CRG) and Jim Kidd (Italkart) made up the top-five on the opening lap. The top four were together out front after three laps with PP Mastro (Italcorse) moving up into the lead position for the fight for the fifth spot. Lap five, Mantel moved into the lead with a pass into turn five. McAlister nearly lost the second spot as Firestone tried at turn one, but was unsuccessful. Lap seven, McAlister returned the favor in front of the large group of fans, taking the lead back from Mantel. The two went at it the following lap, with the two making contact on the exit of turn five. Mantel got the worst of it, making hard contact with the curbs and ending his race early. McAlister would continue on with the lead and crossed the line first over Firestone. Musgrave ended up third over Cooksey with Mastro fifth.
The front row of McAlister and Firestone led the field to the grid spots, and as the lights went out to begin the 20-lap main event, it was McAlister with the holeshot. Mantel, who started at the back, made up some ground early but on lap two he went too wide on the exit of turn five and ended his race early. McAlister set the pace with Musgrave and Cooksey trailing the leader while Mastro moved up to fourth, pushing Firestone back to fifth. The action was setting up to be a great one in the second half of the race when McAlister made slight contact with the barrier on the exit of turn three. He went airborne while spinning. Both Musgrave and Cooksey missed him by inches and continued on, but T-Mac’s race was over. Musgrave took the lead and continued on with Cooksey on his bumper. The near wreck for them allowed Mastro to close back in, as did Firestone. Mastro took the second spot from Cooksey on lap 15, as they ran nose to tail. Mastro however made a slight mistake, hitting the barrier in turn three as well, but continued on losing position to both Cooksey and Firestone. Out front, Musgrave would drive to a four-second victory. Cooksey held on to the runner-up spot with Firestone on the final step of the podium. Mastro held to fourth, recording the fast lap of the race, with Chris Fosso (Tony Kart) in fifth.
Brenden Baker (ART GP) and Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) paced the 25-kart TaG Junior field to the green flag for heat two. Gangi got the jump from the outside row, as he pushed Baker back to second on the opening lap. Justice Lepe (Tony Kart) with Noah Grey (Kosmic) and Carter Williams (FA Kart) completed the early top-five. The top two were well out in front, but Lepe was the quickest drive in the third spot by the halfway point, but saw a one-second gap he needed to make up in front of him. Grey however was the quickest in the second half of the race and closed up on Lepe’s bumper with three laps remaining. Gangi would led all 10 laps to score the win over Baker with Lepe holding on to third. Grey would finish fourth with Williams holding off Jake Preston (FA Kart) for fifth.
It was a Gangi-Baker front row taking the green flag for the 15-lap main event in TaG Junior. Gangi would hold the lead through the opening corners until Baker made the draft past into turn five to secure the lead for the first lap. Gangi responded the following lap with Lepe, Williams and Eric Nascimento (Tony Kart) making up the top-five, all right there. The local Palmdale drive stayed right on the bumper of the New York driver, setting up for an east coast vs. west coast fight. Lepe and Williams lost some ground but gained it right back as they reached the halfway point of the race. Gangi tried a move inside of Baker and was not able to pull out to avoid contact. They drifted wide and allowed Lepe to move inside but Gangi fought him off. As they made their way around, Gangi was leading with Williams now second and Baker third ahead of Lepe. The coastal battle was still on, as Williams represented the west side, putting the pressure on Gangi with four laps remaining. Baker was able to put away Lepe and joined the top two as they received the two laps to go signal from SKUSA head starter Aaron Likens. Baker would get around Williams as they took the white flag, but trailed by a full half-second to Gangi on the final circuit. Baker however would have to fight off Williams, which gave Gangi a clear run to the victory. Baker and Williams capped off the podium with Lepe and Nathan Seegrist (Tony Kart) capping off the top-five.
S3 Novie/S4 Magnum/S5 Junior
As the lights went out, Gianfranco Casadei (ART GP) led the way in the race group, scoring the overall heat two win and topped the S3 field. Behind him, Jarred Campbell (Intrepid) held off Carter Williams (FA Kart) for second overall, first in the S5 category. Travis Nicklas (Sodi Kart) was fourth, second in S3 as S5 drivers Garrett Dixon (Energy) Jim McKinney (KGB) crossed the stripe behind him.
Casadei grabbed the holeshot but Campbell moved to the lead in turn three to set the pace in the 20-lap main event. Casadei would trail the young driver until retaking the overall lead on lap six. From there, he and Campbell drove away to earn victories in their respective classes. Casadei was joined on the podium by Nicklas and Kalvin Chen (GP). Campbell drove to a 12-second advantage over Williams with Dixon taking the final podium spot in S5. Luke Bianco (CRG) won the second heat race but contact at the start of the main event saw him lose the top spot to Jeff Krogstad (Birel). They would run that way to the checkered flag with Krogstad earning the victory.
It was a two driver breakaway in the second heat race, as top qualifier Hunter Kelly (Italcorse) and Trenton Sparks (FA Kart) drove away. The battled the entire 10 laps with Kelly locking up the win on the final circuit. The drive of the race was put in by Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) as he started 13th and quickly put himself into the top-five. As the race wore on, he posted the fast lap of the race and became part of the lead group that included Kelly and Sparks. At the line, Kelly would take the win with Sparks second, however he was penalized one position and moved back to third and promoted Tavella to second. Jones finished fourth with Myles Farhan (DR Kart) up to fifth.
Tavella got the jump from the outside of row one, with a solid lead over Jones with Kelly back to third. Sparks was fourth with Oliver Calvo (Top Kart) making up the early top-five. By the second lap, Tavella held a two-second advantage over the fight for secondwith Jones fending off Kelly and Sparks. The fight for second eventually included Calvo and Farhan. Kelly would push Jones back as he and Sparks set up a fight for the runner-up position for the final few laps of the race. Tavella proved to be too strong for the field as he ended with a four-second gap for the victory, making the trip from New York worth while. Sparks and Farhan completed the podium with Kelly fourth and Calvo fifth. The TaG Rookie class saw Jude Logsdon (Tony Kart) taking the class win within the race group, edging out Colin Queen (Tony Kart) as Anthony Freese (Birel) placed third.