EKN Trackside: SKUSA SuperNationals XVII – Saturday Report
Decision Saturday as fields are set for SuperSunday in Las Vegas
The ‘challenge’ that is this year’s Superkarts! USA SuperNationals continued again on Saturday as extreme weather pushed everyone in the paddock to rise above…adapt…overcome. Uncharacteristic rain and cold temperatures made things tremendously difficult for everyone in the paddock, and on the track as well, but there was a job to be done. The focus of the day was to complete the heat races and set the grids for the SuperSunday main events. As expected, the strategy was different for everyone, and the assorted approaches were dependent on each driver’s individual results from Friday’s opening heat race. If you finished well, you had option….if you had recorded a DNF, and it was time to attack.
Saturday’s schedule featured the second and third heat races, and for those who would struggle with issues throughout the day, a date with their category’s ‘all or nothing’ Last Chance Qualifier. All in all, this was likely the most intense days of the entire week.
The Avs.C heat race opened up the action for Saturday as half of the Junior field began wheel-to-wheel racing. Top qualifier Logan Sargeant (Tony Kart) took the green flag first, but it was Yurik Carvalho (Italkart) who led on the opening lap. The top five was static, except for the progression of Kurt Kostecki (Tony Kart). Fifth after the opening lap, he moved up to first by lap 10 to take the lead and score the win. Carvalho finished second with Jake Kostecki (Tony Kart) pushing Sargeant back to fourth with Christian Munoz (Tony Kart) in fifth.
Austin Osborne (Tony Kart) was on a charge in the Bvs.D heat race. Starting third, he slotted in behind pole sitter Juan Manuel Correa (Tony Kart) and Davey Manthei Jr. (Arrow). Before the halfway point, Osborne was into the lead and drove away to a six-second victory. Correa ran to second with Manthei in third. Second generation driver Colton Herta started tenth, and pushed his ART GP kart to fourth after 12 laps with Denis Mavlanov (Top Kart) in fifth.
First versus second in qualifying matched up to begin the final round of heat races for TaG Junior. Sargeant held the lead through the opening lap with Correa slotting into second. Correa would move to the lead as they began lap four, working through for position in turn one and brought Jake Preston (FA Kart) with him. Correa pulled away 1.4-second win over Preston. Osborne drove himself into the third spot, dropping Sargeant to fourth with Kostecki in fifth.
The C vs. D groups wrapped up the heat races for TaG Junior, as Carvalho took the lead from the pole position and drove off to the win. Holding a 2.5-second lead after two laps, the Italian Motors driver powered away to a 2.6-second win. Manthei held second but was under pressure from David Malukas (Top Kart) who started fifth. Malukas would take the spot on lap four, but Manthei kept the pressure on to the end. A couple exchanges for the spot in the final laps saw Malukas fight off Manthei for the position. Herta ran fourth for much of the race until he was joined by Mavlanov and Phillippe Denes (ART GP), who started 13th. They went back and fourth with Mavlanov crossing the line in fourth, but penalized one position for blocking and thus moving Herta into the spot in the classification. Denes fell back to seventh at the end, with Vinicius Papareli (Italkart) into sixth.
It was a fight for the sixth and final transfer position in the TaG Junior LCQ with Braden Eves (Tony Kart) taking the win. Brandon Lemke (Merlin) led early, but settled in for second. Justice Lepe (Tony Kart), Blake Milton (Energy) and Nazareno Moscetta (Vemme) earned a spot in the main event on SuperSunday, with one more position available. Pro Tour defending champion Luke Selliken (Kosmic) started in the top-six, but found himself fighting for the last and final transfer spot. He held it until the final lap, losing the position to Tazio Torregiani (Haase). Thankfully, Selliken sits in the top-three in the TaG Junior standings, and will be awarded a provisional start, along with Blaine Rocha (Kosmic).
Correa will lead the field to the green flag on SuperSunday, with Carvalho on the outside. Osborne and Sargeant will fill out row two with Mavlanov and Kostecki in row three. Championship contenders Austin Versteeg (Kosmic) starts 29th, with Rocha and Selliken shotgun in 41st and 42nd.
The front of the DD2 field are amazing to watch under the wet conditions, and show the true natural talent of the top drivers in the category this weekend. Canadian Robert Wickens (Maranello) led the field to the green flag, but a restart was needed after an opening lap wreck dislodged some barriers. After the repair, the 10-lap race got underway with Paolo de Conto (Birel) taking the lead from Wickens on the opening circuit. Bas Lammers (Intrepid) ran third with DD2 Masters driver Andreas Matis and former world champion Ben Cooper (Birel) making up the top five. Cooper, a three-time Rotax Grand Finals winner, made his way up to second by lap three as he, Wickens and Lammers put on a great show. Lammers took the lead on lap six, and was never challenged the rest of the way. Wickens held off Cooper for third with Conto and Matis completing the top-five.
Wickens led the field to the green flag for heat three, but would find himself spun around in turn one receiving some assistance from behind. Entering the corner, he had no rear grip as the back of the kart was picked up from contact, and he dropped outside the top-20. Lammers would take advantage and secure the lead with Conto in second. They would run that way to the checkered flag. Behind them, Cooper was on the charge again, driving his way up to third in just seven laps, moving him up the starting grid for tomorrow.
Conto will have the pole position following his results from the heat races. Matis, the top Masters driver, will go from outside row one. Cooper improved up to third, with Wickens to fourth. Formal will go from P5 with Kevin Ludi (Birel) in sixth.
S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto
As inclimate weather continued to hit Vegas, a storm of S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto racers hit the track for their second and third heat races. The first of the two heat races in round two saw a hairy start as the race was red flagged on the opening lap. Russian racer Nerses Issakyan (Parolin) stalled his kart on the start and was hit hard from behind by an accelerating David Reyes (CRG). After a complete restart, Connor Wagner (FA Kart) put on a show, driving to the win. Behind the California ProKart Challenge champion was Christian Schureman (CRG). Ryan Kinnear (Intrepid) went on a tear as he drove up the leaderboard, eventually claiming the second spot from Schureman with less than two to go. Schureman would finish in third while Ben Schermerhorn (FA Kart) impressed with a fourth. Cabot Bigham completed the top five. In the second heat race of the round, Oliver Askew (Tony Kart) recovered from his DNF in heat one, with a win in heat two. Askew checked out on the field ahead of Jason Faint (Energy) and Don Whittington. Nick Boulle (FA Kart) and AJ Meyers (AM Kart) completed the top five.
The third round of the heat races was kicked off by the A vs. B race where Oliver Askew kept on rolling. Front row starter Chris Jennings suffered more bad luck in his final heat race when he lost his rear brakes, causing him to fall from the front. Askew checked out on the field while Wagner and Lerch battled for the second spot. Wagner would secure the spot early and again pull away from the field. Lerch would ultimately fall to fifth as Boulle and Bryce Cornet (Intrepid) passed by. The last heat race featured another racer searching for redemption as Isaakyan dueled with Schureman in the closing laps before earning the victory. Jason Faint, Ben Schermerhorn and Luis Tyrell completed the top five.
With a surplus of S2 racers signing up for the 17th annual SuperNats, a last chance qualifier was on tap. Austin Schimmel (Aluminos) nailed the start and drove to the win. The race for the transfer spot featured Miguel Lopez (G.P) and Brian Hassell (Kosmic). Coming to the white flag, Lopez worked the inside of turn 10 and took the transfer spot from Hassell. Lopez stayed in sixth till the checkers fell putting him in the show, putting Hassell out.
Faint and Wagner will go from row one, looking to add their name to SuperNats history. Schureman and Schermerhorn represent Colorado in row two with Pro Tour leader Kinnear and Lerch from row three.
S5 Junior Stock Moto
Kyle Kirkwood (Tony Kart) remained perfect so far in his shifterkart debut at the SuperNationals. After winning the pole on Friday Kirkwood went on to win in heat one, and that’s just what he did on Saturday. Kirkwood went on to sweep both heat races on the day. In the first heat race Kirkwood was solid as always with Marcus Armstrong (Aluminos) raced Jim McKinney for the second spot. McKinney (KGB) would settle for third. A good battle farther back in the pack was between Jesse Woodyard (Intrepid) and Oliver Bellanger (Kosmic). The fight for seventh went to Bellanger. The second heat race provided the closest challenge that Kirkwood would see for the win, as Austin Garrison (Tony Kart). Garrison closed in on Kirkwood but would run out of time and finished in second. McKinney, Campbell, and Carter Williams (FA Kart) filled out the top five in the final heat.
The championship battle in the TaG Master class on the SKUSA Pro Tour is most definitely up for grabs, and point leader Scott Falcone (Arrow) got things off to a great start on Friday by winning the pole and the opening heat race. The SuperNationals always raised the level competition with an influx of international drivers, so Falcone will need to be at his career best to secure his first SKUSA title and the #1 plate for 2014.
While Falcone led the second heat race out of the gate, it wasn’t long before Aussie Kip Foster (Arrow) assumed the lead and then proceeded to stretch away to a comfortable one-second advantage. It appeared as though Falcone was mounting a challenge at the midway point of the race, but the real driver to watch was IndyCar star Will Power, who slipped past Falcone to steal second on lap six. Power was matching the leader’s speed to hold onto second, as Foster sped to the win in the 10-lap race. Falcone held onto Power’s rear bumper to finish third, ahead of former Daytona 500 and Brickyard 500 winner Jamie McMurray (FA Kart). The top four drivers are all running under the KartSport North America banner, so team manager Eric Jones definitely has something to smile about. The top-five was capped by three-time TaG Master race winner Leonardo Nienkotter (Kosmic).
The third and final heat race was a thrilling battle, as Falcone led early, only to spin in turn two, dropping outside the top-10. This gifted the lead to Foster, who showed good pace in holding the point for a majority of the race. Power was on the move though, and thanks to consistent laps two tenths quicker than the lead, he eventually took over the lead with a great outside-inside move in turn one at the beginning of the eighth lap. Behind the lead duo, former SKUSA ProMoto Tour champion Bobby Wilson (Tony Kart) put on the best show, driving up from tenth to challenge McMurray for third over the final laps. Wilson dropped the hammer on the final circuit and made a great move in the last corner to emerge from the turn with position, thanks to better forward bit. Wilson took third ahead of McMurray and Bruno Fusaro (Italkart).
Foster will pace the field as they take the green flag on SuperSunday to determine this years SuperNationals champion. Power is set to go from outside row one as Falcone drops to third alongside McMurray. Fusaro and Wilson complete row three for the main event.
S1 Pro Stock Moto
For their second heat race, S1 drove under daylight, or what ever could be found through all the rain clouds in the area. Joey Wimsett (CRG) brought the field to the grid and when the lights went out, it was Josh Lane (DR) from inside row two with the holeshot. Wimsett dropped back a few positions, but spun on the opening lap with some help. The CRG-USA driver continued on but dropped outside the top-10. Lane was quick out of the gate, pulling away to a 1.6-second advantage after just two laps. He would go on to lead the entire race, only to see Dutch driver Milan Dontje (Energy) close up in the final laps with a broken gear lever. The Illinois native held on for the win with Dontje second. It was a race for position behind them, with a number of drivers in the mix. Eyes were on Wimsett however as he worked his way up to sixth by lap six, and starting earning positions in the top-five. With just a couple laps remaining, Wimsett was fourth when Neri tapped him entering turn nine, spinning the CRG driver around and dropping him down to sixth. Neri would cross the line fourth with White in fifth, but the NorCal driver was penalized for the earlier contact with Wimsett, to move him up to fifth in the final order.
White got the jump on Wimsett to begin heat three, as the S1 field made its way through the opening lap. Wimsett dropped into second, only to lose the spot from Bray on lap two. This gave the 2002 SuperNats SuperPro winner White a big lead, over four-seconds as Cody Hodgson (Tony Kart) made his first top-five appearance of the event. Defending Pro Tour champ Fritz Leesmann (CRG) made a bold outside move at the start in turn two, and it paid off as drivers got together at the inside of the corner. Out front, White was unchallenged to the race win, his first at the SuperNats in some time. Bray and Wimsett filled out the top three with Hodgson and Lane completing the top-five after Leesmann had a spin in turn one late in the going.
Wimsett and White remain on the front row for the main event with Lane remaining in third. Bray will go from fourth with Dontje and Neri in row three.
S4 Master Stock Moto
Kiwi driver Matthew Hamilton (Aluminos) grabbed the holeshot to begin the A vs. C heat race as top qualifier Chris Jennings (DR) ran wide through turn two, dropping down to fifth in the order behind Eduardo Martins (Tony Kart), Mirko Mizzoni (Italcorse) up from 14th to third and Curtis Cooksey (CRG). The top-five space out with the attention of the crowd turning the Trevor McAlister. The Leading Edge Motorsports/Praga driver started 10th and was into fifth by the second lap. Into fourth, he was fourth after Jennings fell down the order following contact with the wall after going in too deep in one of the corners. T-Mac took third from Mizzoni and then second from Martins. Hamilton held a large enough lead that the late charge by McAlister was not enough, scoring the race win. Trevor settled for second with Mizzoni, Vatche Tatikian (FA Kart) and Martins completing the top-five.
Pro Tour championship leader Jordon Musser (Birel) held the advantage at the start of B vs. D heat race. From the pole position, he earned the holeshot when the lights went out to start the heat. Brian Fisher (DR) charged up to second, nearly taking the lead from Musser in turn four and five. He would however lose the spot as yesterday heat winner Derek Wang (FA Kart) took the spot. Musser and Wang left the rest of the field, as they fought it out for the win. Wang looked numerous times to take the lead, as both fought their way through lap traffic. On lap nine, Wang was on Musser’s bumper through turn nine when a lap driver came down across his path and was forced to spin to avoid contact. That dropped him down to 15th at the time. This left Musser alone to take the win. Wang’s spin gave John Crow (Tony Kart) the second spot as he worked his way up from 13th on the grid. Fisher ran third until he spun on the final lap, complaining of no grip. That put Can-Am ProKart Challenge driver Ben Johnston (CRG) from 20th to third, Nelson Canache (GP) to fourth from 21st, and Willy Musgrave (Tony Kart) into the top-five. Fisher would end up seventh in the race, with last year’s winner Bonnier Moulton (Tony Kart) struggling back in the 32nd spot. Crow however was penalized two position for utilizing tires that were not assigned to him, dropping the SoCal driver to fourth while moving Johnston and Canache up a position.
After repairing his DR Kart before the final heat race, Jennings made it a green-to-checkered victory in A vs. B. Taking on Musser, Jennings grabbed the holeshot and drove away to the win with Musser holding second. Behind them, three drivers fought for the third spot. Cooksey held it for most of the race until pressure from Gian Cavaciutti (GP) put him in a spin on the exit of turn four on lap seven. He would only drop to fifth as Cavaciutti took over third and Martins fourth. Fisher was dropped back early during the first lap, falling all the way to 22nd, but put in a stellar 10-lap performance to get to 10th by the checkered flag.
Kiwi driver Hamilton drove away with the win in the final S4 heat race of the event – Cvs.D. Earning the holeshot, the Aluminos driver went flag-to-flag for the win. McAlister was the only challenger, moving up to second after the opening lap, but unable to cut into the early lead Hamilton established. They would run 1-2 the entire eight laps. Moulton held onto the third position, but continued to drop under the wet conditions. Vatche Tatikian (FA Kart) shined in the race, moving up to third while Wang ran fourth and Mizzoni was fifth.
The LCQ for S4 was a very exciting 10 laps as the sixth and final transfer position was never locked down until after the race. Justin Peck (Tony Kart) drove away to the victory, running laps nearly two seconds quicker. Brandon Brock (CR), Byron Rothenhoefer (DR) and Steve Attard (CRG) were able to pull away after a full course caution from a blocked track in turn five on lap two. Nick Firestone (Tony Kart) and Jerome Laville went back in forth for the transfer position with Laville crossing the line sixth. He would however be penalized and handed a one position penalty to take him out of the SuperSunday lineup, and place Firestone into the main event.
Hamilton and Musser are set to go from the front row for SuperSunday main event in S4. Veteran Martins and Tatikian will fill out row two with Cavaciuti and Musgrave in row three.
Philip Hamprecht (Kosmic) kicked things off on Saturday during heat racing action as he scored the first win of the day, in round two of three. Hamprecht spent the early part of the second heat racing with Thomas Preining (CRG) and polesitter Rinus Van Kaimthout (CRG). Hamprecht drove from 11th to take the lead in turn one of the final lap from Preining on his way to the win in the second heat race of three. Behind Hamprecht was Preining in second, with the polesitter Rinus Van Kaimthout in third. The second heat race of the day – third for the weekend – was fairly uneventful as Kaimthout made good on his P1 starting spot and drove to the win. Behind Kaimthout this time was Preining with Leonard Hoogenboon (CRG) coming up from his eighth place starting spot to finish third. Richard Verschoor (CRG) and Canadian Clay Van Eerd (Tony Kart) completed the top five in the final heat race. Sunday the Rotax Junior drivers will make history as they take part in the first ever Super Sunday for the class with Preining on the pole position. Van Kaimthout is set to go from outside row one, with Hoogenboom and Correa in row two. Van Eerd and Walker fill out row three for the main event.
At the start of the second round of heat races Saturday afternoon for TaG Cadet, Neil Verhagen (Arrow) kicked things off in the first of four heat races as he checked out ahead of Jack Doohan (Tony Kart) for the A vs. C win. Rasmus Lindh (Praga) and Nick Brueckner (Birel) put on a good race for the third position that saw Brueckner come out with the spot. The second of the round two heat races belonged to Canadian Antonio Serravalle (Tony Kart). Petr Ptacek Jr. (Praga) got out to an early lead from his eighth place starting spot. Serravalle however put in solid lap after lap, going purple consecutive laps in pursuit of Ptacek. Serravalle finally caught Ptacek on lap five and executed an excellent pass in the third, fourth and fifth corners of the track as he got around Ptacek and drove to the win. Serravalle followed up his round two win with another win in round three, as Jack Doohan bested his second place run from the first race of the day, with a win in the round three A vs. B race.
The LCQ provided even more excitement to what is already an “edge of your seat” class. Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik Kart) drove away with an impressive six second win over K-Rex Frederick. But as always in LCQ’s the action worth watching was not at the front of the race – but this time – rather around the sixth and final transfer position. Trey Brown (Tony Kart) occupied the spot as the white flag flew with Valentina Sarmiento (FA Kart) behind in seventh. The last lap saw Sarmiento close the gap quickly on Brown as the two battled the last half of the lap. Sarmiento proved she would not be denied as the two raced through the final corners. Sarmiento got around Brown with only a few corners left as a packed grandstand watched with anticipation to see who would race Sunday, and who would join them in the stands. As the checkers flew, Sarmiento took the final transfer spot leaving Brown on the outside looking in. Doohan and Neil Verhagen start the main event from the front row, followed by Michael d’Orlando and Serravalle. Lindh and Ptacek start from row three is what is sure to be a wild event on SuperSunday.
Just as it did on Friday night, the rain had subsided well before the KZ drivers took to the track for their second heat race. The track remained very wet, but visibility, it was significantly improved. Davide Fore (CRG) got the holeshot on Anthony Abbasse (Sodikart) to lead the early laps, but once things kicked in, Abbasse went on the attack and made his move to lead the remaining circuits. Fore gave chase and hung close, but they would finish in that order. Behind the lead duo, Philip Orcic (CRG), Bas Lammers (Intrepid) and Jonathan Thonon (Praga) battled for third with Orcic holding the position for the first half of the 10-lap spring. Lammers was relentless in his pressure and slid past on lap six, although Orcic showed his speed to keeping the former SuperNats winner on his toes. Thonon was never a factor in the battle for third, taking fifth while he sat in the best seat to watch the scrap. The excitement at the end of the race came courtesy of American Gary Carlton (TB Kart), as he was on the move, first grabbing eighth from Paulo de Conto (Birel) and then seventh from Kristijan Habulin (TB Kart) with a strong last lap move in turn five.
The final heat saw yet another Abbasse-Fore battle, as they went at it aggressively for the win. Abbasse got the holeshot and was able to keep Fore at bay for the entire duration, although the Sodikart pilot needed to defend in a big way on several occasions. Over the final laps, the scrap got so intense that Orcic arrived on the scene from third after getting past Lammers and if the race had been just a couple laps longer, the Canadian may have had a shot at the win. Simona Brenna (TB Kart) and Jason Faint (Energy) had very strong runs to cap the top-five.
Abbasse and Foré remain on the front row, swapping positions for the main event. Former teammates Lammers and Hajek are to go from row two with Matrin Doubeck (ART GP) and Morgan Weber (CRG) from row three after consistent finishes over the three heat races. Thonon will be coming from ninth on the grid, trying to earn a second SuperNats victory in his return to Vegas.
Dinger and Dingo went head to heat in the A vs. C heat race to open up TaG Senior action for Saturday. NASCAR’s AJ Allmendinger (FA Kart) and Aussie David Sera (Arrow) put on a show like you see at the World of Outlaws on the dirt, only using karts on a wet track at the SuperNationals. Joao Vieira (Tony Kart) led the field to the green flag, but it was Dinger and Sera moving forward to fight with the win. They had opened up a gap until Renato David (Tony Kart) made his way forward and joined the trio. All three ran different lines around the wet circuit. Sera low, Dinger high, David trying to find a way past both. In the end, Sera would take the victory over Allmendinger with David third. Canadian Zachary Claman-DeMelo (Praga) finished fourth with Nicholas Rowe (Arrow) as Vieira dropped to sixth.
Tony Kart factory driver Dalton Sargeant earned another wire-to-wire win, opening up the day first in B vs. D heat race. From the pole position, he drove away to open up a near two-second advantage. They fought for the second spot behind him, with Parker McKean (Kosmic) holding the spot until he was shuffled back by Marco Maestranzi (Top Kart). The driver on the move however was Daniel Formal as the four-time Rotax champion put on a show. Starting 16th in his DRT Racing DR kart, he went from seventh to third in a four wide move into turn five. From there, he ran down Maestranzi for second and then closed up on Sargeant. Running out of time, Formal settled for the runner-up finish as Sargeant took the win. Maestranzi close up at the end to finish third, with Callum Ilott (CRG) up from 21st to fourth with an amazing drive, placing just ahead of Pro Tour contender Louie Pagano (Sodi Kart).
The A vs. B started with drama right away as Vieira made contact with a barrier during warm-up and bent an axle, putting him on the sidelines while top-10 starter Felipe Fraga also retired before the green flag. That gave Jake Johnston (Top Kart) a clear run as the green flag waved, but the frantic events of the opening lap saw Mason Chelootz (Top Kart) come away with the lead from starting eighth. The two Top Kart drivers would set the pace, with Chelootz well out front. Sargeant was up to third on the opening lap and moved past Johnston on lap three. The top two would finish that way as Chelootz took the win over the Florida driver by three seconds. The Canadian Claman-DeMelo was fourth with Ilott finishing off another amazing recovery to end up fourth over Renato David. Johnston would fall back to seventh behind McKean.
It was Sera and Dinger again in the final heat for TaG Senio – C vs. D. Sera jumped to the lead early while Dinger was under challenge for the second spot early. Italian Motors driver Remo Ruscitti (Italkart) put the pressure on Dinger, taking over the spot on lap four. A few laps later, AJ took back the position, bringing Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart) with him. They would finish in that order as Sera drove to a two-second win over Dinger, Wehrheim and Ruscitti. Maestranzi would close up at the end, holding fifth for the entire race.
Big names filled up the Last Chance Qualifier in the TaG Senior division, as is expected with 88 drivers fighting for just 40 spots total on SuperSunday. Six slots remained opened and the results from the LCQ would determine who would start from there tomorrow. Out front, Kyle Kalish (Merlin) got away and led until he was run down by 2010 winner Andre Nicastro (Italkart) and Mason Daughters (FA Kart). They would run 1-2-3 and secure their position in the main event. Behind them it was a battle for position on every lap. Top Kart drivers Austin Elliott and Mark Boos both were out at one point, but managed to work their way into the top-five. That left the final position open with Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) and James Allen (FA Kart) fighting for position. Stross was able to fend off Allen to the checkered flag, but both were able to get in as Boos lost his bumper on the final lap, and was forced to pull off. That put both drivers into the show. Pro Tour point leader Andrew Zimmer (ART GP) started the race, but pulled off, knowing he had a spot at the tail of the field on SuperSunday.
KartSport North America will lead the field to the green flag on SuperSunday, led by the Aussie Sera and fan favorite Allmendinger. Sargeant and Maestranzi will go from row two, with Formal and Chelootz moving up the order thanks to their performances in the heat races and start from row three.