EKN Trackside: SKUSA SuperNationals XVII – Sunday Report
Wimsett bags $16,000 with S1 and title, Aussie Rowe steals TaG Senior win, Abbasse earns second in KZ2
After three straight days of cold temperatures and rain in Las Vegas, the sun that arrived on the scene for SuperSunday put some much-needed positive buzz in the SuperNationals paddock. With 11 races on the docket for the day, the karting enthusiasts in attendance were treated to an incredible display of competition. The glory of a race win was not the only honor up for grabs, as the SKUSA Pro Tour championships were also on the line. These titles feature point fund payouts in S1 and TaG Senior, and entrance into the SKUSA Circle of Champions for all classes, which includes all entries, fuel, oil and tires for the 2014 Pro Tour, a prize valued at $3000 for each driver. Three classes would run for big dollars on SuperSunday, with $10,000 available to the winners in S1, TaG Senior and KZ.
KZ2 – presented by Praga
The sun had just set behind the Rio when the KZ field fired their engines on the hot grid, flipping the switch for the day’s third $10,000 battle, and last event on the schedule. The grandstands filled quickly and the fences were lined as the field headed to the start-line with Anthony Abbasse (Sodikart) alongside Davide Fore (CRG) on the front row. At the green light, Abbasse dropped the holeshot and bolted away as the rest of the field had their elbows up coming through turn one. Abbasse emerged with a lead of over a second, and despite early attacks from Fore, he was never headed. Abbasse pulled away consistently and crossed the line with a 2.4-second triumph. It was his second SuperNationals victory, having won in 2011.
Behind the eventual victor, Bas Lammers (Intrepid) eventually chased down Fore and passed for second, taking up the challenge to run down the leader, but he too was no match for the Sodikart driver on this day and had to settle for the runner-up spot. Fore ended up in third ahead of Patrick Hajek (Praga) and Paolo de Conto (Birel). Philip Orcic (CRG) was the top finishing North American in 13th, coming in just ahead of Fritz Leeseman (CRG). Of note, Matt Jaskol came off his fourth place finish in S1 to drive from 40th to 21st over the 25-lap event finale.
S1 Pro Stock Moto – presented by SwedeTech Racing Engines
Championships are a season long effort of work and determination. For Joey Wimsett, the season had its highs and its lows, but a chance at scoring the championship in S1 remained. He along with defending champion Fritz Leesmann (CRG) and Kiwi driver Daniel Bray (Aluminos) were all within 100 points of each other entering the main event. Starting on pole position, Wimsett grabbed the holeshot to begin his drive to the championship. Ron White (CRG) slotted in behind from the outside of row one, with Josh Lane (DR), Bray and Dutch driver Milan Dontje (Energy) making up the early top-five. Bray was on the charge, advancing to second quickly, but was already down by 1.6 seconds to the CRG-USA driver out front. Bray was able to post fast laps of the race to close in as the 25-lap event pushed on, tightening up the point standings. With Bray running second and holding the fast lap of the race, he would earn the championship. That would change as the race progressed, as Ocala Gran Prix driver Nick Neri (Tony Kart) was on the move. Shuffled back at the start, the 2011 S2 SuperNats winner found himself back into the top five by lap 13 by running the fast lap of the race.
The gap between Wimsett and Bray would shrink, but was extended more in the closing laps. Eventually, Neri was able to catch and move past Bray for the second position. Out front, Wimsett kept a solid pace to go wire-to-wire for his first ever SuperNationals victory and score the Pro Tour championship. With the win, Wimsett took home the $10,000 for a Pro Tour racer to win the race, along with $3,000 for the championship and over $3,000 as part of the SKUSA ‘Circle of Champions’ program in 2014. Neri, in just his second SuperNationals start, would land on the podium again with runner-up in his S1 debut. Bray would give the Aluminos chassis its first SuperNationals podium, along with the SKUSA #2 plate in the championship. Vegas driver Matt Jaskol (CRG) was good late in the race, and was able to move up to fourth. White was able to hold onto fifth after a late charge by last year’s S2 winner Billy Musgrave (Tony Kart) – who would earn the Rookie of the Year honor. Lane was battling for the final spot on the podium when Cody Hodgson (Tony Kart) climbed up the bumper of Lane and both retired with just two laps remaining. That put Jason Toft (Aluminos) seventh, Scott Hargrove (Italkart) eighth, Tyler Bennett (Tony Kart) and Brian Keck (CRG) from dead last to complete the top-10.
TaG Senior – presented by IAME/Italian Motors USA
With half the field going home Saturday night after the Last Chance Qualifier, the remaining half set out for a 25-lap long battle to decide this year’s SuperNationals winner. KartSport North America drivers David Sera (Arrow) and NASCAR’s AJ Allmendinger (FA Kart) filled out the front row. As expected the field plowed into the opening corner with 45 drivers trying to find their way through unscaved. It was Dalton Sargeant (Tony Kart) starting third who would come away with the lead as Sera and Dinger slotted in behind. Lap two, Sera would take over the lead from Sargeant as the race began to settle in. Lap three however, Kyle Kalish (Merlin) slammed into the water barrier that was on the exit of turn four. Water began running down into the racing surface, and officials were forced to call a red flag to clean up.
Sera led the field to the green flag to restart, with Sargeant, Remo Ruscitti (Italkart), Mason Chelootz (Top Kart) and Marco Maestranzi (Top Kart) now making up the top-five. Allmendinger was shuffled back outside the top-five and was later involved in a turn one wreck. Ruscitti would be the driver on the charge, working his way up to second until lap 11 when he suffered a broken wheel and was forced to retire. This moved Chelootz into the second spot with another Italian Motors driver up to the top-five. Andre Nicastro (Italkart) came from the LCQ and advanced up into the top-five by lap nine. Unfortunately, his race came to an end when contact dislodged his rear bumper and he was forced to retire. That put Aussie driver Nicholas Rowe now into the top-five after starting 13th. He along with Chelootz and Maestranzi were able to run down Sera, setting up for a fight to the end with five laps remaining. Maestranzi led for one lap before Rowe took over the position.
The Aussie driver racing under the KartSport North America banner would lead the remaining laps to earn his first SuperNationals victory. Sera held on to earn another runner-up result, giving KSNA a 1-2 finish. Maestranzi held on to third with Jess Peterson (Praga) coming up late to steal fourth for his best SuperNationals finish under the Leading Edge Motorsports tent. Chelootz would cap off the top-five, handing Top Kart USA two drivers on the podium. Travis Lowe (Kosmic) came from 31st to sixth, placing ahead of Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart). Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) and Andrew Weiner (ART GP) came from the very tail of the field to finish eighth and tenth, with CRG-USA driver Felipe Fraga ninth.
On the championship side of things, the title came down to the very end with Louie Pagano holding his fate in his hands. Championship leader Andrew Zimmer (ART GP) was forced to use his provisional to start the main event from the tail of the field after a rough three heat races. Only making three laps with an engine failure, Zimmer recorded a DNF and ended with the points he came into the SuperNationals with. This left the door open for Pagano, who started 19th. Avoiding trouble, the Sodi Kart USA/Dallas Karting Complex driver was on the move and gunning for the win. He reached the top-five at one point, but a broken header slowed his pace and he pulled off. Finishing 23rd and recording the fast lap of the race, Pagano came just 18 points short of the championship. Zimmer would earn the SKUSA #1 plate for 2014 and a spot in the ‘Circle of Champions’ along with a $3,000 check. Jonathan May (FA Kart) completed the top-three for 2013.
DD2 – presented by FalconeGP
Two tickets to the Rotax Grand Finals were up for grabs in the combined DD2/DD2 Masters group. Paolo de Conto (Birel) led the way to the green flag from the pole position, and held off a gaggle of karts through the opening corners. The Birel factory driver led the first half of the race while former world Rotax champion Ben Cooper (Birel) and Bas Lammers (Interpid) ran him down. Cooper would be the first to take the lead with Lammers coming through a few laps later with a deep move into turn one. Cooper struck back with a move of his own, going from third to first in a turn two move. The two karting champions swapped the lead more, allowing American Daniel Formal (Tony Kart) the chance to close back in on the leaders. The victory however would be decided on the final lap, with Cooper securing the position and winning the drag race to the line. Cooper would earn the first ticket to the 2014 Rotax Grand Finals, thanks to MAXSpeed Group. Lammers settled for second in his first ever DD2 race, while Formal slid past de Conto for third. DTM driver and top qualifier Robert Wickens (Maranello) would finish fifth, celebrating his first trip to the SuperNationals since 2003. In the DD2 Masters class, Canadian Stuart Clark (Maranello) scored the victory and Rotax Grand Finals ticket.
S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto – presented by Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center
The S2 Semi Pro Stock Moto class put on a terrific show on Sunday as they provided an action packed and drama filled race. Entering the SuperNats, Texas ProKart Challenge S2 champion Ryan Kinnear (Intrepid) held a small point lead over Christian Schureman (CRG). Throughout the week, Schureman rose above Kinnear in the point battle by 18 points. The main event got off to an epic start as polesitter Jason Faint (Energy) stalled on the start and was clobbered from behind. Getting yet another great jump, Schureman launched from row two to the lead. Wagner and Schureman played cat and mouse for the next three laps before Wagner out braked Schureman for the lead into turn one. Oliver Askew (Tony Kart) also took advantage of the wild start as he drove from his tenth place starting spot to race Schureman and take second spot away a lap after the lead changed hands. The craziness occurred several laps later when Kinnear passed by Schureman for second, only to seemingly miss a gear out of turn five the next lap only to put his hands in the air announcing his retirement from the race. The surprises didn’t stop with Kinnear, as Askew suddenly disappeared from the leaderboard with less than three laps to go due to a broken chain. This in turn put Schureman back to P2 and having to defend against a very hard charging Augie Lerch (Tony Kart). Lerch and Schureman swapped the spots several times, but could not find a way to keep the Colorado kid behind him. While Wagner cruised to a near five second win, Schureman kept Lerch behind him for second, with Lerch in third. Nerses Isaakyan (Parolin) rebounded well after his up and down Saturday with a fourth place finish, while AJ Meyers (AM Kart) completed the top five. Schureman’s strong weekend and runner up finish would be enough to earn him the S2 Pro Tour championship, duplicating the performance of his CRG-USA teammate Sabre Cook’s championship weekend a year ago.
S4 Master Stock Moto – presented by Honda Racing/HPD
In the seven year history of the S4 class at the SuperNationals, no non-American had taken the victory in Las Vegas. The removal of G1 category meant it was only a matter of time before someone would break that streak. This year, it was New Zealand’s Matthew Hamilton. Fast all week, the Kiwi driver became the first non-American driver to score the victory in S4, also giving the Aluminos chassis its first SuperNationals title. Hamilton started on the pole position but had a poor start, dropping back to fourth on the opening lap behind outside polesitter Jordon Musser. Former G1 winner Eduardo Martins (Tony Kart) and Gian Cavaciuti (GP) powered past Hamilton at the start with Brian Fisher (DR) up from seventh to fifth on the opening circuit. Hamilton and Fisher were on the move early, dropping Matins and Cavaciuti to the tail of the top five by the end of lap four. Cavaciuti would spin in turn three, ending his SuperNats bid early, which moved Trevor McAlister (Praga) into the top-five after starting 12th. Musser continued to lead, but was reeled in by Hamilton quickly. The Kiwi took over the lead on lap nine and hammered down some fast laps of the race to pull away from Musser to hold a comfortable gap. At the checkered flag, Hamilton scored the victory by 1.651 seconds for this first SuperNationals victory.
Musser held off a late charge from Fisher to secure second, and the S4 championship for the 3G Kart Racing operation to carry the SKUSA #1 plate in 2014. For Fisher, it was another podium finish as the DRT Racing driver earned the second step in the S4 championship podium, with Acceleration Kart Racing’s Curtis Cooksey (CRG) in third after a DNF on the opening lap. Completing the race podium was Leading Edge Motorsports McAlister with Mirko Mizzoni giving Italcorse its first SuperNationals podium in fifth. Derek Wang (FA Kart) was sixth ahead of top qualifier Chris Jennings (DR). Willy Musgrave was eighth, just in front of defending Pro Tour champion Eddie Olpin (Kosmic). Last year’s SuperNationals winner Bonnier Moulton (Tony Kart) 23rd to 10th in the 20 lap battle.
TaG Master – presented by Italcorse America
TaG Master has been the focus of tech tent controversy over the past few years, and it reared its ugly head again on Sunday. Ahead of detailing the post-race issues, the on-track battle was incredible and again displayed the tremendous level of competition in the class when it comes to the SuperNationals. The addition of three-time winner Leonardo Nienkotter (Kosmic) and Australian frontrunner Kip Foster (Arrow) simply heightened strength of the field, as did the star power of NASCAR’s Jamie McMurray (FA Kart), IndyCar’s Will Power (Arrow), and former SKUSA ProMoto Tour champion and Indy Lights race winner Bobby Wilson (Tony Kart).
Colorado’s Scott Falcone (Arrow) entered the day with a strong heat race point total to use in his bid for the Pro Tour title, so he had a lot on the line. Starting from the off-pole, Falcone was immediately in the hunt, sitting second to Foster. The opening laps of the race were thrilling, as Foster led early over Falcone before Power slipped through to pace a lap, following immediately by Falcone working to the lead. That said, the guys on the move were Wilson and Nienkotter, as they advanced into a heated six-kart battle up front.
Attrition ended up being a lead story line, as Wilson and Power were out on lap seven after a melee in turn five that put them both into the water barriers, and then the entire complexion of the race changed on lap 11 when Nienkotter made an aggressive move inside the leader (Falcone) in the right hand turn seven, as the subsequent contact put Falcone and Foster on the sidelines, as the Aussie was right there in fourth. After the dust had cleared, Jim Russell Jr (Parolin) found himself with the lead ahead of Ethan Wilson (FA Kart), who would take over the top spot a few laps later. The excitement level was turned up as former TaG Master Pro Tour champion Brian McHattie (Exprit) was a rocket coming through the field, knifing his way to third. Over the final handful of laps, McHattie closed, but it was too little too late, as Wilson crossed the line ahead of Russell to score his first SuperNationals victory. Ethan’s post-race interview with EKN’s Rob Howden was incredibly emotional, as the veteran driver’s love for the sport was evident, as was the prestige and importance he puts on the SuperNationals. All the other TaG Masters drivers in the scale line were extremely happy for Wilson, as he is a huge supporter of the category.
All this made the eventual DQ of Wilson’s engine a tough pill to swallow. The issue was with ignition timing, as it was McHattie’s motor, who was also removed from the results. Both engines were Rok TTs. This decision advanced Russell Jr. to the top of the podium, where he was joined by Paul Bonilla (Tony Kart) and Tino Donedeli (Top Kart). Nienkotter had continued after the incident and finished fourth ahead of Chuck Gafrarar (Parolin).
Despite the incident on-track, Falcone still had enough points to win the title, and he will run the #1 plate in the category in 2014, swapping spots with Bonilla while Gafrarar will remain as the #3 plate.
TaG Junior – presented by Russell Karting Specialties
Recent Rotax Grand Finals winner Juan Manuel Correa (Tony Kart) and Yurik Carvalho (Italkart) led the TaG Junior field to the green flag. Carvalho was able to get the jump as the green flag waved, taking over the point with Correa slotting into second. The driver on the move however was Vinicius Papareli (Italkart), going from fifth to first in a matter of seven laps. He along with Caravalho and Sargeant began to fight it out for the lead. Each took a turn before Carvalho secured the position on lap 14. From there, they fought for the second spot behind Carvalho, as he drove away to a 1.6-second victory. The win also secured the TaG Junior class championship for the Italian Motors driver, coming in fifth in the standings. Sargeant won the battle for second over a charging Jake Kostecki (Tony Kart) from sixth. That put Papareli back to fourth with Colton Herta (ART GP) finishing the podium. Correa dropped to sixth while Jake Preston (FA Kart) advanced 14 spots to seventh. Luis Leeds (Arrow) came from 17th to eighth with Sebastian Sierra (OTK) following through for ninth. Coming all the way from 42nd, defending Pro Tour champion Luke Selliken (Kosmic) finished 10th, but fell outside the top-three of points with Blaine Rocha (Kosmic) coming from last to 12th to finish the year second in points with Austin Versteeg (Kosmic) third.
S5 Junior Stock Moto – presented by Mothers Polish
When you do something for the first time, you realize that things may not always turn out as you want. Then again, there is always an exception to the rule. This year that exceptions name, was Kyle Kirkwood (Tony Kart). The Ocala Gran Priz racer made huge noise in his S5 Junior debut as he scored a perfect sweep on the weekend. Kirkwood was riding a massive high after his week in New Orleans at the Rotax Grand Finals where he sat on the pole position in Junior Max. Kirkwood was perfect through qualifying and all three heats in Las Vegas as he headed for the main event on SuperSunday. Kirkwood stayed perfect, and killed the competition on Sunday with consistency as he laid down fast lap after fast lap, checking out on the field. Behind Kirkwood was a group of drivers dicing it out for the top-five. Championship leader Jarred Campbell (Intrepid), who started on the inside of row two was able to hold off Kiwi driver Marcus Armstrong (Aluminos) for the second spot, while Austin Garrison (Tony Kart) and Oliver Bellanger (Kosmic) completed the top five. Campbell’s runner-up gave him the championship, beating out Carter Williams (FA Kart) for the title with last year’s champ Jim McKinney (KGB) in third.
Rotax Junior – presented by PSL Karting
The Rotax Junior category debuted to the SKUSA community in very impressive fashion. A different winner through each of the three heat races proved the class was plenty challenging and who ever stood atop the podium Sunday would have earned it. The driver who quite certainly earned it was Thomas Preining (CRG). Polesitter Rinus Van Kaimthout’s chances at winning the race ended almost as soon as it began as he did not make through the first two corners, Kaimthout would finish 14th. The race continued with Thomas Preining as the leader, and a determined Juan Manuel Correa (Tony Kart) charging through the top five. With 12 laps to go, Correa was running second when he turned up the wick and went after Preining. Correa took Paul Bunyan-sized hacks as he cut into Preining’s lead. With five to go, Correa took the lead and ran the next four circuits with history ahead of him. Correa stood to be the first driver ever to win a Rotax Grand Finals championship, and then follow it up with a SuperNationals victory. The final lap provided incredible racing action as Preining would catch and pass Correa under breaking on the entrance into turn one. Correa battled back and the two ran side by side through the turn three and four combo. As the drivers entered the infield section of the track, Correa was back by mere inches off Preining’s rear bumper. As the duo hit the final two corners, Correa gave it all he could but would slide wide on the exit of turn 11 leaving Preining to drive to the first ever Rotax Junior SuperNationals win. Correa would cross the line second, but have his result removed following tech, as did third place finisher Leonard Hoogenboom (OTK). Inheriting the second spot on the podium would be Javier Gonzales (Tony Kart) while Bryce Fullwood (FA Kart), Philip Hamprecht and Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) capping the podium.
TaG Cadet – presented by Rolison Performance Group
Italian Leonardo Marseglia (Top Kart) laid relatively low all week in the TaG Cadet class as he put together top fives through the heat races, but largely remaining under the radar. That all changed Sunday afternoon when he achieved SuperNats glory as he edged out Muizzuddin Musyaffa (CRG) for the TaG Cadet win. The first five laps of the race looked like the race would be going to Jack Doohan (Tony Kart) as he and Rasmus Lindh (Praga) battled for the lead. After a red flag period for an incident in turn eight that took Sam Mayer (Merlin) from the race, thankfully uninjured. Once racing resumed Doohan continued to run up front with a new challenger in Nick Brueckner (Birel) to defend. The two dueled while Marseglia and Musyaffa crept up. The quartet of youngsters would trade positions over the final six circuits with each one taking a turn at the lead. Doohan and Nicholas Brueckner (Birel) hurt their chances as they raced hard in the last two laps, leaving Marseglia to hold off Musyaffa. Despite plenty of pressure from Musyaffa, Marseglia ran the last circuit smoothly and drove across the line – with both hands in the air – to a tight victory over Musyaffa. Brueckner, Doohan and Neil Verhagen (Arrow) completed the top five. The championship would go to SpringNats double winner Chase Farley (Energy), with Trenton Sparks (FA Kart) jumping up to second and Sting Ray Robb (Kosmic) in third.