Wet Weather Hits California ProKart Challenge in Willow Springs
Defending Pro champions Musgrave and Craig return to winning ways for Round 2
Drivers and teams were tested to their fullest this past weekend at Willow Springs International Raceway, contesting the second round of the California ProKart Challenge. The Rosamond area, along with the rest of California, welcomed some much-needed rain following months of zero precipitation. The rain, however, was inconsistent, leaving racers and teams scrambling for much of the March 1 event, swapping out MG wet and dry tires and adjusting setups between sessions only to have the track conditions change. Those who braved the elements were awarded the 100 bonus points for competing in the rain, an added benefit to those that support the program through any type of weather. One hundred drivers, along with the dedicated Superkarts! USA staff, kept things in motion until 11 drivers were able to claim victory at the day’s completion and put the first third of the championship chase to rest. Defending title winners Billy Musgrave and Jake Craig shined in the Pro main events, returning to the top step of the podium.
During the 2013 California PKC season, Vemme Kart/Extreme Karting S1 Pro Stock Moto champion Musgrave lost only one main event, by inches at the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix. Losing for a second time last month at the season opener, the sophomore S1 driver bounced back with a perfect day under challenging weather conditions. Musgrave was quickest on the wet track for qualifying, with Matias Podboj and Ryon Beachner in the top-three. Two sizable wins in the heat races led to the main event as Musgrave paced the field all 20 circuits for his first 2014 victory. Podboj came back from a DNF in the heat races to drive up to the runner-up position, with Beachner holding the third spot on the podium. Lloyd Mack Jr. and Peter Abba completed the top-five on a challenging day of competition.
The level of talent displayed in the Mike Manning Karting TaG Senior category was amazing, with numerous drivers in contention all day. Under rainy conditions, it was Andrick Zeen laying down the quickest lap time in qualifying in his out circuit to secure the pole position over Tyler Coffman and Sonny Cervelli. The track formed a dry line for the opening heat race, as drivers guessed at the setup going in. That created disparity at the front of the field. Cervelli led for the opening laps before Senior rookie Brenden Baker took his turn at the point. On the final lap, Austin Elliott was able to climb his way to the lead, scoring the win. Rain returned for heat two, with Cervelli the quickest driver on the course, driving to the win for the main event pole position. Once again, the track was dry and forced racers to strap on the standard MG-SK tires for the 20-lap battle. Sonny paced the field in the opening circuits before last year’s champion Jake Craig knifed his way forward from the sixth grid position. Taking over the lead on lap five, Craig led the remainder of the race for his first 2014 victory. Elliott was back by just a few kart lengths in second, with Baker right there in third for his first Senior podium. Fellow Senior rookie Jake Preston was fourth, with Matt Johnson fifth.
Three drivers were able to repeat as feature winners in round two of the California ProKart Challenge. Christian Brooks’ feat was a battle in the Buddy Rice Karting TaG Junior class, as it took him all day to claim the top spot. Royal McKee was the top driver in the wet qualifying session, edging out Brooks by just 36 thousandths of a second. The opening lap of heat one shuffled up the field as both McKee and Brooks dropped outside the top-five. Ethan Barrett assumed the lead until McKee found his way into the top spot by lap eight. He would go on to win, with Brooks retaking the second position after Barrett dropped outside the top-five. Dry weather racing for heat two brought on more challenges, as the first lap mixed up the field again. Phillippe Denes came through as the race winner over McKee, while Brooks retired two laps early. Starting 11th in the main event, Brooks took advantage of an opening lap skirmish to knife his way into the lead by the completion of the first circuit. From there, he led every lap for his second straight feature victory. Denes crossed the stripe second, however officials moved him to the tail of the finishing order for avoidable contact with Ethan Barrett. That placed Justice Lepe to second and McKee third on the podium. Michael Avansino and Gary Lyles capped off the top-five.
Round one winner Trey Brown was able to conquer the Pure Karting TaG Cadet division once again, which featured an impressive 22 drivers, including seven Rookies. Qualifying was led by Dante Yu, as he posted the only time below the 57-second mark on the wet course, clearing the remaining drivers by a full four-tenths of a second. A dry track for heat one equalized things, as Oliver Calvo drove wire-to-wire for the win, with Yu slipping back to third behind Brown. Rain returned in heat two, with Yu showing the way once again for a five-second win over Ryan Schartau and Brown. At the start of the 15-lap feature, Yu was shuffled down the order, outside the top-five, allowing Calvo to slip through for the lead. He led the first few laps until Brown assumed the position. From there, he led the remainder of the race to his second victory in 2014. Joseph Daniele drove up to the runner-up spot, beating Calvo, defending class champion Schartau and Jagger Jones to the line. In the Rookie category, Stephen Brucker took first place, followed by Luca Roma and Jared Korth. The win will move Brucker into the points lead for the Rookies heading into Round 3.
The S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto category welcomed its second new winner in two races – Kolton Griffin. Early on, it looked as if S2 rookie Carter Williams – sporting the new Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix Driver Scholarship safety gear and decals – would be that driver. He posted the quickest lap in the combined S1/S2 qualifying session, besting the entire field by 1.3 seconds in the rain. Williams led all 12 laps of the first heat race, but a dry track in heat two brought on the rest of the field. Griffin grabbed the holeshot, and kept the lead to the checkered flag as Jake Craig slipped into second over Williams. The main event began the same, with Griffin taking the lead from the start, this time followed by round one winner Jarred Campbell. That was until Campbell retired with a mechanical issue. This left Griffin alone out front, pulling away to a nine-second victory and runner-up overall in the combined S1/S2 group behind Musgrave. Race Liberante placed second in his first S2 start of 2014, as Craig earned another podium finish in his second start in the Semi-Pro category. Williams ended up fourth, with Vivek Tandon completing the top-five.
Former SKUSA ProMoto Tour star Darren Elliott made it two-for-two in his return to the seat, besting the 2 Wild Karting S4 Master Stock Moto class once again. Elliott cleared the field by six tenths in the wet qualifying run, with John Crow and Rob Logan making up the top-three in the timed session. Elliott led all 12 laps of heat one on a dry course, with Logan close behind in second, as defending champion Willy Musgrave moved up to third. Heat two saw rain hit the track as drivers were on slick tires and officials called the race early. Logan was leading at the time over Elliott and they were awarded the front row starting spots for the main event. Logan led the opening laps of the feature race, until Elliott took over on lap three. From there, the round one winner went on to score his second straight main event victory. Musgrave was able to work past Logan, and hounded Elliott the remainder of the race. Logan settled for third ahead of Sean Bond and Ken Schilling. Jeff Krogstad ran uncontested in the Mothers Polish S4 Magnum Stock Moto class.
The Sunshine Daydream Creations S5 Junior Stock Moto category welcomed a first-time winner as well, with Garrett Dixon earning his first California PKC victory. Round one winner Christian Brooks set the tone throughout the opening on-track sessions, as he was quick in the dry and the wet, earning top qualifier honors and winning both heat races. An issue at the start dropped Brooks towards the back of the combined S3/S5 field, allowing Dixon to inherit the lead. He never put a wheel wrong, as Dixon drove to a 10-second victory. Brooks drove the fast laps of the race, climbing back to a runner-up finish – with Roy Fulmer IV earning his second podium finish in two races. The Nash Motorsportz S3 Novice Stock Moto division matched its round one total of seven drivers in the field, showing the growth of the Stock Moto program down to the club level. Steve Wetterau recorded a perfect score on the day, sweeping the action from qualifying to the main event. Wetterau drove to a five-second margin of victory over Cris Araujo and round one winner Travis Nicklas. Following scales, Nicklas was removed from the results for coming in underweight, promoting Kalvin Chen to the podium for the first time this season.
Only a few drivers have been able to beat Billy Cleavelin, the defending champion in the Leading Edge Motorsports TaG Master category. One of them is Ethan Wilson. The inaugural SKUSA Pro Tour champion fought strong all day, earning his first victory of the season. Wilson led things in the wet qualifying session, besting the field by over eight-tenths of a second, with east coast racer Chuck Gafrarar in second. Heat one saw Wilson lead the race before he retired after just a few laps with a flat tire. Cleavelin started in the eighth position, and put himself into the top spot by lap three after Wilson drove to pit lane. He went on to score the race win, and then the rain returned. Kevin Manning took advantage, posting the fast laps of heat two en route to the win as Wilson drove his way to second, pushing Cleavelin back to third. Wilson took the outside row one starting position as an advantage. Jumping out to the lead, he drove away to a four-second victory. Manning held Cleavelin back for many laps, until the series champion moved by on lap 14. It was the second straight podium result for Manning in the third position, as Gafrarar drove to fourth and Steve Brackett to fifth.
Podium ceremonies were postponed, due to the wet weather and to allow competitors the chance to get home and dry off. The awards from round two will be handed out during the next California ProKart Challenge, scheduled for AdamsMotorsportsPark on March 28-29 in Riverside, California.
Registration is open now at www.skusastore.com, with all event details posted on the SKUSA Event Page. Be sure to follow www.superkartsusa.com for more updates on the remainder of the 2014 California ProKart Challenge.