EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – Mooresville – Sunday Report
Ralston doubles in Leopard Pro for $2,500 payday - Top Kart USA Junior drivers and Tavella bag three wins at GoPro Motorplex
It was an exciting end to the opening weekend for the United States Pro Kart Series at the GoPro Motorplex on Sunday. The Mooresville, North Carolina facility provided perfect weather conditions to close out the second round of the weekend, presented by GoPro. Roger Ralston Jr. placed himself among the top contenders for this year’s Leopard Pro title, earning his second feature win of the event – taking home a cool $2,500 for his efforts. Exciting racing in the Yamaha Pro category is setting the stage for what will be a tough championship chase. DRT Racing’s USPKS debut was a success in the new Parilla Challenge category, with Fisher sweeping the feature races. Top Kart USA had big success of their own, taking home three of the four Junior main event wins – as did Cadet racer Dylan Tavella.
Franklin Motorsports Leopard Pro
A win at last year’s USPKS inaugural event brought some attention to Dustin Stross. The Ocala Gran Prix driver from Florida won the Semi-Pro division, and has improved over the year to become a contender at the top level. He showed his pace early, securing the pole position in qualifying with a lap of 47.911 seconds. It was just eight thousandths quicker than KartSport North America driver Jacob Donald (Arrow). The top-five were all within a tenth of a second, including Saturday winner Roger Ralston Jr. (FA Kart), Koene USA pilot Elliot Finlayson (FA Kart) and Brandon Jones (Arrow).
Drama unfolded early as Ralston stalled while on the pace lap, recording last place points to hurt his main event starting position. Once the race got underway, Stross led the opening heat race early on, pacing the field for the first two laps. Brandon Jarsocrak (Haase) was fast early, coming up from outside the top-five and into the lead by lap three. He was followed by Derek Dignan (FA Kart), demoting the Mike Doty Racing driver as he assumed the point. From there, Dignan led the remainder of the race for the win with Finlayson up to second after some good racing. Jones advanced to third with defending champion Kyle Kalish (Merlin) fourth and Stross fifth.
A turn one wreck at the start of Heat Two involved Heat One contenders Dignan, Jarsocrak and Jones, ending their races early. Out front, Ralston assumed the lead and never looked back. The win helped him to move up the Final grid, setting up for a P16 starting spot. Donald made it a KSNA 1-2 finish after working past Stross for position on lap three. Kalish had another great drive, coming from his 13th qualifying effort to another fourth place run while Finlayson was fifth.
The point totals put Finlayson on the pole position for main event as Stross set up on the outside of row one. They slotted into the first two positions, but the racing got busy right away as drivers looked to move forward early. Despite jumping another kart at the start, the ‘People’s Champion’ Kalish was into the lead by lap two, and began running away as they fought for position behind them. DRT Racing’s Arie Ouimet (DR Kart) held the position briefly, as did Stross, Finlayson and Nick Landi (Tony Kart). All were shuffled back with Knueven, Ralston and Donald forming up a group looking to chase down the Franklin Motorsport/Merlin driver. At the halfway point, his lead was nearly three seconds. That advantage however began to shrink, as Kalish began driving one-handed, using the other to hold the airbox onto the engine. This allowed the trailing trio to close in quickly, and demoted the champ back to fourth on lap 19. Ralston took over the lead, and would go unchallenged to the checkered flag. With the second victory of the weekend, he earned another ticket in the drawing to compete at the IAME International Final with Praga factory team. Knueven – earning $500 for his runner-up – and Donald – taking home a set of MG Tires – made it a KartSport North America 1-2-3 finish, while Kalish held on for fourth. Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart) fought off Mark Dismore Jr. (FA Kart) in the closing stages, with Colton Ramsey (Tony Kart) slipping by for the sixth position in the final corners. Landi dropped to eighth with Adam Taylor (Arrow) up 14 spots to ninth and Austin Jordan (PCR) following him through in tenth.
Comet Kart Sales Yamaha Pro
The pole position was not claimed until the final seconds in the session as the top spot was shuffled throughout the session. At the checkered, KartSport North America’s Derek Dignan (FA Kart) used a good draft of three karts in front of him to jump up to the pole position, edging out Shawn Sharkey (Merlin) by 33 thousandths of a second. Nick Landi (FA Kart), Collin Griffin (Tony Kart) and Killian Keaveny (Top Kart) were all within a tenth of a second to Dignan’s time. Saturday winner Camden Speth (FA Kart) was back in the eighth position.
Sharkey got the jump on Dignan as the green flag waved to begin the eight lap opening heat race. Dignan dropped to third with Griffin up to second with Trevor DeLong (Margay) and Landi forming the lead pack on the opening circuit. Both Landi and DeLong were shuffled back after two laps, with the top three pulling away but getting reeled in by Brandon Jarsocrak (Haase) and Darin Marcus (Merlin). At the halfway point, it was a five driver lead pack once again, with Griffin now leading the way. Sharkey retook the top spot as they received the two laps to go signal, as the top five were nose to tail for the final circuits. A fight for second allowed Sharkey to pull away for the race win. The battle for runner-up went down to the wire, as Griffin edged out Dignan and Marcus in a three-wide finish. Chuck Tate (Praga) was able to slip up into fifth with all the battling in front of him, dropping Jarsocrak to sixth.
A number of drivers took a turn at the front of the Pro field in heat two. Sharkey got the jump at the start of the eight lap run, with Dignan taking a turn before Jarsocrak moved into the lead. The big mover of the race was Jump, coming from 10th. Into the top-five quickly, he was into the lead as they took the white flag. Jarsocrak dropped in, waiting for a move at turn eight. He completed the pass and they shuffled for position behind them, allowing the Mike Doty Racing driver to score the win. Sharkey was able to slip into second with Dignan and Jump getting sideways in turn nine. They continued on to finish third and fourth with Chuck Tate (Praga) in the fifth position.
The 17-lap Final came down to three drivers with Pesek earning his first USPKS victory in his career. Sharkey earned the pole position from his heat race results. Jarsocrak came through to lead the first lap, but Sharkey struck back to lead the next two. Jump had a turn at the point and then Landi led for one lap. By that time, Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) was making his way forward, and into the lead by lap seven. He along with Jump and Jarsocrak pulled away, despite jostling for position. Jarsocrak put himself into the lead with Pesek slotting in behind on his bumper. It came down to the final lap with Pesek moving by entering turn one. No move was made until Jarsocrak tried a deep move into the last corner. Contact was made but they all continued on, with Pesek crossing the line first. Jarsocrak and Jump flanked the Top Kart USA driver on the podium, with Sharkey and Sam Cate (Tony Kart) completing the top-five. Jarsocrak left the weekend with the championship chase, and $1000 for the top score on the weekend. Pesek won $500 for second with Dignan a check for $250 for third most points.
J3 Competition Parilla Challenge
It was not until the final laps that Brian Fisher locked up the pole position for Sunday’s round. A 49.723-second lap was two tenths quicker than anyone, as the DRT Racing driver continued his perfect streak for the weekend. John DeCosta found speed overnight in his iKart machine, ending the session second after holding the provisional pole for some time. Cristian Vomir (Kosmic) was third with Francois Brun-Wibaux (PCR) fourth and Laurentiu Mardan (Kosmic) fifth.
The opening heat race was the most action we saw all weekend in the category, as DeCosta got the jump over Fisher to begin the eight lap battle. Fisher stayed glued to his bumper, looking for a way by with the top-six all running nose to tail. On lap seven, Fisher stuck his nose in at turn eight, DeCosta came down and the two made contact. Mardan hit them both, losing his nose cone and bent up his steering system. DeCasta would also be unable to continue, handing the lead and the win to Vomir. Brun-Wibaux ran second with Gary Peterson (iKart) to third. Fisher held on to fourth, but was placed behind DeCosta in the finishing order, moving Maestri to fourth.
DeCosta beat Fisher into turn one to begin heat two, with Brun-Wibaux also able to work past the Saturday winner for position, dropping Fisher to third early. The Florida PCR driver kept pace with the leader, attempting for a move for the lead in turn eight. It failed, pushing out wide to allow DeCosta to criss-cross back under with Fisher and Vomir through as well. Fisher focused on the leader, making his move on lap seven, and stretched out a lead toward earning the win as they began fighting for second behind him. DeCosta held on to the position, with FBW in third as Mardan worked past Vomir for fourth.
The main event was uneventful out front as Fisher jumped to the lead from the third starting spot. Contact between pole-sitter Brun-Wibaux and Vordin on the front row entering turn one helped his cause, allowing him to stretch out to a sizable lead early. DeCosta slid through for second with FBW back to third. They would run that way for the rest of the 17-lap event, as Fisher doubled up in the win category. DeCosta put his iKart machine in the runner-up spot on the podium with Checkered Motorsports’ Brun-Wibaux third. Vomir ran fourth with Maestri fifth after Mardan was a DNS, unable to get his engine to fire on the grid.
GT7 Motorsports Leopard Junior
Zach Holden (Top Kart) jumped to the top of the order quickly, and held there through the five minute session. A 48.666-second lap was his best, as he continued to get quicker as he clicked off laps. Brandon Lemke (Merlin) finished second in the order, just ahead of Top Kart USA driver David Malukas, the winner on Saturday. Neil Verhagen (Arrow) was fourth with Nick Luedeke (PCR) making up the fast five.
Holden and Malukas hooked up at the drop of the green and looked to be the favorites for heat one. Verhagen had other ideas, as the KartSport North America driver split the two Top Kart pilots by lap six. Malukas came under fire in the third spot, and that allowed Holden and Verhagen to pull away to finish 1-2. Malukas held on to finish third, with Nolan Ruocco (PCR) up to fourth from seventh, and Ryan Norberg (PCR) advancing seven spots to fifth.
Holden fought his way back to win heat two after dropping back to fourth at one point. Lemke was the leader after the opening circuit, leading two laps before Lemke took the spot for two of his own. Verhagen had a turn with Holden taking the final two laps for himself, earning the race win. Verhagen finished second with Malukas and Lemke trailing.
It was Holden and Verhagen on the front row for the Junior Final, but Malukas put himself into the lead on the first lap as a five driver pack formed up front. The top three were able to break away at one point, until their jostling for position cost them the advantage with another group of four drivers closing in. With five to go, it was the top eight running in close confines, including Saturday’s Hard Charger Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart). Malukas and Holden continued to exchange for the lead, while Gangi kept picking up positions. Into the third spot with two laps remaining, he trailed Holden and Verhagen. On the final lap, Verhagen moved into the lead as they entered turn one. Holden slotted into second and moved deep inside at turn eight after Verhagen ran a defensive line. They made contact on the exit, and Gangi slid right through for the lead. Unable to regain their ground, they watched the New York driver run away to his first USPKS Leopard Junior victory. Holden was able to continue in second, with Verhagen third. Malukas ended up fifth while Braden Eves (Tony Kart) came from eight on the grid to fifth. Malukas and Holden were 1-2 in the point total for the weekend, splitting the $750 cash purse with $500 going to the Saturday winner.
Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha Junior
Saturday race winner Zach Holden (Top Kart) set the pace in the five minute qualifying session, laying down a 52.100-second lap for the top spot. David Malukas (Top Kart) and Max McLaughlin (Top Kart) came on strong at the end, but just short of Holden’s time. Dario Cangialosi (Haase) was fourth with Xander Clements (Arrow) into the fast five.
Top Kart USA teammates Holden and Malukas hooked up for heat one, pulling away from the field lap after lap. Two laps to go, Malukas made his move for the lead at the end of the long straight. Holden struck back in the last corner, but Malukas fought back. This allowed a charging Brandon Lemke (Merlin) to close in on the final circuit. As they exited the final turn, they went three wide to the stripe with Holden edging out Malukas by just 18 thousandths of a second. Lemke, on the outside, was third in a photo finish. Matt Solarczyk (Birel) was fourth with McLaughlin back to fifth.
Malukas got the better end in heat two, earning the race win after a hard fought eight lap battle. It was a 1-2-3 Top Kart at the early portion, until a charging Franklin Motorsports/Merlin of Lemke entered the fray. Lemke moved to third and the up to first with some help from Holden on lap six. Malukas fought back in the final two laps, stealing the lead away on in the final corners, holding on for the win. Lemke ended up second with McLaughlin slipping past Holden for third. Solarczyk won the battle for fifth, just ahead of Mike McAndrews (Birel).
Thanks to his victory Sunday, Malukas put himself in the championship hunt early. He and Holden lined up on the front row, but found themselves trailing Lemke early on. A red flag was brought out however, with the drivers able to walk away. The race restarted with Holden moving into the lead, pacing three other drivers. It would grow to six by the halfway point, with McLaughlin taking a turn at the lead. With five laps to go, it was eight in the lead pack after more jostling took place for the top spot. Malukas led McAndrews and Lemeke as they put some distance between them and the others. McAndrews muscled his way into the lead with two laps remaining, as Lemke pushed Malukas back to third. On the final circuit, contact was made entering turn five, involving McAndrews and Lemke, collecting Holden in the process. This allowed McLaughlin to inherit the lead for a brief second until Malukas stole it back in the final corner for the win. Lemke came through for second, but was penalized to finish behind McAndrews for the contact on the last circuit. That promoted McLaughlin to second with Hard Charger Becker Reardon (Tony Kart) placing third after starting 12th. Solarczyk and Castro completed the top-five. Malukas took home $500 for the most points on the weekend, with Holden second, earning $250.
Orlando Kart Center Mini Rok Cadet
The lap times were very close at the top of the order in Sunday’s Mini Rok qualifying session. With quick times late in the session, Derek Carmenate (Benik) and David Morales jumped to the top of the order. A 53.159-second lap was best as Morales was off by just nine thousandths of a second. Mathia Soler (Tony Kart) was third, within a tenth of Carmenate’s time, pushing Saturday winner Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) back to fourth. Merlin driver Alex Bertagnoli completed the fast five in the 25-driver field.
After a couple false starts, the first heat was underway with Carmenate and Morales fell down the order as Tavella jumped to the top of the order. He led all eight laps, with Soler following him through in second. Sam Mayer (Merlin) had a great drive up from eighth to the third spot, with Devin Boutot (Tony Kart) up to fourth. Carmenate ended up fifth, while Morales slipped to eighth.
Tavella led all eight laps of the second heat race, coming from fourth once again to first in the opening corners. A long train of karts formed behind him at the start, but consistent laps put the New York driver three tenths ahead at the checkered flag. The fight for second was exciting, as Bertagnoli moved up to second from fifth. Kaylen Frederick (Tony Kart) was the driver on the move however, advancing to third from 13th. Devin Boutot (Tony Kart) and John Paul Southern completed the top-five.
Tavella and Boutot made up the front row for the 17-lap Final, but it was Frederick that was on the bumper of Tavella when they came around for the first time. The two driver making up the inside line of the two front rows pulled away early, as Boutot got mixed into the fight for third. A group of three formed, including Boutot, Mayer and Bertagnoli formed and began running down the top-two. A spin by Bertagnoli on lap 10 in turn eight however stop them from challenging the top two. Tavella proved to be too strong for Frederick, scoring his second victory of the weekend in the category. Frederick settled for second, but also earned the runner-up finish in the weekend total behind Tavella. Checks for $500 and $250 went to the top duo. Boutot beat out Mayer for third with Southern crossing the line in fifth. After tech, both Mayer and Southern completed the race on tires not assigned to their karts, thus removing them from the results. That promoted Fenderson to fourth and Soler fifth.
QPS Employment Group Yamaha Cadet
Lance Fenderson (Benik) was quicker as the session went on, recording his first lap at the checkered flag of the five minute session. A time of 55.734 seconds put him on the pole position by a slim 31 thousandths of a second over John Paul Southern Jr. (PCR). Defending champion Sam Mayer (Merlin) was third in the order with Devin Boutot (Tony Kart) and Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) completing the fast five. Saturday winner Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) ended up sixth in the order.
A three driver lead pack formed in heat one, as Fenderson was able to assume the lead later in the race after relinquishing it to Mayer. They were joined by Tavella out front, finishing in that order as Fenderson scored the win. Boutot was fourth, where he started, with Austin Schaff (Merlin) coming up from 12th on the grid to fifth. Southern was involved in an opening lap wreck, finishing the race without completing a lap.
The second heat race went down to the wire, with a three driver breakaway. Southern, Mayer and Tavella were at the front all eight laps, with Tavella making another last lap pass for the win. He edged out Mayer at the stripe, as Southern was close behind in third. Fenderson dropped to fourth as Schaff put in another top-five performance to put himself in position for a better main event grid position.
Defending champ Mayer was able to leave the opening weekend with a victory, unlike his 2013 season where it took five races to earn his first trip to the top of the podium. Tavella got the jump from the pole position over Mayer, pulling away to a good size lead early. Southern was able to get into the lead of the group, and run down Tavella by lap seven. Tavella was shuffled back to fourth, but fought his way back into second. He stayed on Southern’s bumper until the final lap. Into turn four, Tavella took the lead with Southern falling to third behind Mayer. ‘Super Sam’ dove inside of Tavella at turn eight with success, taking over the lead and holding on to the checkered flag. It was a photo finish behind him, as Tavella held on to finish second with Fenderson third and Southern fourth, a good result after starting 10th. Boutot made up the top-five. Tavella did earn the $500 check for most points over the weekend, with Mayer earning $250 for second.
Switch Racing Engines Yamaha Rookie
Luca Mars laid down a monster lap in the Rookie qualifying session to earn Sunday’s pole position honor. A 57.158-second lap cleared the field by four tenths of a second. Ryan Detlor made it a Praga 1-2, clocking in the second quickest lap of the session. Gunnar Bischoff (Haase) was third with Saturday winner Tyler Maxson (Tony Kart) back in fourth. Rounding out the fast five was Chester Brimer (CRG).
Mars and Bischoff went 1-2 in the opening heat race, pulling away from the rest of the field with Maxson in third. Mars went two for two in the heats, pulling away to a 1.6-second win over Maxson with Detlor up to third. The 13-lap main event went down to the wire as Mars and Maxson were the class of the field once again. Each took several turns at the top spot, with Maxson leading as they took the white flag. Mars set up for a last lap, last corner pass – slipping past Maxson for the lead. At the line, Mars earned his first USPKS victory. Maxson settled for second, with Bischoff up to third after starting fourth. Detlor ended up fourth as Brimer stood on the fifth spot of the podium.