EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – South Bend – Sunday Report

First victories once again in Pro divisions as Myers and Jump triumph on final day

AJ Myers put Checkered Motorsports/PCR USA on top of the podium in Leopard Pro

The second stop of the 2014 United States Pro Kart Series wrapped up Sunday at the Michiana Raceway Park. Warm weather stayed in the North Liberty, Indiana area with no threat of rain the entire day. The event – presented by Verde Speed Resources and freem USA – saw exciting racing both days and played a major factor in the championship chase picture as the eight-round program has reached the halfway point. Two more drivers scored their first major victory of the season, as Checkered Motorsports driver AJ Myers bested the talented Leopard Pro field with veteran Tony Jump picking up his first Yamaha Pro victory with his KartSport North America operation.

USPKS logoFranklin Motorsports Leopard Pro
AJ Myers showed at the opening round in Mooresville that he had the speed to contend for victories, after securing the pole position in qualifying. Myers returned Sunday morning on a mission to put the poor results from Saturday behind him and started the day on top. A fast time of 41.125-second gave him the second top qualifier honor of the season, as the Checkered Motorsports/PCR USA driver bested Elliot Finlayson (Tony Kart) by 92 thousandths of a second. Armin Cavkusic (FA Kart) was third in the order with Saturday’s top qualifier TJ Koyen (ART GP) in fourth and Michael Geringer (Praga) fifth.

The opening heat race was decided at the start with Myers able to break away quick and early to score the win. Contact in the opening corner involving Finlayson and Geringer shuffled up the order behind him with Cavkusic up to second and Andrick Zeen (Praga) third. They would run that way to the checkered flag with Myers out front by 1.2 seconds and earning the fast lap. Koyen was shuffled out of the top-five, but drove back to fourth with Jacob Donald (Arrow) placing fifth.

The start was much better for the entire field, working through the opening corners with minimal damage done to driver’s positions or karts. Myers led the opening few circuits until Finlayson’s kart came in. He powered past the top qualifier and drove away to a solid win. Myers fell back one more position with Cavkusic working into second, 1.7 seconds back of the Koene USA driver. Geringer was able to move up to fourth with his Praga North America teammate Zeen into fifth, ahead of Koyen.

Myers earned the pole position for the main event with Cavkusic lined up on the outside of the front row for the 20-lap race. Myers bolted away as the green flag waved, with Zeen sliding past Cavkusic at the start to take over second. The two fought for the runner-up spot early, with Myers lying down some killer opening circuits to establish a solid lead. Cavkusic moved into second, and that triggered Zeen to fall down the order and out of the top-five. Lap after lap, Myers continued to extend his lead and better the fast lap of the race.

By the end of the 20-lap event, Myers secured a 3.7 second advantage to give Checkered Motorsports/PCR USA its first USPKS Leopard Pro victory. Cavkusic drove error free to earn his best USPKS result aboard a Franklin Motorsport/FA Kart entry. The driver on the move was Finlayson. The Heat #2 race winner started 12th after his DNF in the opening moto, and charged his way forward, running laps similar to that of Myers. It took him just eight laps to find his way into the third position for his personal best result. Donald held the fourth position for much of the race until Koyen worked past for the position in the final laps. Zeen settled for sixth with defending champion Kyle Kalish (Merlin) seventh. Geringer was eighth with Indy 500 rookie Sage Karam gaining another top-10 result in his return to karting with the factory iKart operation. Mick Gabriel (ART GP) started the race 24th, and finished an impressive 10th.

Tony Jump drove to his first victory with the KartSport North America operation

Tony Jump drove to his first victory with the KartSport North America operation

Comet Kart Sales Yamaha Pro
The always competitive Yamaha Pro division saw some new names at the top of the order following their five minute qualifying session. Round One winner Camden Speth (FA Kart) found some speed overnight to secure the pole position for Sunday. A 44.877-second lap was best with Derek Dignan (FA Kart) just 44 thousandths of a second off. Saturday’s winner Brandon Jarsocrak (Haase) was a very close third with Tony Kart drivers Collin Griffin and Jacob McWhirter completing the top-five.

Speth led the field to the green flag to begin Heat #1 with seven drivers making up the lead pack. The Comet Kart Sales driver led the opening four laps until Jarsocrak took over the familiar spot at the front. The Mike Doty Racing driver was not able to pull away like he did yesterday, as Dignan applied pressure with Speth getting sent back to fourth. Dignan took over the top spot on lap eight, and held it the final two circuits to score the race win. Speth fought his way back to second with Jarsocrak in third. Tony Jump (Arrow) advanced from sixth to fourth, with Darin Marcus (Merlin) into the top-five on the final lap after starting eighth.

It was mostly a 10-driver lead pack with Speth showing the way early. Jarsocrak put himself into the second spot, and took over the lead on lap four. Dignan followed him through the following lap to put Speth back to third. They ran that way with Jump and Marcus closing up on the lead trio. The final lap saw some jostling for position, which allowed Jump and Marcus to slide past for position in the final corners. Jarsocrak beat Dignan to the stripe, ahead of Jump, Marcus and Speth with the remaining top-10 behind them.

A clean sweep by Laurentiu Mardan in Parilla Challenge

A clean sweep by Laurentiu Mardan in Parilla Challenge

Dignan and Jarsocrak filled out the front row for the main event, as the two led the field to the green flag for the 20-lap battle. Jarsocrak got the jump on the KartSport North America driver, bringing Jump with him to the front. The top four, including Griffin, ran nose to tail for the opening four circuits. Jump made his move in turn five after Jarsocrak got a little sideways through the esses. From there, Jarsocrak looked for way around Jump, but the opportunity never came. The KartSport North America driver piloted his Arrow to his first series victory by seven tenths of a second. Jarsocrak placed second, earning the most points on the weekend for the Mike Doty Racing pilot to take home the $1,000 award once again, establishing a solid point lead at the halfway point. Dignan held off Griffin for the third spot with Speth able to outlast the others for the battle to place fifth.

J3 Competition Parilla Challenge
Lauren Mardan (Kosmic) made it a sweep on Sunday, earning his second victory of the weekend. He set the pace in qualifying, won both heat races and drove off to a two-second advantage for the victory. The battle all day was for second. Cristian Vomir (Kosmic) held the position through qualifying and the heat races. Francois Brun-Wibaux (PCR) however put the pressure on the entire day. He finally was able to take advantage in the main event, taking the second spot and scoring the fast lap of the race. Vomir had to settle for third.

GT7 Motorsports Leopard Junior
A Top Kart 1-2 opened up Round Four action, just as the point championship sat entering the MRP weekend. Zach Holden posted the fast lap to secure the pole position over his Top Kart USA teammate and point leader David Malukas. Checkered Motorsports driver Ryan Norberg (PCR) was third in the order ahead of Braden Eves (Tony Kart) and Andre Castro (FA Kart). Saturday winner Mike McAndrews (Birel) ended up sixth in the order. Following scales however, Holden came in underweight and was moved to the tail of the 23-kart field for both heat races.

Mike McAndrews stood on top of the podium for a second time on the weekend in Leopard Junior

Mike McAndrews stood on top of the podium for a second time on the weekend in Leopard Junior

Norberg grabbed the lead from the outside of row one to begin Heat #1. Malukas dropped in behind for second as they paced the field. Castro was on the move and had the quickest kart early. Up to second by lap three, he took over the lead from Norberg on lap four. From there, he led the remainder of the eight-lap race for the win. Norberg ended up second with Maulkas under pressure from Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart). McAndrews ended up fifth with Eves running the fast lap of the race in sixth.

Malukas went wire-to-wire in heat two to wrap up the pole position for the main event. Leading all eight laps of the race, he escaped the battle for second. McAndrews moved up to the second spot early, but was run down by Checkered Motorsports drivers Norberg and Nolan Ruocco (PCR), losing two positions on the final lap. Norberg however was penalized three spots for contact with Eves. The move drivers up one position with Eves up to fourth and Norberg back to fifth.

Joining Malukas on the front row for the main event was Norberg, who grabbed the lead at the start of the 16-lap event. The opening lap witnessed a major pile-up in the esses, putting a number of drivers on the sideline, including championship contender Holden. The front four, including Ruocco and McAndrews, pulled away to decide the winner. They remained static, running nose to tail, until McAndrews picked up the pace. Into third by lap seven, he fought by Malukas for the second spot two laps later. From there, he hounded Norberg lap after lap. Taking the two laps to go signal, McAndrews ducked inside Norberg at the entry of turn one and assumed the lead. Norberg ducked in behind, and on the final lap, tried a deep move into turn six. The two made contact but continued on. McAndrews held strong to the checkered flag and the MRP Motorsport/Birel America driver scored his second victory of the weekend to earn a $500 pay day. Norberg added his second runner-up finish of the season, placing him in the championship chase behind third place finisher Malukas, who retains the point lead. Ruocco recorded his best finish of the season in fourth with Eves driving to fifth.

Woltjer Engines Yamaha Junior
Racing comes with its highs, and its lows. Becker Reardon experienced both yesterday, winning his first major feature race Saturday, only to have it taken away following technical inspection. The Tony Kart privateer driver came back ready for redemption, posting the fast lap in the qualifying session. His 44.053-second lap was best, with Brandon Lemke (Merlin) a very close second. Canadian Roman DeAngelis (Tony Kart) held the provisional pole for some time, but dropped at the end of the session to third. Zach Holden (Top Kart) was fourth with rookie Simon Sikes (FA Kart) just ahead of point leader David Malukas (Top Kart) in the final order.

Brandon Lemke held off a group of drivers for the Yamaha Junior victory

Brandon Lemke held off a group of drivers for the Yamaha Junior victory

Reardon was able to fend off the challenges of the 19-driver field to score the opening heat race win. From the pole position, Reardon was pressured from DeAngelis for the entire eight-lap event, but managed to cross the line first. Holden dropped outside the top-five, but fought his way back to the third position with Lemke back to fourth. Malukas moved into fifth late in the going, pushing Sikes back to sixth.

The second he race another exciting battle featuring three drivers up front. Reardon led the way to the green flag with Lemke taking over the top spot through the opening circuit. Reardon settled in behind with Malukas up to the third position. Lemke and Reardon swapped the lead a few times until Reardon secured the spot on lap seven. He scored the race win with Lemke edging out Malukas for second. DeAngelis was a close fourth with Holden back to fifth.

Reardon’s two race wins gave him the pole position for the main event. Lemke was placed outside the front row, and tucked in behind the top qualifier to make up the top two positions early on. They were followed by Holden and Malukas. Lap five, Lemke took over the top spot and the trigger Reardon to continue falling back down the order, eventually ending up fifth with DeAngelis working past as well. Lemke was able to put in some consistent laps to pull away from the fight for second, and ended up reaching the checkered flag first to score the victory. On the final lap, Malukas was running second with Holden moving inside at turn seven. They drifted wide on the exit and that allowed DeAngelis, Mike McAndrews (Birel), and Reardon to close in. Contact was made in turn nine, involving Malukas and Reardon, allowing Holden to drive to the second spot with McAndrews, DeAngelis and Sikes to complete the podium. Holden’s two runner-up results on the weekend earned him top points for the weekend, a $500 check and the point lead.

A first win for Lachlan DeFrancesco in the USPKS Mini Rok Cadet class

A first win for Lachlan DeFrancesco in the USPKS Mini Rok Cadet class

Orlando Kart Center Mini Rok Cadet
Saturday’s winner Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) began where he left off, at the top of the order. A 45.766-second lap was best of the 21 driver field to secure the pole position by a slim eight thousandths of a second. Devin Boutot (Tony Kart) was the second fastest driver with point leader Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) third, John Paul Southern Jr. (PCR) fourth and Alex Verhagen (FA Kart) fifth.

Bertagnoli drove away to the Heat #1 win comfortably. With the pole position, he led all eight laps to pull out to a three-second advantage. Tavella jumped to second early and held it to the checkered flag with Giovanni Bromante (Top Kart) climbing up to third from sixth. Boutot was pressured in the last stages of the race for fourth by Southern, until the PCR driver retired on the final lap with a mechanical issue.

Heat #2 featured the tightest finish of the weekend thus far with Bertagnoli and Tavella going head to head. The top qualifier was unable to breakaway like he did in the opening race, with the Tavella taking over the lead on lap six. On the final lap, the two went side by side around the final four corners, drag racing to the checkered flag. At the line, Tavella scored the win by one hundredth of a second over Bertagnoli. Southern drove up to third with Verhagen fourth and Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) up from seventh to fifth.

Bertagnoli was awarded the pole position for the main event after he and Tavella tied in the heat race points. The fast time in qualifying was the tie breaker, with the Merlin holding the inside of row one. The race was underway but came to a stoppage on lap two after James Lynch flipped his kart on the exit of the esses. He complained about leg pain, and was sent to the hospital to be checked out. During the red flag period, Tavella tried to tighten up the airbox on his ride, and was caught by the officials. He was pulled off the course and handed a disqualification. The race resumed with Bertagnoli at the front, with a gaggle of karts behind him. Boutot moved up to second with the removal of Tavella, and he pulled the trigger first to begin a busy second half of the feature. Taking the lead on lap nine, DeFrancesco followed through and took over the top spot the following circuit. Verhagen then took his turn at the point until DeFrancesco regained the spot as they took the white flag. Fighting for second place behind him, DeFrancesco was able to cruise to the victory, his first in the series. Verhagen won the battle for second with Bertagnoli up to third. Jason Welage (Tony Kart) came from eighth on the grid to end up fourth as Austin Schaff (Merlin) put in a drive of his own from 15th to fifth, one spot ahead of Boutot. Bertagnoli won the weekend battle, scoring the most points and taking home the $500 check.

Austin Schaff (#18) beat out Sam Mayer (#22) in Yamaha Cadet

Austin Schaff (#18) beat out Sam Mayer (#22) in Yamaha Cadet

QPS Employment Group Yamaha Cadet
Local driver Tommy Burke was able to lay down a killer lap to upset the field in the Yamaha Cadet qualifying session. The Birel driver posted a 47.095-second lap to secure the fast time by 53-thousandths of a second. MRP regular Aidan Harrington made it a Birel 1-2 in the order with point leader Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) third. Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) was fourth with Matthew Northrop the third Birel driver inside the fast five.

The opening eight-lap heat race for the Cadet drivers had some excitement. Burke held the lead through the opening lap until Tavella took over the top spot. Giovanni Bromante (Top Kart) had pushed his way up to third, and by lap three was around Burke for second. On Tavella’s bumper, the two made contact in turn seven to drop them down they order. That gave Burke the lead once again, until Austin Schaff (Merlin) took the spot away on lap five. The Merlin driver drove on to score the win. Burke fought off challenges but lost the second spot to Bertagnoli on the final circuit to end up third. Sam Mayer (Merlin) drove to fourth with Harrington in fifth. Bromante ended up sixth with Tavella back up to eighth.

Burke led the field to the green flag for Heat #2, and it was the last time he led with Tavella showing the way the entire eight-lap event. Tavella took the lead on the opening lap and pulled away to a big lead as Burke had to fight off pressure in the second spot. A red flag came out on after lap three for Harrington injured, but he would be cleared after medical attention. The race restarted with Tavella driving away to the win with Mayer taking over second, and closing in on the final laps. Burke spun on lap six after being hounded by a group of drivers, with Boutot taking over the third spot with Bertagnoli, Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) and a host of others behind them.

The 16-lap main event was a two man show for Merlin drivers Mayer and Schaff. Bertagnoli led the field to the green from the pole position, but fell out of the top spot after two laps. Mayer took the lead over with Schaff moving forward with him. They swapped the lead a number of times, with Tavella waiting in the wings. He tried to break up the party a few times, but came up short. Mayer led as the white flag came out and Schaff struck going into turn one, drafting past entering turn one. Holding it through to the checkered flag. Schaff crossed the line just inches ahead of Mayer for his first series victory of the season and the highest point total on the weekend for a $500 check. Tavella settled for third with Bertagnoli and John Paul Southern Jr. (PCR) – up from 17th to fifth.

Luca Mars held off Aiden Lindley for the Yamaha Rookie win

Luca Mars held off Aiden Lindley for the Yamaha Rookie win

Switch Racing Engines Yamaha Rookie
The Yamaha Rookie class welcomed another new top qualifier in Sunday’s timed session with Mason Maine (Tony Kart) posting the fast time. His 48.184-second lap was best, with Saturday’s winner Luca Mars (Praga) just off by 64 thousandths. Donald Whorton II (Tony Kart) was a close third with Tyler Maxson (Tony Kart) and Caleb Bacon (FA Kart) making up the fast five.

It came down to a photo finish in the opening heat race. Maine led the field to the green flag, but was shuffled back by Mars and Maxson. They drag raced to the stripe with Mars earning the win by 52 thousandths of a second. Aidan Lindley (Birel) drove up from eighth to third with Maine back to fourth and Whorton back to fifth.

Three drivers broke away from the field in the second heat. Conner Churchill (Tony Kart) joined the fight at the front with Lindley and Mars. In the final laps, he would lose the top two, with Lindley going on to score the win over Mars. Gunnar Bischoff (Haase) crossed the line in third, but was penalized to finish behind Churchill for contact. That moved Maine to third and Christ to fourth with Churchill fifth in the final order.

The 14-lap main event went down to the front row drivers of Mars and Lindley. Mars showed the way for the first 10 laps before Lindley was able to move into the lead. Mars took it back but Lindley continued to put the pressure on to the end. Mars fought off one final push by Lindley on the final circuit, taking his second victory of the weekend. Detlor reeled in the top two, but finished third behind Lindley. Whorton and Christ completed the podium.

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