EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – New Castle – Sunday Report
Finlayson earns first in Leopard, Jarsocrak racks up another $1k in Yamaha with eight champions crowned
The final round of the 2014 United States Pro Kart Series went into the books Sunday following a challenge day at the New Castle Motorsports Park. Weather conditions changed throughout the day, beginning with a wet track and light sprinkles, transforming into bright sunshine at the end of the day, changing the track conditions with every circuit at the New Castle, Indiana facility. The day ended with eight championships decided, and a number of stellar prizes handed out in the evening year-end awards ceremony just after the final main event concluded. Special awards handed out during the event included the Granja Viana 500 trip courtesy of MG Tires raffled off to Colton Ramsey. A new KartLift PitKart was won by AJ Myers and the Yamaha Pro, Leopard Pro, Leopard Junior and Parilla Challenge champions each earned an entry into the Rock Island Grand Prix.
Comet Kart Sales Yamaha Pro
Saturday winner Eric Jones (Arrow) set the pace in qualifying. Using the B-Dubs dinner from last night and at the correct weight from the start, he was the only driver in the 1:26-lap time. Local drivers Adam Jennejahn (Arrow) and Eli Salamie (ART GP) moved into the top-five, picking up pace in the wet conditions while provisional champion Brandon Jarsocrak (Haase) and Derek Dignan (FA Kart) rounded out the fast five.
All drivers started the heat race on slicks, with the track still drying out but not yet completely dry. They tip-toed around the track for the first lap, all making it around without anyone going off course. That was until the final corner when Jones spun around while in the lead. The field scattered around to avoid him, with everyone able to continue on. He eventually pulled off with loose tie-rods, and will start the main from 15th. Jennejahn took over the lead with Tony Jump (Arrow) into second and Jarsocrak into third. They were able to reel in Jennejahn on lap six to take over the top two spots, and settle the race win. On the final lap, Jump went to the inside with Jarsocrak claiming the outside, holding it through the final corner and scoring the win. The point leader also posted the fast lap of the race in the process, with Jump settling for the outside of row one in the main event. Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) wrecked in qualifying and started 19th, taking advantage of the opening lap skirmish to gain valuable spots, and drove himself to third, dropping Jennejahn to fourth. James Brock (Birel) won the battle for fifth, coming up from 13th.
The main event was a duplicate of the feature race, as Jarsocrak used the outside line to secure the victory in the main event. He and Jump got out to a good lead, and were trailed by Pesek and Camden Speth (FA Kart) – who fought his way up early after starting 14th. Pesek eventually lost the draft and continued to fall down the order, while Speth lost the top two after the halfway point. Jump led most the race, as Jarsocrak helped to push him away from Speth. On lap 16, Jarsocrak took over the lead with Jump striking back early on during the final lap. Down the final straight, Jump went to the inside and held it while Jarsocrak drafted to the outside. They nearly made contact in the final corner, with Jarsocrak scoring his fourth victory to put the icing on the cake for his championship. Jump settled for second, with Speth in third. Jones started 15th and was into the eighth spot by lap three, and got some help from Collin Griffin (Tony Kart) and Killian Keaveny (Top Kart), pushing him up to Kevin Nelson (Tony Kart) and Dignan. On lap 17, he moved from sixth to fourth, securing another podium finish with Nelson making it two ‘elder’ drivers on the steps.
Behind Jarsocrak in the standings, Jump finished as the vice-champion for a second straight year. Pesek ended up third with Dignan and Speth completing the championship podium.
Franklin Motorsports Leopard Pro
The Leopard Pro class was split into two groups for qualifying, based on Friday’s Happy Hour session in the dry. The Shark – Shawn Sharkey – was quickest in the first group, laying down a 1:20.043 lap time in his Merlin. That held until the end of the second group, as Derek Dignan (FA Kart) set the fast time with a 1:19.383. Elliot Finlayson (Tony Kart) was second with Michael Geringer (Praga) bouncing back from an opening lap off-track excursion into the last corner barriers, and closing in the third fastest lap. Andrew Bujdoso (PCR) and championship contender Kyle Kalish (Merlin) improved his wet weather skills overnight to make up the fast five. Point leader and Saturday winner AJ Myers (PCR) was 23rd in the session, going off track in the session.
Dignan was able to use the pole position to his advantage at the start of the 10-lap Prefinal. Finlayson and Geringer fought for second on the opening lap, giving Dignan the ability to pull away to a sizable lead, and maintained it by running some quick laps. Finlayson secured second, and brought Kalish with him. The two continued to get quicker as the race went on, while Dignan remain near the same lap times with each circuit. Finlayson began to cut into the lead by bigger chunks, and on the final lap, was right on his bumper. At the I-70 corner, Finlayson passed for the lead and held it to the checkered flag for the win. Dignan settled for second with Kalish a solid third. Sharkey worked past Geringer for fourth, but eyes were on the charge of Myers. Into 20th after the opening lap, he continued to knife his way through the field and ended up in the ninth spot at after 10 laps, giving him a 125-point advantage going into the main event, only needing to finish in the top-11 to secure the title.
Finlayson and Dignan held the top two positions through the opening circuit of the 18-lap main event, with the entire field clean without any major issues. They set the tone early, but the driver on the move was Daniel Formal (Arrow). Starting tenth, he was into the fifth spot by the end of lap one, and was into third by lap three. He brought Zeen with him to move Dignan back, and then set his sights on Finlayson. The DRT Racing pilot, driving for KartSport North America on the weekend in a joint venture, was closing in until lap six when he locked up the brakes and spun around at the end of the long straight. That moved Stross into the second spot after Zeen began falling down the order with an electrical issue plaguing his powerplant. Stross was the quickest driver on the track, but Finlayson was able to keep a consistent pace throughout the 18 laps, earning his first ever USPKS victory by three tenths of a second. Stross settled for the runner-up spot with Brandon Jarsocrak (Tony Kart) up to the third position after starting eighth.
Pittsburgh double winner Mike Giessen (Deadly) moved up from 11th to fourth, also earning the IAME International Final ticket after Finlayson declined when his name was pulled in a random drawing. Dignan completed the top-five with Sam Cate (Tony Kart) earning his best finish of the year in sixth. Kalish was seventh, coming up 105 points short of defending his championship title, with Mick Gabriel (iKart) right behind. Needing to only finish in the 11th position or higher, Myers was able to hang on to a slower powerplant and finish in the ninth spot, securing his first USPKS title. Saturday’s runner-up Jim Russell Jr. (Parolin) completed the top-10. Stross, Dignan and Finlayson joined Myers and Kalish on the championship podium.
J3 Competition Parilla Challenge
Laurentiu Mardan was able to scored his third win of the season after a challenging first day in New Castle. Point leader Cristian Vomir (Kosmic) was the top qualifier, but he and Francois Brun-Wibaux (PCR) both spun in the opening corner of the Prefinal. Vomir continued, but Francois did not, leaving Mardan to pilot his Praga to the win. The three ran nose to tail in the main event with Mardan at the point until the final lap when Brun-Wibaux took over the lead. A spin at the far end of the track however dashed any hope for victory, leaving Mardan to cross the line first. Vomir spun on lap 12, but continued on to finish second, clinching the championship in the process. Brun-Wibaux did not finish, and fell to third in the standings as Mardan moved to second.
GT7 Motorsports Leopard Junior
Zach Holden (Top Kart) bounced back from the troubles in Sunday to secure the pole position to begin Sunday’s round of racing. He was the only driver to get into the 1:17-lap bracket. Brandon Lemke (Merlin) was second with Saturday winner David Malukas (Top Kart) in third. Neil Verhagen (Arrow) and Michael Benyahia (Tony Kart) were fourth and fifth.
The 10-lap Prefinal was won by Malukas, after two others challenged him for the win. Malukas was out front early, getting the jump on Holden and Lemke over the course of the first lap. The top three pulled away, with Lemke appearing to be the quicker of the three. The two Top Kart drivers hooked up, and pulled away from the Merlin driver, settling the race for themselves. At the line, Malukas scored the win over Holden with Lemke with the best view in third. Braden Eves (FA Kart) advanced from eighth to fourth with Verhagen back to fifth after Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) was penalized for contact.
Malukas, already knowing he had the provisional title wrapped up, went into the main event with nothing to lose and went full tilt. He and Lemke locked up again, with Eves and Holden part of the lead group early before falling back. As the race progressed, so did Malukas’ pace as Lemke inched his way back, allowing Eves and Holden to reel him in late in the race. Malukas scored his third victory of the season by a commanding 2.8 seconds. Both Eves and Holden slipped by for the second and third positions, leaving Lemke to stand on the fourth step of the podium. Gangi recovered from his penalty, driving up to the fifth spot, moving Verhagen and Mike McAndrews back a spot.
Eves moved up into the vice-champion position following a solid weekend in New Castle, with Gangi up to the third position. Norberg ended up fourth with Holden in the fifth position to close out the season.
Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha Junior
Saturday winner Brandon Lemke (Merlin) kept the same wet setup on the kart for Sunday, and was the quickest in qualifying. His 1:24.368-lap was clear by six tenths of a second. Nick Luedeke (PCR) was second in the order with his Checkered Motorsports teammate JP Southern Jr. in third. Mike McAndrews (Birel) and point leader Zach Holden (Top Kart) were fourth and fifth.
Holden was able to escape the opening lap skirmish to secure the win in the 10-lap Prefinal. Starting fifth, he came up to the lead right away as the front two rows went wide at the start. Southern was into second with Joseph Budzinski (Praga) up to third from seventh. He would slip down the order as the race continued while Lemke and Malukas partnered up, working past him and then began reeling in Southern. On lap four, they both were around Southern and tried to cut the advantage Holden established early. Holden was too consistent, scoring the win by 2.6 seconds with Malukas squeaking past Lemke for second. Southern settled for fourth with Simon Sikes (FA Kart) winning the fight for fifth over McAndrews.
The 15-lap main event came down to a duel between Malukas and Lemke. Early on, it was three at the front of the field as Holden was second after the opening lap behind his Top Kart teammate. Lemke moved into second, and locked on the rear bumper of Malukas to push them away from Holden. They stayed that way with Lemke moving into the lead on the final lap. Malukas tried to take back the lead in the final corner, but came just short. Holden drove to third, scoring the championship for a second straight season. Southern was fourth, keeping McAndrews back at the stripe.
The point difference between Holden and Malukas was just 55 points, with Lemke finishing the year in third. McAndrews and Nick Luedeke (PCR) end the year in the fourth and fifth positions.
Orlando Kart Center Mini Rok Cadet
Sam Mayer (Merlin) secured the pole position in the Mini Rok Cadet category with a 1:26.887-lap. It was clear of the field by two-tenths, with his Merlin teammate Austin Schaff in second. Point leader Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) was third with Lance Fenderson (Benik) and Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) completing the fast five.
The 10-lap Prefinal was another show put on by Alex Verhagen (FA Kart). The two-time winner started ninth and was into the fifth spot by the end of the opening lap. Schaff and Tavella set the pace, but Verhagen charged his way forward into the lead. Tavella stalked him throughout the race, but was unable to make a move in the final corners, leaving Verhagen to take the win. Schaff was right there in third with Jason Welage (Tony Kart) up to fourth from 11th and Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) into fifth after starting eighth.
Verhagen made it look easy in the 15-lap main event, scoring his third straight feature win of the season. Starting on the pole position, the young FA Kart driver jumped out to a sizable lead early on, with the rest of the leaders fighting for second. He kept waiting for the group to draft back up to him, but it never came. Holding a 1.4-second advantage at the halfway point, the lead was 4.3 seconds at the checkered. The battle for second was won by Bertagnoli with Schaff in third. Mayer was behind the group fighting for second, but with help from Fenderson, reeled them in and moved up to fourth, dropping Tavella back to fifth while Fenderson was sixth and Welage seventh.
Tavella secured the championship by 224 points over Bertagnoli, with Verhagen jumping up to third in the order. Fenderson and Mayer completed the championship podium.
QPS Employment Group Yamaha Cadet
With a flier lap at the end of the session, Steven Dial (Merlin) was able to secure his first pole position of the season. Dial edged out Jason Welage (Tony Kart) with a lap time of 1:28.392. Lance Fenderson (Benik) was third with Madison Campeau (Praga) fourth and Sam Mayer (Merlin) in fifth.
Welage appeared to have the race in hand for the 10-lap Prefinal. After the opening circuit, he sliced his way into the lead and established a solid advantage early on. A pack of drivers made up the battle for second, led by Fenderson. He eventually ran down Welage to make it two drivers out front, but that changed to four with Giovanni Bromante (Top Kart) on a charge after starting sixth. He brought Mayer with him and demoted Welage back to second on the final lap, with Fenderson scoring the win. Bromante however was penalized to last for contact, putting Welage back to second. Mayer ended up third with Dial fourth and championship leader Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) into fifth after starting 18th. They entered the main event separated by just five points.
With the championship on the line, drivers were fighting for the win, with Mayer and Tavella looking for points. Fenderson used the pole position to secure the lead early on with Tavella on his bumper. Mayer was right there in third the entire time, with the lead pack growing and shirnking throughout the race. On lap 13, Mayer was shuffled back to fifth, but was right back in third when the white flag waved. Looking for a way around Tavella, he followed the New York driver past Fenderson at the I-70 corner, and the two drag raced to the final corner. On the exit, Tavella beat Mayer to the line by 45 hundredths of a second for the victory and the championship. Fenderson settled for third with Bertagnoli and Schaff making up the top five.
The final tally put Tavella at the top of the championship podium by 30 points over Mayer, last year’s champion. Merlin drivers Schaff and Bertagnoli ended the year third and fourth with Fenderson in the fifth position.
Switch Racing Engines Yamaha Rookie
Championship leader Luca Mars (Praga) added to his point lead with another top qualifier effort Sunday morning. His 1:30.532 lap just edged out Ryan Detlor (Praga) by 16 thousandths of a second. Caleb Bacon (FA Kart) was third with Tyler Maxson (Tony Kart) and Bayne Bennett (Birel) completing the fast five.
Mars took the green flag but on the exit of the opening corner, the power was gone on his Yamaha. This allowed five drivers to battle for the win as Detlor score the top spot. Aidan hinds (Birel) advanced to second with Bacon, Conner Churchill (Tony Kart) and Maxson making up the top-five.
In true championship form, Mars showed he would not take the last round very lightly, having already clinched the provisional title after his sixth victory of the season. Starting 12th, Mars steadily worked his way up the order. It took just seven laps to reach the front of the field, and from there he drove away to a six-second margin of victory for his seventh straight of the year. Bacon won the battle for the runner-up spot, with Detlor in third, Donald Whorton II (Tony Kart) fourth and Hinds fifth.
Maxson ended on the final race on the sidelines, but scored enough points for the vice-champion spot. Detlor, Bischoff and Whorton finished the year earning point standings hardware after eight rounds of racing.