Texas ProKart Challenge Closes Season at Gulf Coast Kartway
Superkarts! USA and US Rotax Max Challenge regional program ends 2014 in Katy, Texas
Cody Jolly returned after a six year hiatus to win Saturday in the S2 Semi-Pro category (Photo: dreamscaptured.net)
The 2014 season came to a close for the Texas ProKart Challenge as the series hosted the finale weekend on October 3-5 at the Gulf Coast Kartway. The series – presented by 3G Kart Racing/Burger King®/Chase Racing/Dallas Karting Complex/Fernelius Alvarez Attorneys – traveled to the Katy, Texas facility to close out the eight-race championship program with the final two rounds. Drivers of the Burger King® Rotax Max Challenge and Superkarts! USA regional series decided this year’s champions and who gets part of the $40,000 prize package for 2014. The weekend in Katy saw a number of round sweeps, along with a few first-time winners on the year.
The Pole Position/DR Kart S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto class has been one of the most competitive divisions all season, and it continued this way in Katy by welcoming two new race winners in returning pilot Cody Jolly and series regular Luke Shanahan. CJ Cramm opened up Round Seven with the fast time in qualifying, earning his first pole position of the season. The heat races, however, went to Jolly, who was making his first start in nearly six years. He and Shanahan fought their way forward in Heat #1. Jolly then led all 10 laps in Heat #2 as Shanahan fell back midway through the race. Grabbing the holeshot to start the main, Jolly showed the way for all 16 circuits to claim the victory in his first Texas ProKart Challenge start. Championship leader Miguel Lopez scored the most points possible, placing runner-up and earning the fast lap honors. S2 rookie Nathan Adds completed the podium, just ahead of Cramm, while Shanahan worked back up to fifth. The following day, Jolly began where he left off, running at the top of the order. Shanahan was right there in both qualifying and the two heat races, with Jolly leading the way. Jolly led the first half of the 16-lap main event before Shanahan took over, holding on for his first victory of the season. Cody held on for second, with Lopez on the podium once again in third. Graig Alvarez and Jordan Dick made up the top-five.
For a third straight season, Chris Jennings was crowned the HPD/Honda S4 Master Stock Moto champion after locking up the title with two wins in Katy. Jennings swept the action on Saturday, earning fast time in qualifying and the two heat wins before grabbing the feature race and posting the fast lap of the race. The win was his fifth of the season, as he finished three seconds ahead of defending Pro Tour champion Jordon Musser and Steve McCaffery. McCaffery stopped the perfect weekend for Jennings, securing fast time in qualifying on Sunday, along with the opening heat race win. Jennings took the helm in Heat #2 after McCaffery retired before the completion of lap one, taking the win over Musser. Leading all 16 laps in the main, Jennings won for a sixth time in 2014, finishing fifth overall in the combined S1/S2/S4 race group. With both Musser and McCaffery unable to reach the checkered flag, Patrick Roth finished second with Mark Reid in third.
Three drivers took part in the Champion Racing/Intrepid S1 Pro Stock Moto class on Saturday with Ryan Kinnear edging out top qualifier and two-time heat winner Jake French. The big story however was the return of Garrett Boone, who was injured in a hard wreck at the SKUSA SummerNationals. Both Kinnear and French left at the end of the day, as they headed to Italy to compete in the CIK-FIA KZ2 Super Cup event in Sarno. Boone ran unchallenged on Sunday as a result, enjoying his return to the seat while mixing it up with the S2 drivers.
Louie Pagano won his third feature race of the season in the Gaddy Web Design Rotax Senior division. The California racer swept Saturday’s action ahead of Jesse Woodyard and Gabe Bargas. Sunday was a very competitive day, with Bargas earning the fast time in qualifying. Both Bargas and Woodyard had trouble in Heat #1, allowing Conner Clay to claim the race win. Woodyard bounced back to win the second heat, and drove away to a five-second victory in feature to claim the championship. Pierre-Paul Baradat ended up second, edging out Bargas.
Austin Osborne doubled up for the first time this year in the Fernelius Alvarez Attorneys TaG Senior class. A winner at Round Six, Osborne swept the action on Saturday to earn a perfect score. Texas PKC newcomer Erin Sims was runner-up while point leader Luke Waller ended up in third. The following day began with Osborne still at the top of the time sheets, however, Waller snuck by to win both 10-lap heat races ahead of Osborne. The duo was joined by Louie Pagano, who switched over to TaG Senior on Sunday, that is, until he retired with just a few laps remaining in the final. Osborne would eventually take the lead back, and beat Waller to the checkered flag by just over a tenth. Nick Martin completed the podium.
The wins in Enertech Rotax Junior were split by Trenton Estep and Brett Mitchell, each earning their first victory on the season. Estep put himself at the front of the field in Heat #2, working past top qualifier and Heat #1 winner Max Hewitt. Leading all 12 laps of the main event, Estep earned the top step of the podium, outrunning both Ryan C. Lewis and Mitchell. Estep began Sunday as the quick driver in qualifying, but Mitchell took over for the rest of the day. Winning both heat races, Mitchell drove to a 2.6-second margin of victory for his first Texas PKC win. Parker Chase stood second on the podium with Hewitt third. Blair Hosie drove uncontested in the Turbo Lube/Motul TaG Junior class.
Estep was a double winner on the weekend, splitting the victories in the SwedeTech Racing Engines S5 Junior Stock Moto division with Raul Guzman. Entering the weekend as the point leader, Guzman stamped his bid for the series championship with a sweep of Round Seven. Guzman was the top qualifier, going on to win both heat races and the main event, including the fast lap of the race. Jacob Loomis was second with Colin Long earning his first podium in third. After recording a DNF on Saturday, Estep bounced back to earn his own sweep on Sunday. Estep drove to a five-second victory in the main event after posting fast time in qualifying and winning both heat races. Guzman drove to second with Long once again in third.
It was nearly a weekend sweep in Chase Racing Mini Max category with Brandin Warwas earning his first victory of the season, but coming up just short on Sunday. Saturday was all Warwas, earning a perfect score on the day toward his first Texas PKC Mini Max win. Ethan Arndt and Dylan Schlegel were second and third in the 12-lap feature. The following day was much of the same, as Warwas put himself at the top of the results sheet in qualifying and both heat races. A spin on the opening lap of the main event put Warwas to the tail of the field. That allowed championship leader Riley Dickinson and Cash Tiner to fight for the victory. Dickinson crossed the finish line just 15 thousandths ahead of Tiner to earn his fourth win of the season. Schlegel placed third, ending the season with his best two results of the year.
Jak Crawford was just another sweep away from clinching a championship on the weekend, as he dominated the action in the Ribtect Micro Max class on Saturday. It was a near perfect score for Crawford as he drove to a six-second advantage in his sixth victory of the season. John Burke was second and Logan Stretch was third, while Dylan Hajicek posted the fast lap of the race. With Crawford electing to sit out on Sunday, it brought on a host of drivers battling for the final win of the season. Hajicek transferred his speed over to qualifying to post the fast time, only to see Branyon Tiner win Heat #1. Vittorio Catino won the second heat, and led all 12 laps of the main event. However, officials penalized Catino for avoidable contact, moving him back to second position and handing the win to Hajicek. Juan Pablo Cepeda was classified in the third spot.
Crawford was able to secure a second win on the weekend, conquering the Kart Life TaG Cadet category on Sunday. On Saturday, the day was led by Cade McKee, earning the fast time in qualifying and winning each of the heat races. At the start of the feature, McKee was shuffled back, allowing Yusuf Moola through. Moola led all 12 laps to secure his first victory of the season, edging out Crawford. McKee worked his way back up to third. Sunday was very similar, this time with Moola at the point in qualifying and both heat races. Crawford jumped to the lead on the opening circuit of the main event, and led the entire distance for his first victory in the category, clinching the championship in the process. Matthew Stretch was second with Moola on the podium once again in third.
CJ Cramm and Michael Ilavia split the victories in the Dallas Karting Complex DD2 class. Cramm fought off rookie Nathan Adds all day, sweeping the day and securing the victory by just over four seconds for his first of the season. Ilavia joined them on Sunday, getting up to speed by Heat #2 by scoring the race win. Ilavia, in his first series start on the year, edged out Cramm by just three tenths with Adds in the third position. Dallas Karting Complex DD2 Masters category saw Mike Wherley add to his recent win at Round Six, taking both main events in Katy. Point leader Lance Lehrman was the top driver all day, including the feature where he won by just over one second. Lehrman would be removed from the results for a carburetor issue, which promoted Wherley to the top of the podium after edging out Jason Morski on-track. Wherley continued to challenge, posting the fast lap in qualifying and winning Heat #1. Lehrman fought back to win Heat #2, however, Wherley outlasted both Morski and Lehrman in the 16-lap feature for his third straight victory.
Will Vasser made it a ‘one and done’ debut with the Texas ProKart Challenge, dominating the Saturday round in the Dreams Captured Photography TaG Master division. Vasser beat point leader Juan David Gomez in all on-track sessions. Vasser sat out Sunday’s action, where Drew Neubauer challenged Gomez. The point leader was too much, earning a perfect score on the day to secure the championship. Garrett Ramirez came just 13 laps short of sweeping the RPM Race Karts S3 Novice Stock Moto field in Katy. He was the top driver all day in Round Seven, but retired on lap four of the main event to allow Austin Jeffries to the victory, his first of the season, with Kyle Counts in second. Ramirez came back the following day to dominate for his third victory of the season with Jeffries in second and Counts in third.
Banquet information and a full championship report will be available in the near future on the Texas ProKart Challenge website – texasprokartchallenge.com. Be sure to follow them on Facebook for more information on the 2015 Texas ProKart Challenge series.