EKN Trackside: 2015 Superkarts! USA Fikse Wheels Pro Tour – SpringNationals Saturday Report

Dreezen and Pagano lead a number of drivers earning their first series victories

Belgian driver Rick Dreezen scored victory in his S1 Pro debut (Photo: EKN)

SKUSA Pro Tour SpringNats 2015 logoFor the 190+ drivers in the Phoenix Kart Racing Association paddock, success in the opening round of the Superkarts! USA Fikse Wheels Pro Tour would require the mastery of many factors, including the high heat, the massive grip and the deep competition that dominated the day. Each pilot on the SKUSA SpringNationals grid was challenged to step up his or her game.  Overtaking on the Phoenix layout is tough on a good day, but the conditions this weekend upped the ante.  Chassis set-up would be key, engine tuning would be increasingly important and driver stamina was put to the test.   The day’s action featured seven different chassis brands score victory in the eight categories, highlighted by dominant performances from guys like Darren Elliott, Callum Smith, Jak Crawford, David Malukas and Rick Dreezen, breakthrough victories from Louie Pagano and Nick Tucker, and a victory decided via an on-track call that promoted Carter Williams to the win after he hounded Marco Eakins for 16 straight laps.  The national championship season is now underway, and the primary title contenders have been identified.

Pure Karting S1 Pro Stock Moto

Making his Fikse Wheels Pro Tour SpringNationals debut, Rick Dreezen secured the fast time on his opening circuit in qualifying. His 44.288-second lap was good enough by over two tenths ahead of California ProKart Challenge two-time champion Billy Musgrave (Praga). Two-time S1 Pro Tour champ Fritz Leesmann (CRG) was third, as 2013 S4 SuperNationals winner Matt Hamilton (Aluminos) was fourth in his S1 debut. S1 rookie Kolton Griffin (Tony Kart) capped off the fast five.

Dreezen made his first Stock Moto start, and was slow off the line, dropping back to fifth as Musgrave and Fritz led the way. Dreezen fought his way back into the third spot by the final lap, where he watched the top two battle for the win. Into the monza, Fritz got into the back of Musgrave, sending him wide. Leesmann went on to cross the line first, with Dreezen second and Musgrave third. Officials put Leesmann back behind Musgrave, giving Dreezen the win. Hamilton drove fourth with Patrik Hajek (Praga) to fifth.

From the P3 grid position, Leesmann grabbed the holeshot as he blasted past both Dreezen and Musgrave into the opening corner to begin Heat #2. On lap three, Dreezen was able to slide inside of Leesmann at the hairpin, taking over the lead while Hajek was up into third. That was the deciding move of the race, with Dreezen pulling away to the victory.

S1 Pro Stock Moto Saturday Final start #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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Quick on the lights, Leesmann began the 16-lap main event as the leader to drop Dreezen back to second. The field ran tight through the opening corners, jostling for position as Dreezen looked for a way past the former champ. On lap four, Leesmann slid wide at the monza corner, and that was all the Belgian needed to take over the lead. From there, Dreezen led the remaining laps to secure his first Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory in his S1 debut. Leesmann led Musgrave to the checkered flag, with Griffin bouncing back to finish a close fourth. Hajek was shuffled back early, and drove back to finish fifth in his first S1 start.

Nash Motorsportz TaG Senior

After years of trying, Louie Pagano scored his first major victory as a Senior driver (Photo: EKN)

After years of trying, Louie Pagano scored his first major victory as a Senior driver (Photo: EKN)

Keeping the same pace over from the end of Friday, and into the opening round of the new Fikse Wheels Pro Tour season, Louie Pagano (Tony Kart) set the fast time in qualifying with a 45.849-second lap. Roger Ralston Jr. (Arrow) and Brandon Jarsocrak (iKart) landed inside the top-three, with defending champion Jake Craig (Formula K) and SuperNationals runner-up Austin McCusker (Deadly Kart) making up the fast five.

Pagano and Ralston broke away from the field, and ran 1-2 during the opening eight-lap heat race. The gap was nearly one second between the top two at the checkered flag as they fought for inside the top-five behind them. Jarsocrak was able to fight off a charging Justice Lepe (Tony Kart) by the mid-way point, with Craig working by on the final lap to reclaim the fourth spot again.

Pagano and Craig emerged as the top drivers in heat two, pulling out early and running away from the field. Lepe took over third early on, but was challenged on the final lap. Both Jarsocrak and Matteo Vigano (Top Kart) worked past, and those two got together on the penultimate corner. That allowed Ralston to slide through for the third position, moving McCusker to fourth and Senior rookie Phillippe Denes (PCR) fifth. Vigano returned to the course in 13th with Jarsocrak back to 18th.

TaG Senior Saturday Final start #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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After years for trying to earn his first major victory as a Senior driver, the time and effort put in by Pagano paid off. Dominant throughout the day, the 2Wild Karting Tony Kart driver kept the pace going into the main event, leading all 20 laps for the victory. Defending champ Craig kept things close, putting the pressure on, but unable to make any move for the lead and settling for second. Ralston ran kept the two close, and stayed out of trouble to end up on the podium in third. The fight for fourth began with Askew in the position, but he slipped back as the race continued on. Denes took the position away, and held off McCusker to the checkered flag. Veteran Matt Johnson (Tony Kart) was sixth with Vigano up six spots to seventh. Mason Marotta (Tony Kart) ran ninth while Jarsocrak posted the fast lap of the race, up to tenth from 18th.

Texas ProKart Challenge S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto

Carter Williams was awarded the win in S2 Semi-Pro (Photo: EKN)

Carter Williams was awarded the win in S2 Semi-Pro (Photo: EKN)

Sophomore S2 driver Carter Williams (FA Kart) continued to build on a successful 2015 season at the regional level, scoring his first Fikse Wheels Pro Tour pole position for Saturday’s round of racing. A 44.440-second lap was quickest in the 30-driver field, edging out Andrew Bujdoso (PCR) by 33 thousandths of a second with former S5 Junior champion Jim McKinney (Tony Kart) in third. Florida driver Don Whittington (Tony Kart) and Bermuda driver Brandon Frank (Praga) making up the fast five.

Williams had the opening heat race in hand the entire eight laps. From the holeshot, Williams drove away to a 2.8-second advantage that was padded in the final lap. McKinney and Bujdoso fought for the spot on the last circuit. Bujdoso made a great move through turns three and four to take the position away, but dropped a wheel coming onto the long back straight. The two made contact at the monza corner, with Bujdoso going off into the tires, while McKinney continued on to fourth. That move Marco Eakins (Formula K) to second with Frank up to third. Alan Michel (Praga) advanced up to fifth from eighth on the grid. Frank however was penalized one spot for jumping the start, putting him to the outside of row two for the start of the next heat, moving McKinney to the inside slot.

Eakins used the holeshot to score the win in Heat #2. The Formula K driver led all eight laps, with Williams trying to work past for position but unable to do so at any time. Frank drove to third with McKinney fourth and Whittington fifth.

S2 Semi-Pro Saturday Final #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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Eakins and Williams were able to get away when the lights went out to begin the 16-lap main event. Behind them was a hard shuffle for position, in which Michel and Harry Gottsacker (Interpid) were locked up and retired early. Out front, Williams tried a number of times to take over the lead, and Eakins would shut him down. The final few laps saw Eakins defend the inside line down the long straight, holding it through the monza corner. The defensive strategy worked and Eakins crossed the line first. Official however penalized Eakins one position for ‘breaking the box’ at the start, putting Williams to the top step of the podium for his first Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory, taking Eakins first possible win away. Frank drove a smart race all day, ending up third on the podium with Kol Bailey (Tony Kart) posting the fast lap of the race, climbing up to fourth from 10th on the grid. Mexican driver Fernando Casillas Jr. (GP) capped off the top-five. Bujdoso showed the speed in the Final again, coming from 26th to sixth, but was penalized one position for avoidable contact.

Praga North America TaG Master

Nick Tucker stamped his return to Superkarts! USA competition with victory in his TaG Master debut (Photo: EKN)

Nick Tucker stamped his return to Superkarts! USA competition with victory in his TaG Master debut (Photo: EKN)

North Carolina driver Nick Tucker made his SpringNationals debut memorable, earning the fast time in qualifying. A 47.071-second lap was best in the session to land the pole position. Returning national driver Chris Giumarra (PCR), also making his Fikse Wheels Pro Tour, slotted himself onto the front row. Defending champions Paul Bonilla (Tony Kart) and Scott Falcone (Arrow) filled out the second row with Brian Phillipsen (Tony Kart) completing the fast five.

Giumarra got the jump at the drop of the green flag but was pressured by Tucker throughout the eight lap heat race. On the final circuit, Tucker dove inside at the monza corner, but Giumarra struck back at the final corner, getting inside at the apex. Contact was made and they drag raced to the line with Giumarra scoring the win over Tucker. Bonilla was right there in third with Derek Burris (Praga) working up to fourth, pushing Falcone back to fifth.

Tucker would not be denied in the second heat, as he led all eight laps. Giumarra stayed on his bumper the entire time, unable to work past for position. Burris was up to third, but was challenge by both Falcone and Bonilla. On lap seven, Burris was attempting to work back around Falcone, and the two made contact at the hairpin. That move Bonilla to third with Vatche Tatikian (FA Kart) placing fourth and Anthony Honeywell (FA Kart) fifth.

TaG Master Saturday Final start #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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The lead group eventually became three after half the field ran nose to tail to begin the main event. Tucker assumed the lead with Giumarra and Bonilla right there. They ran that way the entire 16 laps with Tucker making his return to Superkarts! USA competition, winning his first race since 1999 back at Pat’s Acres Racing Complex in 80cc Junior. Giumarra was a close second with Bonilla crossing third, but the New Jersey driver was penalized one position for jumping the start, giving Bonilla the second spot. Tatikian drove to third with Falcone up to fifth.

Leading Edge Motorsports S4 Master Stock Moto

Darren Elliott was perfect on the day in S4 Master (Photo: EKN)

Darren Elliott was perfect on the day in S4 Master (Photo: EKN)

The S4 Master qualifying session was a quick one or two laps for each driver, and then off into pit lane. Former ProMoto Tour star Darren Elliott (CRG) set the quickest lap of the session, laying down a 45.001 lap to secure the pole position. Three tenths off was former Fikse Wheels Pro Tour champion Jimmy McNeil to give CRG the front row. John Crow (FA Kart) had his best qualifying effort of the series, with former champion Jordon Musser (BirelART) and Jorge de la Huerta (GP) making up the fast five.

Elliott drove away to a 1.7-second victory in the opening heat race, leading all eight laps. Musser drove up to second early, dropping Crow back to third until McNeil was able to charge back after getting shuffled at the start. McNeil stole the third position and closed up on Musser in the closing laps. It was a hard fought battle for fifth with Richard Heistand (BirelART) coming through ahead of defending champion Gian Cavaciuti (Aluminos).

The second heat race was all Elliott, showing the way for the eight circuits. McNeil worked his way into second early, and ran 1.1-second back. Musser was third, getting around Cavaciuti after the defending champion moved up at the start of the race. Heistand drove to fifth, pushing Crow back to fifth.

S4 Master Stock Moto Saturday Final start #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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Elliott would not be denied, continuing his reign at the front as he did throughout the day, earning his second ever Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory. McNeil was good early, but fell off toward the end of the race with Elliott pushing out to a 2.8-second advantage. The fight for third was between the last two champions, with Cavaciuti turning up the wick with two laps remaining. Once around Musser, the defending champ was able to hold on to a podium finish. Crow ran fifth, but was run down by a charging Kinnear, earning a top-five result in his S4 debut.

PSL Karting S5 Junior Stock Moto

Callum Smith dominated the day in the S5 Junior division (Photo: EKN)

Callum Smith dominated the day in the S5 Junior division (Photo: EKN)

NorCal driver Callum Smith (Praga) set the pace in the S5 Junior qualifying session, nearly dipping into the 44-second bracket. He was clear by over four tenths of a second with David Malukas (Top Kart) ending up second in his S5 debut. Jason Pettit (Aluminos), Hunter Kelly (Praga) and Evan White (Kosmic) made up the fast five.

Malukas was unable to keep the kart running before the lights went out to begin the opening heat race, so he was forced to watch from the sidelines. Smith drove away to the win, pulling out to a six-second advantage. The battle for second went to the wire with Pettit scoring the position over Kelly. Ryan P. Lewis (MadCroc)worked his way up from ninth to fourth, with Andrew Engberson (Intrepid) placing fifth.

Malukas stalled on the line once again, which opened the door for Pettit to grab the holeshot to begin second heat. He brought Kelly with him to drop Smith back to third. The top qualifier worked his way back to the point, scoring the win by 2.5 seconds. Lewis followed him through to take second, securing a front row start for the main event. Kelly finished third ahead of Pettit with Engberson fifth once again.

S5 Junior Saturday Final #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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Smith would not be denied, as the Praga driver led all 16 laps to secure his first Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory. Pettit got the holesot, but Smith took over the point before they completed the first official lap. From there, Smith drove away to a 11-second advantage for the victory. Behind him was a battle for third as Pettit ran to the checkered flag in second. Lewis and Kelly drove hard against one another, and on the final lap the two made contact on the penultimate corner. Neither were able to continue on, finishing one corner short. That allowed Engberson to the third spot, and he was promoted to runner-up after Pettit was moved back one position for ‘breaking the box’ at the start. White ended up fourth with Josh Early (Top Kart) promoted to fifth.

Ryan Perry Motorsport TaG Junior

David Malukas began his TaG Junior title defense with a sweep of Round One (Photo: EKN)

David Malukas began his TaG Junior title defense with a sweep of Round One (Photo: EKN)

East coast won out in the qualifying session for TaG Junior with Brandon Lemke and defending champion David Malukas filling out the front row. Lemke posted a 46.038-second lap aboard his Merlin to earn the pole position with Malukas off by 49 thousandths in his Top Kart. His teammate John Paul Southern Jr. (Top Kart) was third, making it an East 1-2-3 with Dante Yu (Tony Kart) and Max Fedler (Tony Kart) filling out the fast five as the top west coast drivers. Top drivers Trey Brown (Tony Kart) and Sebastian Alvarez (BirelART) were unable to record a lap in the timed session.

The top two controlled the field in the opening eight-lap with Lemke scoring the win. They went back and forth for the lead, with Lemke pulling away to a eight tenths lead at the checkered flag. The driver on the move inside the top-five was Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart), coming from eighth to third, with Nicky Hays (FA Kart) following through to fourth. Southern dropped to fifth, while Alvarez was the hard charger up to ninth from 22nd. Brown grabbed 10 spots on his own to 13th.

It was the top four that broke away from the field as Malukas led Lemke, Hays and Gangi. On lap six, contact at the monza corner sent Gangi into the barriers, and the Lemke suffered a bent axle and pulled off. This gave Malukas a clean path to the checkered flag with Hays in second. Zoey Edenholm (Kosmic) held off a charging Alvarez and Brown for the third spot. Gangi ended up 16th with Lemke back to the tail of the 23-driver field.

TaG Junior Saturday Final start #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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The main event saw a chaotic first few laps, shuffling up the field, taking out Lemke and Brown of the race. Out front, it was Malukas on cruise control with Hays and Edenholm fighting for the second position. After 16-laps, Malukas extended out to a three-second advantage, posting the fast lap of the race to defend his championship for the first round. Hays beat out Edenholm for the second position on the podium. Behind them was a fought for fourth, including Dylan Tavella (BirelART) and Anthony Sawyer (Tony Kart). The two made contact on the final lap, allowing Gangi to slide through for the fourth position as Sawyer crossed the line ahead of Tavella. Sawyer, however, was removed from the results after tech for a header issue, moving Tavella to fifth.

Benik Kart TaG Cadet

Jak Crawford celebrated his 10th birthday with victory in TaG Cadet (Photo: EKN)

Jak Crawford celebrated his 10th birthday with victory in TaG Cadet (Photo: EKN)

Celebrating his 10th birthday, Texan Jak Crawford (Energy) earned the pole position in qualiyfing with a fast time of 50.615 seconds. It was 41 thousandths quicker than Arizona driver Diego LaRoque (Benik) with Wesley Mason (Benik) within a tenth as well. Ryan Schartau (Tony Kart) was fourth with Oliver Calvo (Tony Kart) completing the fast five.

Crawford took immediate control of the first TaG Cadet heat race, pacing LaRoque during the opening laps. Schartau was able slip past LaRoque to take second, but Crawford was too much, and flexed his muscle early in the day by running away to a 1.942-second lap.  Jacob Hudson (Energy) chased down LaRoque in the late going, while Jace Jones (Tony Kart), Tyler Maxson (Benik) and Jason Welage (Top Kart) finished nose-to-tail from fifth to seventh.

A wreck involving a number of drivers took certain contenders out of the race to begin Heat #2, including Schartau, Jones and Welage. Out front, Crawford once again showed his muscles, pulling away to a two-second advantage after eight laps. LaRoque led a large group fighting for second, and eventually lost the position to Mason. LaRoque settled for third with Calvo and Tomas Mejia (Benik) making up the top-five.

TaG Cadet Saturday Final start #EKNatSKUSA #FikseProTour #PKRA

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For the first time all day, Crawford relinquished the point at the start of the main event. LaRoque took over the lead, but only for a few circuits as Crawford resumed in the top spot. From there, Crawford pulled out to a 1.3-second advantage for his first ever Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory. Mason slipped past LaRoque for second, while California PKC point leader Anthony Willis (Benik) fought up to fourth, with Calvo finishing the day in fifth.

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