EKN Exclusive: Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 20 – Preview Series – X30 Senior
Four drivers gunning for $20,000 payday as Norberg looks to lock up Pro Tour championship
eKartingNews.com, the Official Media Partner of Superkarts! USA, is proud to present the Preview Series for the SKUSA SuperNationals 20. Leading up to on-track action of the 20th edition of the marquee SKUSA event and 2016 SKUSA Pro Tour finale, EKN will preview each of the 10 categories that will compete outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino from November 16-20.
Complete coverage of the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 20 can be found at the EKN Event Page. EKN Live – presented by Cooper Tires – provides play-by-play and live timing from qualifying to the final checkered flag on SuperSunday at eKartingNews.com/live.
The first headline category to preview for the SuperNationals 20 is the X30 Senior division. Another sold-out field of 88 drivers are scheduled to compete in Las Vegas, as the ‘Touch and Go’ division makes its 13th appearance at the SuperNationals. Each and every year, the category is unpredictable. You may have an idea of the players involved as potential winners, but until that checkered flag waves on SuperSunday, it is anyone’s to win.
That type of scenario played out last year as we saw an amazing SuperSunday main event with longtime SKUSA front-runner Louie Pagano clinch his first ever SuperNationals victory, helping to claim his first Pro Tour championship. It was a very emotional victory for he and his family, and a second straight title for the 2Wild Karting operation. Pagano is back aboard a Tony Kart, however, was unable to reach the podium all season long at the Pro Tour. Winning $10k last year, he could double down with a second-straight victory, something never done in the category.
In total, there are four drivers racing for a chance to win the $20,000 bounty put up by Superkarts! USA to any former winner in the three headline categories. Italian Marco Maestranzi closed out the Rio with victory in 2014. The Top Kart driver has the best SuperNationals record over the last three years, placing third, first and runner-up in Las Vegas. Maestranzi has yet to race in SKUSA competition in 2016, similar to the year he won, making him a viable selection to come in and steal the $20k. Another international driver could leave Las Vegas up $20,000 – 2010 victor Andre Nicastro. The finish that year was among the most dramatic, coming down to a photo finish with the Brazilian earning the victory. Since then, the best Nicastro has done in the last five years is a 17th place result in 2014, including three DNF’s. The Italkart has just one win since Nicastro stood on top of the podium (Yurik Carvalho – TaG Junior), making 2016 the year it could find its way back in the winner’s circle.
The $20,000 payday for former winners has brought back one driver to the category – Phillip Orcic. Since winning in 2011 aboard the Zanardi chassis, the Canadian has competed in the KZ division with no X30 Senior starts. Orcic is planning to go double-duty, racing both this year, teaming up with his Junior rank chassis manufacturer Mach 1.
Championship Chase: Norberg’s Title to Win
Three victories over the course of the SKUSA Pro Tour helps to ensure a driver has a shot at the championship. Ryan Norberg could have nearly swept the main events had it not been for contact Sunday in Phoenix during the SpringNationals. The Florida driver bounced back at the SummerNationals, winning both features to plant his name at the top of the point standings heading into the Pro Tour finale. The OKC / Tony Kart driver holds a 125-point lead entering Las Vegas. It is a similar advantage we saw Jake Craig carry going into the 2014 finale, locking up the title following his heat race performances before he was wrecked on SuperSunday. Norberg’s goal is to make it through the heat races unscathed and position himself toward the front of the grid on SuperSunday in his first SuperNationals start.
The driver with the realistic chance to challenge Norberg for the title at the SuperNationals is fellow Florida driver Kyle Kirkwood. Both came up through the Ocala Gran Prix driver program, and now have become stars at other operations. Kirkwood has found a new home with the PSL Karting operation, one that helped to guide Oliver Askew to a P3 in the championship last year. Kirkwood has finished third twice on the Pro Tour campaign, his only two podium finishes in the four main events. This is Kirkwood’s first X30 Senior start at the SuperNationals although he has been successful in Las Vegas, winning the S5 Junior main event in 2013 and stood on the podium in the S2 category the next year. We have not seen anyone overcome a similar deficit since 2013 in TaG Junior with Yurik Carvalho coming from 131 points out of the lead.
Seven other drivers stood on the podium during the SKUSA Pro Tour season, all with a shot at doing the same in Las Vegas. Braden Eves was the only driver to win in 2016 aside from Norberg. The SpringNationals victory was the first by Eves, and the only podium result in the four main events. The MDD / Kosmic driver was among those in contention last year in his Senior debut at the SuperNationals, getting spun around early on in the main event to eliminate him from victory contention. Last year was the first time in three attempts that Brandon Jarsocrak qualified for the SuperSunday feature race. Jarsocrak entered the race as the Pro Tour point leader, and fell down the standings as the event played out, eventually finishing fourth in the title chase after a drive to ninth in the main event. The KartSport North America driver has one victory to his 2016 campaign, which actually came in December 2015 at Daytona KartWeek in his Praga debut. Jarsocrak has continued to run at the front of the field, earning a number of podium finishes at USPKS and WKA competition.
While he may not have a shot at the SKUSA Pro Tour championship, EKN TaG Driver Rankings #1 Brandon Lemke is among the contenders heading into SuperNationals. The longtime Franklin Motorsports / Merlin pilot won the Junior Pro Tour championship by just one point, and is the top Senior rookie in 2016. Lemke won the USPKS title with five victories in eight starts, and finished as vice-champion in the WKA title chase. Lemke’s lone SKUSA podium was at the SpringNationals. The other top rookie in 2016 has been Zach Holden. The Koene USA / Tony Kart pilot is seventh in the EKN Driver Rankings and sits eighth in the Pro Tour standings. His best result in his SKUSA campaign was runner-up at the opener in Phoenix, earning his first Senior victories at USPKS. Holden drove to the runner-up finish at the SuperNationals last year in the Junior category.
Jake Craig, Austin Garrison and TJ Koyen are the remaining podium finishers thus far in 2016. Craig is the 2014 Pro Tour champion along with the 2011 TaG Junior title winner – who has yet to land himself at the top step of the SuperNationals podium. His best finish in four Senior starts is the third-place performance last year, which was not enough as Pagano edged him in the final standings. The SKUSA #2 plate holder began the year on Praga, and has now switched back to OTK, earning a second US Rotax Grand Nationals title in August. Garrison is another driver on the upswing since moving away from the OGP squad. The CompKart driver has found a new home, and is putting in the hours behind the wheel to help put the brand at the top across North America. The 2014 Pro Tour S2 champion missed the SpringNationals, placing runner-up in his first SKUSA race with J3 Competition. This year’s SuperNationals is somewhat of a swan-song for veteran karter Koyen. The 25-year-old out of Wisconsin has been racing at the national level since the late 1990s, and is looking to take a step back from full-time racing to help build the Innovative Performance race team. Koyen is among the most respected figures in the industry, both as a driver and an emerging helmet artist, providing countless tips and guidance for karters of all levels. The 2012 drive from 33rd to sixth in the SuperNationals LCQ is still one of the most amazing performances in the 19-year history of the event, and we hope Koyen closes out the 2016 season with a respectable curtain call.
Who to Watch: The List Goes On and On…
A large majority of the field competing in the X30 Senior class is gunning for their first SuperNationals triumph. No where is that more evident than with David Sera. The multi-time Australian champion has made it his mission to add a SuperNationals victory to his long list of accomplishments to his karting CV. His record in X30 Senior is 0-6, coming close three times with two runner-up results and a third place in 2014. The most memorable was the 2010 drive forward and the finish. Sera started 29th and knifed his way through the field. On the final lap, he diced with eventual-winner Andre Nicastro as the two made contact coming to the checkered flag. They went across the line separated by 0.01 seconds, with Sera on the losing end. The Deadly Kart driver started on the pole position, but drifted back to finish seventh a year ago. Is 2016 the year for David Sera?
Experience is always a key in victory, especially at an event as big as the SuperNationals. Stepanova Nekeel (Tony Kart) is a US Rotax National Champion from 2010, however, has yet to perform better than 13th (2009). Andrick Zeen (Birel ART) is a driver of similar record, racing in his sixth SuperNats in X30 Senior dating back to 2008. While they are young, Brenden Baker and Christian Brooks each have a decade of karting under their belts. Baker is carrying the flag for CRG Nordam in the category, improving his finish from his rookie campaign in 2014 from 15th to eighth in last year’s SuperNats. Brooks was the top rookie last year, placing on the podium in fifth. The COTA champion has made the move back to the familiar Tony Kart after a stint during the first half of the season aboard a CRG with Nash Motorsportz.
33 international drivers are registered for this year’s SuperNationals in X30 Senior, with five of the top stars including four from Europe and one from down under. Spanish driver Jorge Pescador (Praga) sat on the pole position in S2 a year ago, trying his hand in X30 Senior this time around. British Champion Danny Keirle is competing aboard the Fullerton chassis in Las Vegas as the brand looks to make an impact at the SuperNationals with the new Fullerton-USA operation growing strong. Dutch drivers Marijn Kremers and Mike Bartels are ones to watch. Kremers is an official Birel ART factory driver, piloting a Ricciardo chassis under the PSL Karting tent. Bartels (2Wild / Tony Kart) is making his third SuperNationals start, coming off a third place at the IAME International Final in France. Aussie Joshua Car (CompKart) is a Rotax national champion, making his SuperNationals debut.
This year, eKartingNews.com is offering up a SKUSA SuperNationals 20 Podium Prediction contest. Rather than the staff here at EKN making the predictions, we want you to make your best guesses for each category competing in Las Vegas. Following the release of each class preview, we are asking racers and race fans to make their predictions with the chance to win EKN Gear.
If anyone is able to predict all five podium finishers in any of the 10 categories, that person will be entered into a drawing to win $200 in EKN Gear. All you have to do is submit your predictions for any of the 10 classes, or all 10 categories by November 15 at Midnight PST in the Official Discussion Thread on the EKN Forums. If you submit, you may edit your choices up until the November 15 deadline. Those who edit their submissions will be disqualified.
Can you believe that after 13 editions of the ‘Touch and Go’ category at the @superkartsusa SuperNationals, not one driver has been able to repeat as a winner? Now with the $20k bounty offered up by SKUSA at #SuperNats20, four drivers are taking the opportunity to leave Las Vegas as a high roller should they reach the checkered flag first on #SuperSunday ahead of the 88-driver X30 Senior field. #EKNatSKUSA #TeamCooperTire 2015 – @onebrewlou 2014 – @MarcoMaestranzi 2013 – @NickRowe1616 2012 – @GabbyChaves 2011 – @POrcic11 2010 – @Nicastro28 2009 – @TMiinch20 2008 – Emanuele Pagani 2007 – @JoelMiller14 2006 – @DanielMorad 2005 – @David.Jurca 2004 – @TobyScheckter 2003 – @Christopherr_leon
X30 Senior Provisional Entry List
029a,Sebastian Alvarez,DRT Racing,DR,,CRI
369f,James Armas,Andersen Racing,BirelART,FL,USA
224y,Michael Avansino,Kartspeed Motorsports / VRP Racing,Tony Kart,CA,USA
316t,Brenden Baker,CRG Nordam,CRG,TX,USA
302t,Gabe Bargas,Patrick Flynn Motorsports,SodiKart,TX,USA
037a,Mike Bartels,2Wild Karting,Tony Kart,,NED
091a,Inaki Beitia,AM Racing,AM,,ARG
111j,Aaron Bromberek,DRT Racing,DR,IL,USA
344c,Christian Brooks,Nash Motorsportz,Tony Kart,CA,USA
095a,Joshua Car,J3 Competition,Compkart,,AUS
31z,Artie Carpenter,Black Flag Racing Products,FA Kart,OR,USA
081a,Giorgio Carrara,KartSport North America,FA Kart,,ARG
N2,Jake Craig,JC Racing / Ryan Perry Motorpsort (RPM),Exprit,CA,USA
080a,Franco Crivelli,KartSport North America,FA Kart,,ARG
47r,Roman DeAngelis,Team Koene USA,Tony Kart,ON,CAN
022a,Mateo Delgado,BBR Karting,Tony Kart,,PER
406a,Alessandro Di Cori,Italcorse America,Italcorse,,ITA
115y,Colby DuBato,PKS Kart Supplies,Tony Kart,CA,USA
310z,Kyle Dupell,Phil Giebler Racing (PGR),Ricciardo,OR,USA
218z,Marco Eakins,Black Flag Racing Products,Tony Kart,OR,USA
78y,Austin Elliott,Ryan Perry Motorsport (RPM),Tony Kart,CA,USA
021a,Ignacio Espinosa,BBR Karting,Gillard,,PER
41j,Braden Eves,Jay Howard’s Motorsports Driver Development (MDD),Kosmic,OH,USA
99d,Scott Falcone,Kartsport North America,Arrow,CO,USA
082a,Esteban Fernandez,KartSport North America,FA Kart,,ARG
77a,Alfredo Gagliardi,Team VemmeKart,Vemme,,ITA
214a,Joe Garces,Team Montoya,BirelART,,COL
129f,Austin Garrison,J3 Competition,CompKart,FL,USA
151c,Nicky Hays,Phil Giebler Racing (PGR),Ricciardo,CA,USA
222j,Zach Holden,Team Koene USA,Tony Kart,IN,USA
32t,David Ilavia,J3 Competition,CompKart,TX,USA
099x,Charlie Jafari,Nash Motorsportz,Tony Kart,CA,USA
108n,Brandon Jarsocrak,KartSport North America,Praga,PA,USA
055h,Alexander Kardashian,Top Kart USA / Grand Products,Top Kart,MN,USA
252f,Darren Keane,Orsolon Racing,Tony Kart,FL,USA
201a,Danny Keirle,Fullerton USA,Fullerton,,GBR
49y,Cody Kelleher,2Wild Karting,Tony Kart,NV,USA
09f,Kyle Kirkwood,PSL Karting,BirelART,FL,USA
14y,Worawong Komarakul,Leading Edge Motorsports (LEM),Praga,CA,THA
68j,TJ Koyen,Innovative Performance,Exprit,WI,USA
098a,Marijn Kremers,PSL Karting,Ricciardo,,NED
97a,Niklas Kry,Top Kart USA / Grand Products,Top Kart,,DEU
26n,Nick Landi,Jay Howard’s Motorsports Driver Development (MDD),Kosmic,NJ,USA
1,Brandon Lemke,Franklin Motorsports,Merlin,WI,USA
045j,Yan Liang,,Tony Kart,,CHN
20a,Marco Maestranzi,Top Kart USA / Grand Products,Top Kart,,ITA
410a,Jordi Marcon,Kartsport North America,Deadly,,AUS
312a,Mathias Marquina,BBR Karting,Tony Kart,,PER
011j,Mike McAndrews,Fullerton USA,Fullerton,WI,USA
305z,Parker McKean,Rolison Performance Group (RPG),Kosmic,WA,USA
56j,Abby McLaughlin,Top Kart USA / Grand Products,Top Kart,IN,USA
220y,Michael Michoff,Rolison Performance Group (RPG),Kosmic,CA,USA
047a,Alexander Muller,Energy Corse America,Energy,,DNK
22z,Stepanova Nekeel,Ryan Perry Motorsport (RPM),Tony Kart,WA,USA
070a,Brendan Nelson,,FA Kart,,AUS
348f,Ryan Norberg,Orlando Kart Center (OKC),Tony Kart,FL,USA
211r,Phillip Orcic,Mach 1 USA,Mach 1,BC,CAN
297a,Matt Paesch,Orsolon Racing,Tony Kart,,ABW
N1,Louie Pagano,2Wild Karting,Tony Kart,CA,USA
831y,Joey Paonessa,Team iKart,iKart,NV,USA
521a,Jorge Pescador,Praga North America,Praga,,ESP
255y,Jess Peterson,Phil Giebler Racing (PGR),Ricciardo,NV,USA
370y,Zach Pettinicchi,Kartspeed Motorsports / VRP Racing,Tony Kart,CA,USA
15n,Ryan Raffa,Checkered Motorsports,PCR,PA,USA
83c,Nick Ramirez,Top Kart USA / Grand Products,Top Kart,CA,USA
204t,Nathan Ratton,Team Koene USA,Tony Kart,TX,USA
399r,Kellen Ritter,Rolison Performance Group (RPG),Kosmic,BC,CAN
161n,Dan Roeper,BN Racing,BirelART,NY,USA
262y,Shelby Sander,Italcorse America,Italcorse,CA,USA
51x,Josh Sarchet,Mach 5 Motorsports,FA Kart,AZ,USA
106c,Anthony Sawyer,Nash Motorsportz,Tony Kart,CA,USA
96a,David Sera,Kartsport North America,Deadly,,AUS
300a,Jordan Sherratt,Patrick Flynn Motorsports,SodiKart,,ZAF
066a,Federico Tomasello,AM Racing,AM,,ARG
55j,Lane Vacala,Trackside Karting Services,CompKart,IL,USA
038a,Luke van Herwaarde,Mach 1 USA / Roo Motorsports,Mach 1,,AUS
102a,Henkie Waldschmit,CRG Nordam,CRG,,DNK
067x,Andrick Zeen,Motorsports Development Group (MDG),BirelART,CA,USA
130j,Haopeng Zhang,Team Koene USA,Tony Kart,MI,CHN