United States Pro Kart Series – Carolina Grand Prix Preview
Fifth season to begin where it all began in 2013
In April 2013, the United States Pro Kart Series held its inaugural event at the then Mooresville Motorplex in North Carolina. Heavy rains hampered the event, however, a solid group of racers accounting for 122 entries took part in the seven categories on the weekend. The series would carry the momentum to become one of the premier karting series in North America, heading into its fifth season in 2017. USPKS is returning back to Mooresville, North Carolina and the GoPro Motorplex for the Carolina Grand Prix to contest the opening rounds of the fifth season.
The 2017 season is full of prizes, as is the case every year at the United States Pro Kart Series. Four trips to the X30 World Finals in Le Mans, France this October is on the line in the IAME categories, in addition to five entries into the SKUSA SuperNationals with guaranteed SuperSunday starting positions. Additional prizes from MG Tires and IAME make up a big part of the 2017 prize package, which will all be distributed at the season-ending banquet following the final rounds in September.
One of the big stories going into the season is in the IAME X30 Pro division. The first four years of the Pro division has seen four different drivers earn the title. 2017 will be no different with defending champion Brandon Lemke not scheduled to compete in the series, looking to develop his career up the motorsports ladder. This opens the door for a number of potential championship-caliber drivers to take the reigns of the series headline category.
Former USPKS Yamaha Pro champion Brandon Jarsocrak has been in contention for the IAME title for the last three seasons, finishing a best vice-champion in 2015. The KartSport North America / Praga driver has won before at the team’s home track, and is among the favorites heading into the weekend. Jacob Donald (FA Kart) is another former winner at the USPKS and at GoPro, putting him as an early favorite. Their new teammate and Senior rookie Lance Fenderson is a possible pick for Rookie of the Year and title contender, coming off a sweep at the recent Gearup Challenge F-Series event at GoPro.
A Merlin kart has two of the four championships in the IAME Pro class. Two bullets in the gun for Merlin Nation includes Cal Stewart and Alex Bertagnoli. Stewart – a 2016 Rock Island Grand Prix five-time winner – is joining the Franklin Motorsports operation for the 2017 season, returning back behind the wheel and to the Merlin brand. Bertagnoli is the defending USPKS IAME Junior and Yamaha Junior champ, including a SKUSA Pro Tour title from 2016. The now 15-year-old was impressive in his debut in NOLA, and joins Stewart as a title contender. Merlin also has Senior rookie Stephen Dial and Jake Venberg joining the fight in IAME Pro.
Another big story going into the 2017 season is the addition of the IAME KA100 engine package to the USPKS program. The IAME KA100 class has nearly 30 entries prior to the pre-entry deadline, featuring a number of former Yamaha Pro drivers, along with returning drivers to the 100cc category. Jarsocrak is double-dipping, returning to the 100cc class along with Bertagnoli pulling double duty. Veteran TJ Koyen (Innovative / Exprit) is jumping back behind the wheel after announcing retirement at the end of 2016, making a return to the 100cc class. Michael McAndrews (Fullerton) is a former USPKS champion, and was the vice-champion in 2015 in Yamaha Pro. Familiar names Ashley Rogero and Colton Ramsey are making their return to the USPKS program thanks to the new KA100 program.
A number of drivers have graduated up the karting ladder or into other forms of motorsports from the Junior category last year. 2017 will be a great year of development for a number of drivers now with the ability to compete at the front end of the field. Austin Schaff is among those looking to contend for the IAME Junior titles. The Merlin driver won in Yamaha last year, going winless in IAME. WKA champ Pauly Massimino (Top Kart) is among those entered along with local drivers Gray Leadbetter (Tony Kart), Isabella Robusto (CompKart) and others. Colin Neal (Kosmic) and Arie Venberg (Merlin) will be pulling double duty with IAME and Yamaha programs, with each among the contenders in both.
Many of the top IAME Mini Swift competitors from last year will not be in attendance for the opening round of 2017. A number of possible title contenders stand out in the entry list for Mooresville. Santiago Trisini (Benik) has been among the top Cadet drivers in recent months putting him at the top of the list. Brent Crews (Nitro Kart) is the 2016 IAME Rookie champion, moving up to Mini this season is an instant contender. Nicholas Terlecki is leading the Merlin Nation squad in the Cadet ranks this season. William Robusto (CompKart) is a former series winner, gunning for another shot at a victory.
Every time in the Yamaha Cadet division, you have to count on the Adams brothers of Garrett and Logan. The two Comet Racing Engines drivers will be among those in contention for 2017. Robusto is among those doing the double duty in the Cadet divisions, along with the Adams brothers. A number of Rookie drivers are moving up, including the 2016 champ Paige Crawford (Benik).
The IAME Micro Swift contends a number of young talented drivers. Caleb Gafrarar (Parolin), WKA Winter Cup champion Christian Miles (Praga), Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Kosmic), and Nitro Kart drivers Frankie Iadevaia and Ben Maier.
eKartingNews.com will not be on-site for the first time in series history, covering the Challenge of the Americas finale in California. A full report will be published following the event on the website.