EKN Trackside: 2017 WKA Manufacturers Cup Series – Pittsburgh Preview
Keystone State Nationals set to resume championship program
It has been since the final days of 2016 that the World Karting Association Manufacturers Cup Series was in action. Following the WKA Winter Cup program that took place following the annual Daytona KartWeek event at the end of December, the championship program resumes with the second stop of the 2017 schedule – the Keystone State Nationals at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pennsylvania. A total of 122 pre-entries are secured going into the weekend with changing weather conditions forecasted for the weekend. Rain is typically part of weekends at the ‘Pitt Race’ facility, and the challenging conditions along with the technical 9/10-mile Wilson Circuit, which was repaved at the end of 2015. The eight categories resume the chase for the coveted Manufacturers Cup Series Eagle championship trophies, with the third and fourth rounds set to determine who will be among those in contention as we enter the summer events.
Be sure to catch all the action from the weekend at the EKN Live page – www.ekartingnews.com/live
Two drivers dominated the opening round of the 2017 championship program in the Pro IAME Senior division. Florida driver AJ Myers defended his home turf while Brandon Jarsocrak repeated as the Day 2 victor. The two left tied for the championship lead, with Jarsocrak not attending the Pittsburgh weekend. That puts TB Kart USA pilot Myers as the driver to beat heading into the event. Myers holds a 40-point advantage over Jonathan Kotyk (Top Kart) with Pitt Race native Braden Eves in third. Eves is coming off a solid victory at the SKUSA SpringNationals in his Vemme debut. Drivers to watch that could challenge over the weekend include former WKA champions Brandon Lemke (Top Kart) and John Paul Southern (Top Kart).
Top Kart won the first two main events of the 2017 season down in Daytona for the Yamaha Senior division. Former WKA champion Alexander Kardashian won the opening day feature, and enters the weekend leading the point standings. Kardashian has a one point advantage over Braden Eves (Kosmic), as both are pulling double duty. The other Top Kart victorious in Daytona was Dakota Pesek. The Ohio native is racing with a heavy heart with the recent passing of his father Kevin. There will be no more of a favorite throughout the paddock to claim victory on the weekend then Pesek. Merlin driver Jake Venberg (Merlin), Nick Landi (FA Kart) making his first 2017 start and local driver Derek Hughes (Top Kart).
2016 Pro IAME Junior champion and 2017 WKA Winter Cup title winner Pauly Massimino remains the driver to beat in the category. The Top Kart driver assumes the point lead with the absence of Dylan Tavella and Zane Maloney. Massimino leads the standings by five points over Max Peichel (Tony Kart), who landed a third place result to highlight a double top-five weekend in Daytona. Other drivers to watch for include two pairs of brothers. Finnegan and Gavin Bayliff are part of the Trinity Karting Group operation out of Cincinnati, making their WKA debuts aboard the Birel ART brand. New Jersey’s Connor and Tyler Ferris are looking to improve from their Daytona results aboard their Top Kart machines. Local drivers Tahlon Yockel (Tony Kart) and Madison Campeau (Top Kart) will be ones to watch, including Junior rookies Kaden Wharff (Top Kart) and Caleb Bacon (Tony Kart).
The momentum belongs to Elliott Budzinski in the Yamaha Junior division. The Michigan driver aboard a Tony Kart scored his first WKA victory on Day 2 in Daytona, and leads the championship standings. Tyler Ferris (Top Kart) was the only driver to finish inside the top-three both days, and trails Budzinski by 15 points. Colin Neal (Tony Kart) was the other winner in Daytona, entering the weekend third in the standings back of Ferris by just five points. 2016 class champion Pauly Massimino (Top Kart) is returning to the category after sitting out Daytona, sure to be among those battling for victories along with WKA Winter Cup champion Jack Dorsey (Tony Kart).
It was a breakout performance for Ashton Chilton in Daytona. The Florida driver won the opening round in the Pro IAME Sportsman, and placed runner-up on Day 2, helping to jump start his run at the WKA Winter Cup championship. He holds a sizable advantage in the Manufacturers Cup championship chase with those Daytona results. Chilton has moved over to the Nitro Kart stable, which is coming off two wins at the SKUSA SpringNationals. The next highest driver in the standings attending Pittsburgh is fellow Nitro Kart driver Brent Crews, back by 190 points. Others to watch include the Comet Racing Engines duo of Garrett and Logan Adams (FA Kart), and local drivers Annie Rhule (PCR) and Nico Montileone (Praga).
Garrett Adams (FA Kart) added a third generation of the Dismore family to win at the Daytona KartWeek event, landing on top of the podium on Day 2 in Yamaha Sportsman. The grandson of Mark Dismore leads the championship standings by 90 points over his brother Logan Adams (FA Kart) – the WKA Winter Cup champion. Annie Rhule (PCR) and Thomas Schrage (Tony Kart) are ones to watch battle for wins on the weekend.
It is going to be another solid field in the Mini Swift category in Pittsburgh. Opening round winner Caleb Gafrarar (Parolin) is among those set to continue the chase for the championship, with Gafrarar the point leader with the absence of Mateo Rubio-Luengo. His lead is 90 points over Nitro Kart driver Ben Maier. Sofia d’Arrigo (Nitro Kart) and Elliott Cox (Benik) are among those looking to challenge throughout the weekend.
The new Briggs 206 category saw great numbers down in Daytona, however, the early numbers are a lot less then that of December. Six drivers are entered thus far heading into the weekend. Zach Linsell (MGM) is the point leader coming off two podium finishes in Daytona. Eric Fagan (Eagle) and Sarah Luoma (Extreme) are the only other drivers set for their second start in the series, with Brian Collins, David Kalb Jr. and Ryan Miller set to make their debut.