EKN Trackside: 2017 United States Pro Kart Series – Liberty Grand Prix Preview
Program returns to Pittsburgh International Race Complex for second stop of season
The fifth season of the United States Pro Kart Series resumes this weekend with the program hosting the second event of 2017. Racers are traveling to the Pittsburgh International Race Complex for the fourth time in series history, with the Wampum, Pennsylvania serving as the site for the Liberty Grand Prix. Round Three and Four will be contested on the 9/10-mile course with championship on the minds of many in the five IAME categories and two Yamaha divisions. Live coverage by eKartingNews.com begins Friday afternoon and continues throughout the weekend at www.ekartingnews.com/live along with updates and daily reports through the EKN social media links – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Of course the big story from the opening round in GoPro Motorplex back in April was the debut of the KA100 category. Twenty-six drivers took part in the inaugural event for the IAME engine package, with Alex Bertagnoli and Dusty Davis becoming the categories first winners. Bertagnoli (Franklin / Merlin) left Mooresville as the championship leader with Brandon Jarsocrak (KSNA / Praga) as the top challenger. Just eight points separate the two drivers entering Pittsburgh. Davis is not following the full schedule, thus promoting veteran 100cc racers Nick Landi and TJ Koyen as fellow championship contenders. Landi (Tony Kart), not on the entry list but expected to be in Pittsburgh, has lots of laps around the Wilson Circuit and could be a contender. Koyen (Innovative / Exprit), one race weekend into his ‘retirement’, came out of Mooresville with a better understanding of the engine package, however, Pittsburgh has never been his best track. The entry list, reaching 23 pre-registered, has a number of drivers that will be in the hunt for the top-five.
The top two are also the drivers to beat in the IAME X30 Pro division. Jarsocrak (KSNA / Praga) and Bertagnoli (Franklin / Merlin) split the victories in the class at GoPro Motorplex. In the standings, Jarsocrak holds a 21-point advantage over Bertagnoli as the two continue their double duty battle. Jacob Donald (KSNA / FA Kart) has had previous success at his home circuit, and will be one driver to watch on the stop watch. Austin Garrison represents J3 Competition at their home track in the headline category, adding to the list of contenders this weekend.
Austin Schaff left Mooresville with his first IAME Junior victories of his career, and is the driver to beat heading into Pittsburgh. The Franklin Motorsports / Merlin driver swept the action Saturday and came away with a second victory on Sunday. It is a Merlin 1-2 at the top of the standings with Maks Kowalski sitting second, back by 55 points. The field is going to be very competitive once again with two-time podium finisher Gray Leadbetter (VSR / Tony Kart) taking the trip from NC to Pitt. Matthew Northrup (Innovative / Exprit) and Colin Neal (MDD / Tony Kart) are looking to improve on their results from April. Local driver Tahlon Yockel (Tony Kart) was very quick at the recent WKA event, and looking for his first USPKS victory. Ocala Gran Prix is bringing three drivers to contend – Dylan Gennaro (Tony Kart), Zachary Hollingshead (Tony Kart) and Jade Hubert (Tony Kart). Watch for rookies Kyle Thome (Franklin / Merlin), Aidan Harrington (Comet / Kosmic) and James Lynch (Comet / Tony Kart).
Colin Neal (MDD / Tony Kart) and James Lynch (Comet / Tony Kart) went back and forth throughout the weekend in Yamaha Junior back in April. Their fight will continue into Pittsburgh, with Neal holding a 10-point gap over Lynch in the championship standings. Merlin drivers Ben Lyda and Arie Venberg were among those fighting in Mooresville, returning for Pittsburgh with Matthew Mockabee (Comet / Tony Kart) entering the mix for the first time in 2017.
Santiago Trisini won both main events in the IAME Mini Swift division, however, Brent Crews holds the championship lead after the first event. With the points accumulated from qualifying and three heat races, Crews (Nitro Kart) holds an 11-point advantage over Trisini (Benik). Annie Rhule (Checkered / Energy) is the next highest challenger, ready to perform at her home track. A number of Merlin drivers may be in the hunt throughout the weekend, including Nicholas Terlecki, Lucas Smalec and Keegan Bosch.
Nitro Kart won the main events in Mooresville for the IAME Micro Swift category. Frankie Iadevaia and Ben Maier took their first USPKS victories back in April. Iadevaia left with the championship lead, with Maier in third. Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Benik) was a top challenger throughout the April weekend, and sits second in the standings, trailing Iadevia by 37 points. Sebastian Ng (Nitro Kart) is coming off two wins at the SKUSA SpringNationals, looking to improve on his sixth spot in the standings. Same with Christian Miles (KSNA / Formula K) and Caleb Gafrarar (Russell Karting / Parolin), who won at Pittsburgh during the WKA event, as they look to improve their position in the standings.
The two winners from the GoPro Motorplex event in the Yamaha Sportsman division – William Robusto and Logan Adams – are not going to be in attendance this weekend in Pittsburgh. This puts Mateo Rubio-Luengo into the championship lead with the Benik driver coming off victory in the category at the WKA event. Annie Rhule (Checkered / Energy) may be the most experienced driver in the field, and hoping for home-track advantage to steal a couple victories. A number of drivers will be doing the double, racing either Mini Swift or Micro Swift with the age range 8-12 years old for the class.