EKN Trackside: SKUSA Winter Series – Ocala Weekend Report
Travisanutto and Jarsocrak split X30 Senior race wins for Kart Republic
Italian Lorenzo Travisanutto became the inaugural X30 Senior champion at the SKUSA Winter Series (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
The Ocala Gran Prix circuit played host to the final round of the Superkarts! USA Winter Series over the weekend and crowned the program’s inaugural champion following Sunday’s action on the 0.6-mile, eight-turn circuit in Florida. The new Kart Republic operation earned its first championship after debuting at last November’s SuperNationals, thanks to an impressive four-round combined performance from Lorenzo Travisanutto. The 18-year-old Italian topped the 34-kart X30 Senior category on Saturday, sweeping the day, and then added a third on Sunday to secure the class championship. Fellow Kart Republic driver Brandon Jarsocrak made his debut on the chassis this weekend for KartSport North America and completed the sweep of the mains for KR, winning on Sunday. Musgrave Racing Company’s Billy Musgrave (Aluminos) was the only S1 Pro Stock Honda driver to compete in both weekends, which automatically gave him the title, while Rory van der Steur (FA) topped the combined Stock Honda field on Sunday to win the day and the class championship in the S2 Semi-Pro Stock Honda category. The X30 Junior battle was hard-fought, bordering on reckless at times, and when the dust had settled, Team Montoya’s Sebastian Montoya (TonyK art) used a pair of podium finishes to win the title.
The X30 Senior field was stacked with talent in both Winter Series events. Travisanutto was out for redemption in Homestead in January, as he sought to score the race win that escaped at the SuperNationals when he was penalized for jumping the start. After scoring a pair of strong finishes during the first two rounds of the Winter Series in Homestead, including a big win on Sunday, Travisanutto came to Ocala with the outright point lead and was a favorite to earn the title. A dominant day on Saturday had all but clinched the crown, as the series factored in one drop within the four rounds, so Lorenzo was able to stay out of trouble to earn the crown with a run to fourth. This opened the door for Jarsocrak to step to the forefront, winning the Sunday Prefinal enroute to a 0.664-second victory in the main. PSL Karting’s Ryan Norberg (Birel ART) made it very interesting as the national #1 plateholder flicked the switch on the afterburners during the final quarter of the race, closing in on the leader over the final five laps, resetting the fast lap on numerous occasions in the process. CRG’s Nordam’s Callum Bradshaw completed the podium on Sunday. Bradshaw’s third place finish on Sunday backed up a runner-up run to Travisanutto on Saturday, which gave him second in the overall point standings. On Saturday, Rolison Performance Group’s Jacob Gulick (Kosmic) was a true star of the race, advancing steadily up from 17th to finish a stellar third. Gulick backed up the result with a strong eighth on Sunday.
SKUSA knew going into the new Florida series that drawing a large Stock Honda field was going to be a challenge, but they put up some incredible prizes to increase the attraction. Entry and tire packages for their 2018 Pro Tour, SuperNationals and California ProKart Challenge would be lucrative for those who attended and finished in the top-four in any of the four classes that were offered. The East Coast does not have the same pool of Stock Honda drivers as the West, and the series was not able to attract many of the competitors from the Northeast-based F Series or the Midwest community. Despite the lack of numbers, the prizes were still up for grabs, and two additional drivers would join Musgrave and van der Steur as the inaugural SKUSA Winter Series Stock Honda champions. All four will get a chance to race in the 2018 Pro Tour with comped entry and tires.
CRG Nordam’s Rod Clinard came into the third and fourth rounds of the Winter Series gunning for the S4 Super Master title, and he won both days to secure the crown. Clinard topped RPG’s Victor Jimenez (Tony Kart) and TB Kart USA’s Farshad Bagheri (TB Kart) on Saturday, and then in Sunday’s main, Clinard once again found himself in a battle with the S2 drivers as he pushed for the S4 Super Master title. Bagheri was fast again and ran second through to the final lap, before almost driving off-track when fuel began spilling from an S2 driver ahead of him. Bagheri kept it out of the barriers, but Mike Rivera (CKR) was there to take advantage of the opportunity, sliding into second.
Ben Schermerhorn (BirelART) and Luke Bhola split the S4 Master Stock Honda wins, as Schermerhorn took the class championship and the entry/tire package for the 2018 SKUSA Pro Tour.
The X30 Master class had a light but strong field of 14 pilots, including four of the top-five from last year’s SKUSA Pro Tour. National #1 and #2 – Derek Wang (FA) and Laurentiu Mardan (Kosmic) – as well as 2016 SuperNationals winner Renato David (Tony Kart) – where joined by Jonathan Silva (CompKart) and Miguel Mier (Birel ART). It was going to be hard-fought for the wins up front. David was an absolute machine in Saturday’s main event, as the Orsolon Racing driver took the lead early and then laid down the race’s fastest circuit on lap 17. From there, he proceeded to lay down eight consecutive 38.6-second laps to defend the late-race pressure from Wang to take the win. Wang had made early contact with Scott Roberts (Tony Kart) that put him off track and deep in the field, so a penalty for avoidable contact advanced Team Nitro’s Silva to second and Danny Robertson (Tony Kart) to third. Roberts came back on Sunday to fulfill his own weekend expectations, commanding the lead of the Prefinal and the Final to score his first SKUSA victory. The triumph advanced him to third in the final championship standings. In the title battle, David finished second on Sunday to grab hold of the X30 Master championship and the ticket to the IAME International Final in France in October. Wang capped the podium on Sunday, finishing the series in second overall.
The X30 Junior field drew a stellar 45 karts to the third and fourth rounds of the SKUSA Winter Series, although the aggressive nature of the racing led to three red flags throughout the course of the event. Saturday’s main featured some tremendous racing all the way through the field, but also a great deal of blatant blocking and defensive driving from front to back as well. This always leads to additional contact as defensive lines stack up the field, and that was certainly the case this weekend. PSL Karting’s Thomas Nepveu (Birel ART) emerged from the chaos to score the Saturday win, but the Prefinal winner was docked five seconds for jumping the start. This advanced Montoya to the top of the podium, moving Speed Concepts Racing’s Arias Deukmedjian (Tony Kart) to second. AM Racing’s Matheus Morgatto (Parolin) completed the adjusted top-three. On Sunday, Morgatto emerged as the winner from a spirited battle with Montoya and SCR’s Tyler Gonzalez (TonyKart), as the trio fought back and forth with many overtakes. Montoya’s consistency through the four races of the Winter Series provided him with a 20-point advantage over Gonzalez in the battle for the X30 Junior title. The heated racing up front should be a signal that this year’s SKUSA Pro Tour is going to be extremely competitive.
Mini Swift has truly developed into one of the best shows on any given weekend, and the racecraft has been impressive at the front of the field. Saturday’s action saw Ocala Gran Prix driver Jeremy Fletcher prove his skills, as he leveraged his track knowledge to score a popular win. The Tony Kart driver pulled to a 2.867-second win over Brent Crews (Nitro Kart) and Alex Powell (Energy). Crews was in dire need of a good finish to get back into the title chase, and this runner-up finish set him up well for Sunday. In Round #4, the scene changed drastically as Fletcher was run over in the Prefinal, forcing him to retire. This would put him on the 19th row for the start of the 22-lap main, and while the remainder of the Mini Swift frontrunners jockeyed for position in the lead group, Fletcher was on the move. While Crews, Powell, Carson Morgan (Benik), Logan Adams (Benik), James Egozi (Tony Kart), Miguel Costa (Benik) and Vinicius Tessaro (Kart Mini) all battled for position, Fletcher quickly made his way into the top-10 after benefitting from an early red flag that bunched the field back up after he had already grabbed 11 positions during the first two laps. Fletcher was re-setting the fast lap of the race through the entire duration of the event, but he came up just short as Morgan was also laying down great laps over the final circuits to hold off Fletcher for the win. Crews joined Morgan and Fletcher on the podium, taking the Mini Swift championship by 45 points over Morgan after dropping his poor result from the opening round in Homestead.
In Micro Swift, each main event featured four or five drivers in the lead pack, all playing the strategy and timing game for the win over the 22-lap distance. Parker DeLong (Nitro Kart), Ben Maier (Nitro Kart), Caleb Gafrarar (Parolin) and Max Garcia (Benik) were the lead quartet on Saturday, with all four taking their time leading the show. In the end, DeLong emerged victorious, scoring a 0.308-second win from Maier and Gafrarar. Sunday’s race was more of the same, although Ethan Ayers (Parolin) was a big part of the lead group storyline on Sunday, after a great drive through the pack on Saturday. Ayers retired early from the Prefinal on Saturday and was forced to come from the tail of the grid in the main, turning in an inspiring performance to finish fourth. On Sunday, Ayers avoided the Prefinal drama and was part of the lead pack with Danny Dyszelski (Energy) added into the mix as well. Gafrarar was on point all race long, but just missed on an overtaking attempt with four to go and was out of the race due to the damage from the contact, which allowed Maier to stretch a little cushion. Maier would capitalize to pull away to a 1.998-second win, while Ayers scored his first SKUSA podium by finishing second ahead of a charging DeLong. The race win, coupled with DeLong’s third, gave the title to Maier, again setting up what we expect to be a year filled with great racing from SKUSA’s youngest competitors.
The Briggs 206 program was a successful addition to the inaugural SKUSA Winter Series, bringing in many different drivers, teams and chassis to make things exciting. TS Racing’s Colin Warren led the VLR contingent in the 206 Senior category, and the Florida resident completed a perfect sweep of the main events in Ocala to go four-for-four in the series. Warren was joined by fellow VLR drivers Chris Giumarra and Saverio DePinto upfront all weekend, but he was also challenged more aggressively this time around by the MGM duo of Zach Linsell and Alexander Searle, and the Canadian pairing of Alex Murphy and Jordan Prior, who were running Birel ART chassis with Prime Powerteam. Warren stretched his win streak to three on Saturday, topping Giumarra and Linsell in the 22-lap final. Warren then drove to a flag-to-flag win on Sunday to secure the title in dominant fashion. DePinto completed a great weekend with second while Linsell bagged his second podium of the weekend in third for MGM.
In Briggs 206 Masters, MGM’s Joey Miller dominated Saturday’s action to win in his SKUSA Winter Series debut. Point leader Eli Yanko (Tony Kart) extended his gap in the championship with a strong second place finish, as the Canadian was in the hunt all day. Dan Breitenstein (Birel ART) capped the podium, as he pushed Yanko from start to finish. On Sunday, Yanko had a quick start in the Final to take the lead, as Miller had to come from the back after a DNF in the Prefinal. Yanko took full advantage of the opportunity to pull out a lead as Miller powered back forward, making a tremendous outside pass on Breitenstein in Turn 1 to grab second. Miller would reel in Yanko, but could not get close enough to make a pass attempt over the final laps. Yanko’s win secured him the Briggs 206 Masters championship, as he took the top step of the podium, flanked by Miller and Breitenstein.
For Superkarts! USA, their inaugural Winter Series should be deemed a major success. It was the organization’s first foray into the state of Florida under the current ownership, and any new series visiting new facilities will have to deal with teething pains. The program drew great numbers, with 220 at Homestead and over 190 at Ocala, and this points towards both a bigger Winter Series in 2019 and a strong start to the Pro Tour, which kicks off on the first weekend of March with the second running of the WinterNationals at NOLA Motorsports Park. EKN will be there to provide our Trackside Live coverage, which includes our Friday afternoon ‘Happy Hour’ show, and full Qualifying to Final play-by-play coverage on the EKN Live page on both Saturday and Sunday. The audio of the races will then be archived and streamed on the EKN Radio Network during the weeks that follow.