EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – GoPro Motorplex Preview – Part 2

TaG competition expected to be fierce as series opens up in North Carolina

The United States Pro Kart Series is set to get underway this weekend at the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina. New in 2013, the four event program focused on TaG and Yamaha categories enters its sophomore season with strong momentum. A number of the sport’s top teams and industry members have signed on to support the program, and racers are flocking to the opening round for a chance at the solid prize package set up for each weekend and at the end of the year. Four TaG divisions, along with four Yamaha categories fill out the program for 2014, with all set to provide great racing throughout the year.

The GoPro Motorplex hosted the 2013 USPKS opener, which served as the facilities first major karting event. Located in the hub of NASCAR country, the track is welcoming a wide range of motorsport enthusiasts and continues to grow thanks to the work of the KartSport North America shop located on the facility. The 7/10-mile course is based on the famous and historic Kardromo Parma in Italy, which hosted five world championships during its time. This weekend, competitors in eight categories will begin their fight for a championship of their own.

eKartingNews.com is proud to partner with the USPKS once again, offering live audio coverage throughout the 2014 season. Those unable to attend can visit ekartingnews.com/live for all the play-by-play, courtesy of USPKS announcer Randy Kugler.

Yesterday, the four Yamaha categories were reviewed. Today, it’s a breakdown on the early contenders in the four TaG divisions.

Kyle Kalish is set on defending his Pro title (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Kyle Kalish is set on defending his Pro title (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Leopard Pro
The largest field of the series came at last year’s opening rounds at the GoPro Motorplex, reaching 39 drivers. The pre-entry numbers have 34 drivers scheduled to take the green flag this weekend, with more forecasted to arrive Friday in Mooresville. All will be gunning for the $1,000 to win a main event, along with another $500 to win both features in the same weekend, leaving a possible $2,500 up for grabs to a lucky driver. Championship awards will be plentiful as well, as they all open the year chasing Franklin Motorsports/Merlin driver Kyle Kalish, who used a string of four podiums in five races during last year’s series to claim Pro championship in his first full season at the Senior level. Back for more, the young Illinois driver is ready for the challenge.

It’s a mix of veterans and young guns looking to knock Kalish off the throne in 2014. The top four from last year’s standings are making another run at the title. Jacob Donald was just as good as Kalish – reaching the podium at four races – but missed two rounds due to scheduling conflicts. Back with KartSport North America aboard an Arrow, Donald is gunning for a better result then second this weekend. His KSNA teammate Derek Dignan finished third in the standings a year ago, and is back again for stronger results. He came on late in the season, earning two third-place results, and is ready to pilot the FA Kart to victory. Dignan will be a late arrival however, returning to the United States this Friday from a school trip in Europe.

The strongest driver in the second half of the season last year was Comet Racing Engines’ driver Mark Dismore Jr. The 2013 season was his first aboard the OTK brand, and the veteran was on top of his game the final four rounds. Two wins and a runner-up finish helped to advance him up to fourth in the final standings. The FA Kart driver kept up his training throughout the winter and is primed to continue his reign at the front of the Pro field.

TJ Koyen was among the ‘silly season’ moves during the winter time, as the USPKS contender moves to the ART GP brand. Koyen was fast last year aboard the Exprit brand, but luck was never on the side of the Wisconsin driver. With Mooresville his first race on the new steed, Koyen hopes recent testing puts him in contention early. Jacob Knueven is another driver that has been among the contenders over the past few seasons in the TaG category. The Arrow driver did not have any shining results a year ago in USPKS competition, but he is one not to look over. Aside from Dismore, Arie Ouimet enters the USPKSA opener as one of the more decorated drivers in the field. A 2008 US Rotax Grand Nationals winner and KF3 national champion, Ouimet returns to the seat to contend for the championship. The native Michigander has partnered up with DRT Racing, and will pilot a DR Racing Kart.

Two drivers graduate from the Semi-Pro division that existed last year during the inaugural USPKS season – Gresham Wagner (Arrow) moves up to the Pro level, as does Dustin Stross (Tony Kart). Wagner was the runner-up in the series championship, while Stross stood on the podium in the four races he contested, including two wins.

Leopard Pro Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Chassis Hometown
0 Mark Boos iKart New Hope- PA
3 Michael Geringer Praga dragon Elburn- IL
5 Alexander Salsbury Merlin Rochester- NY
O5 Gresham Wagner Arrow Williamsburge- VA
6 Darin Marcus Merlin Chicago- IL
7 Mark Dismore FA Kart Greenfield- IN
8 Brandon Jarsocrak Haase Reading- PA
8 Colton Ramsey Tony Kart
10 Jacob Donald Arrow Jeannette- PA
11 Kyle Smith PCR State College- PA
12 Kindra Hurlbert Praga Northfield- MN
14 Steven Arens CRG Davisburg- MI
16 Chris Wehrheim Top Kart
17 Brandon Collins Tony Kart River Forest- IL
19 Kyle Kalish Merlin Wauconda- IL
23 Arie Ouimet DR Kart Plymouth-MA
24 Carter Fartuch DR Kart Bluff City- TN
26 Nick Landi Tony Kart
27 Jordan Bernloehr CRG Lakeville- MN
28 AJ Myers PCR Palm Harbor- FL
29 Andrew Bujdoso PCR
30 Jacob Knueven Arrow Sunman- IN
32 Austin Jordan PCR Seminole- FL
38 Scott Kopp Tony Kart Big Bend- WI
41 Killian Keaveny Top Kart annandale- MN
42 Adam Taylor Arrow Shorewood- IL
59 Elliot Finlayson Tony Kart Yorkville- IL
61 Armin Cavkusic FA Kart Chicago- IL
68 TJ Koyen ART GP Sun Prairie- WI
69 Anthony Granata Tony Kart Itasca- IL
71 Dustin Stross Tony Kart North Fort Myers- FL
82 Troy Hottmann Merlin Oconomowoc- WI
88 Sam Cate Tony Kart Richmond- IN
92 Dominic Tesoro PCR Plant City- FL

Mike McAndrews is among the many contenders for this year's Leopard Junior title (Photo: DavidLeePhoto.com)

Mike McAndrews is among the many contenders for this year’s Leopard Junior title (Photo: DavidLeePhoto.com)

Leopard Junior
New for 2014 is the Leopard Junior division, with many of the younger Semi-Pro drivers taking part in the first championship chase. That includes the champion from last year, Mike McAndrews. The MRP Motorsport/Birel America driver won the last five races to claim the title, and carries that momentum into 2014. A stout field of young talent will attempt to block his bid at a second championship. Among them is the Yamaha Junior champion from 2013 Zach Holden. The Top Kart USA pilot was among the championship challengers at the Florida Winter Tour, placing runner-up in the standings. His Top Kart teammate David Malukas edged him out in the title chase. The Illinois driver contested the Yamaha Junior division a year ago, and is set for double duty action this year.

Matt Solarczyk (Birel) – December 2013 EKN Driver of the Month – and Braden Eves (Tony Kart) contest the Semi-Pro category in 2013, so they enter this year with experience. This is the first Leopard Junior seasons for Anthony Gangi Jr., Brandon Lemke, and Neil Verhagen. Gangi (Tony Kart) is a former Cadet national champion, ready for the next challenge that is Junior level racing. Lemke was a Yamaha Junior driver a year ago, but raced most of the year in Cadet. This will be his first full season in the Junior ranks. Verhagen is another successful Cadet driver, coming just 10 points away from the Yamaha title. All will be racing for a $750 cash purse on the weekend, with the overall weekend winner earning $500 and second $200.

Leopard Junior Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Chassis Hometown
O1 Brandon Lemke Merlin
1 Mike McAndrews Birel
2 Zach Holden Top Kart Greenfield-IN
4 Andre Castro FA Kart New York-NY
7 Anthony Gangi Jr Tony Kart Brookville-NY
10 Emily Hurlbert Praga Northfield-MN
11 Evan Fritts PCR Toledo-OH
12 Matt Solarczyk Birel Ashburn-VA
16 Nick Luedeke PCR Brunswick-OH
21 Sasha Brun-Wibaux PCR Bradenton-FL
22 Dario Cangialosi Haase Chester-NJ
23 Nolan Ruocco PCR Newfield-NY
29 Kaitlyn Melton Birel Lancaster-SC
41 Braden Eves Tony Kart
47 Roman DeAngelis Tony Kart Belle-River
48 Ryan Norberg PCR Orlando-FL
51 Julia Boos iKart New-Hope
55 Michael Rutter Tony Kart Downers-Grove
79 David Malukas Top Kart Chicago-Ridge
86 Jarett Belge iKart Jamesville-NY
91 Neil Verhagen Arrow Mooresville-NC

Brian Fisher is among the drivers in the new Parilla Challenge

Brian Fisher is among the drivers in the new Parilla Challenge

Parilla Challenge
The new Parilla Challenge category is a combination of last year’s Masters division and the elder portion of the Semi-Pro class. Non-pro drivers under the age of 30 are permitted to race in the Challenge class, against drivers over the age of 30. The class also offers two engine packages, with the Parilla Leopard and the IAME X30 engine at a heavier weight. Just nine drivers have registered for the category going into the first weekend of the series, with more scheduled to participate.

Defending Masters champion Chuck Gafrarar has elected not to defend his crown this year, allowing those entered to get the first step toward a title behind them. Familiar names include DRT Racing’s Brian Fisher, a contender at the Stock Moto ranks in road racing and in the Masters divisions at the sprint track. He’ll pilot a DR Racing Kart for some TaG competition this weekend, and looking to fight for the championship. Brian Seward is a respected engine builder out of the Indy area, and is piloting an ART GP kart, which is looking to build a following on the eastern half of the country. Laurentiu Mardan (Praga) was a race winner last year at the Mid-Summer Classic held in Wisconsin, back for more as he visits the GoPro facility for the first time. The iKart brand is expanding quickly, and four drivers from the New York area plan to take on the new Challenge category.

Parilla Challenge Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Chassis Hometown
7 Francois Brun-Wibaux PCR Bradenton-FL
28 Cristian Vomir Kosmic Hoffman Estates-IL
36 Stefano Maestri iKart Binghamton-NY
63 Brian Seward ART GP Middletown-IN
78 John DaCosta iKart Centereach-NY
82 Laurentiu Mardan Praga Arlington Heights-IL
90 Brian Fisher DR Kart Gray-TN
93 Tony Barbagallo iKart Fairport-NY
625 Gary Peterson iKart Webster-NY

Early favorite in the new Mini Rok Cadet class is Dylan Tavella (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Early favorite in the new Mini Rok Cadet class is Dylan Tavella (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

Mini Rok Cadet
The eighth category to the 2014 USPKS class structure is the Mini Rok 60 division. The class provides the Cadet level drivers a second option to compete in on the weekend, similar to the Senior and Junior pilots. The Vortex powerplant has grown exponentially throughout the country, and is hitting the Midwest and northeast this season with a big surge of drivers.

The favorite going into the weekend is 2013 Rotax champion Dylan Tavella. Already earning a national championship at the GoPro facility, and just crowned international champion last weekend in California, the Tony Kart driver is among the top Cadet drivers in the country. He will have 28 other drivers all fighting for a piece of history, to become the first USPKS Mini Rok race winner, and later this August, the first series champion. It’s a good mixture of drivers, ranging from New Hampshire all the way down to Florida. Yamaha Cadet champion Sam Mayer (Merlin) will also do double duty, as will 13 others competing in both Cadet categories.

Mini Rok Cadet Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Chassis Hometown
2 Connor Cass Merlin Hartland-WI
3 Derek Carmenate Benik Miramar-FL
O3 Robert Noaker III Praga Duncannon-PA
4 Alex Bertagnoli Merlin
5 Jason Welage Tony Kart Cleves-OH
O7 David Morales Benik Fort Lauderdale-FL
O8 Devin Boutot Tony Kart Naples-FL
8 Hannah Greenemeier Arrow Parker-CO
11 Parker Abed Merlin Buffalo-MN
13 Brian Tremper Jr Haase New Hampton-NY
14 Dylan Tavella Tony Kart Massapequa-NY
18 Austin Schaff
20 John Paul Southern PCR Westlake-OH
21 Griffin Kunz Praga Leesburg-VA
22 Sam Mayer Merlin Franklin-WI
23 Troy Fenderson Benik Exeter-NH
24 Nic Sheppard PCR Gobles-MI
26 Sam Paley FA Kart Hebron-KY
30 Lachlan DeFrancesco Benik Fort Lauderdale-FL
55 Max Kaeser Cincinnati-OH
80 Kaylen Frederick Tony Kart Potomac-MD
87 Jeremy Fairbairn AM Kart Wellington-FL
88 Pauly Massimino Top Kart Indian Trail-NC
92 Alex Verhagen Arrow Mooresville-NC
99 Stone Slattery Top Kart Dover-NH

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