EKN Trackside: 2014 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SpringNationals – Saturday Report

Lennox outruns S1 at Dallas Karting Complex as number of drivers earn first series victory on day one

UK driver Jordon Lennox-Lamb emerged as the S1 victor (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

2014 SKUSA Pro Tour logoHigh grip and ultra-competitive racing was the theme for the opening day of action at the SKUSA SpringNationals.  The tough conditions made it tough on the drivers and put the mechanics to work trying to eliminate grip, and this separated the field into the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in terms of workable chassis set-up.  The weather was perfect, with warm temperatures, blue skies and a light breeze.  The Dallas Karting Complex has offered up an incredible atmosphere and with over 240 drivers in the paddock, the main events had everyone fired up.  The arrival of a group of European factory drivers turned the S1 class into international warfare, while the 40-kart TaG Senior field battled from front to back.  Jordan Lennox steered his PSL Karting CRG to the win in the S1 Pro Stock Moto class, just outrunning Nick Neri (OGP/Tony Kart), while Jake Craig (2Wild Karting/Tony Kart) bested a full field of TaG Seniors, including DKC/SodiKart USA team pilot Louie Pagano.  The SKUSA Pro Tour is now underway, and the journey to the #1 plates has begun.

Pure Karting S1 Pro Stock Moto
A record 26 drivers took to the track for the opening qualifying session of the 2014 Pro Tour season in S1. The best from North America have seen a Euro invasion this weekend, as four international pilots made their S1 debut at the SpringNationals. Early on, the Americans held the provisional pole position as Texan Conner Wagner (FA Kart) owned the spot until S1 rookie Oliver Askew (Tony Kart) jumped up to the point. After the halfway point, the Euros began creeping up the order, including CRG factory drivers Jordon Lennox-Lamb and Davide Forѐ. With three minutes remaining, Lennox stole the top spot from the Ocala Gran Prix’s Askew, running roughly a tenth quicker. That was his magic lap, as he pulled into pit lane, securing a new track record in the process, at 50.856-second lap. Askew settled for second with Forѐ third. OGP’s Nick Neri (Tony Kart) was fourth while defending S1 champion Joey Wimsett (CRG) completed the EKN Fast Five.

UK driver Jordon Lennox-Lamb emerged as the S1 victor (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

UK driver Jordon Lennox-Lamb emerged as the S1 victor (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

The start of Heat One had ‘Five-Time’ putting on a show for the S1 field, as multi-time Euro champion Forѐ earned the win. From the inside of row two, he grabbed the holeshot from Lennox and Askew on the front row. The Euros filled out the first three positions early as Lennox was second and Abbasse third. Behind them was a crazy scrap for position which saw Sabré Cook (CRG) emerge with the fourth position and up to third for a time as Lennox was pushed out of the top-five. The top two of Forѐ and Abbasse pulled away from the field, finishing 1-2. Cook held off challenges early, but eventually fell to sixth in the order. Lennox fought his way forward and was the first to get around the former S2 champion, with Neri and Askew getting by in the closing laps.

Lennox showed that he may have the goods to drive to the win, fighting his way to the victory in the second heat race. Forѐ held the lead from the pole with Abbasse, Neri, Askew, and Lennox filling the top-five. Abbasse took over the lead on lap two, dropping Forѐ back to fifth. Neri then took his turn at the point, securing the position on lap four. Lennox, however, was methodically working his way up, slotting into the second position. On lap six, the PSL Karting/CRG driver took over the lead from the Florida pilot, holding on to the checkered flag. Neri was second with Abbasse third. Askew and Forѐ completed the top-five while Fritz Leesmann (Aluminos) was gaining positions, eventually working his way up to sixth.

Throughout the day, Lennox set the pace each and every session, showing that he had the speed to secure victory. The key was making all 16 laps without incident and keeping his CRG in line. Fireworks launched at the start of the S1 feature with Lennox, slow off the line all day, not getting the best start possible. Abbasse, who started third, dove to the inside line of the track and was working past the UK pilot when contact was made. This resulted in the Frenchman spinning backwards in the middle of the course, in front of the entire field. Cook was the first driver to hit the stranded SodiKart, damaging both machines to force retirement. Other drivers were collected in the scattering to avoid Abbasse and Cook.

Out front, the OGP duo assumed the top spots with Neri out front and Lennox behind Askew. Lennox went on the assault early, into second with a pass on Askew at the end of the long straight. Five circuits later, he used the same maneuver to get around Neri for the lead. Lennox was the only driver to dip below the 51-second mark throughout the race, running just a tenth of a second off his track record lap in qualifying. It was a 2.7-second margin of victory for the PSL Karting/CRG pilot. Neri and Askew was second and third, standing on the podium at their first SpringNationals in S1. Leesmann was fourth at one time, but the Italian Forѐ scored the position at the checkered flag. S1 rookie Augie Lerch (Tony Kart) worked past veteran Ron White (CRG) after hounding him for a number of laps to take sixth, while Billy Musgrave (CRG) was eighth. Wimsett ended up ninth, fighting a bent steering shaft, while Dutch driver Milan Dontje (CRG) came home 10th.

Leading Edge Motorsports TaG Senior
Local knowledge is always beneficial at a race of this level and national frontunner Louie Pagano was a perfect example of this fact as he drove his DKC SodiKart to the pole in TaG Senior with a time of 55.195 seconds.  The California driver is the team pilot for the Dallas Karting Complex squad, so he’s got a few laps on the track here in Caddo Mills.  2Wild Karting’s Jake Craig (Tony Kart) was right there during the timed session, less than a tenth of a second off the pole pace. Italian Motors drivers Yurik Caravalho and veteran David Jurca had their Italkarts dialed in, sitting third and fourth on the grid for the start of heat one. Jake Preston (FA Kart) was wicked fast as well, delivering his best career Pro Tour effort to complete the fast five.

California driver Jake Craig outran and outlasted the wild TaG Senior field (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

California driver Jake Craig outran and outlasted the wild TaG Senior field (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

In the opening eight-lap heat race, Pagano jumped out early and set the pace, but was challenged by the 2013 TaG Junior champion Carvalho. Craig was shuffled out of the top-five and allowed the rookie to step as the challenger. The Brazilian led for a brief lap until the veteran Pagano retook the top spot, going on to score the win. Jurca made it Italkart 2-3 with privateer Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) up to fourth over Matt Johnson (Tony Kart).

The second heat got off to a chaotic start, with three separate incidents occurring in the space of the two opening laps.  This all happening behind Pagano, however, as he continued to set the pace out front, but Jurca kept him honest by remaining within a half-second for the entire eight-lap duration.  Craig and Carvalho went at it in the late-going, swapping the third position with some pod-to-pod contact.  Craig would come out on top at the stripe.  Travis Lowe (Kosmic) continued his recovery from a rough qualify effort take fifth in the second heat, putting him on the inside of the third row for the start of the final alongside Roger Ralston Jr. (FA Kart).  The best run of the race was delivered by Andrick Zeen, who is wheeling an American-made Margay this weekend. The SoCal driver started dead last after an incident on the opening lap of Heat One, and he drove from 40th to 17th, making passes in virtually every corner of the race track.

Escaping the opening corners was priority number one for many of the drivers in TaG Senior. The main event start was loaded with contact, and karts scattering over the course. When the dust settled, it was Pagano and Craig escaping with the top two positions and Lowe in third. Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart) was up to fourth with Zeen running an amazing fifth after starting 17th. The lead duo stretched out a solid advantage over Lowe, making it a two-man show for the first feature win of the season. Pagano led the first half, before Craig took over the position.

From there, he powered his 2Wild Tony Kart away to a 2.5-second advantage for his first Pro Tour victory. Pagano notched another runner-up finish for his resume, earning solid points in the championship chase. Zeen worked past Wehrheim in the closing stages of the race to make it four west coast drivers in the top-four, as Lowe completed the podium. Brenden Baker (ART GP) was the top rookie in the Final, just one position ahead of another SpringNationals debut by Kyle Kalish (Merlin), up from 20th to seventh. Carvalho was eighth over Lloyd Mack Jr. (Tony Kart) while Luke Waller (Intrepid) capped the top-10. Jurca, was in the hunt all day, had a motor issue on the warm-up lap of the final and retired before the green flag.

Billet Performance Karting S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto
There were 39 drivers on-course for the S2 qualifying session, a line-up that featured a number of young guns and sophomore drivers looking to make a name for themselves. Jarred Campbell is one of them as the Champion Racing/Intrepid driver laid down the fastest lap of the session on his second circuit, holding the pole position to the end of the 10-minute run. Texas ProKart Challenge winner Kolton Griffin (Tony Kart) came within eight hundredths of a second from Campbell’s time, coming in second. The other Texas PKC winner from last weekend, Miguel Lopez (GP), was third. Alex Tartaglia (SodiKart) and Austin Schimmel (Aluminos) rounded out the fast-five.

It was the first Pro Tour win for Kolton Griffin in S2 (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

It was the first Pro Tour win for Kolton Griffin in S2 (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

Campbell was able to get the holeshot to begin the first moto, as Lopez slotted into the second spot behind him. Griffin seemed to have something for Campbell, moving up to second early on before driving all over his bumper as they took the checkered flag. Griffin tried to make a move in the final corners, but did not force the issue, crossing the line alongside the rookie. Lopez was a solid third while Austin Garrison (Tony Kart) came up from seventh to fourth to finish ahead of Tartaglia.

Moto Two was a duel for the win with Campbell and Griffin out front. Griffin earned the holeshot with Campbell slotting into second. The two pulled away, with Campbell taking over the lead on lap three, scoring his second win. Lopez was shuffled back at the start, with Tartaglia, Jonathan Kotyk (Tony Kart) and Luke Shanahan (Tony Kart) into the top-five. Tartaglia fell off the pace in the late going, moving Kotyk to third with Shanahan fourth. Loris Ronzano (GP) finished fifth with Lopez sixth, dropping Tartaglia to seventh.

The feature race was decided in just the first few laps of the 16-lap event, with Griffin taking his first Pro Tour victory. The Pure Karting pilot grabbed the holeshot from outside the front row, with Lopez coming through to take second away from Campbell. On lap three, the front drivers fought for position, with contact resulting between Campbell attempting a pass on Lopez in turn 13. Campbell’s axle was bent, ending any chance for the Intrepid rookie to fight for a debut victory. Lopez race was ended despite getting restarted at the tail of the field. That promoted Sodi Kart drivers Nathan Adds and Tartaglia into the top five, running behind Koytk.

The driver on the move was Garrison, in his first Pro Tour S2 start. Starting 27th, he was into the top-10 by the completion of the opening lap. Moving forward, he worked by both Sodi drivers in consecutive laps to put himself third. A few laps later, it was around his Ocala Gran Prix for the runner-up position. Out front, Griffin scored the win by over three-seconds with Garrison and Kotyk on the podium in their first S2 SpringNationals. Tartaglia was able to work past Adds for fourth, with Sky Finlay (DR Kart) making it three Texas drivers in the top-six. The remainder of the top-10 had career best results for CRG-USA Colorado pilots Ryan Rudolph and Lindsay Brewer in seventh and ninth, sandwiching Austin Schimmel (Aluminos) while Shanahan went from last after a spin in turn one at the start and recovered to 10th.

CRG-USA S4 Master Stock Moto
The S4 Master division featured a number of international drivers, including Mexico, Italy, and New Zealand. It was Italian Gian Cavaciuti (GP) jumping up to the top of the order early on in the 10-minute session, posting a 51.993-second lap to secure the pole position. Trevor McAliser put his Leading Edge Motorsports Praga onto the front row, dropping SuperNationals XVII winner Matthew Hamilton (Aluminos) to third. Defending champion Jordon Musser (Birel) ended up fourth with Mexican Jorge de la Huerta (GP) in fifth.

Kiwi driver Matthew Hamilton scored victory in S4, his second straight SKUSA win (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Kiwi driver Matthew Hamilton scored victory in S4, his second straight SKUSA win (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

McAlister grabbed the holeshot for the first moto, as he and Musser dropped polesitter Cavaciuti back to third in the order. Musser went on the offensive quickly, nearly trying for the lead on the opening circuit. He waiting a lap later, taking over the position and began driving away. T-Mac came under pressure from Cavaciuti and the GP factory driver took over second just as they were ready to complete lap three. Musser drove away to the win by nearly two seconds over the Italian. McAlister held off Hamilton for the third spot with Darren Elliott (CRG) up one spot to fifth over Chris Jennings (DR Kart).

Heat two provided the third different driver at the front of the field, as Hamilton scored the race win. Musser jumped to the lead from the pole position, with Hamilton ducking into second. The two pulled away early, with Hamilton stealing the lead on lap five of the eight-lap event. Hamilton drove to the win over Musser, with McAlister ahead of Elliott with not much action. Jennings completed the top-five once again over Fernando Diaz (Aluminos) with Rob Logan (CRG) up to seventh.

Musser was great off the grid all day, and was quick-draw once again for the 16-lap main event. He and Hamilton drove away from the rest of the field, setting up for a duel for the win. The Kiwi stayed locked on Musser until showing his hand on lap three. Hamilton secured the top position and sent Musser back to second. They continued to pull away from the field as the laps clicked off, with Elliott holding third over Jennings and McAlister. The three drivers were running nose to tail until T-Mac’s rear bumper broke off, and he was flagged off the course. That put Diaz up to fifth, and Jennings to third with a move on Elliott. A few circuits later, Diaz worked past Elliott for fourth in turn 10. Out front, Hamilton appeared to have the race in hand, but a lapper nearly put him off the course and allowed Musser to close in. The 3G Kart Racing driver began posting fast lap after fast lap, cutting into the gap. The effort fell just short, as Hamilton took the checkered flag first for his second-straight SKUSA victory. Musser and Jennings put two Texas drivers on the podium with Diaz fourth and Elliott fifth. In tech, however, Elliott was removed for a timing plate issue, that promoted Logan to the fifth spot over SKUSA #2 Brian Fisher (DR Kart) and Mexican driver Adolfo Anguiano (Energy).

PSL Karting TaG Master
Mastering the grip levels was the key for Billy Cleavelin in grabbing the pole position in qualifying for PSL Karting TaG Master.  The CRG pilot rolled out his fast time of 53.837 on lap four of the five circuits that he laid down.  Only two drivers were able to dip below the 44-second mark, as reigning TaG Master champion Scott Falcone (Arrow) finally hits the 53’s on lap six to secure the outside of the front row for the opening heat.  Brian McHattie (Kosmic) was third on the time sheet, ahead of Hector Alvarez (Intrepid) and Anthony Honeywell (Tony Kart).

A solid jump to begin the main event led Brian McHattie to the TaG Master win (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

A solid jump to begin the main event led Brian McHattie to the TaG Master win (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

Cleavelin took off at the start of the opening heat race, but McHattie and Falcone worked quickly to second and third, pushing the veteran for the position mid-way through the shortened seven-lap run.  By the checker, Cleavelin had stretched back out over McHattie, while Honeywell made things exciting by pressuring Falcone for third.  The challengers for the race win were definitely making themselves known, although nothing was certain at this time of the day.

An early battle for the lead in the second TaG Master heat race between Cleavelin and Falcone resulted in slight contact during an overtaking maneuver in turn one, and the outcome saw the polesitter going off the racetrack, allowing McHattie to slide through to take the lead, an advantage he would not relinquish.  McHattie took full advantage of the opportunity and powered away the race win, which would give him the pole for the 16-lap final.

McHattie would not be denied in his bid for the victory, and he would step up to dominate the main, out-running the drivers he had chased earlier in the day.  The DB Motorsports pilot turned the fastest lap of the race as he left Falcone and Cleavelin to battle it out amongst themselves for second.  And battle they did, as Cleavelin pushed Falcone to the limit, looking for a way back to the front, pressuring his challenger to find his weakness.  The shot would never come, as the KartSport North America pilot held off the two-time SuperNationals winner for the runner-up spot. Honeywell finished one position off the podium and Alvarez in fifth.

SwedeTech Racing Engines S5 Junior Stock Moto
Another solid crop of young drivers filled out the S5 Junior division as the 2014 season got underway with the 10-minute qualifying session. Mexican driver Raul Guzman (GP) was fast on Friday, and continued that pace into the timed session for Round One. Guzman’s time of 51.960 seconds was the only time below the 52-second mark. Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) was back by four tenths of a second. Luis Forteza (CRG) was third with Jacob Loomis (CRG) fourth and Austin Versteeg (Kosmic) fifth in his class debut.

Last lap pass earned Trenton Estep his first Pro Tour victory in S5 (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Last lap pass earned Trenton Estep his first Pro Tour victory in S5 (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

The seven-lap heat race was all Guzman as he grabbed the holeshot and led every circuit to the win. Brooks slotted into second from outside row one, and cleared the fight for third that included Loomis, Trenton Estep (Intrepid) and Mathias Ramirez (Tony Kart). Versteeg stalled at the start, and dropped to the tail of the field after getting restarted. Estep took over the position with about three laps remaining, with Ramirez moving past Loomis on the final circuit for the fourth position.

Guzman took the win in the second heat race, but not without a challenge. After grabbing the holeshot, Guzman was challenge by Estep. They went side by side to begin lap two, with Estep securing the position in turn three. The next lap, with Brooks pressure Guzman, he jump inside of Estep at turn 12. That bunched up the lead group, with Guzman escaping with the lead. Estep came away with second, finishing there at the checkered flag behind Guzman. Ramirez pushed Brooks back to fourth, but lost the spot with three laps remaining. Versteeg, who started 13th, came charging through the field to finish a respectable fifth, moving Loomis back to sixth on the final lap.

One of the best battles throughout the day came in the S5 feature race, won by Texan Estep. Guzman was off the line first, but it was Estep into the lead by turn three. Brooks, Versteeg and Ramirez made up the top-five. Estep paced the field until lap five, with Guzman and Brooks going through at turn 13 and 14. The Intrepid driver stepped right back a few laps later, returning to the lead. The top-six continued to exchange position until Guzman was pulled off with a loose airbox while leading. That put Brooks into the lead until the final circuit. As they received the white flag, Estep dove inside of Brooks for the lead, bringing Ramirez with him. Nothing would change in the order for the final corners, as Estep took his first Pro Tour win. Ramirez was runner-up in his Pro Tour debut, with Brooks also on the podium in his S5 debut. Versteeg ended up fourth with Forteza fifth.

Rolison Performance Group TaG Junior
The opening qualifying session of the day was the TaG Junior group with 24 drivers taking to the track for the 10-minute run. Fast time was set by Junior rookie David Malukas as the Top Kart USA driver posted a 53.027-second lap. Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) was a full two tenths off, with David Rafailov scoring a third spot in his Italian Motors USA/Italkart debut. Justice Lepe (Tony Kart) and Texan Nick Brueckner (Birel) completed the fast-five.

Christian Brooks bagged his first TaG Junior win at the Pro Tour (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

Christian Brooks bagged his first TaG Junior win at the Pro Tour (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

Malukas and Brooks led the field to the green flag for the opening eight-lap heat race, but Rafailov emerged with the lead. Malukas was shuffled back to fifth on the opening circuit as Brooks dropped out of the top-five. That allowed Verhagen and Lepe to slide up into the top three. Lepe moved to second early, as the top three looked to pull away. Malukas and Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) – who started eighth – hooked up and began to reel in the leaders. Just after completing four laps, a red flag was brought out for an incident in turn one. The race was called early, giving Rafailov a win in his Italian Motors USA debut. Lepe and Verhagen made up the top three, with Gangi and Malukas completing the top-five.

Another great start for Verhagen put him into the lead at the start of heat two, as the KartSport North America pilot jumped out to the lead, with Malukas and Rafailov slotting in behind. Rafailov retook the lead quickly, moving past Malukas on lap two and inside Verhagen at turn one beginning lap three. Rafailov led the way until the final circuit, with a charging Brooks going from third to first, holding on for the win. They fought for second behind them, with Rafailov spinning at turn 13. He fell back to 10th after rejoining the field, as Malukas and Verhagen filled up the top three. Gangi ran to another fourth with Lepe, recording the fast lap, in the fifth spot.

The feature race was scheduled for 16 laps, but cut to 10 following a red flag on the opening lap due to two drivers going over on the exit of turn one, both able to walk away. Restart featured a single-file line-up with Brooks at the point until Malukas took the position away on lap two. As the leaders were sorting out their spots, the group hit some dirt at the apex of turn nine. Malukas, Gangi and Verhagen went off course, and dropped down the order. That allowed Brooks, who came away with the lead, as Italian Motors USA driver Luiz Branquinho (Italkart) slid up to second over Canadian Roman DeAngelis (Tony Kart). Brooks held a sizable lead, and the Nash Motorsportz pilot held it to the checkered flag for his first Pro Tour victory. Rafailov fought his way to second, but was removed from the results for an issue with his header, that promoted Branquinho and Koene USA’s DeAngelis to the podium, with Junior rookie Hunter Kelly his first top-five finish with the fourth position. Brueckner, worked his way up in the heat, but was off-course at the start of the race. He fought his way up to the fifth spot after Zach Holden (Top Kart) dropped a wheel to lose position in the final lap.

Black Flag Racing Products TaG Cadet
The d’Orlando brothers kicked off their first SpringNationals with a bang, securing the first and second positions in qualifying. Just eighty-seven thousandths separated the two, as Michael’s 57.332-lap was best over his younger brother Nicholas. 2013 SummerNationals winner Dylan Tavella made it a Tony Kart 1-2-3 with Florida drivers David Morales (Benik) and Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) rounding out the fast five.

TaG Cadet was swept by Michael d'Orlando (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

TaG Cadet was swept by Michael d’Orlando (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

The shortened seven-lap opening heat race was all d’Orlando, as he paced the field the entire way. Morales jumped up to the second spot early, but was pushed back by DeFrancesco at the end. Jagger Jones (Tony Kart) climbed up to fourth with Nicholas d’Orlando fifth.

D’Orlando kept on the pace in heat two, getting the jump on the field at the start, leaving the craziness to happen behind him.  The polesitter was able to pull away to a 1.5-second advantage by the end of the race, but that was partially due to the fact that his brother was busy keeping Morales at bay. Eventually, the Florida pilot was around the New Yorker for the runner-up position. Lance Fenderson (Benik) was fourth with Tavalla in the fifth position.

Completing the sweep, Michael d’Orlando dominated the main event. The Koene USA’ pilot lead all 16 laps for his first Pro Tour victory, missing out on the fast lap of the race by five thousandths of a second to miss out on a perfect score. The fight throughout the race was for second, involving four drivers. In the end, Fenderson secured the position with Myles Farhan (Tony Kart) coming from eighth to the third step of the podium. DeFrancesco was fourth while Nicholas d’Orlando was fifth.

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