EKN Trackside: United States Pro Kart Series – New Castle Preview – Part 2

TaG championships coming down to the wire this weekend in Indiana

The second season of the United States Pro Kart Series will come to a close this weekend at the New Castle Motorsports Park – presented by KARTSALE. Round Seven and Eight are scheduled for the August 15-17 weekend, with the New Castle, Indiana facility set to welcome a strong contingent of drivers competing in the four TaG and four Yamaha divisions. The two rounds of racing will decide the eight champions, with the year-end award ceremony scheduled for Sunday evening at the facility.

Completed in 2003, the New Castle Motorsports Park has become a staple facility in North American karting. The 1-mile national course provides all the elements to make a great circuit, including long straights, tight corners, and sweeping turns to challenge the drivers and provide a great backdrop for racing.

eKartingNews.com is proud to partner with the USPKS once again, offering live audio coverage. EKN Trackside Live will provide play-by-play and live timing for those unable to attend by bookmarking eKartingNews.com/live and listen in to USPKS announcer Randy Kugler. Included with the EKN Trackside Live coverage will be articles and reports throughout the weekend. A detailed look at the fields that will compete in all eight divisions is set for the upcoming two days. The first preview article yesterday looked at the four Yamaha divisions, with the TaG preview below.

AJ Myers leads the Leopard Pro division heading into New Castle (Photo: EKN)

AJ Myers leads the Leopard Pro division heading into New Castle (Photo: EKN)

Leopard Pro
Last year, inaugural Leopard Pro champion Kyle Kalish secured the championship one day early with a victory. This year, the Franklin Motorsports/Merlin pilot is up against the wall trying to defend the crown. The season has not been the best in terms of luck this year for the young Illinois driver. En route to victory in Mooresville, a loose airbox cost him a chance at the win as he drove one-handed. South Bend was a battle with qualifying, trying to fight his way through the field back into the top-five. While Pittsburgh aggravated the fractured ribs suffered in early May, forcing a substitute driver on Sunday to salvage points. Thankfully, Kalish appears to be nearly healed, testing out the ribs at a recent on-track session in Dousman, WI.

The downside, Kalish lost the championship lead in Pittsburgh to Round Four winner AJ Myers. The Florida driver has been fast all year, and drove his Checkered Motorsports/PCR entry to runner-up finishes in Pittsburgh to take over the championship lead. Only 50 points separate Kalish and Myers entering the New Castle weekend.

Aside from the championship contenders, a number of drivers will be hunting for the $1,000 to win the main event each day, along with the $500 bonus for winning both, presented by DRT Racing. That bonus was $1,000, with New York driver Mike Giessen scoring a cool $3k in his 2014 USPKS debut at Pittsburgh. Aboard a Mike Doty Racing Deadly Kart, Giessen was dominant in the dry and the wet. The same combination will be in New Castle this weekend, gunning for more cash.

A handful of drivers will be making their first USPKS start of the season in New Castle, looking to stop Giessen and the rest of the drivers. Former EKN TaG Driver Rankings #1 driver Daniel Formal will get behind the wheel of an Arrow chassis this weekend. In a joint venture between DRT Racing and KartSport North America, Formal will make his first USPKS start. Another former #1 driver – Phil DeLaO – is making the trek from Arizona. Joining the Top Kart USA squad once again, DeLaO will return to the USPKS after the inaugural event at GoPro Motorplex last year. One of the most recognizable names in the United States karting will be doubled, with Jim Russell Jr. of Russell Karting Specialties and his son James racing together in the Pro division. Russell is coming off a nine month absence from the kart seat, showing well at the Modesto Grand Prix in the TaG Master category.

Andrick Zeen is set for a return to the USPKS after winning the TaG Senior race at the Modesto Grand Prix. The new Praga North America driver showed speed at South Bend, but was caught up in a number of wrecks not by his own doing. ‘Cowboy’ Cal Stewart is set to make his first official start in the series this season, after subbing for an injured Colton Ramsey in Pittsburgh. Stewart will be in the familiar Top Kart USA outfit on the weekend, looking to ‘steer’ his way onto the podium this weekend.

Jumping over from the Yamaha Pro category are Shawn Sharkey and California driver Andrew Wiener. Sharkey (Merlin) was the sub driver for Kalish in Pittsburgh, having not been in a TaG kart for nearly two years. After the heat race, Sharkey was thrown into the deep end, racing in the rain for the main event and was able to move up into the sixth spot. Wiener made the long trip to race the South Bend round, only to have a number of misfortunes mechanically throughout the weekend. Now the ART GP driver moves over to the familiar TaG machine for New Castle.

The race for the final steps of the championship podium include a host of drivers. Dustin Stross (Tony Kart), Jacob Donald (Arrow), Derek Dignan (FA Kart), TJ Koyen (ART GP), Roger Ralston Jr. (FA Kart) and Elliott Finlayson (Tony Kart) are all vying for the third through fifth, and a piece of the large championship prize package awarded Sunday evening.

Leopard Pro Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Team Chassis Hometown
3 Michael Geringer Praga North America Praga Elburn IL
O3 Michael Ilavia J3 Competition Kosmic Houston TX
8 Brandon Jarsocrak Mike Doty Racing Tony Kart Reading PA
O8 Colton Ramsey Franklin Motorsports Tony Kart Springfield IL
O9 Cal Stewart Top Kart USA Top Kart Dekalb IL
11 Sam Watson FA Kart Belmont NC
12 Kindra Hurlbert Praga North America Praga Northfield MN
13 Andrew Wiener ART GP America ART GP Spring Valley CA
16 Alex Nowysz Margay Adel IA
19 Kyle Kalish Franklin Motorsports Merlin Wauconda IL
21 Jim Russell Jr. Russell Karting Specialties Parolin Raymore MO
23 Mick Gabriel iKart iKart Crown Point IN
26 Nick Landi Tony Kart Old Bridge NJ
28 AJ Myers Checkered Motorsports PCR Palm Harbor FL
29 Andrew Bujdoso Checkered Motorsports PCR Girard OH
030 Jacob Knueven Arrow Sunman IN
37 Adam Crepin Laukaitis Racing Merlin Saint Louis MO
52 James Russell Russell Karting Specialties Parolin Raymore MO
59 Elliot Finlayson Koene USA Tony Kart Yorkville IL
61 Armin Cavkusic Franklin Motorsports FA Kart Chicago IL
67 Andrick Zeen Praga North America Praga Muskego WI
68 TJ Koyen ART GP America ART GP Sun Prairie WI
71 Dustin Stross Tony Kart North Fort Myers FL
72 Mark Boos Tony Kart New Hope PA
75 Alexander Salsbury GGR Rochester NY
77 Phil DeLaO Top Kart USA Top Kart Warminster PA
94 Shawn Sharkey Franklin Motorsports Merlin Charlotte NC
137 Daniel Formal DRT Racing Arrow Hudson NH
168 Melanie Giessen Tony Kart Deer Park NY

Francois Brun-Wibaux enters the finale on a two-round win streak (Photo: DavidLeePhoto.com)

Francois Brun-Wibaux enters the finale on a two-round win streak (Photo: DavidLeePhoto.com)

Parilla Challenge
Just two drivers are entered in what will be the final race of the Parilla Challenge at the USPKS program. For 2015, the class will be eliminated, and these two drivers have a chance to become the first and final champion. Francois Brun-Wibaux (PCR) holds a 15 lead over Cristian Vomir (Kosmic). Francois used his first two wins ever during the Pittsburgh round to propel him into the championship lead while Vomir has yet to win a feature race this season.

Parilla Challenge Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Chassis Hometown
7 Francois Brun-Wibaux PCR Bradenton FL
28 Cristian Vomir Kosmic Hoffman Estates IL

David Malukas is the target in Leopard Junior on the finale weekend (Photo: EKN)

David Malukas is the target in Leopard Junior on the finale weekend (Photo: EKN)

Leopard Junior
The chase in the inaugural Leopard Junior category is far from over. The category has seen five different winners in six rounds of racing, with David Malukas holding on to the top spot in the standings. The Round One winner has led the point standings from day one, and enters the weekend with a 210-point advantage. With the large amount of points still left on the table, and how competitive the season has been, it could be gone after one day of racing. The Top Kart USA driver is carrying strong momentum however, scoring double wins at the Modesto Grand Prix two weeks ago. It was a solid rebound from a challenging weekend at Pittsburgh for the last USPKS event.

Leading the chase toward Malukas in the standings are two drivers who have momentum of their own. Ryan Norberg moved into the second spot in the standings after a great Round Five performance and was set to challenge in Round Six until an engine issue in the rain put the Checkered Motorsports/PCR driver on the sidelines early. Round Six was a great display of wet track racecraft by Zach Holden. The Top Kart USA pilot drove away with the victory, and welcomes the series to his home track, needing a perfect weekend to eclipse the point totals of Malukas and Norberg.

Braden Eves (FA Kart) has steadily worked his way into contention each of the last two weekends, sitting fifth in the standings behind Round Two winner Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart), who has had up and downs all season. Neil Verhagen (Arrow) has been impressive during his rookie Junior campaign, and is on the verge of challenging for a top-five on the championship podium. Mike McAndrews (Birel) is the only double winner in the category, sweeping the main events at his home track in South Bend. A wild card will be the advancement of John Paul Southern into the Junior category after competing in the Cadet divisions all year. The PCR driver will get his first taste of Junior racing this weekend at New Castle.

Leopard Junior Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Chassis Hometown
O1 Brandon Lemke Merlin Eagle WI
1 Mike McAndrews Birel Slinger WI
2 Zach Holden Top Kart Greenfield IN
4 Andre Castro FA Kart New York NY
O10 Michael Benyahia Tony Kart Miami FL
10 Emily Hurlbert Praga Northfield MN
20 John Paul Southern PCR Westlake OH
21 Sasha Brun-Wibaux PCR Bradenton FL
22 Dario Cangialosi Haase Chester NJ
23 Nolan Ruocco PCR Newfield NY
32 David Ilavia Kosmic Houston TX
48 Ryan Norberg PCR Orlando FL
51 Julia Boos Tony Kart New Hope PA
79 David Malukas Top Kart Chicago Ridge IL
91 Neil Verhagen Arrow Mooresville NC
241 Braden Eves FA Kart Gahanna OH

Dylan Tavella leads the Mini Rok Cadet championship (Photo: EKN)

Dylan Tavella leads the Mini Rok Cadet championship (Photo: EKN)

Mini Rok Cadet
Dylan Tavella is regarded as one of the top Cadet drivers in the country this season. Leading the Yamaha Cadet championship, the New Yorker also holds the lead in the Mini Rok Cadet category. Despite a rough weekend in South Bend, the Tony Kart driver holds a 289-point advantage going into the weekend, riding on two wins, a runner-up and third place result. Leading the charge to dethrone Tavella is Merlin driver Alex Bertagnoli. The Round Three winner suffered his worst weekend of the season in Pittsburgh, and is looking to bounce back in New Castle.

The newest winner to the list of USPKS victors is Alex Verhagen. The FA Kart driver scored a dramatic win in Round Six, and sits strong in the third spot in the standings. Devin Boutot (Tony Kart) and Sam Mayer (Merlin) sit fourth and fifth in the point chase, with a trio of drivers looking to move up onto the championship podium. Benik drivers Lance Fenderson and Round Four winner Lachlan DeFrancesco have been fast, along with Austin Schaff (Merlin). The final few spots on the podium for Sunday evenings year-end ceremony is sure to be decided in the final few laps.

Mini Rok Cadet Provisional Entry List

No. Driver Chassis Hometown
2 Connor Cass Merlin Hartland WI
3 Robert Noaker III Praga Duncannon PA
4 Alex Bertagnoli Merlin Algonquin IL
5 Jason Welage Tony Kart Cleves OH
7 David Morales Benik Fort Lauderdale FL
14 Dylan Tavella Tony Kart Massapequa NY
18 Austin Schaff Merlin Sussex WI
22 Sam Mayer Merlin Franklin WI
23 Lance Fenderson Benik Exeter NH
26 Sam Paley FA Kart Hebron KY
30 Lachlan DeFrancesco Benik Fort Lauderdale FL
92 Alex Verhagen FA Kart Mooresville NC
99 Stone Slattery Top Kart Dover NH

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