KartSport North America/AMR Score RoboPong 200 Pole Position
Veteran Jones lays down fast time aboard Arrow machine - Speth, Malukas and Bertagnoli on top in Yamaha
The first official day of the 11th annual RoboPong 200 went into the books without any issues. Great weather greeted the competitors in both the endurance event, along with the three Yamaha support categories, and the hundreds of spectators on hand for the Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Challenge at the New Castle Motorsports Park in central Indiana. A long and busy day packed in practice, a one-hour race for the Pro-Am, qualifying for all four events along with 15-lap Prefinals for the Yamaha divisions. The stage is set however for Sunday’s main events, with over $40,000 in cash and prizes to be given away.
The 43-teams were split up into four qualifying groups, based on the times of the final practice session. The CRG Midwest team held the provisional pole position after two groups, and were then bested by the entry that including Jimmy Simpson and Brandon Newey, aboard a brand new Top Kart machine. The final group hit the track, and with the sun descending, heavy wind and more Bridgestone rubber laid down, the track was drastically different from the final practice session. The fast group did not pick up as much speed as projected, until the final lap when Jones was able to record a 1:06.075-lap while getting the checkered flag for the three-lap session. It was better then Simpson’s time by 85 thousandths of a second. Free Spirit Racing ended up third after moving from the ART GP chassis to an older Arrow this morning, with Jacob Knueven behind the wheel. Defending champions CometKartSales.com was fourth as IndyCar’s Josef Newgarden led the way for the ‘Pro’ category drivers. Rising Star Racing, made up of Pro Mazda drivers Spencer Pigot and Neil Alberico completed the fast-five.
The Silver Bullets – with IndyCar’s James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon – were sixth aboard the Comet Kart Sales Eagle kart, but removed after coming over the scales underweight and dropped them to 43rd on the starting grid for Sunday. That moved CRG Midwest, with Tommy Andersen qualifying the kart, into sixth. Top Kart USA Juniors – Zach Holden/David Malukas – start seventh along side fellow Junior drivers Brandon Lemke/Alex Verhagen (Merlin). Checkered Motorsport/PCR USA entries were ninth and tenth. Andrew Bujdoso made some mistakes on his out-lap and final lap, but ended up just a bit quicker than Ryan Norberg in the other PCR chassis.
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It was a lot of New Castle regulars at the top portion of the qualifying order in Yamaha Senior. Mick Gabriel put the iKart chassis on the pole position with a lap time of 1:12.453, edging out Camden Speth (FA Kart) by 33 thousandths of a second with Joey Eppink (Tony Kart) in third. Last year’s Junior winner Braden Eves (Tony Kart) was fourth in his Senior debut while Michael Goodyear (FA Kart) – son of IndyCar driver Scott Goodyear – completed the fast five. USPKS champion Brandon Jarsocrak (Haase) was sixth with Jon Giddens (Tony Kart) seventh, and Trevor DeLong in their personally manufactured chassis eighth. Kody Evans (Merlin) and 2013 USPKS Leopard Pro champion Kyle Kalish (Merlin), making his first Yamaha Senior start ever, in 10th.
The top five drivers were able to get away, with Speth at the point of the field. The group eventually became six with Pesek the quickest driver on the track, able to close in. Gabriel and Jarsocrak locked up, and took over the top two spots from Speth, but the Comet Kart Sales driver fought back to lead the trailing group back to the leaders. Once they caught them, Pesek began working his way forward. He and Jarsocrak hooked up to move from third and fourth to first and second on lap 10 of the 15-lap battle. The group however continued to shuffle for position, with Eppink and Speth grabbing the top two spots. They raced to the checkered flag, with Speth drafting by into the final corner and holding on by 0.026 seconds at the line. Jarsocrak was third with Gabriel slotting into fourth ahead of Pesek.
Braden Eves (Kosmic) used the knowledge gained from running the Senior qualifying session, and turned that into a pole position in an effort to defend his crown from last year. A 1:11.235-lap was best, with the fast five separated by a tenth of a second. Michael Cruz (FA Kart) was second with David Malukas (Top Kart) third, just 0.071-seconds back. John Paul Southern (PCR) was fourth with Emerson Reed (Top Kart) in fifth. Nathan Burk (Top Kart), Zach Holden (Top Kart), Ryan Weyer (Merlin), Tony Petersen (CRG) and Simon Sikes (FA Kart) completed the top-10 after qualifying.
Malukas and Reed were able to come away with the top two position on the opening lap, and established a sizable lead early. A group of three behind them shuffled early, but Holden, Eves and Lemke worked together to close back in on the top two by lap 11. By the final lap, Holden was into the lead with Reed behind him at first. Eves moved into second at turn six, but then was dropped back at turn 10 by Malukas. As they ran down the back straight, Malukas drafted past Holden going into the final corner, and crossed the line first by 0.098 seconds. Eves fought back to finish third over Lemke and Reed.
The 43 drivers were split into smaller groups to complete their three-lap qualifying runs, allowing the fastest drivers from the final practice to hit the track as the final group. The driver with the fastest lap after the four groups was new Top Kart driver Jason Welage. In his debut weekend with the Top Kart USA operation, Welage was the only driver to dip into the 1:15-lap time mark. He cleared the field by four tenths of a second. Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) was second with Zach Pretorius (CRG) in third. Sam Paley (Techno) and Alex Verhagen (FA Kart) was fifth. Madison Campeau (Praga) held the provisional pole position for a while, until dropping to seventh behind USPKS champion Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart). Aiden Harrington was eighth, moving over to the Merlin this weekend as Rober Noaker III (Praga) and Sam Mayer (Merlin) completed the top-10.
The 15-lap Prefinal came down to just two drivers. Welage was joined out front by Betagnoli, as they broke away from the field early and held the gap throughout the race. The win was decided in the final corner, with Welage taking the inside line down the final straight. Bertagnoli went wide, setting up for the outside-inside move through the corner. At the line, Bertagnoli was able to edge out Welage by just three thousandths of a second. Paley ran third the entire time with a gaggle of karts fighting for fourth. Tavella, held the spot for most of the race, and held on for the position with Mayer up to fifth.