EKN Exclusive: SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII – Preview Program – TaG Master

High drama, numerous contenders and an exciting SuperSunday forecasted in sold out category

eKartingNews.com is proud to present the official Preview Program for the SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII. As the Official Media Partner of Superkarts! USA, EKN will preview each of the nine categories that will compete outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino from November 19-23 in Las Vegas.

For complete coverage of the SKUSA SuperNationals XVIII, visit the EKN Event Page

This year is redemption for Ethan Wilson (Photo: dromophotos.com)

This year is redemption for Ethan Wilson (Photo: dromophotos.com)

You could not have written the drama that unfolded in the TaG Master division last year at the SKUSA SuperNationals. After surviving through the wet weather from Thursday through to Saturday, the aggression was high on SuperSunday. Contact took out a few contenders, and then following the event, tech inspection removed two of the podium finishers, including provisional winner Ethan Wilson. It was a wild race for those in the grandstands and heartbreak for one of the sport’s most liked drivers.  Will we see another weekend of excitement from the TaG Master line-up this time around?  We’d say that you can bet on it.  Another full field of 44 drivers will be in the house, although six of the drivers from last year’s top-10 are not back for this addition, including official winner Jim Russell Jr..

Championship Chase:

The race will be one of redemption for Ethan Wilson. An engine timing issue took what was an emotional victory away from the karting veteran at last year’s SuperNats. While the loss of the victory was devastating, it has also been a driving force in a 365-day program to return to the Rio and be better than he was in 2013. The Phil Giebler Racing / FA Kart driver was a contender all season in the California ProKart Challenge, and won the third round of the SKUSA Pro Tour in Modesto. Wilson is always strong on temporary circuits. The inaugural Pro Tour champion enters this year’s finale sitting 58 points back of Billy Cleavelin for the TaG Master title, so he’ll be gunning for points in all three of the heat races. Cleavelin, a two-time SuperNationals winner, has been fast all season, and finally won his first Pro Tour race on Sunday at the SummerNationals, putting the CRG-USA driver at the top of the championship standings. Trailing the two is Oklahoma’s Anthony Honeywell. The 33-year-old has been right there all season, standing on the podium at the SpringNationals, but has yet to earn that elusive Pro Tour win. For this year’s SuperNats, Honeywell is teaming up with former Pro Tour champion Brian McHattie for an attack on the SuperNationals win, and possible run at the title. McHattie will be tuning for Honeywell and is also supplying engines from his own program in an effort to propel the ‘Honey Badger’ to the front.

Who to Watch For:

Two-time SuperNationals winner Billy Cleavelin enters the SuperNats leading Pro Tour standings (Photo: dromophotos.com)

Two-time SuperNationals winner Billy Cleavelin enters the SuperNats leading Pro Tour standings (Photo: dromophotos.com)

Before last year’s win by Jim Russell Jr., the TaG Master category had been dominated for three successive years by Brazilian Leonardo Nienkotter. The rain slowed the three-time SuperNationals winner through the heat races, putting him 10th on the grid for last year’s SuperSunday. Fighting his way forward, Nienkotter reached the front of the field, but racing contact put him back outside the top-five and he eventually wound up to fourth in the official results. Back with J3 Competition for a shot at his fourth victory, Nienkotter will be aboard their new COMPKART chassis, which will be making its debut in Las Vegas.

The incident that Nienkotter was part of in last year’s main event also involved Colorado’s Scott Falcone. Despite the DNF, the KartSport North America / Arrow driver clinched the Pro Tour championship and he will carry the SKUSA #1 plate into Las Vegas with only victory on his mind. Australian Kip Foster was involved in the wreck as well, continuing his ‘hard knock life’ at the SuperNationals. A provisional two-time winner in Las Vegas, only to see the wins removed after technical inspection, Foster will be running alongside Falcone under the KartSport North America tent and is looking to avoid more on and off-track issues to secure his first SuperNationals victory.

Three of the top-10 finishers from 2013 will be in the hunt for a podium finish this year. Kevin Manning (Mike Manning Karting / MMK) is coming off a win at the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix, so he’ll have momentum on his side. Diego Pelosi (Orsolon Racing / Tony Kart) is fast in every event he attends, as the Southern California driver is looking to improve on his sixth place result. Brent Lyman recorded his best finish at the SuperNationals last year after a couple other attempts. He was part of the Russell Karting Specialties / Parolin trio that finished inside the top-10 a year ago, which included Russell’s win and Chuck Gafrarar in fifth. Neither of the podium finishers will be competing, although Russell will be in Vegas to turn the wrenches for Lyman.

2013 Pro Tour champ Scott Falcone will be a contender once again in Vegas (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

2013 Pro Tour champ Scott Falcone will be a contender once again in Vegas (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

IndyCar’s presence at the SKUSA SuperNationals has been a constant year after year, as we continue to remember the late Dan Wheldon, who was a strong proponent of the sport of karting. The latest announcement of Marco Andretti entering the SuperNationals roster in S1 puts him alongside reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power. The Aussie made his SuperNationals debut in the TaG Master division last year, racing inside the top-five throughout event in a performance that included a heat race win. Power (KartSport North America / Deadly) led at one time during SuperSunday, but a wreck involving him and former Indy Lights winner Bobby Wilson took them both out of contention. Back to Las Vegas with the IndyCar title monkey off his back, Power can enjoy his time at the SuperNationals and contend once again for the victory. A great addition to the event will be the participation of Richie Hearn (Mike Manning Karting / MMK), as the former IRL and Champ Car driver has found his way back to the sport where he learned the craft.  Hearn has a championship pedigree in karting from his younger years, but he’ll have to rise to the occasion to battle the top-level talent that is seen each year at the SuperNationals.

Podium Predictions:

Rob Howden – EKN Editor-in-Chief
1. Ethan Wilson
2. Will Power
3. Leonardo Nienkotter
4. Kip Foster
5. Scott Falcone

IndyCar champion Will Power will make his second SuperNationals start in TaG Master (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)

IndyCar champion Will Power will make his second SuperNationals start in TaG Master (Photo: On Track Promotions – otp.ca)

The SuperNationals is a long five-day battle to come out ahead of the crowd. In years past, we’re seen drivers getting involved in heat race incidents that have hurt their starting spots for SuperSunday, and this make it very tough to get back to the front, considering the strength of the field.  Keeping clean is key, and Ethan Wilson is one of the best at it. He has extra motivation this year, having lost last year’s race on the slimmest of margins in the tech barn. Wilson has been strong all year on temp courses and it is my feeling that he will rise to the occasion and redeem himself from 2013. As for placing Will Power in second, I was really impressed with his pace last year and we all know his abilities and his racecraft. I think he’ll be strong all week.  Nienkotter and Foster have long been frontrunners in the field, and Nienkotter could join the elite ranks of drivers with four SuperNationals wins.  Scott Falcone knows how to run up front and win, so he could get the job done as well, but he’ll need to keep his nose clean and avoid the contact that plagued him last year.

David Cole – EKN Managing Editor
1. Kip Foster
2. Ethan Wilson
3. Will Power
4. Leonardo Nienkotter
5. Billy Cleavelin

It’s a toss-up. As I sit here writing this prediction, I still have not filled out the top-five. I’m waiting for the look into the future to hit me…and here it is. After years of disappointment, Foster is able to keep clean on the track, stay compliant through tech inspection, and enjoy the podium ceremony inside the Rio with his first TaG Master victory. Wilson will come up just short in the Vegas battle, but win the war for his second Pro Tour championship. Power finishes a respectable third with Nienkotter adjusting fast to the new Comp Kart to land it on the podium in the chassis debut. Cleavelin will overcome issues early on to drive his way to fifth.

Provisional TaG Master Entry List

No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Engine Builder State Country
76o Anthony Honeywell Honeywell Competition Tony Kart ROK TT Cook Racing Engines OK USA
269 Armand Fumal Franklin Motorsports Merlin X30 BEL
19c Billy Cleavelin CRG-USA CRG Motori 7 CA USA
44z Brent Lyman Russell Karting Specialties Parolin Leopard Russell Karting Specialties FL USA
51y Carl Freese Leading Edge Motorsports Intrepid ROK TT Leading Edge Motorsports CA USA
84 Christian Dischner Top Kart USA / Grand Products Top Kart Leopard P1 Racing Engines DEU
121y Corey Mitchell Rolison Performance Group Kosmic X30 P1 Racing Engines CA USA
97 Dale Cheeseman Top Kart USA / Grand Products Top Kart Leopard CA USA
69r Dave Kunicki Team VemmeKart / Extreme Karting Vemme Leopard SwedeTech CAN
24b David Barbosa Ron White Racing CRG Leopard Joe White Racing Engines BMU
507 Diego Camodeca OTK Leopard Bordogna Racing Engines ARG
622 Diego Pelosi Orsolon Racing Tony Kart X30 CA BRA
110 Eduardo Dieter Team Techspeed Techspeed X30 BRA
49y Ethan Wilson Phil Giebler Racing FA Kart ROK TT D Power Racing Engines CA USA
8y Federico Aquini Italcorse America Italcorse X30 Pinzini Racing Engines ITA
07 Francois Brun-Wibaux Checkered Motorsports PCR Leopard Comet Racing Engines FL USA
177y Gary Haney Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA Italkart X30 CA USA
155p Hector Alvarez Champion Racing Intrepid ROK TT Altech Racing Engines PRI
88 Javier Fernandez Team VemmeKart / Extreme Karting Vemme Leopard SwedeTech ARG
1t Jesus Robles ART GP America ART GP ROK TT D Power Racing Engines TX MEX
48y John Lewis Online Racing Tony Kart Motori 7 Cameron Karting CA USA
57a Jorge Borelli Orlando Karting Center Tony Kart ROK TT SwedeTech BRA
74 Juan Manuel Baco Team VemmeKart / Extreme Karting Vemme Leopard SwedeTech ARG
23k Kevin Manning Mike Manning Karting MMK X30 Mike Manning Karting CA USA
20a Kip Foster Kartsport North America Kosmic Leopard Kart Force Racing Engines AUS
21 Leonardo Nienkotter J3 Competition Comp Kart ROK TT J3 Competition BRA
92 Marco Regadas Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA Italkart Leopard IM Tuning BRA
011f Mario Barrios D Power Gillard ROK TT FL PER
81x Michael Middleton Phil Giebler Racing Tony Kart X30 P1 Racing Engines CA USA
133 Olivier Meurens Franklin Motorsports Merlin X30 BEL
131y Paul Hohlbein Praga ROK TT NV USA
104 Pierre Allemand Russell Karting Specialties Parolin X30 FRA
223 Pierre-Yves Corthals Franklin Motorsports Merlin X30 BEL
11t Ric Baribeault 3G Kart Racing / Team Burger King Birel Leopard SwedeTech TX USA
70y Richie Hearn Mike Manning Karting MMK ROK TT Mike Manning Karting NV USA
45r Ron Hyde Italian Motors USA / Italkart USA Italkart Leopard IM Tuning CAN
122z Russell Francis Pure Karting Tony Kart X30 P1 Racing Engines OR USA
111m Salvador Bortoni Bortoni Motorsports CRG ROK TT Bortoni Motorsports MEX
120 Sandrei Da Silva CRG-USA CRG Leopard SwedeTech BRA
1 Scott Falcone Kartsport North America Arrow Motori 7 Corwin Motorsports CO USA
32 Scott Simpson Kartsport North America Arrow Leopard Kartsport North America AUS
777n Tom Gerstner Mike Manning Karting CRG ROK TT Mike Manning Karting NY USA
77x Vatche Tatikian Phil Giebler Racing FA Kart ROK TT D Power Racing Engines CAN
5 Will Power Kartsport North America Deadly Leopard Comet Racing Engines AUS

EKN Global Members Discussion: