EKN Trackside: 2015 United States Pro Kart Series – GoPro Motorplex Saturday Report
Donald and Jarsocrak score Pro victories as Lemke doubles up in Junior division
The 2015 United States Pro Kart Series opened up with official competition Saturday at the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina – presented by Verde Speed Resources. Rainfall began just before warm-up began, and continued through qualifying. The rain stopped after qualifying and the track began drying during first round of heat races, however, the clouds would not go away as a steady mist of precipitation continued to hover over the area. Harder rain fell during a period but the mist continued and the track remained – but nothing like what we saw two years ago. The day almost gave us our first ever double winner in the Pro categories, as Yamaha defending champion Brandon Jarsocrak scored the victory and nearly pulled off the win in Leopard, before Jacob Donald charged in to steal his first series victory. Brandon Lemke doubled up in the Junior categories, as Nicholas d’Orlando, Sam Mayer and Donald Whorton III began the season on top in Cadet.
Franklin Motorsports Leopard Pro
The 42-driver field of Leopard Pro was split up into two groups based on the Happy Hour session. With the wet weather, those times meant nothing as a handful of drivers in the first group were able to stay toward the top of the leaderboard. Among them is defending champion AJ Myers (PCR), who skipped Friday’s action to complete his final school day for the week. Myers posted a 1:01.335-lap to hold the provisional pole time after the first group. The second group saw drivers move up late in the session, with Checkered Motorsports / PCR taking the top three positions. Andrew Bujdoso earned his first pole position by 32 thousandths over USPKS newcomer Phillippe Denes. Myers’ time was good for third, still within 72 thousandths while Brandon Jarsocrak (Tony Kart) was one thousandths off him in fourth. Senior rookie Ryan Norberg put another Checkered Motorsports / PCR into the fast five. Friday’s fast driver in Happy Hour Roger Ralston Jr. (Arrow) had a ignition issue with the key starter, and was unable to make a full lap, putting him at the tail of the field.
It was a PCR 1-2-3-4 finish in the opening heat race, with Myers able to take the checkered flag. Bujdoso led with Myers up to second by the end of lap two. They ran that way until the final lap, with Myers moving into the lead with a dive move at turn five. The defending champ held on to the lead at the checkered flag, with Bujdoso second and Denes third, earning fast time. Norberg came away with the fourth spot as Jacob Donald (Praga) climbed 12 spots to end up fifth.
The second heat was a change at the guard, with Jarsocrak breaking up the PCR stranglehold up front. The field was clean through the opening corner, with Bujdoso and Myers leading the way. Eventually, Jarsocrak was up to second, and then took over the lead by the halfway point. From there, he stretched out to a three-second margin at the checkered flag. Myers worked past Bujdoso for the second spot on the final lap, with Denes in the third position. California driver Andrick Zeen (Praga) moved up one position to fifth after getting involved in an opening lap wreck in the first heat.
PCR filled out four of the top-five on the grid for the main event, but it ended up being a Praga kart at the checkered flag with Jacob Donald scoring his first victory ever at the USPKS. Myers and Bujdoso started on the front row, with Myers out front early on. Jarsocrak, suffering a DNF in Heat #1, started 15th and was into the top-five by the completion of the opening lap. His charge continued until reaching the top spot by lap six. Behind him was the charge of KartSport North America driver Jacob Donald. Just after Jarsocrak took the lead, Donald was around Myers for the second spot. At the halfway point of the 20-lap race, Jarsocrak’s lead was just over eight tenths, but Donald was closing in. On lap 14, the gap was nearly eliminated and three laps later, Donald made his move at turn five. The gamble paid off, coming out of the esses with the lead. Jarsocrak tried to respond but was unable to get back around Donald.
At the checkered flag, Donald scored his first ever USPKS victory, with Jarsocrak earning second, making it a first and second result on the day while nearly pulling off the double in the Pro divisions for the first time. The PCR’s of Myers, Bujdoso, Denes completed the podium. A strong run for first time TaG driver Patrick Olsen in his Innovative Performance Tony Kart entry, placing sixth after starting 20th. Zeen finished seventh with Derek Dignan (FA Kart) eighth. Russell Karting Specialties Jim Russell Jr. drove his Parolin to ninth, with Dustin Stross rounding out the top-10.
Comet Kart Sales Yamaha Pro
With the rain falling in qualifying, the order changed at the front of the Yamaha Pro field for qualifying compared to Happy Hour on Friday. Nick Landi (FA Kart) put himself on the pole position for the heat races, posting a 1:04.798-lap. Senior rookie Xander Clements (Arrow) was just short of stealing the top spot, coming 26 thousandths short. Defending champion Brandon Jarsocrak (Haase) was third, with veterans TJ Koyen (Tony Kart) and Tony Jump (Arrow) rounding out the fast-five.
Jarsocrak was able to move into the lead through the opening corners of the first eight-lap heat race. From there, he pulled out to a four-second advantage over the fight for second. Landi slipped to second with Jump on his bumper. With just a few laps remaining, Jump took over the position and Clements then put the pressure on Landi. The pole sitter fought him off for the third spot, with Happy Hour top driver Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) up one spot to fifth.
Landi and Clements were able to get away from the field in the opening corners of Heat #2, as the rest of the field fought for the third position. Jarsocrak was able to get into the position, and began running down the top two. Once around Clements, he began inching his way toward Landi. Lap six, Jarsocrak was trying to find a way around the top qualifier. Landi looked to have enough to hold off Jarsocrak until the final lap when he went sideways under braking at turn eight. This gave Jarsocrak the corner, the lead, and the win. Clements slipped through to take second with Landi dropping to third in the order. Jump drove to fourth with Koyen fifth, until a penalty put him one spot back after contact with Pesek, which moved Steven Arens (Arrow) to fifth.
Starting from the pole position, Jarsocrak made it no question that he is the driver to beat still for the championship. ‘Money’ went wire-to-wire for the victory, pulling out to a seven-second advantage. Landi, Clements, and Pesek were together, and looked to keep Jarsocrak within reach. Pesek retired early, spinning off at the last corner. Clements dropped back as well, leaving Landi alone in second for his best result in the Yamaha Pro division. Clements dropping back gave Jump the third spot, but he made a mistake, and dropped back at lap 11. This moved rookie Mike McAndrews (BirelART), Koyen, and Clements. Koyen was able to win that fight, scoring third in his Yamaha Pro debut, with McAndrews crossing the line in fourth. A penalty for contact dropped him behind Arens, moving Clements to fourth and Arens fifth after Jump spun again coming to the white flag lap, ending up seventh.
GT7 Leopard Junior
A stacked field of Junior drivers took to the track for the Leopard qualifying session. Brandon Lemke (Merlin) went winless last year in the class, but started the 2015 season on top with the fast lap in qualifying. A 1:00.871-lap was the only time below the 1:01-mark. Defending class champion David Malukas (Top Kart) slotted into the second spot in his second session on track for the weekend. Zach Holden (Top Kart) was third with Canadian Roman DeAngelis (Tony Kart) and Andre Castro (FA Kart) making up the fast five.
Lemke went wire-to-wire in the opening heat race, as Malukas stayed on his bumper. They ran 1-2 the entire eight laps, with Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) climbing up to third. That dropped Holden back to fourth and DeAngelis to fifth.
The fight for the win in Heat #2 was closer, as the top two went back and forth. Malukas led for the majority of the race, but Malukas slipped through at the end to take the win. DeAngelis and Holden fought for third, with Holden going into a slow spin at the white flag lap. This gave the Canadian an easy pass to the third spot, with Holden fighting off Castro and Braden Eves (CompKart) for fourth.
Lemke and Malukas filled out the front row, with Malukas getting the jump at the drop of the green flag. He led for only a lap before Lemke took the top position away on lap two. From there, Lemke drove away to victory, holding a six-second advantage at the checkered flag. Malukas dropped a wheel on lap nine, losing the second spot to DeAngelis. On the final circuit, he made another mistake on the exit of turn eight, allowing Holden through for the third position. Castro completed the top-five.
Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha Junior
Top Kart driver David Malukas missed the practice day on Friday to avoid missing a day of school, helping to save them for future events in a busy 2015 schedule. Arriving overnight, Malukas’ second session on the track was qualifying, in the wet conditions. With plenty of experience here at the GoPro facility, he landed himself the fast time in qualifying. A 1:03.265-lap was two tenths quicker than Brandon Lemke (Merlin). His new Franklin Motorsports / Merlin teammate Gio Bromante was third, two-time defending champion Zach Holden (Top Kart) fourth and Cadet graduate John Paul Southern (Top Kart) fifth.
Lemke shot away from the field to begin the first heat race. Out to a 2.8-second lead, Lemke spun at turn eight, but was able to continue and rejoined the race in the fifth spot. That gave Malukas the lead after he strangled the position away from the rest of the top-five, going on to score the win. Bromante finished second, with Southern up to third. Lemke grabbed one spot before the checkered flag, moving Holden back to fifth.
From the pole position, Malukas drove to a flag-to-flag win in Heat #2. He stretched out his lead over Lemke lap after lap, ending up at the checkered flag by 1.8 seconds. Lemke however was penalized one position for contact early on, moving Southern up to second. Holden drove to fourth with Dario Cangialosi (Deadly Kart) up to fifth from ninth.
Malukas, Holden and Lemke jumped away from the field to begin the main event for the Yamaha Junior category. All three pulled away in the early laps, then began fighting for the lead. Lemke eventually took over the position, as he and Malukas stretched out a lead over Holden. A Merlin vs. Top Kart battle ensued in the final laps between the top two. On lap 14, contact was made between the two, sending Lemke around for a 360 spin and into the barriers. He was able to bounce back onto the track and rejoin, just ahead of Holden. Malukas would go on to take the checkered flag first, but was penalized one position for the contact, giving Lemke the victory. Holden held to third with Southern and Bromante completing the podium.
Orlando Kart Center Mini Rok Cadet
Last year was a dominant year for Luca Mars (CompKart) in the Yamaha Rookie division. Moving up to the Mini Rok division for 2015, the young driver shined in the wet conditions, posting a 1:03.435 lap time to clear the 33-driver field by 1.6 seconds. Pauly Massimino (Tony Kart) was second in the order, with USPKS newcomers Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart) and Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart) close in time. Rounding out the fast five was Merlin driver Robert Noaker III.
Mars went wire-to-wire in the opening heat race, pulling away to a 2.2-second victory. Massimino ran second with Ugochukwu a close third. Jason Welage (Top Kart) advanced two spots to fourth with Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) fighting his way up to fifth after starting seventh.
The second heat was stopped at lap three with a red flag for injured driver Jason Welage. He walked away and the field restarted single file. Mars had already established a solid lead, and re-established that same advantage in the second half of the race to win by over four seconds. d’Orlando was able to get past Ugochukwu for third, with Massimino fourth and DeFrancseco another top-five.
The 16-lap Final was stopped early for a red flag involving Henry Williams, who walked away with a slight foot injury. Once restarted, it was all Luca Mars. His CompKart chassis, tuned by KartWerks was on rails, never missing a beat. It was nearly one-second a lap advantage for the young driver, scoring his first Mini Rok Cadet victory. d’Orlando and Ugochukwu went back and forth once again, this time with Ugo securing the second spot ahead of his teammate. The day was one of advancement for Mayer, as he qualified 11th, put himself ninth on the main event grid, and drove up to fourth. DeFrancesco completed the top-five. Aside from Mars, the show was Massimino. The outside pole sitter spun around at the opening corner at the start, he was able to rejoin and caught back up to the field with the red flag. Coming from outside the top-30, he drove up to seventh in the 16-lap event. In technical inspection, Mars was removed from the with an altered cylinder, with Ugo having an tampered exhaust. That promoted d’Orlando to the top spot of the podium, and the rest of the field up two positions.
Switch Racing Engines Yamaha Cadet
Those who watched the show Kart Life knows the 2014 season for Jason Welage. Moving over to Top Kart at the end of the year, the Ohio driver is making his USPKS debut on the blue chassis. Welage earned his first pole position in the Yamaha session, posting a 1:06.701-lap to secure the top spot. Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) was second in the order over Pauly Massimino (Tony Kart), Kyle Thome (Merlin) and Kaden Wharff (Top Kart).
The battle for the win in Heat #1 came down to two drivers, with Massimino out front early with Welage on his bumper. The two went back and forth until the final lap when Massimino retired on the exit of turn one with a mechanical issue. That gave Welage a clean path to the checkered flag by just over four seconds. Robert Noaker III (Merlin) came from eighth on the grid to take second over Thome. Sam Mayer put another Merlin into the top-five, advancing from 10th to fourth with DeFrancesco in fifth.
It was a four driver battle for the win in Heat #2 with Massimino coming out the victor. He along with Welage, DeFrancesco and Mayer went back and forth for position. Mayer led with the white flag waving, but Massimino got around him at turn four. The North Carolina driver held on for the win with Mayer earning his best finish in second. Welage worked past DeFrancesco for third with Kaden Wharff putting a second Top Kart into the top-five.
Starting from the outside of the front row, Mayer capitalized to lead green to checkered for his first victory since a year ago in Yamaha Cadet. The 2013 champion got a great opening lap to established a solid lead, which was reduced in the late stages by Welage. It was nearly three tenths a lap with Welage on the bumper of Mayer on the final circuit. Mayer kept all four wheels on the track to secure the triumph. Wharff won the battle for third over DeFrancesco with Massimino coming from 11th on the grid to fifth.
QPS Employment Group Yamaha Rookie
The day in Yamaha Rookie belonged to Donald Whorton III (Tony Kart). The Virgina driver scored the top time in qualifying, and won both heat races. From there, he went on to battle for the feature win against William Robusto (CompKart). Whorton triumphed for his first victory in the series. Owen Mahle (Top Kart) came from ninth on the grid to third, with Aidan Hinds (Praga) fourth with Isaac Beekman (Praga) fifth.