From the Tower: 2015 United States Pro Kart Series – GoPro Motorplex

Third season of program begins in North Carolina

USPKS logoThe 2015 United States Pro Kart Series opened up at the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina. Following a solid day of practice on Friday, the over 180 entries per day battled raining conditions on Saturday before things dried out on Sunday. Tight racing was contested in the three TaG divisions, along with the four Yamaha categories, deciding the first two rounds of the eight-race championship. For complete coverage from the weekend, visit the EKN Event Page.

This Is OUR House

Jacob Donald gave KartSport North America its fourth victory in six races at GoPro Motorplex in USPKS competition, and leads the championship standings in Leopard Pro

Jacob Donald gave KartSport North America its fourth victory in six races at GoPro Motorplex in USPKS competition, and leads the championship standings in Leopard Pro

KartSport North America has defended its home turf – the GoPro Motorplex – very well over the course of the three events welcoming the USPKS. In 2013, Austin Self won the opening event aboard a KartSport Arrow, while last year Roger Ralston Jr. doubled up in win column aboard his KartSport FA Kart. This past weekend, KartSport unveiled their new relationship with the Praga brand, adding a third line to their stable. With all three of their top Pro drivers on different chassis brands, each sparked the front of the field. Ralston was quickest in Friday practice aboard his Arrow, Jacob Donald triumph Saturday’s wet main event in the wet, and Derek Dignan was among the quick drivers on Sunday. Both Donald and Dignan came into the event not having a victory at the USPKS program. Donald showed he had the pace in the wet on Saturday, and did the same in the dry on Sunday, placing runner-up after losing the lead on the final lap, not know it was the final circuit. The Pennsylvania driver now leads the championship chase, and hopes to carry the momentum into Shawano in June.

‘Money’ Jarsocrak Cashes In Once Again

Brandon Jarsocrak became the first driver to win Leopard Pro and Yamaha Pro in the same weekend

Brandon Jarsocrak became the first driver to win Leopard Pro and Yamaha Pro in the same weekend

Last season, Brandon Jarsocrak swept the weekend top prize in the Yamaha Pro category, banking $4,000 on the year en route to the championship – all while placing sixth in the Leopard Pro division. ‘Money’ was set to debut with the iKart brand in Mooresville, however, the team opted to save the equipment for this weekend’s SpringNationals in Phoenix. With the old reliables still in the garage, Jarsocrak and his dad prepped the karts and headed down to Mooresville. While Brandon cruised to the title in 2014 in Yamaha Pro, it was do to consistency, finishing in the top-three for all eight main events. While the victory Saturday in the rain was solid aboard his Haase kart, Sunday was a four-kart battle for the win with Jarsocrak coming up short. What was impressive was his improvement in the Leopard ride, entering his second season as a Senior driver. Both in the wet and the dry, Brandon was among the quickest drivers. He won a heat race in both conditions, and came back from running as far back as 10th at one point in the main event on Sunday to steal the victory on the final lap. His victories on the weekend made him the first driver in USPKS three-year history to win in both Yamaha and Leopard Pro ever, and the first to do so on the same weekend. Jarsocrak earned $1000 for the Leopard victory, $500 for runner-up and another $1k as the overall point leader on the weekend in Yamaha for the fifth straight weekend in the series. More is to come from ‘Money’.

Here We Go Again

At the start of last season, much of the talk in the paddock was the rough driving at the opening laps of the Leopard Pro races. Rain racing slows things down, making it less about driver error but more about the conditions. So when the weather cleared for Sunday, the intensity level at the drop of the green flag increased. Much of the drivers at the front of the field were clean, with a few exceptions. Fitting 40 karts into the opening corner requires respect, and also requires race craft – where drivers need to handle a few bumps and nudges. Compare it to a start at the highest level in the sport – KZ – and you can tell the difference between real pro drivers, and those attempting to pretend or just in over their heads.

Leopard Pro Sunday Final start #EKNatUSPKS #GoPro #IAMEUSA

Posted by on Sunday, April 26, 2015

Along with the starts, the new paved section of the turn 1-2 complex at the GoPro Motorplex was not handled correctly. The facility paved the section of the outside of turn one, which lead you inside of the second turn, primarily for the many rental karters that just run out of talent. At this level, drivers should not be missing the turn, and have the skill to check up, and carry themselves through the second corner. Unfortunately, the officials at the USPKS missed the opportunity to enforce this by only placing cones instead of a barrier to avoid drivers cutting through the paved run-off area. While some penalties for cutting the course were called, it was impossible to catch all the guilty parties in some instances.

Merlin Nation Rocks Again

Brandon Lemke's three wins with Gio Bromante's one gave Merlin Nation a sweep in Junior action

Brandon Lemke’s three wins with Gio Bromante’s one gave Merlin Nation a sweep in Junior action

When the Merlin brand entered the United States market, a cult-like following began with those original pilots and their families. The Merlin Nation mantra continues today with Jamie Sieracki and Franklin Motorsports continuing to develop the brand every year for the unique marketplace that is the United States – including the new 29mm chassis. From the Cadet level to the Junior ranks, Merlin is among the more successful brands on the east coast. They proved that theory this past weekend, sweeping the Junior categories this weekend in Mooresville. Brandon Lemke was a solid Cadet driver and advanced to Junior last season. It was filled with some up and downs, but mostly gave the Wisconsin driver confidence going into 2015. It showed throughout the weekend as Lemke won three of the four main events. This year saw a number of the Cadet drivers from last year advance to Junior, along with adding Gio Bromante to the stable. Working directly with Sieracki, the Junior rookie was up to speed quickly and scored the victory in Yamaha Sunday after Lemke and Malukas made contact on the final circuit. A new crop of Cadet drivers are developing quickly, led by former USPKS champion Sam Mayer who gave Merlin two victories of his own.

Rain Racing Makes for Longer Days

Wet and wild was the scene on Saturday at GoPro Motorplex, delaying things over an hour due to extended lap times and multiple pick-ups

Wet and wild was the scene on Saturday at GoPro Motorplex, delaying things over an hour due to extended lap times and multiple pick-ups

Going into Saturday’s event, it appeared the rain would clear out by noon, and the rest of the day would see the track drying out toward the main events. Unfortunately, a misting haze hovered over the GoPro Motorplex and precipitation continued throughout the day. The USPKS staff kept the laps at the same amount, eight for each heat lap and 16 for the main events, with Rookie going 12 and Pro categories at 20. Warm-up began at 9am and the last main event was over just before 7pm. When time-specific schedules are created, they are based on the dry lap times. They also do not account for the double, or triple amount of track pickups needed when wet weather happens. Those two factors help extend the day past the originally scheduled time line.

Speaking with officials that night, it was decided to implement a 20% reduction in laps moving forward for any race sessions that are declared a wet session. Things were in place for Sunday, until the tracked dried up before the end of qualifying. I’d like to compliment the USPKS for being pro-active, and would hope other sanctioning bodies would respond in this matter when it comes to rain racing.

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