EKN Trackside: 2015 United States Pro Kart Series – Shawano Saturday Report
Bressan give CompKart milestone victory, McAndrews dominates Yamaha as Lemke doubles in Junior
Italian native Alessandro Bressan became the third different Leopard Pro winner this season (Photo: EKN)
The opening day of competition at the 2015 United States Pro Kart Series was a long and interesting day at the US Air Motorsports Raceway in Shawano, Wisconsin. Rain was forecasted throughout the day, and really only came through the area during the heat races, with the majority of the main events contested with sunny skies. The event, presented by Praga North America, boasted another solid turnout with over 170 entries per day. The highlight was the dominant performances in the Pro categories, with Italian native Alessandro Bressan landing CompKart its first USPKS victory in Leopard Pro, while Mike McAndrews earned his first in Yamaha Pro. Brandon Lemke continued his Junior dominance, winning both races on the day.
Franklin Motorsports Leopard Pro
Split up into two groups, the fast driver out of the first was Round One winner Jacob Donald. The Praga driver posted a 1:00.118 lap to be best in the group, and waited to see what group two did. Elliot Finlayson (Tony Kart) was the quick driver in that session, and came up 14 thousandths short. Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) was third, with Mike McAndrews making his debut aboard a Fullerton, subbing for the injured Darin Marcus. Fellow rookie Ryan Norberg (PCR) capped off the fast five.
The opening heat race witnessed a small shower sweep through just as the field took to the track and received the green flag. As the field dropped down the paddock hill, the top three of Donald, Finlayson and Stross went off into the outside pillows and fence. A red flag was displayed to restart the race, sending those drivers to the back of the field. That moved McAndrews and Norberg at the front of the field once restarted. McAndrews was in his element on the damp track, pulling away to a heat win in his first race day in a Leopard Pro machine. Alessandro Bressan (CompKart) was on the charge, coming from ninth to finish second ahead of Colton Ramsey (Tony Kart), Andrew Bujdoso (PCR) and Roger Ralston Jr. (Arrow).
In Heat #2, the track was wet, bringing the drivers on MG Wet tires. Stross was out front early after Donald pushed wide on the opening lap. Donald continued to fall back down the order, while Stross remained up front for the race win. Bressan showed speed in the wet as well, climbing to another second place finish to earn the pole position for the main event. Point leader Jarsocrak ran third to land a front row start for the feature, with Finlayson dropping to fourth and Michael Geringer (Tony Kart) up eight spots to fifth.
The main event start was a wild one, especially for Phillipee Denes as he went for a wild ride after the field stacked up coming out of the oval section. He would walk away with no issues, as the race continue. Bressan took full advantage of the pole position to retain the lead, and put in a dominant performance all 18 laps for the first USPKS victory for CompKart. Behind him, Ramsey fought his way up from fourth to second after Jarsocrak retired on lap two with a brake failure and McAndrews engine issues. Colton held off Bujdoso for the last half of the race with Stross right there waiting in the wings. Finlayson, aboard his bent chassis from the Heat #1 wreck, clocked in fast times and ran to fifth while Derek Dignan (FA Kart) finished fifth. A great drive by Tommy Andersen (Tony Kart), coming from 23rd to ninth behind Ralston and NASCAR’s AJ Allmendinger (Deadly Kart) with Norberg in 10th.
Comet Racing Engines Yamaha Pro
Round Two winner Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) opened up the weekend as the top driver in qualifying. A 1:05.239-lap was three tenths clear of the 20-driver field. Mike McAndrews (BirelART) was second quickest with Jake McWhirter (Tony Kart) in third. Veteran driver Kevin Nelson (Tony Kart) was the top Wisconsin driver in the field, fourth in the timed session with defending champion and point leader Brandon Jarsocrak (Tony Kart) fifth.
The top three of McAndrews, Pesek and McWhirter pulled away from the rest of the field in the opening eight-lap battle. They fought for position early, but their pace was much better than that of TJ Koyen (Tony Kart) and Jarsocrak. McAndrews was able to fight off a late charge by both Pesek and McWhirter. Koyen ran solo in fourth with Tony Jump (Arrow) up from 12th to fifth, pushing Nelson and Jarsocrak to sixth and seventh.
A harder sprinkle fell just as the drivers hit the track for Heat #2, making it a slippery dance floor on slick MG Tires. The track was not wet enough for rain tires, with times down about six seconds a lap. McWhirter was the first victim of the conditions, spinning off in turn three at the start. Pesek and McAndrews pulled away with a fight for P3 forming up early. With two laps remaining, the rain picked up to make the track more damp. McAndrews tried for a pass on Pesek, but slid off on the exit of turn three. He dropped back from Pesek by about two seconds. Pesek scored the win over McAndrews with Nelson able to hold off Koyen for fourth with Jarsocrak in fifth. McWhirter climbed back to ninth after his lap one spin.
From the drop of the green, it was all McAndrews. The track was still damp, with drivers on the MG Wet tires and the Junior rookie shined in the 14-lap event. He was never challenged, and pulled away to an astonishing 10-second advantage. The fight was for second with three drivers in the hunt. Koyen was the driver in position for runner-up, until he was joined by Jarsocrak and later on, inaugural Leopard Pro champion Kyle Kalish (Merlin). After starting 10th, Kalish advanced his way up the order and was right there for the second place battle. On the final lap, Koyen was able to hold off Jarsocrak, with Kalish coming in fourth. Pesek was there early, but fell back to finish fifth.
The Rok Senior and Junior divisions made their debut at the USPKS program, running a Friday-Saturday program that included qualifying, three heat races, a Prefinal and Final. The Prefinal was run under wet conditions, with Derek Dignan (FA Kart) emerging as the top driver. Dignan kept the same pace under sunny skies in the Final, scoring the inaugural class victory by leading all 14 laps in the main event. Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) finished second ahead of Colton Ramsey (Tony Kart). Colin Warren (DR Kart) and Sasha Brun-Wibaux (PCR) completed the top-five. Maks Kowalski (Merlin) ran Junior uncontested.
GT7 Motorsports Leopard Junior
Zach Holden recorded his first pole position of the season, climbing to the top of the time sheet in qualifying. The Top Kart driver posted a 1:00.904-lap to edge out two-time race winner Brandon Lemke (Merlin). Braden Eves (CompKart) was third in the order with Junior rookies Gio Bromante (Merlin) and Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) completed the fast five.
Holden and Lemke were able to break away in the opening heat race, with the pole sitter out front. Lemke took over the point on lap two and from there went on to score the win. Holden tried for the lead a few times, coming up short in the runner-up spot. Bertagnoli won the fight for third over Bromante and Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart) up from seventh.
The second heat race was under wet conditions with Holden and Lemke on the front row. Holden led early until he was shuffled back and then contact bent his axle, forcing him off the track after lap two. That left Lemke alone out front for the win by over five seconds. Bromante beat out Eves for the third spot. Bertagnoli and Fenderson completed the top-five.
Lemke was able to get away early from the rest of the field in the main event, cruising to a third straight victory in the category. Consistently fast lap times gave him a solid eight-second advantage after 16-laps for the second victory of the day. Holden held off Bromante for the runner-up spot with Fenderson fourth and Michael d’Orlando (Tony Kart) fifth.
Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha Junior
Junior rookie Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart) put in the quick time in the qualifying session, earning his first pole position. Fenderson was the only driver into the 1:03 bracket. GoPro winners Brandon Lemke and Gio Bromante put their Merlin karts second and third in the order with Matthew Northrup (Tony Kart) with his best qualifying effort this year and Ben Varner (Merlin) making up the fast five.
The opening heat race saw the front row moved back after two false starts, and then the second row failed, which moved the third row to front for the start. After a clean start, it was Fenderson up to the lead until the Merlin duo of Lemke and Bromante teamed up to the front. Fenderson stayed there, and took over second from Bromante after the halfway sign was given. Bromante was able to get back around, but it was Lemke taking the win. Fenderson settled for third with Zach Holden (Top Kart) closing in late after starting seventh. Maks Kowalski (Merlin) drove to fifth, advancing from eighth on the grid.
Lemke walked away with the win in Heat #2. Strapping on the wet MG Tires for the first time this weekend, the Round One winner drove to a four-second advantage for the win. The fight was for second, as Fenderson beat out Holden for the spot. Varner advanced to fourth with Bromante dropping to fifth.
With the weather now dry, the Junior drivers put on a great battle for the 16-lap feature race. The result was very similar to that of Round One, with Lemke earning the victory. Lemke and Holden pulled away early, starting first and third. Bromante and Fenderson trailed for the first half of the race until they caught the lead duo. With four laps remaining, Bromante lost the lead group, dropping a wheel off the track, leaving the fight to the top three. Lemke ran the defensive line on the final circuit, and it paid off with the victory. Holden slipped past Fenderson in the final corner for the second spot. Bromante dropped back to sixth, with Northrup into fourth and Stephen Dial (Merlin) fifth.
Orlando Kart Center Mini Rok Cadet
Florida driver Reece Gold (Benik) put in his best qualifying performance this season, earning fast time with a 1:06.715. Sam Mayer (Merlin) was second with Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart) in third. Jason Welage (Top Kart) slotted into the fourth spot with Robert Noaker III (Merlin) capping off the fast five. Point leader Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart), visiting the circuit for the first time, was eighth.
Mayer was able to get the jump on Gold to lead the early portion of the opening heat race. The lead group was six drivers deep, all looking to move up for position. Gold took back the point but was shuffled back at the halfway point with Mayer back into the lead and Ugo following through for second. Their shuffling brought in another group of five to make it a big pack for the win. The second half of the race belonged to Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik), charging through the group. He took over the point with two laps remaining, with Mayer locking in on his bumper. The fighting didn’t stop until the checkered flag waved with DeFrancesco scoring the win. Gold fought back to second with Mayer in third. Welage took fourth with Noaker making up the top-five.
Drivers moved to wet MG Tires for second heat with the track damp from a brief shower. The Merlin drivers of Mayer and Noaker showed the way. It wasn’t until lap six that the lead changed, with Noaker moving around for position at turn four. On the final lap, the two fought for the lead in the final few corners. Noaker reached the line first, as Mayer settled for second. Welage improved to third with Ugo fourth and d’Orlando up to fifth.
Mayer sat on the pole position for the Final but it was DeFrancesco that attacked early to get into the lead at the start of the Final. That was until he dropped a wheel before the hairpin after the ‘roller coaster’, giving the lead back to Mayer. From there, it was all Mayer at the front, leading the remaining laps of the 13-circuit race. The victory was the first for Mayer in the category this season, helping to springboard his championship chase hunt. The fight was for second with about a four driver battle forming into the closing stages. d’Orlando was able to place himself into the runner-up position before the checkered flag, only to be removed from the results for a non-complaint spark plug. That promoted DeFrancesco to the second spot with Ugochukwu in third. Madison Campeau (Praga) came from 13th on the grid to end up fourth, one spot ahead of Tyler Maxson (Benik).
Switch Racing Engines Yamaha Cadet
With his last circuit, Lachlan DeFranceso (Benik) secured the fast time in the Yamaha Cadet qualifying session. It was just under three-tenths quicker than Kyle Thome (Merlin). Tristan Farber (Merlin) held the provisional pole for a time as well, ending up in the third position. Double GoPro Motorplex winner Sam Mayer (Merlin) clocked in fourth with Reece Gold (Benik) landing inside the fast five.
The opening heat race was all DeFrancesco. After a bobble in the turn three downhill corner, Thome took over the lead. After they completed the opening lap, DeFrancesco took back the lead, and extended it out to three-second advantage at the checkered. The fight was for second with Mayer scoring the position over Jason Welage (Top Kart) and Gold. California driver Colin Queen (Tony Kart) came up from 10th to fifth.
From the drop of the green, DeFrancesco had the six-lap heat race in hand. Under wet conditions, he got away from the field early, and kept on strong pace to win by over four seconds. The fight was for second with Madison Campeau (Praga) up to the runner-up position after starting ninth. Her performance was overshadowed by Tyler Maxson (Benik), climbing up to third from 20th. Luca Mars (CompKart) followed them through for fourth with Thome in fifth.
DeFrancesco and Welage started on the front row, and it was these two who decided the winner in the main event. Lachlan led the majority of the race, out to a big lead early only to have Welage secure second and close up in the final stages of the race. On the final circuit, DeFrancesco ran a defensive line around the entire course, but left a little room heading into the right-hand corner coming back into the oval section. It was just enough for Welage to slip inside, and complete a pass for the lead. Jason reached the checkered flag first, scoring his first victory of season. DeFrancesco settle for second with Maher winning the battle for third over Mars and Gold.
QPS Employment Group Yamaha Rookie
The Yamaha Rookie field welcomed a new name to the top of the order with Lucas Smalec (Merlin) scoring the fast lap. His 1:11.302 was over three tenths quicker than the rest of the 14-driver field. Conner Churchill (Tony Kart), fighting what may be strep throat, clocked in the second quickest lap of the session with Nicholas Terlecki (Birel) third. Point leader Donald Whorton II (Tony Kart) was fourth with Bryce Mersberger (Merlin) fifth.
Smalec and Churchill led the way in the opening heat race with Smalec showing the way for most of the race. Churchill took a turn at the lead, but Smalec retook the position to score the win. Bayne Bennett (Tony Kart) came up from sixth to score third as Whorton held fourth over Pierce Sonderup (Birel), who started back in the 13th position.
The Rookie class hit the track on wet tires for the first time today in Heat #2. Smalec led the field to the green flag, and only for three corners before he went off on the exit at turn three. That gave the lead to Churchill, as he went on to win by three seconds. Whorton moved up to second on the final lap after Aidan Hinds (Praga) spun in the roller coaster section of the track. He fell to fourth behind Nico Montileone (Praga) with Owen Mahle (Top Kart) placing fifth.
The rain had been absent for some time and the track was forming a dry line. However, the top three drivers on the grid – Churchill, Bennett, and Montileone – elected to run rain tires. The green flag waved for their feature with the three rain tire-mounted drivers staying up front. That was until a few circuits into the 12-lap event when their rain tires lost the grip needed on the dry surface of the race track. Hinds and Whorton took over the top two positions, with Hinds holding off the double winner from Mooresville for his first victory of the season. Owen Mahle (Top Kart) ran to third ahead of Keegan Bosch (Kosmic) advanced from 12th to fourth with Isaac Beekman (Praga) in fifth.