EKN Trackside: 2015 United States Pro Kart Series – Shawano Sunday Report
Lemke sweeps Junior divisions on the weekend, Bressan doubles up in Leopard Pro for $3,000 payday
The second event of the 2015 United States Pro Kart Series completed under sunny skies at the US Air Motorsports Raceway. A challenging day on Saturday with changing weather conditions in the Shawano, Wisconsin was followed by an exciting, but long day due to a number of incidents that brought out red flags. Thankfully, all drivers escaped major injuries. With the amount of delays, officials were forced to reduce the laps in the second round of heat races, and the feature races – completing the day only 30 minutes behind schedule thanks to the quick work of the staff, and the cooperation of the competitors. The championship chases continued in the seven USPKS categories with Brandon Lemke shinning in his home state, sweeping the four Junior features. Italian native Alessandro Bressan stole the show in Leopard Pro, winning both main events to claim a $3,000 check for both victories and the double win bonus.
Franklin Motorsports Leopard Pro
Fresh off the first win at the USPKS program for CompKart, Alessandro Bressan put himself right back into the hunt for Sunday’s round of racing. The Italian posted the fast lap in qualifying, a 1:00.037-second mark for the fastest lap of the weekend. Colton Ramsey (Tony Kart), fresh off his runner-up from Saturday, was second in the order with Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) third, Andrick Zeen (Praga) fourth and point leader Brandon Jarsocrak (Tony Kart) fifth.
Bressan led all eight laps of the opening heat race, with the field holding the gap to just half a second. Ramsey slotted into the second until he was shuffled back to sixth on a restart after a red flag for Adam Crepin (Tony Kart), who was checked out to be fine. Zeen took over the second spot until a charging Finlayson assumed the position and remained there until the checkered flag. Zeen finished third with Mike McAndrews coming from eighth in the Fullerton chassis, subbing for Darin Marcus, to fourth. Ramsey gained one spot to end up fifth.
The second heat was not as eventful, with the top-five remaining in their spots over the first few laps. Bressan led all eight circuits for the win, with Ramsey back by seven tenths. Stross remained third with Jarsocrak up to fourth and Zeen back to sixth with Finlayson coming up into the top-five once again.
Bressan and Ramsey made up the front row for the shortened Final. No matter the distance, Bressan was untouchable as he posted the fast laps of the race once again to gain a two-second advantage in 14 circuits for the second victory of the weekend. His triumph bagged another $1,000 for the win, and another $1,000 bonus for becoming the first double weekend winner, bringing his total to $3,000 for the two days. Finlayson moved to second from third early on, and looked to match the pace of the leader. The handling went away in the second half of the race, with Stross able to take advantage to steal the runner-up spot. Finlayson held on for third just ahead of Jarsocrak while Ramsey dropped to fifth, completed what is his best USPKS weekend of his career. Tommy Andersen (Tony Kart) recorded his best result of 2015, climbing from 12th to sixth. Ryan Norberg (PCR) was the top rookie, landing seventh ahead of Zeen, Roger Ralston Jr. (Arrow) and Andrew Bujdoso (PCR).
Comet Racing Engines Yamaha Pro
The entire field was nearly nose to tail in the qualifying session, all trying to find real estate and a dancing partner. Late in the session, Jake McWhirter (Tony Kart) jumped to the top of the order with a 1:05.377-lap to earn the pole position. TJ Koyen (Tony Kart) was off by 71 thousandths with Adam Crepin (Tony Kart) improving overnight to end up third. So did Nick Landi (FA Kart) to end up fourth with Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) in fifth. Saturday winner Mike McAndrews (Birel) was back in 11th with championship leader Brandon Jarsocrak (Tony Kart) in 12th.
McWhirter led the field to the green flag with Koyen getting shuffled from the outside of the front row. Pesek was on the charge early, and into the lead before completing lap two. McWhirter did not go anyone, sticking with him. They continued battling, allowing Koyen, veteran Kevin Nelson (Tony Kart) and a charging McAndrews into the mix. With two laps remaining, McAndrews was up to third with Koyen and McWhirter nose to tail out front. As the white flag waved, McAndrews was all over McWhirter’s bumper. The Saturday winner completed the pass in turn four after the tree straight. McAndrews could not reel in Koyen, who scored the win. McWhirter climbed a bumper and spun, exiting the hairpin. That gave Nelson third with Pesek and Crepin completing the top-five.
Koyen got the jump on McWhirter to begin the second heat, and the two locked up nost to tail at the front. By the halfway point of the six-lap race, Nelson was right there, and was able to take away the second spot from McWhirter. He set his sights on Koyen, and made a pass going into the corkscrew for the lead. Nelson held on for the win with Pesek moving up to third. Joey Eppink (Tony Kart) advanced from eighth, pushing back McWhirter to fifth and Creppin sixth.
It was a 14-lap chess match in the feature. Koyen and Nelson led the field to the green flag, but Pesek came from third to lead the opening lap. The lead pack was at seven drivers, but shrunk down to only three with McAndrews and Koyen on the bumper of Pesek. They remained in the same position until lap eight when McAndrews and Koyen went past Pesek at turn four. Their shuffling allowed Kyle Kalish (Merlin) to close in. The following lap, Pesek grabbed one spot to move to second with Koyen dropping to fourth and then returned to the lead heading into the corkscrew on lap 10. McAndrews had his turn, moving back to the lead. The final lap saw contact between McAndrews and Pesek at turn four. They both went wide and Nelson slipped to second and used the momentum to pass Pesek for the lead going into the roller coaster. Pesek came right back in the hairpin. He exited the corner with the lead and enough space to score the victory, his second to help move him into the championship chase lead. Nelson finished second to improve on his third place at Round Two. McAndrews landed third, but ended the five race win streak of Jarsocrak earning the $1,000 pay day for most points on the weekend. Koyen finished fourth with Kalish fifth.
Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha Junior
Brandon Lemke looked to be in a league of his own in Yamaha qualifying, posting the only lap below the 1:04-mark. His 1:03.825-lap was over three tenths quicker than John Paul Southern (Top Kart). Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart) was third in the order with Stephen Dial (Merlin) and Dillon Schwanbeck (Tony Kart) finding speed overnight to make it into the fast five.
Lemke was not allowed to get away in Heat #1 with Fenderson, Southern and Zach Holden (Top Kart) right there. Fenderson demoted Lemke quickly, but Lemke fought back on lap three. Southern and Holden however partnered up to move past both. Their fighting allowed Gio Bromante (Merlin) to close in and up to fourth after Fenderson dropped a wheel on the exit of the roller coaster. Lemke and Bromante broke up the Top Kart duo at the halfway point, with Lemke reaching the lead once again. A lap later, it was Bromante up to the second spot around Holden, giving Lemke a few kart lengths out front. Holden helped to push Bromante back up to the bumper of Lemke by the time their received the two-to-go signal. On the final lap, Lemke ran a defensive line down the tree straight. Bromante went to the outside and made it stick in turn four, getting the inside line at turn five. Lemke was able to get back under him at the hairpin, holding on to the checkered flag for the win. Bromante finished second with Holden third. Southern ended up fourth with Fenderson in fifth, back up to the lead pack.
Lemke led a seven driver lead pack early on in Heat #2, with the top contenders right on his bumper. Holden helped to push Fenderson down the tree straight into the lead and past Lemke on lap three. Southern and Schwanbeck sat there waiting for their chance at the halfway point, losing Bromante and Maks Kowalski (Merlin) from the lead group. Lap four, Holden took his turn at the point briefly before Fenderson retook the position. The shuffling continued into the final lap, with Holden escaping with the top spot and the win. Fenderson won the battle for second with Lemke third, Schwanbeck fourth and Bromante fifth after slipping past Southern.
From the pole position, Lemke made it look so easy, leading all 13 laps for his third victory in the class this year. The race began with Fenderson out at turn three while Holden and Bromante assumed the challenger role. Bromante took over the second position after starting sixth, pulling away from the rest of the field but could not match the pace set by Lemke, finishing five seconds back. Holden came under pressure by a six-deep packin the second half of the race. After getting shuffled back to fifth, he climbed up two spots on the final circuit to land third. Southern edged out Ryan Weyer (Merlin) for the fifth position.
GT7 Motorsports Leopard Junior
Scoring the victory on Saturday, Brandon Lemke put himself in the prime position to defend the race win. A 1:00.355-lap landed him in the pole position for the heat races. Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart) was just a bit off his pace, sitting second. Gio Bromante (Merlin) and Zach Holden (Top Kart) filled out the second row positions, with Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) completing the fast five.
Lemke and Bromante hooked up and broke away from the field to begin Heat #1. Fenderson was shuffled back, and was fighting with Holden and Bertagnoli until securing the third spot, and looked to run down the top two. The front remained static until the final lap. Fenderson went straight off after the tree straight with a seized engine. Lemke took the win over Bromante and Holden. Bertagnoli moved up to fourth with Michael d’Orlando advancing to fifth after starting ninth.
A repeat of Heat #1, Lemke and Bromante shot out front into the top two positions to set the pace for the second heat race. Holden was able to break up that Merlin 1-2, passing Bromante by lap three. Fenderson, with a replacement motor, was off pace with a loose exhaust but remained in fourth. Lemke drove away with the win while Holden held off Bromante. Fenderson crossed the line fourth with Bertagnoli fifth, but the exhaust issue was a DQ in tech, thus moving everyone up one spot behind him in the classification.
From the pole position, Lemke turned up the wick for the final race of the day. The pace he set in the 13-lap race was unmatchable, posting a fast lap roughly three tenths of a lap quicker than anyone in the field. The margin of victory was a big six-second gap, giving him the fourth victory of the season, and his seventh in eight races thus far for the USPKS 2015 program. The fight was for third, with Bromante taking control of second and holding through to the checkered flag. Eventually, d’Orlando emerged as the driver in third, coming from ninth on the grid for his best finish in his first Junior season. Holden came away with the fourth spot with Bertagnoli in fifth. Abby McLaughlin (Top Kart) was in the third position for some time and battle hard, eventually finishing seventh behind Eves. Fenderson came from 18th on the grid to end up ninth.
Orlando Kart Center Mini Rok Cadet
It was a Benik 1-2 in the Mini Rok qualifying session with Lachlan DeFrancesco and Reece Gold recording the fast laps. A 1:06.983 was best for Lachlan, as the only driver below the 1:07 mark. Two-time winner Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart) was third in the order with Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart). Caleb Bacon (FA Kart) completed the fast five.
The opening lap of the first heat was solid for Ugo, knifing his way to the lead before reaching the corkscrew. Lap two, contact involving DeFrancesco, d’Orlando, Saturday winner Sam Mayer (Merlin) and others. DeFrancesco was the only one not able to continue, ending up in the crash pillows. Out front, Ugo and Gold ran nose to tail with Gold taking a turn at the point. Tyler Maxson (Benik), who started 12th, was the fastest driver on the track and was able to run down the top two alone, making it three drivers at the front. Gold was able to hold back both Ugo and Maxson for the win. Jason Welage (Top Kart) drove up from 13th to fourth, beating out Aidan Harrington (Merlin) for the position.
The top four held the front of the field for the second heat, with DeFrancesco escaping with the lead early and d’Orlando slotting into second ahead of Ugo and Gold. On lap three, d’Orlando moved up to the lead, bunching up the top four and allowing Welage to close in a little bit. Both Gold and DeFrancesco slipped past Nicholas on lap four, until DeFrancesco moved back into the lead. Pressure from d’Orlando on Gold allowed DeFrancesco to score the win. Welage moved by Ugo on the final lap for the fourth position.
From the outside of row one, Ugochkwu led the way to begin the 13-lap Final. While he led, DeFrancesco was coming up from the 11th position on the grid. Into sixth by the end of lap one, he knifed his way through the lead pack the following circuit, taking the lead. From there, he blasted away fast laps to pull away to a near five second advantage for the victory to become the third different winner in four rounds. It was a great battle for second throughout the race, with Ugo holding the position for much of the race. Mayer and Gold came up in the second half of the race, along with a host of others to challenge for the position. Mayer was able to earn the runner-up spot, with Ugo placing third. Gold took fourth with Maxson earning his first top-five result.
Switch Racing Engines Yamaha Cadet
Reece Gold (Benik) has been solid all weekend in qualifying for both Cadet categories. He landed the fast time in Yamaha, posting a 1:10.393-lap to edge out Parker Abed (Merlin) by 75 thousandths. Sam Mayer (Merlin) was within a tenth of a second as well to Gold, ending up third with Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) and Luca Mars (CompKart) making up the fast five.
The start to the opening heat saw a wreck in first turn, including a number of drivers. Among them was Luca Mars, who checked out fine after receiving some medical attention. The race restarted with drivers involved going to the back of the field. Another red flag occurred on the restart, with Preston Lemm (Merlin) involved. His injuries were more series but not life threatening, and he was transported to the local medial center. The race was held after the Leopard Pro ran their first heat, giving the drivers time to settle down and repair damages.
The lead group was five drivers, including Tyler Maxson (Benik) and Robert Noaker III (Merlin) with Mars out and DeFrancesco shuffled to the back. Three were able to break away after a lot of shuffling, with Mayer, Abed and Maxson out front. Meanwhile, Jason Welage (Top Kart) was charging through the field and was up to fourth by the two laps to go was given. He quickly disposed of Maxson, with Mayer and Abed breaking away. On the final lap, Mayer’s defensive line allowed Welage to close in, making a pass for second in the penultimate corner as Mayer took the win. Abed dropped to third as Maxson ended up fourth with Arias Deukmedjian (Kosmic) in fifth.
Mayer jumped from the second row up into the lead to begin the second heat race. DeFrancesco starting alongside him, and was able to put Gold and Abed behind him. Completing lap two, DeFrancesco was up into the lead to put Mayer and Abed behind him. Mayer pulled the trigger coming to the white flag, and held on through the final corners for the win. DeFrancesco finished second with Abed third. Maxson closed up on the final lap to take fourth with Gold back to the fifth spot.
The Final for the Yamaha Cadet group was cut short after two more red flag incidents. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt, however, officials called the race after five laps. Mayer started on the pole position after his two heat races, but was shuffled back early. DeFrancesco came up from sixth to first in the opening circuit, showing the way with the six-kart lead pack. It grew to eight the following circuit, and shuffling began to take place. Maxson made a move for the lead on lap five, with a train of drivers getting around DeFrancesco. That was the final act, with the second red flag coming out and the race called. Maxson was declared the winner with Mayer up into second. Gold, Welage and Abed completed the top-five with DeFrancesco sixth.
QPS Employment Group Yamaha Rookie
Lucas Smalec (Merlin) returned to the front of the grid with fast time in qualifying. A 1:11.259 was his best, clearing the field by three tenths of a second. Conner Churchill (Tony Kart) was second with two-time race winner Donald Whorton II (Tony Kart) in third. Saturday winner Aidan Hinds (Praga) recorded the fourth quickest lap with Bayne Bennett II (Tony Kart) making up the fast five.
A lead pack of four formed in the opening heat race. Smalec led until he dropped a wheel, allowing Churchill to lead the pack past him. On lap seven, Hinds was able to slip under Churchill for the lead, bringing the group with him. Whorton moved up to the lead on the same lap. On the final lap, Churchill ducked under Hinds for second, as they exited, the two made contact. That gave Whorton a clear path to the race win. Smalec finished second with Issac Beekman (Praga) up to third over Churchill and Hinds.
Churchill got the jump at the start of Heat #2 with another four driver breakaway formed in the opening lap. Hinds demoted Churchill on the second lap, with Smalec and Whorton also looking for a way by. The last two laps was a lot of shuffling for position with Churchill locking up the lead in turn four and scoring the win. Whorton followed him through for second with Smalec into third ahead of Hinds. Owen Mahle (Top Kart) improved from 10th to fifth.
The same four drivers hooked up again to form the lead pack in the Final. Whorton started on pole with Churchill on the outside, slotting in behind to start the 10-lap event. The group went to just three after contact dropped Churchill back into fourth about two seconds behind. Smalec took over the point until two laps remaining when Whorton reassumed the lead. The two-time winner held on for the remaining corners to secure his third victory of the season. Smalec drove to second with Hinds third. Churchill, battling illness all weekend, never gave up and finish fourth ahead of Mahle in fifth.