EKN Trackside: 2015 Superkarts! USA Fikse Wheels Pro Tour – SummerNationals Saturday Report
American-made iKart and Formula K earn first SKUSA victories with Rios and Hajek
Jesus Rios Jr. gave iKart its first SKUSA victory with a win in TaG Senior (Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
The inaugural Superkarts! USA Fikse Wheels Pro Tour SummerNationals at the New Castle Motorsports Park opened its first day of racing on Saturday under sunny skies and warm temperatures. The New Castle, Indiana facility provided an exciting venue for Round Three of the championship chase in the eight categories, and featured a number of first-time winners and considerable shuffling of the order in the point standings. The American-made iKart chassis triumphed in the TaG Senior division, dominating on its home track with Florida driver Jesus Rios Jr. against a stacked 58-driver field. Czech Republic driver Patrik Hajek earned his first S1 Pro Stock Moto series victory, and the first SKUSA win for the Formula K brand, adding to a number of other firsts for the winners on the day.
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Nash Motorsportz TaG Senior
The 59-driver field of TaG Senior drivers was broken up into two groups. Franklin Motorsports / Merlin driver Michael Geringer posted the provisional pole time in the opening group with a lap of 1:05.389, but it took only two laps of the second seven-minute session before the 1:05 lap time was broken. Jesus Rio Jr., driving the Indy-made iKart machine, was the the first to break the mark. A lap later, PCR driver AJ Myers clocked what would be the fastest lap of the session with a 1:04.860. Rios could not better his time, ending the session in the second position. Rookie Senior driver Emerson Reed put his Franklin Motorsports / Merlin in the third spot in the order, while Top Kart drivers Alexander Kardashian and Bill McLaughlin Jr. capped off the fast five. Geringer ended up 16th overall, moving all the other opening group drivers below that with Q1 group. Among those not able to get solid laps in the session included championship contenders Oliver Askew (BirelART) and Jake Craig (Formula K), landing 25th and 26th in their group, and 31st and 32nd overall. Championship leader Louie Pagano (Tony Kart) ended up 12th, giving himself a little work to do.
The A vs. B heat opened up the wheel-to-wheel action, going down to the final corner. Myers and Rios made up the front row, and were able to get away early. Senior rookie Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) and new eKartingNews.com TaG Driver Rankings #1 driver Brandon Jarsocrak (Tony Kart) joined them at the front. Rios took over the lead on lap two, until Myers and Brooks drafted past on lap four. Brooks stayed on his bumper until the final corner at I-70, diving inside on the exit after Myers tried to defend the apex. Brooks held on to take the win at the line ahead of Myers. Austin McCusker (Deadly Kart) snuck up late, joining the fight for P3, stealing the fourth spot away from Jarsocrak, as both finished behind Rios.
Myers led the field to the green flag for the A vs. C heat race, with Reed on the outside of row one. Reed got help as they completed the opening lap to move into the lead, dropping Myers to second with McCusker, Brooks and Michael McAndrews (BirelART). Lap three, contact from Myers dropped Reed outside the top-20, moving McCusker and McAndrews to the top two spots. More shuffling up front allowed local driver Robby Seward (PCR) to take the lead on lap five. McCusker took the lead as the white flag waved, with Jarsocrak waiting in the wings as the final lap got underway. A mistake by Seward allowed McCusker to take the win, while Jarsocrak slipped past at the line as well for second. Myers ended up fourth, while TJ Koyen (Tony Kart) advanced to fifth with fast lap of the race on the final circuit.
The front row of B vs. C heat race put Rios and Reed on the front row with Rios getting the jump over Reed as the lights went out. Kardashian joined the lead duo, and helped Reed to go past Rios as they completed the third lap. That allowed Bill McLaughlin Jr. (Top Kart) to close in along with French driver Kevin Breysse (EVO Kart), Colton Ramsey (Tony Kart) and Andre Castro (FA Kart). Rios took back the lead as they received the white flag, putting the rookie back to second. A few good corners gave Rios a sizable lead, taking away a possible photo finish, securing the win. Reed was second with Kardashian third. Breysse ran fourth with Castro up to fifth ahead of Ramsey.
Rios and McCusker earned the front row starting positions for the main event, and the two set the pace early on in the 14-lap race. Rios led the first three laps until McCusker took the point for two circuits. Rios returned to the point, and was able to get away as McCusker was shuffled back by Myers and then Jarsocrak. The American-made iKart, manufactured just miles from the New Castle facility, remain consistent throughout the race with Rios behind the wheel. The Florida driver maintained a lead through the final laps to secure his first Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory for him and the iKart brand. Myers held off Jarsocrak, as both earned their first podium result in the category on the Pro Tour. The fast lap of the race went to Koyen, as he came up from 13th to finish fourth ahead of McCusker. Defending champ Craig started 19th and ended up sixth, with Brokos in seventh, SuperNationals winner Marco Maestranzi (Top Kart) eighth. Seward and Pagano rounded out the top-10 in the stacked field.
PSL Karting S1 Pro Stock Moto
Billy Musgrave (Praga) clinched his first ever SKUSA Fikse Wheels Pro Tour pole position with the fast lap in Saturday qualifying. A 1:02.854 was the fast time, as he held off a late charge by veteran Ron White (CRG). Belgian driver Rick Dreezen saw his perfect score go away, missing out on the 10 bonus points for fast time in qualifying, ending the session third in his Ricciardo Kart debut in the United States. Two-time champion Fritz Leesmann (CRG) was fourth with Patrik Hajek fifth in his Formula K debut here in SKUSA competition.
The holeshot to the opening heat race went to Musgrave as fellow Americans White and Musgrave made up the lead group. White took over the lead on lap two and went on to score the victory with Leesmann earning second from Musgrave. Dreezen held off 2011 champion Daniel Bray (GP) with Hajek in sixth.
Contact on the opening lap of Heat #2 took both Musgrave and Leesmann. In turn five, Leesmann climbed over Musgrave, with the Praga driver out and Leesmann only able to continue on at the tail of the field. This gave White a few kart lengths lead over Dreezen until Bray took over the second spot on lap two. Bray began running quick laps of the race, closing in on White. Lap four, the Kiwi pulled the trigger to take the lead over with a pass through the middle hairpin. They remained unchanged with Bray pulling out to a solid lead for the race win. Dreezen was all over the bumper of White, but couldn’t make a move stick. Hajek nearly took third away at the line, with Jonathan Kotyk (Top Kart) with a solid fifth.
Leesmann’s troubles continued in the main event, as the former champ was working his way forward on the opening lap until contact ended his chance at driving forward. Up front, White held the lead with the holeshot until Hajek slipped by White in turn three on lap three. Dreezen followed him through to take second, and eventually ran him down to take the lead for the first time. It was only one lap as Hajek returned back to the point. Leading the remaining laps, Hajek gave Formula K its first SKUSA victory, ending the over year long stranglehold on PSL Karting held on the S1 division. Dreezen settle for runner-up as the fight was for P3. White tried to reach the podium for the first time this year, but was shuffled back as Kotyk was the lone American on the steps, earning his best finish of his rookie S1 season. Musgrave drove to fourth with Griffin ahead of White for fifth.
Texas ProKart Challenge S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto
The Bujdoso brothers used the home track advantage to steal the top two spots in S2 qualifying. Robert was the quickest early on before Andrew broke the 1:03 mark on his third circuit. The PCR / Checkered Motorsports driver laid down a 1:02.952, edging out his brother by 57 thousandths of a second. Miguel Lopez and Salvador de Alba moved up late to put their two GP machines on the second row. Indy native Cole Mathewson (Praga) capped off the fast five to begin his return to SKUSA competition. Double SpringNationals winner Carter Williams (FA Kart) struggled, coming across 16th quickest in the session.
Andrew Bujdoso gained the holeshot to begin Heat #1 and led the way on the opening circuit with Lopez breaking up the brothers at the front. Lopez took over the lead as they began lap three, slipping inside of Andrew into turn one. The lead pack was five as de Alba and Mathewson were right on the bumper of the three leaders. By the halfway, the pack was nine as the fighting between Lopez and Bujdoso for the lead helped to close them in. The intensity picked up in the closing laps, with Mathewson going off on the entry to the I-70 corner on lap five. The shuffling allowed five drivers to pull away with Andrew at the point ahead of Lopez, Robert, de Alba and Sky Finley (DR Kart). On the final run to the checkered, Lopez got a great run out of the I-70 corner and drafted past Bujdoso for the win by 63 thousandths. The remaining top-five drivers went unchanged.
Bujdoso was able to hold off in the opening corners to continue to lead the way as they began Heat #2. The pressure was on early by de Alba, getting past on lap three but Bujdoso came back before the lap was complete. On lap four, the two went back and forth, with de Alba checking up going into turn three with Lopez getting into the back of him, spinning the former leader around. That gave Bujdoso a solid lead over Lopez with the fight for third continuing. As they received the two laps to go signal, the win went away for Bujdoso as his chain broke off, putting him off the track. That gave Lopez the win ahead of Robert Bujdoso winning the fight for second ahead of Kalish, Luke Shanahan (Tony Kart) and Finley.
One of the best races of the day was the S2 Main Event with Lopez coming away with his first ever class victory. Lopez led early before Hunter Pickett pushing his Aluminos up to the point. Lopez fell to third but kept his composure and returned to the lead by lap five. Kalish followed him through, and the two pulled away leaving Finley and Frank behind. Lap after lap, Kalish appeared to be waiting for the opportune moment. On the final lap, Lopez never made a wrong move, and didn’t give Kalish a change to slip inside or even challenge on the final circuit. The victory was the first for Lopez on the Fikse Wheels Pro Tour, while Kalish recorded his personal best finish in only his second SKUSA start in S2. Bermuda driver Frank was able to beat Finley to the line for the final spot on the podium, with Pickett down to fifth after leading early on.
Phil Giebler Racing TaG Master
From the opening lap, Chris Giumarra set the pace in the TaG Master qualifying session. The PCR driver laid down a 1:06.995-lap on his third circuit to secure the pole position for the opening heat, and the 10 bonus points in the championship. Anthony Honeywell (Praga) clocked in second with Kim Carapellatti (PCR) third in his Fikse Wheels Pro Tour debut. Double SpringNationals winner Nick Tucker (Tony Kart) was fourth with defending champion Ethan Wilson (FA Kart) fifth in his 2015 debut.
Giumarra walked away with the opening heat race win as the fight all eight laps was for second, holding a five-second advantage at one point. Three different drivers held the spot briefly until Tucker assumed the position. The fight was then for third between Honeywell and Wilson. At turn 11, Wilson and Honeywell went side by side with Wilson going off. That allowed Laurentiu Mardan (Tony Kart) to slide into the third spot. Honeywell ended up fourth with Vatche Tatikian (FA Kart) fifth.
The second heat race was a battle between Giumarra and Tucker. The point leader found more pace to stay with the opening heat winner, and the two went back and forth. On lap seven, Giumarra took back the lead and held on for the win. Tucker was back by four tenths with Honeywell beating out Mardan and Scott Falcone (Arrow).
The top four of Giumarra, Tucker, Wilson and Honeywell pulled away from the field in the main event. The top two shuffled the lead early until Giumarra assumed the point. The PCR driver led the remaining laps to earn his first ever Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory. Title leader Tucker ended up second with Wilson a close third. Honeywell closed up in the remaining laps with the fast time of the race, while Falcone slipped by Tatikian at the checkered flag.
Pure Karting S4 Master Stock Moto
Familiar names at the top of the qualifying order in S4 with former champion Jimmy McNeil (CRG) ending the Darren Elliott (CRG) streak, stealing the fast time. A 1:03.889-lap was two tenths quicker than the double SpringNationals winner. Defending champion Gian Cavaciuti, back aboard the GP machine, was third in the order with 2013 title winner Jordon Musser (BirelART) in fourth. Rounding out the fast five was Texas ProKart Challenge three-time champion Chris Jennings (DR Kart).
The top five began the opening heat as they started with McNeil, Elliott and Cavaciuti making up the top three with Jennings up to fourth on the second lap past Musser. The following lap, Jennings continued charging, working past Elliott and Cavaciuti. The defending champ moved back past the former SuperNationals winner on the next circuit. They continued to mix it up, allowing McNeil to break away with fast laps of the race to score the win. Jennings came away with the second position ahead of Cavaciuti, Musser and Elliott.
Holeshot for Heat #2 went to McNeil from the pole position, and a solid opening lap put Jennings right on his bumper. They criss-crossed after completing the first lap, which bunched up the rest of the top-five. McNeil got the better of it, coming out with a half-second lead over Jennings while Elliott slipped past Musser for third. Musser assumed the third spot and closed up on Jennings during the final lap but could not make a move at the line. McNeil won by over one second with Cavaciuti ahead of Elliott for fourth.
McNeil ended the day as it began, with him at the front of the S4 field once again. The 2011 champion was flawless on the day, getting away and leading all 12 laps of the feature for his first victory in the category since his title year. The fight was for second early on, with Jennings slipping past Musser, only to be relegated back the following circuit. The #2 SKUSA plate holder finished in the same position, while Jennings lost the final podium position on the final circuit to point leader Elliott. Cavaciuti drove to fifth, making it a very tough top-five to break into heading into Round Four.
Leading Edge Motorsports TaG Junior
Momentum is on the side of Brandon Lemke as the Franklin Motorsports / Merlin driver posted a blistering lap in qualifying to secure the pole position for the opening heat race. A 1:06.019 was two tenths quicker than Zach Holden, moving over to a Tony Kart with Comet Kart Sales this weekend. Gio Bromante put another Merlin inside the fast five with Roman DeAngelis (Tony Kart) and Jagger Jones (Tony Kart) fourth and fifth. Defending champion and point leader David Malukas, making his CompKart debut in SKUSA competition was only 17th in the order.
Lemke and Bromante assumed the top two positions on the opening lap, but before reaching the line for the first time, a drop wheel by Lemke slowed his pace. That allowed Bromante to slip past with Holden deep inside to follow through entering the first turn. Lemke retook the second spot on lap two, and regained the lead halfway on lap three. Bromante stayed on Lemke’s bumper until moving back into the top spot as they completed lap four. The swapping continued to the checkered flag with Lemke able to hold off Bromante by 11 thousandths of a second. Holden drove to third with Gangi winning the battle for fourth with Malukas charging his way into the fifth position with fast laps of the race. The spot was taken away as Malukas entered tech without an engine seal, putting him to the back of the grid for Heat #2.
From the pole position, Lemke held the lead through the opening corner with Gangi fighting up to the second spot ahead of Bromante and JP Southern Jr. (Top Kart). The fight throughout the race was Gangi trying to break up the Merlin 1-2. He and Bromante went back and forth until Gangi worked by both on lap six. Lemke locked on his bumper, but the defensive line by the Tony Kart driver bunched them, bringing in Holden. On the final lap, Lemke took the lead from Gangi at turn five. The fight was for second with Lemke scoring another heat win. Gangi held on for second with Bromante dropping a wheel in the middle hairpin, allowing Holden to slip past for third. Dario Cangialosi (Deadly Kart) finished a close fifth. Malukas had another fast race, advancing up to the sixth position.
The Final became a decision between two drivers, with Lemke and Holden pushing their way out front and away from the field. After a few exchanges for the lead, Holden slotted behind Lemke, setting up for a run to the checkered on the final lap. Lemke ran a defensive line in the final few corners, giving Holden the opportunity to criss-cross him in the final corner. Holden came out with the lead and Lemke tried to draft back up and past him for the victory, but it was too late. Holden landed his first Fikse Wheels Pro Tour victory by just 39 thousandths of a second. Lemke settled for second with Malukas up to the third position on the podium. Bromante and Southern completed the top-five, making it a sweep for the east coast drivers.
Ryan Perry Motorsports S5 Junior Stock Moto
Double SpringNationals winner Callum Smith nearly saw his perfect score broken up from the opening session of the SummerNationals. The Praga driver find himself down the order in the seven-minute session, but two late flyers moved him up the order and onto the pole position for the opening heat race. A 1:05.440-lap was his best on the final circuit of the session, edging out Ryan P. Lewis (Mad-Croc) by 56 thousandths of a second. Hunter Kelly (Praga) was third with Canadian Evan White (Kosmic) fourth and Anthony Freese (Praga) completing the fast five.
Starting at the back of the S4 field for the opening heat race, Smith worked his way through the back markers to score the win. After eight laps, Smith’s advantage was nearly two seconds. Malukas started at the back of the eight driver field, coming up to finish second with the fast lap of the race, while Kelly remained third ahead of Lewis and White. For the remainder of the event, SKUSA officials place S5 in its own race group.
Malukas was slow off the grid to begin the second heat, while Smith grabbed the holeshot. The championship leader led all eight laps for the win. Malukas dropped to the tail of the eight driver field, and was able to work into the second spot by the end of lap six. Kelly kept the pressure on the TaG Junior champion. On the final lap, both Kelly and White slipped past Malukas, with Lewis finishing fifth behind them.
The start of the main event was anything but clean, with Malukas and Freese making contact in the opening corner. Freese received the brunt of the contact, unable to continue while Malukas rejoined at the tail of the field. Up front, Kelly led for just one lap before Smith retook the point and drove off to his third straight victory. Lewis made his way up to the second spot, holding off a late charge from Malukas as both earned their first podium finishes in the category on the season. White drove to fourth with Kelly dropping to fifth in the final order.
Top Kart USA TaG Cadet
The TaG Cadet welcomed 48 drivers for the weekend, splitting up into two groups for qualifying. In the first session, Oliver Calvo (Tony Kart) was able to hold the provisional pole with a 1:13.890-lap. The fast group from Friday hit the track next, but their session was halted for a wreck involving Logan Calderwood. The session resumed with two minutes remaining, with Connor Ferris (Top Kart) securing the fast lap. Sam Mayer (Merlin) was only 57 thousandths off with Round Two winner Jason Welage (Top Kart) in third. Tyler Maxson (Benik) and Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart) rounded out the fast five with Calvo eighth overall.
The opening heat race for the TaG Cadet division went down to the finish line with Calvo coming through for the victory. Mayer and Ferris ran up front for the first four laps until Calvo charged forward into the second spot on the final circuit. Mayer elected to defend down to the finish line, allowing Calvo to slingshot to the outside, using the draft to reach the checkered by 49 thousandths at the line. Ferris ended up third with Anthony Willis (Benik) moving up to fourth and Ugochukwu back to fifth.
Groups A and C took to the track for their battle with Ferris and Welage on the front row. Lap two, a number of drivers were involved in a wreck in turn eight, including Ferris, James Lynch (Haase) and Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik). Welage was able to break away with the lead with Jonny Edgar (Benik) trailing. It took just two laps of fast times for Edgar to take the lead with Welage pushed back to second. On the final lap, Welage pushed past Edgar for the win. Championship leader Jak Crawford (Energy) won the battle for third with Maxson and Josh Portz (Tony Kart) completing the top-five.
A number of drivers were collected in an opening corner wreck at the start of the B vs. C heat race. Out front, Welage led the first lap before Edgar took the spot away before completing the second circuit. Ugo slotted himself in third, and looked to run down the top two. The lead duo stayed locked, with Welage waiting for the final run to the line. At the checkered, Welage scored the win by 38 thousandths. Calvo had another drive, climbing to third to move Ugo to fourth. Crawford added another top-five finish to help his efforts toward the main event grid.
Welage and Calvo earned the front row starting positions for the nine-lap main event. Welage was demoted to the second spot quickly with Edgar taking over the point on the opening circuit. Setting up for a run to the finish, Welage stayed locked on his bumper for most of the race as the top two pulled away from the field. On the final lap, Welage laid back going into the I-70 corner to set up for a run to the checkered flag. Edgar went inside and Welage used the momentum to go outside, pulling up alongside and reaching the line first by 62 thousandths for his second victory of the series. Edgar settled for second with Mayer winning the fight for third over Gold and DeFrancesco.