EKN Trackside: 2015 United States Pro Kart Series – New Castle Preview – Part 2
Finlayson leads Leopard Pro standings into series finale as Lemke has near lock for Junior title; two champions set to receive Rok Cup International Final tickets
The third season of the United States Pro Kart Series comes to a close this weekend as the 2015 finale is set for the New Castle Motorsports Park, just outside the ‘Racing Capital of the World’ Indianapolis. Opening up in NASCAR country at the GoPro Motorplex, visiting the US Air Motorsports Raceway in Wisconsin, and returning to the Michiana Raceway Park in northern Indiana, the season concludes at the 1-mile New Castle facility for the second straight year. The final two rounds will be contested on Saturday and Sunday, with the eight class champions crowned following the final checkered flag.
The New Castle Motorsports Park is the creation of former IndyCar driver and veteran karter Mark Dismore. NCMP has grown to be the crown jewel of karting in North America in its 12 years of operation, situated on a prime lot just south of the I-70 Interstate at the New Castle exit and roughly 50 miles from the famed yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The challenging 1-mile ‘National’ layout provides a great challenge to drivers and teams, and the new location of the start/finish line should result in some great photo finishes.
eKartingNews.com is scheduled to be at the New Castle facility all weekend long, providing the EKN Trackside Live broadcast. Family, friends and race fans can tune into ekartingnews.com/live all weekend to hear live audio from trackside, along with viewing live timing courtesy of Race-Monitor.com. Daily race reports will be published daily on the site’s home page, updates posted to the Official Discussion Thread, along with breaking news, photos and other links on the EKN Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Each day will present the drivers with a different format to the checkered flag. Saturday’s round of racing includes the standard qualifying, two heat races, and a Final. Sunday’s action is revamped with a qualifying, Prefinal, Final format to allow for the championship ceremonies to take place that evening. The preview of the weekend’s eight championships is broken up into two parts. Tuesday was focused on the four Yamaha divisions – Pro, Junior Cadet and Rookie – with the four TaG categories reviewed on Wednesday. All the weekend coverage and links can be found at the EKN Event Page.
Franklin Motorsports Leopard Pro
The Leopard Pro championship will go down to the wire. The first title won by Kyle Kalish was locked up before the final round. Last year’s title nearly went to the final checkered, with AJ Myers beating out Kalish for the title. This year, at least four drivers have the opportunity to become the third different champion in as many years. Aside from the double win weekend by Alessandro Bressan in his only series appearance this year, not one driver has stood out as the driver to beat. Only one of the four drivers in contention for the championship has stood on top of the podium, showing consistency in this eight round battle goes a long way.
Two runner-up finishes at the South Bend weekend propelled Elliot Finlayson (Tony Kart) to the top of the championship standings. After a rough start to the year in Mooresville, Finlayson has put himself inside the top-five at the last four rounds of racing and returns to the site of his first USPKS victory in the 2014 finale weekend. His 2015 results have him sitting 39 points ahead of former championship leaders Brandon Jarsocrak. The only driver inside the top-four to stand on top of the podium this year, Jarsocrak (Tony Kart) slipped down to second after a tough South Bend weekend. Jarsocrak drove to two podium finishes at the SummerNationals just last month, so there should be no question he will be near the front of the field throughout the weekend.
Just 90 points out of first is Dustin Stross. The top returning championship contender from last year, Stross (Tony Kart) finished third in the 2014 title chase. Outside the Rok GP Senior category and the Leopard Semi-Pro division back in 2013, Stross is still winless in the Leopard Pro division in seven weekends of racing, dating back to the start of 2014. Stross has only finished in the top-three once this season, placing runner-up Sunday at the Shawano event. Five markers behind him is California driver Andrick Zeen. The season has not been a standout one for the Praga North America driver, but Zeen has shown the speed to compete for the podium, finishing in the top-three twice in the six rounds of racing.
On the outside looking in is top rookie Ryan Norberg (PCR). Coming off his first victory, Norberg needs to continue with a string of wins to put himself higher up in the title chase, along with some help from the other four. Andrew Bujdoso (PCR) took himself out of the chase with an un-sportsmanlike conduct in South Bend, but could move up into the top-five depending on the two days of racing in New Castle.
Round One winner Jacob Donald (Praga) returns after missing the South Bend weekend, with the KartSport North America driver among the favorites to contend for the wins. Rookie driver Braden Eves (CompKart) was fast in his Senior debut last event at MRP, and previous success at New Castle has him among the top drivers this weekend in the Leopard Pro category. Sam Cate (Tony Kart) is among the top local drivers at NCMP, winning last weekend at the Route 66 Spring Series.
GT7 Motorsports Leopard Junior
It has been a near perfect season for Brandon Lemke in the Leopard Junior division. The Franklin Motorsports / Merlin driver has finished at the top of the results sheet in all but one session over the course of the six rounds of racing. The opening qualifying session in Shawano is the only blemish on his 2015 record for the category, and will likely clinch the championship after Saturday’s action in New Castle.
Zach Holden has been the lead challenger throughout the season, and is the one driver to better Lemke in 2015. Holden, moving to the Tony Kart brand, returns to his home track, looking to break up that perfect feature record that Lemke holds. Second in the standings is a near lock for him, holding a sizable advantage over three Junior rookies. Gio Bromante (Merlin) leads the trio in the fight for third over Michael d’Orlando (Tony Kart) and Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart).
Rok GP Senior
Beginning in Shawano, the Rok GP Senior category was added to the USPKS program, with the award of competing at the Rok Cup International Final in Italy as the top prize for the champion. After two rounds of racing, Round Two winner Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) holds a 55-point championship lead over Round One winner Derek Dignan (FA Kart). Florida driver Colin Warren (DR Kart) is on the outside, looking in as he trails by 190 going into the New Castle weekend. Colton Ramsey (Tony Kart) will be absent after a broken wrist in a Route 66 Sprint Series wreck.
Orlando Kart Center Mini Rok Cadet
Five different drivers have stood on top of the victory podium in the Mini Rok Cadet division, but only one will stand in the #1 position for the championship podium and earn the ticket to the Rok Cup International Final in Italy later this year. Lachlan DeFrancesco assumed the point lead after the Shawano weekend, and remains the driver to beat heading into New Castle. The Benik driver has five top-three finishes in the six rounds of racing, including a victory in Round Four. His lead shrunk to just 74 with Sam Mayer gaining valuable points at the South Bend weekend. The Franklin Motorsports / Merlin driver won Round Three, and like DeFrancesco has five top-three finishes on the season.
Two-time race winner Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart) is outside looking in. A tough Shawano weekend dropped him from the top of the standings, and another two-win weekend at New Castle could advanced d’Orlando to the top of the championship chase by the end of Sunday. Jason Welage (Top Kart) earned his first ever victory in Mini Rok at MRP, moving himself to fourth in the standings. A great battle for the fifth spot will heat up in New Castle, as Robert Noaker III (Merlin), Ugo Ugochukwu (Benik) and Round Five winner Tyler Maxson (Benik) all sit with 20 points of each other.