EKN Trackside: 2015 Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix – Sunday Report
Kiwi Hamilton invades Lancaster for S1 triumph as hometown hero Baker bags first in TaG Senior
Matt Hamilton celebrating his S1 Pro Stock Moto victory at Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix (Photo: EKN)
It was another memorable finish to the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix Sunday, as the event hosted the main events in front of another excited crowd of spectators that lined the track in the southern California city. Nearly 150 competitors wrapped up the California ProKart Challenge finale event in what is the fast street race in the west. Eight race groups, featuring 10 class winners celebrated on the BLVD podium ceremonies following the on-track action. Nothing was more exciting then headline category with New Zealand driver Matt Hamilton making the long journey to compete with the NorCal-based Aluminos squad, beating out the former S1 Pro Stock Moto winners to claim the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix victory.
Fritz Leesmann (CRG) and Ron White (CRG) jumped out to the front of the S1/S2 Heat #2 event. White was not one to keep clean and lay back, challenging Leesmann for the lead lap after lap. Kiwi driver Matt Hamilton (Aluminos) closed up on the lead duo, putting the pressure on White to give Leesmann some breathing room. Leesmann took the win over White with Hamilton in third. Will Preston (Aluminos) was fourth overall, first in S2, beating out Billy Musgrave (Praga) and Kolton Griffin (Tony Kart) with Alan Michel (Praga) second in S2.
Early on, the main event looked to be a battle between a number of drivers. Leesmann led the way with White and Hamilton trailing. By lap seven, Hamilton was into second and began setting his sites on Leesmann. Once there, Hamilton continued to try working around Leesmann. Hamilton tried to on the inside of turn five, but Leesmann was able to make the outside hold. Finally on lap 15 Hamilton went through for the lead. Leesmann tried to attack, but no attempt worked as the Kiwi conquered Lancaster for the victory. Leesmann settled for second with White a close third. Musgrave drove to fourth with Preston winning the S2 category, placing fifth overall. Michel and Jack Freese (Praga) joined him on the podium.
Brenden Baker (Tony Kart) and Christian Brooks (Energy) locked up together after starting the TaG Senior Heat #2 from the front row. Behind them was a intense fight for P3 with Worawong Komarakul (CRG) up from eighth to third on the opening circuit. They bunched up behind them with Matt Johnson (Tony Kart) and Austin Elliott (Tony Kart) right there along with others. Brooks made his move on lap eight for the lead, moving around Baker at turn five. Baker came right back at the same spot to complete lap nine. Brooks fought off Baker for the win on the final lap. Elliott bested Johnson, who had a throttle cable break on the final lap, forcing him to drive one-handed, losing one spot to Matt England (FA Kart).
A hard fought battle decided the main event victory. Baker and Brooks looked to be working together to get away from the field. Johnson and Ramirez would have none of it, keeping the leaders within site and then mixing it up after the halfway point. Johnson was the first to strike, pushing Brooks back to fourth. Ramirez followed through, taking over second to become the lead challenger. Their fighting however gave Baker enough breathing room, and the fast laps by Ramirez was not enough to catch him. Baker scored the victory in his home town by 2.4 seconds. The fight for third went to the wire with Elliott able to move his way into the final podium position, completing his Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix Scholarship program on a high note. Johnson dropped to third and was further demoted for contact with Brooks, placing his sixth in the final order behind Brooks and Wes Boswell (Praga).
It was a wild start to the S4 race group as David Conyers (Aluminos) went hard into the turn five barriers after the long 1000 foot straight. As the clean up went on, hard racing took place at the front with Darren Elliott (CRG) and Jimmy McNeil (CRG). Contact on lap four put Elliott out, and brought Mike Mantel (Tony Kart) up to the lead over Rob Logan (CRG). McNeil dropped to third, with Mirko Mizzoni (Italcorse) and Robert Marks (CRG) right there. Lap eight, McNeil was back into the lead, with Logan following through to drop Mantel back to P3. McNeil broke away in the closing two laps, winning by 1.2 seconds. Logan finished second with Mantel dropping back to fifth behind Marks and Mizzoni. Jim Kidd (Aluminos) won the Super Master class, with Darrell Tunnell (CRG) second and Kalvin Chen (Praga) third. California PKC point leader Ken Schilling (Vemme) dropped out on lap four, wrecking the chassis to that he was unable to race in the Final.
McNeil had the field covered for the main event victory. From the pole position, the former Pro Tour champion led all 20 laps to take the checkered flag ahead by 3.4 seconds. Mantel emerged as the lead challenger and was able to clock in the fast lap of the race, just unable to cut into the early lead McNeil created on the first few laps. The hard charger went to Elliott, who started at the tail of the field and worked his way into the third position. Mizzoni and Marks completed the top-five. Kidd wrecked on the opening lap, leaving the Super Master win to a battle between Chen and Patrick O’Neill (CRG). O’Neill was able to work by Chen in the late stages of the race, holding on at the line for the victory. Tunnell completed the podium.
Ethan Wilson (FA Kart) assumed the lead of the TaG Master Heat #2 race on the second lap, taking the top position from Heat #1 winner Brian Phillipsen (Tony Kart). The two pulled away until Trevor McAlister (Praga) closed up on the back of Phillipsen on lap four. The two swapped the position on lap five and six, allowing Nick de Graaf (MMK), Tom Nields (Praga) and Scott Falcone (Tony Kart) to close in. That allowed Wilson to cruise out to a near five second advantage. de Graaf worked his way up to second, working past McAlister while Nields dropped Phillipsen to fifth on the final circuit.
The main event was any of the top-three’s for the taking. Wilson, Phillipsen and McAlister all had the speed to win, and it became a chess game. McAlister appeared to be the driver quickest, waiting for a time to take the lead away from Wilson. He pulled the trigger on lap nine, with Phillipsen coming through to push Wilson back to third. Four laps later, Phillipsen took over the top spot from T-Mac and became under pressure from McAlister. That was just enough to give Phillipsen breathing room, scoring his fourth straight California PKC victory. McAlister took second ahead of Wilson while Falcone beat out de Graaf.
Top qualifier Robert Heck Jr. (CRG) and Heat #1 winner Aaron Schmitt (Praga) broke away from the field to begin the S3 Novice Stock Moto/S5 Junior Stock Moto Heat #2. Heck grabbed the holeshot from the outside of the front row, and the ran nose to tail, putting in some impressive lap times. Schmitt moved to the lead in the closing laps, pulling away to the win over Heck. Garrett McKelvie (Praga) won the fight for third over Josh Early (Top Kart) and Michael Korody (Praga). Callum Smith (Praga) added another heat win to his total in the S5 category, as Hunter Kelly (Praga) and Dean Heldt finished behind him. Heck however moved to the tail of the main event grid after coming in too wide in the rear width.
Schmitt and McKelvie drove away from the field in the first half of the race, establishing a five-second advantage over Korody. Heck was charging his way forward, until contact on lap 11 put him off and out of the race. At the same time, S5 leader Callum Smith fell back down the order, moving Kelly into the class lead. Schmitt would go on to score the victory by a half second over McKelvie. Korody ran alone in third with Early and Trevor Sumner (Tony Kart) completing the top-five. With Smith having his issues, Kelly went on to score the S5 victory, 10 seconds ahead of Heldt with Smith able to come up to third.
Contact on the opening lap of the TaG Junior heat race dropped California PKC point leader Trey Brown (Tony Kart) to the tail of the field. Front row starters Ethan Barrett (Kosmic) and Nicky Hays (Tony Kart) set the pace, pulling away. The driver on the move however was Dante Yu (Tony Kart). Starting 10th, Yu was up to third by the end of lap three, and running the fast laps of the race with clear track in front of him to run down the top duo. On lap eight, the leaders began racing for the lead, allowing Yu to close up even more, setting up for a three driver fight on the final lap. No change for position occurred with Hays taking the win over Barrett and Yu, however Hays was penalized one position for blocking, giving the win to Barrett. Jagger Jones (Tony Kart) drove to fourth with Hannah Grisham (Tony Kart) up to fifth.
Hays rebounded from the penalty to score his third victory of the season. Barrett led the first three laps of the race until getting shuffled back following contact. Yu took over the lead for fives lap until Hays slipped past. Jones tried to follow through, but contact was made and both went into the barriers in turn five, ending their race. This gave Hays enough space to cruise to the win, with Grisham up to second over Colby DuBato (Tony Kart). Barrett fought back to fourth with Wyatt Couch (Tony Kart) to fifth from 15th on the grid.
Oliver Calvo (Tony Kart) used the pole position to set the pace in the second heat for TaG Cadet. A group of four drivers formed the lead group as Ryan Schartau (Tony Kart), Tomas Mejia (Tony Kart) and Joseph Daniele (Benik) trailed Calvo. Lap seven, Schartau and the rest of the group demoted Calvo to fourth. Schartau held off Mejia by sixty-six thousandths of a second at the line for the win. Calvo moved up to third, bringing Anthony Willis (Benik) with him on the final lap to move Daniele to sixth.
The main event was red flagged for a wreck involving Cole Keith Cotham (Tony Kart) and Jace Jones (Tony Kart) in turn five. The race resumed with Calvo and Schartau breaking away. Schartau took over the lead on the white flag lap, and Calvo returned the favor on the final lap. Slipping past at the hairpin, Calvo looked to have the win in hand. They reached the final corner and Schartau gave Calvo a little bump and run. Calvo ended up in the barriers and Schartau took the checkered flag. Officials placed Schartau behind Calvo, putting them ninth and tenth in the order. That promoted Daniele to the victory. Willis finished second with Daniel Inzunza (Top Kart) third. Marcus Rodriguez (Top Kart) and Joe Brienza (Tony Kart) completed the top-five.
The second heat race for the TaG Cadet Rookie category was stopped after just two laps for a red flag. Steven Grafton (Tony Kart) made hard contact with the barrier in turn one, and was taken off for a full exam complaining of leg pain. The field got three laps to complete the race, with Aiden Kempf (Tony Kart) leading the way when they took the green flag. The final laps saw a number of driver making contact with the barriers, as Braydon Perry (Top Kart) scored the win. Alexander Diakoumopoulos (Benik) slipped past for second with Seth Huntley (Italcorse), Cole Shade (Italcorse) and Cooper Hunt (Margay) making up the top-five, with a lot of the fast drivers needing to move up in the main event.
Four drivers emerged in the main event as the contenders for the victory. Both Diakoumopoulos brothers were there, with Alexander leading the way for the first 11 laps. Kempf and Bustamante joined them. It was George that came through in the end, taking the lead on lap 12, and showing the way to the checkered flag. Bustamante ran second with Alexander back to third after Kempf retired with two laps to go. Taylor Gibson (Tony Kart) came from 12th to fourth with Shade rounding out the top-five.
Plans are already underway for the 2016 Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix to make it bigger and better every year. The competitors continue to praise the city and the citizens for their support and hard-work to make the racers feel welcome every year. And the city is ready to keep expanding, welcoming racers from all over the state, country and now the world.