EKN Trackside: WKA Kartweek – Manufacturers Cup Tuesday Race Report
Finlayson scores huge Pro IAME win
Elliot Finlayson emerged as the star of the Pro IAME Senior field at Daytona
(Photo: Focal Perspective Media)
Warm and humid weather was the order of the day for the opening round of the WKA Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup – the Margay Sprint Nationals – at Daytona International Speedway. The racing was incredibly exciting all day long, and the huge Pro IAME Senior field brought everyone to the fence, packing the grandstands. Elliot Finlayson emerged as the top gun to begin season, as he out-performed his competition with a winning run. A total of 10 different categories took to the track to fight for race wins, and the results featured a mixture of last lap wins and dominating performances.
Briggs & Stratton LO206 Junior
David Kalb Jr. (FA Kart) got the day off to a great start as the event’s first fast qualifier, topping the 19-kart LO206 Junior field with a lap of 47.199. The Ohio driver was over three tenths quicker than Evan Stamer (Margay) and Nash Duyn (Razor), and he would set the pace all day. Jimmy Cole Jackson (Razor) and Matthew Miller (Bandit) rounded out the fast five during the timed session. Kalb swept both the heat races to lock in his pole starting spot for the final, further stamping his name on the day. In the shortened 12-lap main, Kalb bolted early to stretch out a nice cushion that he would hold through to the finish, coming home with a 1.2-second win as the first victor of the 2016 WKA Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup series. Florida’s Hunter Fox (Margay) qualified ninth, but advanced in both heat races and was able to earn an impressive runner-up result in the main. Miller finished third, a half second in front of Duyn, who set the fast lap of the race. Jackson rounded out the podium in fifth.
Briggs & Stratton LO206 Senior
The qualifying run for the LO206 Senior class rolled out as expected, with drivers pairing up to take advantage of the draft. The debate regarding the WKA Gold Cup spec formula (laydown seats and big nosecone) and the CIK-style sit-up karts was fueled quickly as the low-slung Gold Cup set-ups grabbed the top seven positions during the timed morning run. Corey Towles (Eagle) stole the pole position away from Sean Meier (Coyote) in the late going by just 0.043 seconds, posting a 46.621-second lap. Dustin Demattia (Ionic) was a further two tenths back in third, ahead of Zach Linsell (MGM) and Eric Fagan (Eagle). Margay drivers Hannah Grisham and Jesus Vasquez were the quickest CIK karts in qualifying, timing in eighth and ninth, respectively. To foreshadow the remainder of the day, this duo was just getting rolling.
The start of the opening heat was a little hectic as Demattia got looped around turn out of Turn 1, collecting sixth place starter Zach Skolnick (Ionic). Towles jumped to the early lead and ran off to a 1.9-second win over Linsell and Meier. Mayes finished fourth with Grisham on his tail. Skolnick was the driver to watch after the opening lap shunt, slicing through the field from 37th to rebound with a stellar 17th at the checkered flag. Demattia was able to claw his way back to 22nd. In the second heat, Towles, Linsell and Meier maintained their positions in the top-three, but the Margay duo of Grisham and Vasquez advanced again into fourth and fifth. Demattia continued his recovery from the Heat 1, lap 1 spin, gaining 11 more positions to sit 11th for the final.
The 12-lap final was textbook hardcore Briggs racing as Towles, Meier and Linsell battled into out for the first half of the race. Grisham sat in fourth, just a kart length or so behind the lead trio, with Vasquez on her bumper and they were definitely in the hunt. Vasquez would find a way into fourth, just before Linsell dropped a wheel on the exit of Turn 1, which allowed both Margay drivers to slip through. Over the final laps, Meier took the lead away from Towles, but not for long, as the Comet Eagle pilot went back to the point to post a 0.245-second win. Meier was second, as the Gold Cup duo finished up two second ahead of the CIK pairing of Vasquez and Grisham. Linsell completed the podium in fifth.
The LO206 classes are required to run the same set of Bridgestone tires for both days of competition, so it will be interesting to see which wheel width configuration provides the best wear over two full days of hard-fought racing.
Allison Racing Engines Yamaha Sportsman
Conner Ferris (Top Kart) and Kaden Wharff (Top Kart) battled for the pole position during Allison Racing Engines Yamaha Sportsman qualifying, and at the end of the session, it was Ferris who earned the spot with a 45.840-second lap that was just 0.022 quicker than Wharff. Robert Noaker II (Merlin) timed in third, leading a trio of drivers who completed the top five just a hundredth of a second apart. Luca Mars (Comp Kart) and Caleb Bacon (Comp Kart) turned identical 46.073s, but Mars’ quicker second fastest lap gave him the spot on the outside of the second row for the first heat.
Mars was on fire at the start of the opening heat race, attacking from fourth to lead by the midway point. Noaker dropped the hammer over the final two laps, however, and moved to second with two to go. The Merlin driver then reeled in the leader and passed Mars rolling down the backstretch to score the win and the pole for Heat 2. Noaker continued his performance in the second heat, stretching away from Jason Welage (Top Kart), while Bacon and Mars were locked together a couple backs in arrears.
The main event was fun to watch, as the lead quartet featured Noaker, Welage, Mars and Ferris, the latter who was back in the fight after finishing fifth in the second heat. Welage and Mars traded the lead over the final laps, but it was Mars who brought his Comp Kart to the line first, just nipping Noaker by 0.087 seconds for the win. Welage, Ferris and Taylor Maas (Merlin) completed the podium.
FranklinKart.com Yamaha Junior
Alex Bertagnoli began his stellar week by putting Merlin on the pole in FranklinKart.com Yamaha Junior with a lap of 44.014. Tyler Ferris (Top Kart) would end up second, turning his fastest time on the second lap of his run. Sam Paley (Tecno), Max Peichel (Top Kart) and Emory Lyda (Merlin) completed the top-five in the short timed qualifying session. Bertagnoli was truly dominant throughout the entire day, as he posted the fastest lap in both heat races to win convincingly, locking in the pole for the main. The Illinois pilot jumped to an early lead in the main event and while Ferris and Marina Walters (Top Kart) closed during midway laps, Bertagnoli was just too strong and cruised to a 1.960-second triumph. We certainly have a new player that must be considered as one of the top Junior drivers in the country. Away from the leader, Walters was particularly impressive, rocking a day of continued advancement. She qualified 11th, raced up to fourth in the opening heat and then settled into fifth in the second moto. In the main, she stepped up and chased down Ferris and slipped past late in the race to grab the runner-up finishing position. Ferris, Paley and Pauly Massimino (Top Kart) capped the top-five.
Kartsport North America Pro IAME Senior
Franklin Motorsports pilot Brandon Lemke (Merlin) has not let off the throttle following a stellar Junior season in 2015, as he topped a stout 47-kart Pro IAME Senior qualifying in his WKA Senior debut. The Wisconsin driver narrowly edged out Elliot Finlayson for the pole with a 40.994-second lap that was just 0.002 seconds quicker than the Tony Kart pilot. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger (Praga) finally found his pace after struggling throughout Monday practice, laying down a 41.026 to sit third, only 0.032 off Lemke’s class-leading time. Jacob Donald (Praga) was fourth ahead of Dan Roeper (Top Kart).
Lemke cashed in on his pole run in qualifying to win the first heat, although Allmendinger stepped up over the final laps to close into within three tenths. The two drivers would start on the front row of the second heat, but they would not make it to the fourth corner, changing the storyline completely. After Allmendinger grabbed the early lead, Lemke went back to retake the point in turn three and in the scrap for the apex, the resultant contact sent them both off-track and out of the race. They’d need to start the main from mid-pack, after the heat race points were tabulated. In their absence, Finlayson inherited the lead and he would win the second heat by 1.145 seconds ahead of Topkart USA driver Jonathan Kotyk. Nick Landi (Tony Kart) recovered from 21st in the opening heat to finish a remarkable third, ahead of Braden Eves (Tony Kart) and Alexander Kardashian (Top Kart).
Finlayson was not to be denied in the shortened 12-lap main event as he jumped to the lead early and didn’t look back. Kotyk pushed hard over the second half of the race to close the gap to 1.5 seconds, but it was not enough and Finlayson took a well-deserved victory to start the 2016 season. Kotyk was followed closely by Landi, who capped a great performance on the day, working himself forward with each successive race. Eves and Austin McCusker (Deadly) rounded out the top five. After their Heat 2 incident pushed them mid-pack for the start of the final, Allmendinger and Lemke hooked up and worked forward to finish 10th and 12th, respectively. You can be sure that they’ll both be back for the race win on Wednesday. Of note, Kyle Kalish (Merlin) rebounded after getting a pre-race grid DQ in the opening heat to fight his way back to seventh in the main, turning the fastest lap of the race. You know that Kalish will be ready to battle for a race win on Wednesday.
‘Water for a Cause’ Kid Kart
A four-kart battle in Kid Kart began in qualifying as the lead quartet timed in within six tenths of a second. Preveil Perkins (Sport Trac) posted the fast lap in qualifying to take the pole, but Jorge Ortiz (Birel), Indy Ragan (Praga) and Austin Olds (Emmick) were all quick and ready to fight for the wins. The opening heat race was exciting as the youngest drivers in the WKA program thrilled the paddock with lots of back and forth action. Olds was able to get out front to win the first heat with a last lap pass, and he tried to steal away the top spot on the final lap again, in the second head, but came up just short at the line by 0.042 seconds as Ragan took the win and the pole for the main event. The main event settled down into a thrilling dice between Ragan and Ortiz, who battled for the win on the final lap. Despite several looks by Ragan, Ortiz was able to hold him off on final lap for the on-track win. The official results would change in the tech tent, as Ortiz was DQ’d, handing the win to Regan. Olds was advanced to second, while Karsyn Walters (Top Kart), Ava Dutton (Margay) and Perkins completed the podium.
CRPRacing.com Mini Swift
Jeremy Fletcher (Tony Kart) controlled the CRPRacing.com Mini Swift class all day long, beginning with a strong qualifying run in which he topped the 18-kart field with a 45.876-second lap that put him over a tenth clear of Perra Granger (Tony Kart). Brent Crews (Tony Kart) was just 0.014 behind Granger, while Anderson Leonard (Benik) and Sebastian NG (Praga) capped the top-five on the time sheet. Fletcher swept both heat races to earn the pole for the main event and then proceeded to run away and hide, winning by 4.008 seconds over Crews, Granger, NG and Caleb Gafrarar (Parolin).
IAME East USA Pro Swift Sportsman
The early line on the Pro Swift Sportsman podium took a hit early when top contender Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart) dropped his chain leaving the grid for qualifying, which opened the door for Zane Maloney (Praga) to use a 44.701-second lap to win the pole for the opening heat race. Luca Mars (Comp Kart) was just 0.013 back to throw his name in the hat for the win. Connor Ferris (Top Kart) and Caleb Bacon (Comp Kart) sat third and fourth, while Madison Campeau (Top Kart) completed the fast five.
Ferris and Bacon ran away with the first heat, while Ugochukwu powered from 28th to 12th. In the second heat race, Ferris, Welage and Mars stretched out to a two-second advantage by the halfway point as Ugochukwu kept clawing his way back to fourth.
Regardless of the early action, this race was still simply waiting on the main event. Ferris jumped out to the lead in the final, and a hard-fought battle for second allowed him to stretch away to an unchallenged victory. Sometimes, the desire to get into second overcomes the normal understanding that you need to work together to reel in the leader. Mars, Welage and Bacon became embroiled in a spirited battle for the runner-up position, and at the checker, Welage took the spot by holding off a determined Mars. Bacon finished fourth in the final tally, but came up light at the scales. The fight for the final podium spots was not decided until late in the race, as Ugochukwu moved by Wharff with three laps to go to take fifth, completing his run from dead last in the opening heat race to the podium in the main. With Bacon’s DQ for weight, Ugochukwu moves to fourth and Wharff to fifth.
Woltjer Racing Engines Pro IAME Junior
Alex Bertagnoli’s tremendous start to the day in Yamaha Junior was extended in Pro IAME Junior qualifying, as he matched his earlier pace, taking his second pole with a time of 41.436 to edge Pauly Massimino (Top Kart) by a tenth. Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart) was just a tick off, while Sam Paley (Tecno) and Jack Miller (Tony Kart) completed the fast five. From there, it was all about Lance Fenderson. The Verde Speed pilot swept both heat races and he went on to lay down the fastest laps of the main event to extend his advantage to 1.913 seconds at the checkered flag. Bertagnoli maintain the chase, but came up short, completely a strong day with a solid runner-up finish. Oliver Calvo (Tony Kart) finished third, ahead of Massimino and Vincenzo Sarracino (Tony Kart).
Fullerton Karts USA Yamaha Senior
The final race of the day was run at sunset, as the WKA worked to get the day in the books before darkness shut down the facility. Yamaha Senior held the final spot on the schedule, and Brandon Lemke (Merlin) owned the class for a majority of the day. He qualified on the pole over Braden Eves (Tony Kart) and Nick Landi (Tony Kart) and then won both heat races. Things got messy in the main event, however, as Lemke led for all but one lap. Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) slipped by Landi with two to go and he reeled in Lemke to set up the fight for the win. Once Pesek arrived, Lemke started running the defensive line to maintain his position, but as the white flag flew, Pesek leaned on the leader heading into turn one and sent Lemke past the apex. Lemke was able to keep the kart on the track with full steering lock, but Pesek, Eves and Landi were all able to get by. Pesek would go on to the win, Eves took second, and Lemke found his way my Landi on the last lap to salvage third. Kardashian completed the top-five.