EKN Trackside: WKA Kartweek – Manufacturers Cup Wednesday Race Report
Jarsocrak emerges as Pro IAME Senior star, Towles completes LO206 Senior sweep
Brandon Jarsocrak brought Kartsport North America a big Pro IAME Senior win during the second day of competition in Daytona
(Photo: Focal Perspective Media)
There is a new energy and a rejuvenated spirit in the North Carolina offices of the World Karting Association, and their goal of rebuilding their flagship Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup Series enjoyed a big leap forward this week in Daytona, as over 250 entries were registered for each of the two days of competition. Massive numbers in Pro IAME Senior were key, as was the addition of two well-supported Briggs LO206 categories. The big fields made for exciting racing, and Wednesday’s action kept up the momentum fueled by Tuesday’s main events. The day was sunny, hot and humid, with only a little midday sun sprinkles cooling off those in the paddock. In contrast to past years where cold weather and rain hampered the potential enjoyment of a holiday trip to Florida, this year’s weather was certainly a highlight.
Briggs & Stratton LO206 Junior
David Kalb Jr. (Arrow) picked up where he left on Tuesday afternoon, topping LO206 Junior qualifying once again with a time of 47.112 seconds. It took the top drivers at least eight laps to lay down their best times, as the track continued to improve in the early morning fog. Hunter Fox (Margay) was just over two tenths back in second, while Cade Frazier (MGM) right there, just six hundredths back. The top-12 in the class were separated by less than a second. Brian Van Cleve Jr. (Ionic) and Matthew Miller (Bandit) rounded out the fast five.
In typical four-cycle fashion, an eight-kart pack lined up at the start of the first heat race as Fox hung with Kalb through to the midway point in the sprint. The Margay driver looked poised to challenge for the lead until he made a minor miscue in tapping the apex curbing in the final corner, which ruined his drive onto the frontstraight. This gave Kalb some breathing room en route to the win. Despite the mistake, Fox held on for second ahead of Frazier, Miller and Nash Duyn (Margay).
In the second heat, Kalb led early before a red flag stopped the race when TJ Tomkunus was involved in a rough incident. The young driver was transported to the local hospital as a precaution. On the single file restart, Kalb resumed the lead for a time until Fox went to inside heading into the first corner at halfway point, setting up a three-kart breakaway group with Fox, Kalb and Miller. Fox would go on to show what he had, setting his fast time on lap 6 to pull away, as Miller slid past Kalb for second.
The final was a barnburner, as Fox and Miller squared off over the final laps in what appeared to be a two-horse race. However, their back and forth dicing opened the door for Jimmy Cole Jackson (Razor) to enter the fray after Fox went for wheels off on the exit of Turn 3 trying to maintain the lead. The race came down to a last lap scrap, as Miller got inside the leader on the backstraight for the point. Fox followed him through to take second, and then won the drag race to the line by a scant 0.020 seconds. Miller finished second, just ahead of Van Cleve, who was trying to win around the outside. Less than an tenth covered the top-three. Jackson was fourth, while Kalb rounded out the top-five.
Briggs & Stratton LO206 Senior
Tuesday LO206 Senior winner Corey Towles (Eagle) came out of the box quickly in qualifying, but it would not be enough as fellow Florida driver Sean Meier (Coyote) put a great lap together to steal the pole away late in the session with a time of 46.598. Eric Fagan (Eagle) jumped to second on lap eight, and even though Towles improved on lap nine, he would need to settle for third. Matthew Mayes (Coyote) and David Vasquez (Margay) put themselves back into the fight for the win once again, timing in fourth and fifth, respectively.
In the opening heat race, Meier led early, but Towles went on the attack to take over the lead before the crossed halfway flags. Meier was not to be denied as he and Fagan went back at Towles on the final lap, and hardcore side-by-side racing ensued from Turn 1 all the way around to the backstraight and Turn 9. Meier got a good run out of the Bus Stop and got to the inside to retake the lead and the win. Fagan followed him through for second as Towles dropped to third. Mays finished over a second behind the lead trio, while Vasquez, Michael Greiner (Eagle) and Hannah Grisham (Margay) were a further two seconds back. The second heat was a little more heated. Towles won but was penalized and dropped to sixth. Meier inherited the win to keep his day perfect, finishing ahead of Grisham. Fagan was alone in third while Vasquez and Greiner were fourth and fifth ahead of Towles on the official results sheet.
It was an easy run for Towles in the main event as he was able to pull out to a 1.6-second cushion by the halfway point in the race, as Fagan and Meier were embroiled in a great scrap for second. It would be a sweep of the weekend for Towles. Meier’s push for the runner-up position was thwarted when he tried to throw his Coyote inside Fagan heading into Turn 1 at the start of the ninth lap. The two karts made contact and Meier looped around, dropping him outside the top-five. Fagan would finish second uncontested, while Meier chased down Demattia for third, coming up a half-second short at the checkered flag. Grisham would complete the top-five.
Of note, Zack Skolnick (Ionic) was one of the fastest drivers all week, but bad luck chased him at every corner. After being collected by another driver in the opening heat, leaving him 29th for the start of the second race, Skolnick worked his way back to a stunning ninth, and then finished ninth in the final as well, after starting mid-pack. I expect that he would have challenged for podium finishes if he’d been able to sidestep the mid-pack chaos.
Allison Racing Engines Yamaha Sportsman
Robert Noaker III (Merlin) was in the lead fight in Yamaha Sportsman throughout the opening day’s action and he showed no signs of letting up in morning qualifying, laying down a 45.977-second lap midway through the session to secure the pole for the opening heat race. Connor Ferris (Top Kart) was over a tenth back in second, coming in ahead of Thomas Schrage (Tony Kart) and Kaden Wharff (Top Kart). Joshua Warren (Tony Kart) rounded out the top-five in the timed run. Tuesday winner Luca Mars qualified his Comp Kart in the sixth position.
There was a ton of action on the opening lap of the first heat, as Mars got shuffled off the track and back to 14th, beginning a recovery run. Ferris and Wharff went off in Turn 1 as well, and then Noaker went four wheels off at the exit of Turn 3. Amidst the chaos, Schrage took the lead over Welage, but Welage was quickly to the point. Wharff would eventually find his way back to the lead, but Welage retook the spot with two laps to go. The action was never-ending. Noaker had returned to the lead pack after his opening lap excursion, and was putting pressure on the leader on the final circuit, but Welage held him off for the win. Further back in the field, Mars completed his drive forward with a sixth place finish after his opening lap issue.
Welage and Noaker resumed their battle in the second heat, followed by Madison Campeau (Top Kart), Mars and Lucas Smalec (Merlin). During the final run down the backstraight, Noaker slipped to the inside of Welage to assume the lead and the win, while Campeau took full advantage of the opportunity to follows Noaker through for second. Welage, Mars and Wharff wrapped the top-five.
Everyone stepped up for the main, as a nine-kart lead pack formed early. Welage, Campeau and Noaker would all lead early, but Noaker would take control of the race just past the midway by building a lead of just over a second. Welage made is exciting as he began reeling the Merlin driver in with three to go, and he was bringing the pack with him. The gap dropped to a half-second, then just two tenths, but Noaker rose to the challenge and laid down a flawless final lap to hold off a charging Welage for the win. Wharff, Campeau and Mars completed the podium.
FranklinKart.com Yamaha Junior
Merlin Nation pilot Alex Bertagnoli was on fire during Tuesday’s action, and cashed in with the win in Yamaha Junior and a second place finish in Pro IAME Junior. The Illinois driver scored the pole position in Yamaha Junior once again with a strong qualifying effort that saw him pip Spike Kohlbecker (Margay) for the top spot by just 0.089 seconds. Tuesday’s Pro IAME Junior winner Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart) was just over a tenth back in third, while Emory Lyda (Merlin) and Max Peichel (Top Kart) rounded out the fast five.
Bertagnoli held station up front in the opening heat race, as Kohlbecker ran extremely well to hold back Fenderson for eight laps to finish second. In the second heat, Bertagnoli led early but Kohlbecker took over at halfway and then stretched out his advantage during second half while posting the fast lap of the race. Bertagnoli closed during the late going and was right on his bumper as they sped under the checkered flag. Peichel and Fenderson were third and fourth, while Pauly Massimino (Top Kart) was fifth.
The feature race was simply another opportunity for Kohlbecker, Bertagnoli and Fenderson to duke it out. With Kohlbecker holding the lead, the fight for second is what opened the door for the Margay pilot to steal with victory. Kohlbecker held a slim half-second advantage over Fenderson with just two laps to go, but it was the aggress Bertagnoli who was keeping Fenderson honest, focused more on preserving his runner-up position that attacked Kohlbecker for the win. At the stripe, the Missouri pilot won by 0.406 seconds as Fenderson was successful in defending his position in second. Bertagnoli would have to settle for third, his third top-three finish of the week. Sam Paley completed a solid day in fourth after qualifying 11th, turning the fast lap of the race, while Marina Walters (Top Kart) capped the podium. Walters turned in steady improvement all day, qualifying 16th and finishing ninth in both heats before advancing to the top-five in the main.
Kartsport North America Pro IAME Senior
Pro IAME Senior qualifying was thrilling, as expected, as several drivers stepped up their games after Tuesday’s action. Austin Garrison (Tony Kart) found some speed and worked his way to the top of the order on lap four with a 40.851-second lap, but Brandon Lemke (Merlin) continued his impressive pace by dropping the pole time to 40.709 just one lap later. Brandon Jarsocrak (Praga) ended up just 0.012 back of Lemke, as the top four drivers all timed in within a tenth. AJ Myers (iKart) and AJ Allmendinger (Praga) were both on their games during the morning session, getting the days off to a solid start.
Lemke capitalized on his pole position in the first heat to stretch away from Myers and Jarsocrak by the halfway point. Not surprisingly, Lemke was the fastest kart on the track and won by 1.2 seconds. Allmendinger continued his impressive pace to finish fourth, just a half second behind Jarsocrak. Garrison was fifth. The action continued in the second heat as Lemke controlled the start and jumped quick to a gap while Myers got shuffled off the track at the exit of turn one and fell back to 12th. Lemke was again untouchable, holding a half-second lead on the battle for second, which would come down to Garrison getting past Jarsocrak just past the halfway point. Allmendinger would follow suit after putting pressure his Kartsport North America teammate, advancing to third on the final lap. Jarsocrak took fourth ahead of Kotyk. Myers was able to get back to 10th.
In the main, Lemke got the lead at the start, but it certainly appeared that Jarsocrak had made the perfect adjustments to his Praga. The Pennsylvania hotshoe made a great move into Turn 1 to start second lap to takeover the point and he would not be challenged again. Jarsocrak and Lemke began to pull away, just as Allmendinger moved into third. At the halfway point, Lemke began chipping away at the lead but the race would come to an early completion with just two laps left when the throttle stuck on the Parolin of Billy Lewis in Turn 1. After a spin in the opening corner, Lewis attempted to get out of this kart, not knowing the throttle was stuck, and it took off into the inner garbage bag wrapped haybales, getting caught up in one, and then veering back onto the track where it proceeding to do donuts right in the racing line. The event was quickly red-flagged, and with time pressing after delays earlier in the day, the Race Director elected to checkered the race, giving the win to Jarsocrak. Lemke took second while Allmendinger was third. Alexander Kardashian (Top Kart) finished fourth ahead of Tuesday winner Elliot Finlayson (Tony Kart). After all the carnage and first corner contact, Myers was able to salvage a seventh place finish in the main.
‘Water for a Cause’ Kid Kart
Tuesday’s Kid Kart race winner Indy Ragan (Praga) got his day off on the right foot by turning a 56.302 in qualifying to grab the pole position for the opening heat race. Ava Dutton (Margay) and Aubrey Adams (Top Kart) were just over three tenths back in second and third, as the two young ladies put themselves in the lead pack with strong qualifying runs. Austin Olds (Emmick) was a contender for the win during the opening day of action, and he was quick out of the gate again, timing in fourth ahead of Preveil Perkins (Sport Trac).
Ragan, Olds and Dutton hooked up in three-driver battle up front by the halfway point in the first heat, and when the laps began to wind down, Olds took the lead with move to the inside at the end of the backstraight. Then, it was Dutton’s turn to go to the point with a move to the inside on frontstraight as they took the white flag. Ragan followed Ava through to steal second and then completed the run back to the lead with a great move on the backstraight and a drag race to the line. The second heat race was more of the same, but this time, Dutton made the last lap move for the win and just edged out Olds at the stripe. Ragan was third, while Jorge Ortiz (Birel) fought into the top-five to finish fourth ahead of Dusty Larson (Birel).
In the final, Ragan ran away early to build a two-second lead, chased by Olds, Dutton and Walters. Things changed with just two laps to go when Ragan lost a chain on the backstraight, ending his bid for the win, handling the lead to Olds. Dutton threw everything she had at Olds but couldn’t get by, pushing him across the line for the 1-2 finish that saw Olds sweep the Kid Kart wins. Karsyn Walters (Top Kart) finish third, just ahead of Igua and Perkins.
CRPRacing.com Mini Swift
Just when it looked like the Mini Swift qualifying session would end with Anderson Leonard (Benik) on top of the speed charts, Sebastian NG (Praga) pulled out a 46.091-second lap to clear himself from the field by over two tenths. Leonard was till able to hold onto second, just ahead of Granger Perra (Tony Kart) and Brent Crews (Exprit), as the trio was separated by just 0.037 seconds. Nicholas Terlecki (Birel) completed the top five.
In the opening Mini Swift heat race, Leonard and NG pulled away early, although when NG dropped a wheel in Turn 3, Fletcher was there to pounce on the opportunity to grab second. Leonard would leave the field behind him to win by almost a second ahead of Fletcher while NG held on for third. Crews took fourth ahead of Eli Trull (Fullerton). In the second heat race, a five-kart battle formed by the midway point of the race, but after a three-wide run out of Turn 1 put at least one kart in the grass, the lead group shrunk to four pilots – Fletcher, Terlecki, Crews and NG. The final lap was thrilling as Terlecki was able to get to the inside on the backstretch to score a 0.079-second win at the line. Fletcher pushed Terlecki across the line to take second ahead of Crews, NG and Leonard.
The opening laps of the main event were uneventful, as Fletcher led Terlecki and Crews by a half-second at the crossed halfway flags. On lap 8, Crews teamed up with Leonard to get past Terlecki for second and third, but all this dicing gave Fletcher the chance to extend his lead to 1.3 seconds. One of the top-five players was out on lap nine as NG lost his chain, but this had no bearing on Fletcher’s sweep of the main events as he powered to a 0.902-second win over Crews, who had left Terlecki to chase down the leader. Terlecki was able to hold off Leonard for third, while Perra completed the podium in fifth.
IAME USA East Pro Swift Sportsman
The qualifying order following the Pro Swift Sportsman morning session certainly showed some new names up top, as Zane Maloney (Praga) was the quickest of the 28-kart field. Maloney turned a 44.811-second lap to win the pole, a time that was over a tenth quicker than Ugo Ugochukwu (Tony Kart), who had a much better qualifying run on Wednesday after losing a chain leaving the grid yesterday. Luca Mars (Comp Kart), Kaden Wharff (Top Kart) and Lucas Rodriguez (Benik) capped the top-five, although they were separated by just 0.038 seconds, setting up a close fight for the heat races.
Ugochukwu paired with Maloney to make it a two-kart battle in the opening heat race, but he would stretch away for a flag-to-flag 1.2-second win. Ugochukwu turned it up even more in the second heat, walking away to a 3.559-second victory to secure the pole for the main event. Maloney finished alone in second, ahead of a great battle for third, which was won by Welage over Wharff, Noaker and Isabella Robusto (Comp Kart).
Ugochukwu would go on to dominate the main event. The Tony Kart pilot led by over 2.5 seconds at halfway point and then stretched out to a 5.095-second win after 12 laps. A three-driver battle for second ensued behind Ugochukwu, as Welage had his hands full with Rodriguez and Maloney. Welage was able to hold back his challengers to score the runner-up result, as Rodriguez, Maloney and Ferris filled the remaining steps on the podium.
Woltjer Racing Engines Pro IAME Jr.
After running strongly within the top-five on Tuesday, Pauly Massimino (Tony Kart) fired up the afterburners for Pro IAME Junior qualifying on Wednesday, rolling enough corner speed to edge Day 1 winner Lance Fenderson (Tony Kart) for the pole. Massimino posted a 41.308-second lap, which was just 0.003 seconds quicker than Fenderson. Vincenzo Sarracino (Tony Kart) and Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin) were right on the pace as well, both within a tenth of the polesitter. AJ Zale (Tony Kart) capped the top-five during the timed morning session.
Bertganoli and Sarracino swapped positions in the heat races, as the Merlin driver topped Heat 1 while the Tony Kart pilot scored in Heat 2. Massimino and Fenderson did the same for third and fourth.
The main event came down to a four-driver fight for the win with Bertagnoli, Massimino, Sarracino and Fenderson powering away to a five-second lead ahead of the rest of the field. Over the final laps, Bertagnoli took control to build a little cushion over Massimino, as Fenderson and Sarracino swapped third in both the first and third corners on penultimate lap. With his competition fighting for third, Massimino tried to close on the last lap, but Bertagnoli was too much, scoring his second win of the event and his fourth straight top-three result. The Illinois driver turned in a stellar performance all week and will certainly be the primary contender for both Junior championship in 2016. Massimino would take second over Sarracino and Fenderson, while Zale completed the top five.
Fullerton Karts USA Yamaha Senior
Just as he did on Tuesday, Franklin Motorsports’ Brandon Lemke swept the qualifying sessions in the senior categories, following up his Pro IAME Senior pole with a fast time in Yamaha Senior. The Merlin driver laid down a 44.336-second lap to edge Braden Eves (FA Kart) and Nick Landi (Tony Kart), who timed in within half a tenth. Tuesday winner Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) was over three tenths back in forth, just one hundredths of a second in front of Jake Venberg (Merlin).
Four drivers broke away early in the first heat, as Lemke led Eves, Pesek and Landi. The lead duo took control at the midway point before Lemke bolted, leaving Eves to hold off Pesek and Landi for second. The final lap battle was heated, as Landi slipped past Pesek as he tried to take over second. After turning the fast lap in the first heat, Landi turned things up in Heat 2 as he challenged Lemke big time through middle of the eight-lap sprint. Lemke would eventually win by a half-second, but Landi was made his statement.
The Landi-Lemke showdown continued in the main event, but this time Landi led through to the final laps, as Pesek turned the quickest lap of the race as he chased down the lead duo. The Topkart driver arrived on Lemke’s rear bumper with three to go, but Lemke defended by passing Landi for the lead in Turn 1 on lap 10. The final laps would cap the event with style, as Landi took over the lead on the penultimate circuit with an inside move in Turn 1, only to have Pesek do the same two corners later. On the final circuit, Landi found himself back up front, but this time with a two kart-length advantage that he would hold through to the checkered flag, as he crossed the line as the winner, much to the thrill of the crowed. Pesek held on for second over Lemke, as Eves finish fourth ahead of Derek Hughes (Top Kart).