Johnson and Campbell Notch First Wins of Season at Round Three for California ProKart Challenge
A number of new winners highlight trip to Monterey Bay Karters home facility in Marina
The California ProKart Challenge traveled north to the Monterey Bay Karters facility in Marina, California on April 1-2. The third round of the championship series visited the facility for only the second time in the program’s history, featuring 11 Honda and IAME categories for all ages. The weather was ideal, as the 1/2-mile circuit provided a new and exciting challenge for nearly 160 drivers in attendance. Throughout the weekend the headline was new winners, with eight drivers securing their first victory of the season to tighten up the championship chases.
Veteran Matt Johnson became the third different Phil Giebler Racing X30 Senior winner in as many rounds. The hard fought battle began with Johnson placing sixth in qualifying after Billy Musgrave posted a blistering 39.416-lap in the timed session. Musgrave drove away to the win in Heat #1, with Johnson fighting his way to the second spot after 12 laps. Johnson got the jump at the green flag to begin Heat #2, going on to score the race win. The main event was similar, as Johnson continued to fend off Musgrave. Johnson led all 18 laps to secure his first victory in the series since March 2014. Musgrave settled for second, with Phillippe Denes rounding out the podium. Ethan Barrett and Nicky Hays finished fourth and fifth.
2015 champion Jarred Campbell jumped back to the top step of the podium in the 2Wild Karting S1 Pro Stock Moto once again, becoming the third different winner this season in the category. It was a battle with former two-time champion Billy Musgrave, performing double duty once again. Campbell struck first with fast time in qualifying, posting a 38.418-second lap time to edge out Musgrave and Jacob Neal by less than eight hundredths of a second. Campbell led all 12 laps of the opening heat, only to come in underweight to hand the win to Musgrave. Neal pressured Musgrave, but the former champ took the win in Heat #2 as Campbell drove up to ninth overall in the combined S1/S2 race group. Campbell continued the charge in the main event and was into the second spot quickly. He hounded Musgrave and was able to make a move on the final lap, beating Musgrave to the checkered flag by 0.049 seconds. Jimmy McNeil took third, moving Neal back to fourth with Marco Eakins fifth.
Hunter Pickett established himself as the championship leader once again by earning his first victory ever in the Leading Edge Motorsport S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto division. Entering the weekend as the point leader, Pickett extended that lead by winning both heat races and the main event. Will Preston opened up the day as the driver to best, edging out Pickett by eight hundredths of a second in qualifying. Pickett was able to work past Preston for the lead and the win in Heat #1, following it up with a wire-to-wire win in Heat #2. Pickett then went on to lead all 17 laps of the Final to become the third different winner this season. Jason Pettit notched his first podium finish of the season, moving up to second after Preston retired early after contact on the opening lap and then later on lap seven. Hunter Kelly was third, with Round One winner Callum Smith fourth and Robert Heck Jr. fifth.
Both S4 divisions welcomed first time winners as well. Robert Marks earned his first victory in the Nash Motorsportz S4 Master Stock Moto category since his championship season in 2012. Marks was chasing Alan Michel most of the day, with the Arizona driver posting fast time in qualifying and winning both heat races. Marks kept the pressure on, and it paid off with four laps remaining when Michel spun, handing the lead and the win to Marks. Justin Bennett and Gianfranco Casadei joined him on the podium, with Nick George fourth and Michel recovering to fifth. PP Mastro notched his first victory in the Mike Manning Karting S4 Super Master class. Mastro set fast time in qualifying, but championship leader Ken Schilling came through to win both heat races. Mastro picked the pace back up in the Final, driving away to a five-second gap over Schilling. Warren Kindberg earned his first podium with a third place finish, with Darrell Tunnell and Mat Kattanek rounding out the top-five.
One category that did not see a new winner in Monterey was Vemme Kart/Extreme Karting X30 Master, as point leader John Crow earned his second straight victory. Nick de Graaf put in his best qualifying effort, outdoing the 21-driver field and then leading the way in the opening heat race. Crow came from P3 in Heat #2 to demote de Graaf to second before leading all 18 laps of the main event for the victory. De Graaf drove to his first podium finish of the year in second, with Vatche Tatikian in third. Capping off the top-five was Travis Irving and Russell Francis.
The Outsource Utility Contractor S3 Novice Stock Moto class added a third different winner on the season as well, with Julian van der Steur sweeping the 15-driver field. It was a near perfect score for van der Steur, leading the way from qualifying, through the two heat races, and the entire main event – only missing the fast lap bonus – to put him among the championship contenders. Round two winner Royal McKee was promoted to second after Tyler Agen was penalized for contact on lap 16 while fighting for position. That also moved Connor Solis to third, with Morghan Loganathan and Evan Jonker making up the top-five. Rolison Performance Group S5 Junior Stock Moto had Dean Heldt earn a third straight victory, with Kent Hatada in second.
Oliver Calvo is the third different winner in the Ryan Perry Motorsport X30 Junior class this season. It was a near sweep, only to miss qualifying fast time. That went to Jagger Jones, who edged out Tomas Mejia with Calvo in third. Calvo led all 12 laps in both heat races, and the Junior rookie paced the 18 laps of the main event for his first ever win. Round One winner Dante Yu drove to second with Mejia in third. Edward Portz was fourth with Jones finishing fifth.
The PKS Professional Kart Support Mini Swift division nearly had a two-time winner, with the two previous winners leading the way early. Defending champion and Round Two winner Anthony Willis set the pace in qualifying and crossed the line first in the opening heat race. A penalty for contact, however, cost him the win – dropping Willis down to 15th and awarding Round One victor Dominic Gorden the win. Jace Denmark-Gessel stepped up to challenge in Heat #2, but Gorden came through for the win. They continued their battle in the Main, until Denmark-Gessel secured the lead position on lap seven. Daniel Inzunza charged late in the race, becoming the new challenger and slipping past for the lead on the final lap. Inzunza crossed the line first, but was handed a 10-second penalty for pushing at the start. That promoted Denmark-Gessel to the top step of the podium after edging Willis to the line by 24 thousandths. Bryce Stevens completed the podium with Gorden slipping back to fourth with Dakota Tate in fifth.
Kai Sorensen has established himself as the driver to beat in the Top Kart USA Micro Swift class, earning his second win of the season. Sorensen swept the weekend, leading from qualifying to the final checkered flag. Cooper Hunt joined him on the podium in second, with Tuesday Calderwood in third. Mathias Coito and Piers Aspiras rounded out the top-five, with Ethan Nascimento earning fast lap honors.
The California ProKart Challenge will take time off for the next two months to allow Superkarts! USA competitors a chance to attend the opening weekend of the 2016 SKUSA Pro Tour. The seventh annual SpringNationals is set for April 29-May 1 at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Glendale, Arizona. The California PKC resumes on June 3-4 with another trip to the NorCal area, heading to the Simraceway Performance Karting Center in Sonoma, California. More details on the event will be posted shortly, along with the championship point standings to date. For more info on anything related to Superkarts! USA, please visit the website – www.superkartsusa.com and be sure to follow the Superkarts! USA Facebook page and Twitter account – or call the SKUSA head office at 951-491-0808.