EKN Trackside: 2017 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SpringNationals – Saturday Report
LeDuc scores first S1 victory as Norberg returns to top of podium in X30 Senior
The third and fourth rounds of the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour brought the sport’s top drivers to the Simraceway Performance Karting Center in Sonoma, CA this weekend (May 5-7), and Saturday’s events on the 11-turn circuit were highlighted by huge wins for Nic LeDuc in S1 Pro Stock Honda and Ryan Norberg in X30 Senior. LeDuc did not attend the WinterNationals, so his victory will not likely play in the title chase, but on the other hand, Norberg’s triumph over a stacked 44-kart X30 Senior field has drastically improved his chance to defend his 2017 title and national #1 plate.
Despite high than normal winds, the weather was almost ideal with temperatures in the high-60s and the track’s layout opened up many opportunities for overtaking. That said, the racing was much more aggressive and contact-filled than the series opener at NOLA Motorsports Park in March. Even with the video marshalling system in place, drivers appeared to revert back to their less-than-stellar racecraft. Qualifying up front, and away from the mid-pack chaos was certainly a key component in a successful day.
The return to NorCal brought out a number of legendary names in shifterkart racing. S1 Pro Stock Honda was setting up to be a big homecoming for Gary Carlton – who is one of the most successful shifterkart drivers in North American karting history. Carlton (LEM / Formula K) came out of the gate fully motivated, earning fast time in qualifying (47.841) by one thousandths of a second over fellow NorCal native Nic LeDuc – who was piloting a Sodi Kart for Cambrian Go-Karts. GFC drove to victory in the Prefinal to secure the pole position for the main event, but LeDuc looked very good holding in second.
The two were joined at the front in the main event by defending champion Danny Formal (Champion / Intrepid). Carlton led the first two circuits before Formal took over the point for the first time, dialing things up a notch. LeDuc came up from third to work past Carlton and then took the lead for the first time on lap 10. Formal tried to hold of Carlton, but the three-time SuperNationals winner finally worked past the Costa Rican for the position on lap 18. Eventually, Formal pulled off with engine issues in the closing laps, essentially taking away any hopes of defending the crown and #1 plate. LeDuc established enough of a gap, never putting a wheel wrong in the final laps to secure his first Pro Tour victory. Carlton settled for second, his first SKUSA Pro Tour podium outside the SuperNationals. Championship leader Jake French (DKC / Sodi Kart) held on to third, placing highest among those in the title chase to help add to the point lead. Mathias Ramirez (Andersen / Birel ART) was fourth with Billy Musgrave (MRC / Aluminos) bouncing back from a DNF in the Prefinal to finish fifth, up seven spots.
A full field of 44 drivers set out to be the best on Saturday in the X30 Senior division. The day began with Senior rookies Nick Brueckner (Orsolon / Tony Kart) and Jacob Gulick (RPG / Kosmic) setting the fast times in the qualifying session. Defending champion Ryan Norberg (PSL / Birel ART) and WinterNationals winner Zach Holden (Comet / Tony Kart) were no where near the top of the order on Friday, putting in the work overnight to finish qualifying third and fourth. The Prefinal ended up being The Michael Avansino Show. The VRP / Tony Kart driver started fifth and was into the lead by lap three. The NorCal driver pulled out to a solid lead as they fought for second, eventually seeing Norberg joined by PSL / Birel ART teammate Marjin Kremers. By lap 13, the two were able to close in on the Avansino. Norberg worked past for the lead in turn eight. Kremers tried to follow his teammate through, but he and Avansino made contact. After they came to a stop, Kremers continued on, placing 18th, while Avansino was unable to continue. This allowed Norberg to score the race win, while Gulick drove to second ahead of SKUSA #2 plate holder Brandon Jarsocrak (KSNA / Praga).
The start of the Final was not without issues. Contact in turn one was followed by more contact in turn three, involving Brueckner climbing over the rear end of championship leader Jake Craig (RPM / Tony Kart). Craig was able to continue, at the tail of the field and finished 27th. Up front, Norberg took the point at the start until Holden led for five circuits. Norberg put himself back into the lead, with PSL wingman Kremers right there. The Dutchman was up into the top-five after just two circuits and quickly moved forward to the second position. The two drove away from the field to give PSL / Birel ART a 1-2 finish, as Norberg scored his fourth Pro Tour win of his career. The fight was for third with Cedrik Lupien (RPG / Kosmic) as the driver to beat late in the race. A defensive line on the final circuit bunched up the group fighting for the position, with Lupien able to cross the line in the final podium position. Former SKUSA Pro Tour Junior champ Luke Selliken (RPG / Kosmic) advanced 12 spots to fourth with Jarsocrak earning a solid points day in fifth. The hard-charger of the race was Vemme driver Stepanova Nekeel, up 31 spots to 13th in 25 laps.
Riley Dickinson made sure there was no questions as to who was the championship leader in the S2 Semi-Pro Stock Honda category. The DKC / Sodi Kart driver dominated the day, sweeping the action for Round Three to extend his championship lead. Dickinson bested the field by over two tenths in qualifying before going wire-to-wire in the Prefinal. The holeshot in the Final went to Kyle Wick (RPG / CRG), leading two laps before Dickinson took back the top spot. The point leader drove away to his second victory of the season, ahead by five seconds over Wick. Rory van der Steur (Kosmic) drove to a podium run in third with Bryce Cornet (Champion / Intrepid) fourth and Jason Pettit (Aluminos) fifth.
Making his debut at the SKUSA Pro Tour in the X30 Master, Jess Peterson swept the day to earn the victory. Peterson cleared the field by three tenths in qualifying, and lead all 14 laps in the Prefinal. The Final, the Phil Giebler Racing / Ricciardo was joined in the Prefinal by Travis Irving (FW / CompKart). Irving got the jump at the drop of the green, dropping Peterson to second. It was for only five laps before the Reno driver went back to the point, driving away to a two-second advantage for the victory. Irving settled for second, his first hardware since dating back to the old ProMoto Tour days. Luke Vasquez (RPM / Tony Kart) completed the podium, edging out NorCal driver Carlos Calderon (Aluminos) with Gary Lennon (Tony Kart) in fifth.
The S4 Master Stock Honda was a battle to the end. Mexican driver Antonio Perez (VCI / GP) – brother of Formula One driver Sergio Perez started out the day as the top qualifier over championship leader Jordon Musser (3G / Birel ART). WinterNationals winner Renato David (Orsolon / Birel ART) jumped both in the Prefinal to take the win ahead of Musser with Perez slipping back to third. The same three led the way through the Final with David leading most of the way. Musser took the point toward the end of the race before Perez followed through, stealing the position away. Perez held on through the final laps to cross the line first, scoring his first Pro Tour victory and celebrated in Kyle Martin style – standing in the seat as the kart rolled on the cool down lap. Musser ended up second with David completing the podium. Defending champion Ryan Kinnear (Champion / Intrepid) was fourth and Ben Schermerhorn (Birel ART) placed fifth.
It was a wild one in the S4 Super Master Stock Honda division, on and off the track. NorCal driver and Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix winner Patrick O’Neill (RWR / CRG) set fast time in qualifying before relinquishing the top spot to defending champion Robert Marks (PKS / CRG) in the Prefinal. Marks led the opening circuit until pulling off with engine issues, ending his four race SKUSA Pro Tour win streak. That handed the lead over to Mike Jones (DKC / Sodi Kart) briefly before John Crow (MRC / DR Kart) took over the top spot. Crow led Jones and O’Neill until Jones was pulled off the track on lap 14 for losing his airbox. O’Neill moved to second, and tried a move on Crow, essentially driving over the side of the leader. This gave the point to Rod Clinard (CRG Nordam), who was being hand-scored. Clinard held on for the final laps to score his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory. Nick Firestone (DRT / DR Kart) advanced to second with Crow crossing the line in third. It was believed that Crow would be removed from the results for losing a sidepod, however, there was no meatball flag displayed and he was above the minimum weight, thus held the final step of the podium. Kalvin Chen (Aluminos) drove to fourth in his SKUSA Pro Tour debut with Jim Kidd (Aluminos) placing fifth in his return back to track after a long absence.
The pole position was not the place to be in the X30 Junior field. Rolison Performance Group / Kosmic driver set fast time in qualifying (50.282) and was shuffled back at the start of the Prefinal. Jacob Hudson (CompKart) started outside row one, and jumped out to the lead. Aidan Keel (Andersen / Birel ART) and championship leader Dylan Tavella (IRM / Tony Kart) worked together, running down Hudson and each taking a turn at the point. An issue on the final lap for Keel dropped down the order, allowing Hudson to score the win over Jak Crawford (Nash / FA Kart) and Tavella. Again, the pole sitter was not the position to be in the Final, with Hudson getting pushed off and run over, dropping him down the order and out of contention. Greenemeier took advantage to come away with the lead. She would get pushed back with Crawford, Trey Brown (Nash / FA Kart) and Arias Deukmedjian (Kosmic) slipping through. Crawford led the majority of the race until Brown pulled the trigger on the final circuit. Into turn one, Brown took the lead, holding on through the final circuit to score his first Pro Tour victory. Crawford settle for second ahead of Deukmejian, putting two Junior rookies on the podium. Zoey Edenholm (Koene / Tony Kart) was shuffled back early but charged forward to end up fourth ahead of CRG Nordam driver Franco Colapinto. Austin Torgerson (Ruthless / Tony Kart) advanced 29 spots to sixth, but was outdone by fellow Junior rookie Joey Brienza (Nash / FA Kart) who placed 12th, up 33 spots. Ryan Tate (SpeedSense / Ryan Tate) gained 30 spots to place 13th.
Carson Morgan (Benik) scored his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory in the Mini Swift division. Morgan was at the front of the 41-driver field all day, earning the Prefinal win before leading 16 of the 17 laps in the main event. The fight was for second, with Connor Zilisch (Energy) actually leading for one circuit, and crossed the line second. Zilisch was removed from the results for a tech infraction, elevating SKUSA #2 plate holder Diego LaRoque (Benik) to the runner-up. Double WinterNationals winner Luca Mars (Energy) was classified third ahead of Santiago Trisini (Benik) and Cole Morgan (Benik). Top qualifier Reece Gold (Benik) was shuffled back at the start, working his way back to ninth.
Nitro Kart enjoyed their first SKUSA Pro Tour victory with the triumph in Micro Max. Sebastian Ng worked his way forward all day long, securing the lead on the final lap of the main event, holding on to score his second ever SKUSA Pro Tour victory. Behind him, Sofia d’Arrigo advanced her way from ninth and into the second spot at the checkered flag. She would however lose the spot for a technical infraction, advancing Logan Toke (Top Kart) to the runner-up spot and Prefinal winner Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Benik) to third. Frankie Iadevaia (Nitro Kart) was fourth with Ian Aguilera (AM Kart) in fifth.