EKN Exclusive: Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 22 – Preview Series – KZ
International category rounds out divisions in Vegas
eKartingNews.com, the Official Media Partner of Superkarts! USA, is proud to present our Preview Series for the SKUSA SuperNationals 22. Leading up to the on-track action of the 22nd edition of the marquee SKUSA event, EKN will preview each of the 10 categories that will compete on the temporary circuit located just outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino from November 14-18.
Complete coverage of the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 22 can be found at the EKN EVENT PAGE. EKN Live will provide play-by-play and live timing from qualifying through to the final checkered flag on SuperSunday at ekartingnews.com/live
Karting is ‘the purest form of motorsports’ – that was the phrase coined by the late Dan Wheldon. On SuperSunday, the Dan Wheldon Ambassador Award Presented by Bell Racing USA will be awarded to one member of the karting community who embodies the spirit of the sport, such as Dan did with karting and racing, in general. For karting, the elite form is the KZ category. It compares to that of Formula One, with the quickest, most powerful engines in sprint racing, featuring many of the best drivers from around the world.
The former SuperPro division really kicked up the international flavor in 2007 when world champion Marco Ardigo made the trek to America and stole the headline category. Since then, only one USA driver has won during that time when Gary Carlton earned his second triumph in 2015 in what is now called the KZ division. Prior to Carlton’s emotional victory, and in the last two years, one driver has stood on the podium and offered his race-winning helmet to SKUSA President Tom Kutscher. Italian Paolo de Conto dominated those three SuperSunday main events to claim three massive payday checks of $10,000 each. The factory CRG driver has a chance to make history at the SuperNationals with a fourth victory, which would tie him with Connor De Phillippi for the most wins ever. The odds are in his favor with a fairly ‘new’ field of drivers set to battle in KZ, with less than half the field having raced in Vegas before.
The majority of the field is made up of drivers from the USA, which does bode well for shifterkart racing. Among them are a list of top S1 drivers over the last few years. Last year’s SKUSA Pro Tour S1 champion Jake French (DKC / Sodi Kart) is set to make his KZ debut. French finished on the podium in his last two S1 SuperNats starts and has been working hard over the last month for the transition to the international category. SKUSA #2 plateholder Kyle Wick is another USA driver set for his KZ debut. Wick will have the opportunity to work alongside De Conto under the CRG Nordam tent and feed off the two-time world title winner. S1 rookie Rory van der Steur (Tony Kart) was the quickest driver at the Rock Island Grand Prix this year with his KZ powerplant, scoring his first King of the Streets crown at the Labor Day weekend classic. After two years in S2, Rory is pulling the double duty card in Pro Shifter and KZ.
Representing NorCal is SKUSA Pro Tour race winner Nic LeDuc (TKC / Sodi Kart). Passing on the Pro Shifter category, LeDuc is making his KZ debut this week. You’ll also have to look at Mathias Ramirez (GFC) as a contender in both the Pro Shifter and KZ classes. Ramirez is racing for Gary Carlton, the only American to win the category in the last 13 years, and he’ll have the tools in his hand to contend for the victory in both divisions. The 2016 S2 SuperNationals winner was among those who finished inside the top-10 last year in KZ, as just three drivers return. The third in the trio is Dutch driver Marjin Kremers. The Birel ART factory pilot was sixth in his KZ debut at the SuperNationals, and is coming in having enjoyed a solid 2018 season around the world.
Experience is always key at this level, and there is no one with more at the SuperNationals in KZ than Ron White (RWR / CRG). The veteran from NorCal is making his 19th start in Vegas. It was 2002 when White etched his name into the record books, winning the inaugural event at the Rio in SuperPro. Bouncing back and forth between this category and the S1 division, his best KZ result since his lone victory was fifth in 2007 – the final year at Sam Boyd Stadium.
As mentioned in the opening, Formula One is the elite level in motorsports. KZ fills that role in karting. Over the years, the SuperNationals has brought the best in the world to Vegas, attracting a handful of professional racers back to their roots. You can start with Michael Schumacher gracing the paddock in 2009 and move to seeing current F1 driver Max Verstappen racing in KZ in 2012 before making the move to cars, and ultimately landing his spot with Red Bull Racing. A new name will be added to that list, as Rubens Barrichello will be on-track this year. The Brazilian who resides in the USA spends many days and weekends with his two kids racing karts. Barrichello occasionally jumps back into the seat, and the 46-year-old will make his SuperNationals debut in KZ.
Also returning to the SuperNationals is five-time Indy 500 starter Sage Karam. The multi-time WKA and Stars of Karting champion is set for a run in KZ, working with American chassis manufacturer iKart.
Rob Howden – EKN Publisher
In looking over the KZ entry list, I don’t see anyone who will be able to stop Paolo De Conto from steamrolling to his fourth SuperNationals victory. Of course, there are some extremely talented guys like Marjin Kremers, Jake French, Matias Ramirez and Nic LeDuc, but let’s be real, De Conto is a pro and his accumulative seat time in a KZ likely tops a majority of the field combined. So, I predict that Paolo will once again exchange his helmet for $10,000 of Tom Kutscher’s money. For the remainder of the top-five, I’ll lean towards the guys I mentioned above, but I’m also predicting that Matt Jaskol, Max Hewitt and Rubens Barrichello will be in the hunt. Jaskol’s always quick when he shows up to run against the top Euro drivers, and if he’s on his game, he could surprise. Hewitt was a revelation his year in his first season of shifter racing, dominating S2 in Texas and on the Pro Tour running faster than most of the S1s. And Rubens is Rubens. He’s stayed in a kart long after his retirement from F1, and he’s always a force.
1. Paolo De Conto
2. Marjin Kremers
3. Jake French
4. Matias Ramirez
5. Max Hewitt
David Cole – EKN News Desk Manager
History will be made on SuperSunday when Paolo De Conto crosses the line, checkered flags waving, the famous Rio in the background, and the fans cheering as the Italian wins his fourth SuperNationals main event. De Conto is the best when looking at this list, and I don’t see anyone challenging him for the top spot all week. Marjin Kremers is the best of the rest, with a fierce skill set behind the wheel. Ramirez matches that drive and determination, and grabs the third spot over former #1 Jake French who, when on his game, is among the best in the USA. You have to put Rubens Barrichello in the top-five. A former Formula One winner in the field. I don’t care of his age, as I have seen in races this year, this guy loves to race, loves to be at the track with his family, and will be a great addition to the SuperNationals 22.
1. Paolo De Conto
2. Marjin Kremers
3. Mathias Ramirez
4. Jake French
5. Rubens Barrichello
By the Numbers:
1 – Former Formula One winner
2 – IndyCar Series drivers
4 – Former SuperNationals winners
16 – International drivers
22 – Making first start in Pro at SuperNationals
38 – Drivers entered
Provisional Entry List – KZ
|33||Kyle Apuzzo||CompKart||CompKart||North Scituate RI||US|
|55||John Baldasare||Musgrave Racing Co.||Formula K||Roseville CA||US|
|76||Pierce Baldus||Ron White Racing||CRG||Leawood KS||US|
|11||Rubens Barrichello||NF Piquet Sports||Tony Kart||Windermere FL||BR|
|24||Axel Bengtsson||Rolison Performance Group||Tony Kart||SE|
|13||Allan Cesarman||Aluminos||GP Kart||Sunny Isles Beach FL||US|
|40||Tyler Coffman||Mid-Cal Karting||FA Kart||Bakersfield CA||US|
|4||Paolo De Conto||CRG Nordam||CRG||IT|
|99||Pedro Paulo Fernandes||NF Piquet Sports||CRG||BR|
|70||Joshua Fife||Energy USA||Energy||AU|
|6||Jake French||DKC / SodiKart USA||Sodi Kart||Royse City TX||US|
|69||Robert Heck, Jr.||CRG Nordam||CRG||California City CA||US|
|22||Max Hewitt||CRG Nordam||CRG||Houston TX||US|
|12||Tim Hollowell||GP Karts USA||GP Kart||Lebanon IN||US|
|57||Matt Jaskol||CRG Nordam||CRG||Las Vegas NV||US|
|78||Sage Karam||iKart||iKart||Nazareth PA||US|
|5||Marjin Kremers||PSL Karting||Birel ART||NL|
|21||Nic LeDuc||The Karting Collective||Sodi Kart||Novato CA||US|
|17||Troy Loeskow||PSL Karting||Ricciardo||AU|
|7||Leonardo Lorandi||Orsolon Racing||Parolin||IT|
|46||Yanai Marciano||DRT Racing||DR Kart||Providence RI||IL|
|26||Lucio Masini||Ryan Perry Motorsport||FA Kart||Bolton ON||CA|
|31||Noah Milell||Rolison Performance Group||Tony Kart||SE|
|15||Maximilian Paul||DRT Racing||DR Kart||DE|
|27||Vinicius Ponce||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||BR|
|51||Mathias Ramirez||Team GFC||GFC||Bradenton FL||US|
|44||Michael Stevens||TB Kart USA||TB Kart||Weeki Wachee FL||US|
|82||Madeline Stewart||Energy USA||Energy||NZ|
|18||Keawn Tandon||Scuito Racing||CRG||Calabasas CA||US|
|10||Xingran Tang||Prime Power Team||Birel ART||Mississauga ON||CN|
|8||Benjamin Tornqvist||CRG Nordam||CRG||SE|
|14||Filip Ioan Ugran||Birel ART||RO|
|29||Rory van der Steur||Team Felon||Tony Kart||Chesapeake City MD||US|
|71||Ron White||Ron White Racing||CRG||Anerican Canyon CA||US|
|9||Kyle Wick||CRG Nordam||CRG||Auburn WA||US|