EKN Trackside: 2018 WKA Daytona KartWeek – Day 2 Report
Maloney and Lemke grab victories on Sunday, Zilisch makes it three as Miles sweeps weekend
As they do every year, the World Karting Association closed out the calendar year starting the new season. The annual trip to the WKA Daytona KartWeek at the Daytona International Speedway closed on Sunday with the final day of action over the four-day event. The Maxxis Dirt World Championships closed Saturday night under the lights while the Vega Road Racing Series and Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup Series completed their final day of racing. The nine categories competing around the 7/10-mile course battled heavy fog in the warm-up before hitting the track for qualifying. The weekend’s weather was the best since 2015 with very warm temperatures and just a short rain shower on Saturday. As the sun set over the NASCAR 1-2, the Man. Cup program finished the first step of the 2019 championship series crowing the final WKA Daytona KartWeek winners.
The streak continued with no one driver winning both finals dating back through 2015 in the IAME Senior divisions. Former winner Brandon Jarsocrak (KSNA / Kart Republic) came out on top Saturday, coming up just short on Sunday. Jake Venberg (FMS / Kosmic) set the fast time in qualifying, leading most of the Prefinal until Jarsocrak and Zane Maloney (KSNA / Kart Republic) worked past late. Maloney earned the win and the pole position for the Final. That was all the Senior rookie needed, leading all 22 laps of the Final. Jarsocrak kept pace, unable to make a move for the lead. 2018 WKA Junior champion Josh Green (MDR / Kosmic) jumped up to third, trailing the top two throughout the Final. Venberg dropped back to end up with a solid fourth while Alexander Kardashian (AMK / Top Kart) completed the top-five.
The complexion of the KA100 Senior class changed prior to qualifying. Brad Brittin (FMS / Merlin) came down with a bad case of the flu, and decided to sit out the day. He called on Brandon Lemke to sub for him on the day. Having never sat in Brittin’s kart or driven a KA100 before, Lemke shined after just three laps in the kart for qualifying. Lemke set fast time in qualifying, edging out Saturday sweeper Alexander Kardashian (Top Kart) by 38 thousandths. Lemke then went on to lead wire-to-wire in both the Prefinal and Final. Kardashian settled for the second spot with Arie Venberg (FMS / Kosmic) completing the podium. Dakota Pesek (Top Kart) reached fourth in his best run of the weekend, while John McCusker (MDR / Kosmic) completed the top-five.
The leader after the weekend in wins went to Connor Zilisch (LAK / Tony Kart). After winning both Junior classes on Saturday, Zilisch added a third with victory in IAME Junior. Zilisch swept the action on the day, pulling away to a five-second victory in the Final. Dylan Christie (MDR / Kosmic) won the fight for second, beating out Jonathan Portz (Nitro Kart) and Chloe Chambers (MDR / Kosmic). Junior rookie Brent Crews (KSNA / Kart Republic) ended up fifth.
Crews (KSNA / Kart Republic) stopped Zilisch (LAK / Tony Kart) from sweeping the weekend, grabbing the win in KA100 Junior. Zilisch was able to win the Prefinal after top qualifier Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Tony Kart) dropped a wheel and fell to fifth. Zilisch led the opening laps of the Final until Crews worked past for the position. The Junior rookie led the remainder of the race under heavy pressure to score his first victory at the level. Dylan Christie (MDR / Kosmic) slipped past Zilisch for the second spot with Chambers (MDR / Kosmic) and Logan Adams (Comet / FA Kart) completing the top-five.
The Pro drivers in the Margay Ignite were not completely shut out on Sunday. IMSA driver James French came through with fast time in the split qualifying. While he started on the pole for the Prefinal, he was shuffled back to fifth in the race as Saturday winner Evan Stamer jumped to the front over veteran Jeff Jewell. Spike Kohlbecker joined the duo at the front in the Final, putting the pressure on Stamer all race. Kohlbecker made his move late in the race, and Stamer responded in the final corner on the final lap. With a push from Jewell, Stamer edged out Kohlbecker by 52 thousandths at the line. Jewell was a close third pushing Stamer across the line, as the trio crossed the line with 82 thousandths of each other. Hunter Fox won the fight for the fourth spot over Hunter Richardson. French was spun on the opening lap with IndyCar’s Zach Veach making contact with him, ending both their races early. IndyCar’s Gabby Chaves ended up 6th with IMSA’s Juan Piedrahita in eighth.
A clinic was put on in the Mini Swift category by KSNA / Kart Republic driver Christian Miles. After securing his second fast time in qualifying on the weekend, Miles went wire-to-wire unchallenged in both the Prefinal and Final. Both races ended with a five-second advantage at the checkered flag, giving Miles a complete sweep of the weekend. The fight for second was hard fought, with Calem Maloney making it a KSNA / Kart Republic 1-2 finish with his best performance at Daytona, beating out Sebastian Ng (Nitro Kart), Jorge Ortiz (Parolin) and Nikita Johnson (AKT / Energy).
2018 WKA Micro Swift champion Ben Maier (Nitro Kart) did his own sweep of the day, grabbing the top spot throughout the day in the Briggs 206 Cadet division. Maier grabbed top time in qualifying before running away with the Prefinal win. The Final was a bit closer, as Julian DaCosta (Haase) and Cameron Weinberg (Kosmic) were on his bumper the entire distance. Maier held on for the full 20 laps, scoring the victory. Gavan Boschele (Nitro Kart) was fourth with Parker DeLong (Nitro Kart) in fifth.
The Micro Swift category welcomed a first time winner on the day. It looked to be Christian Quijano (Parolin) who set fast time in qualifying but a bobble by him in the Prefinal dropped him down to fourth. Aryton Grim (Nitro Kart) stole the race win over Saturday winner Spencer Conrad (Nitro Kart). Starting on the pole position, Grim jumped out to the lead and never looked back. Despite some close calls with lap traffic, Grim crossed the line for his first WKA victory by two-seconds over Conrad. Indy Ragan (Nitro Kart) grabbed his first podium in the category while Hoyt Mohr (Nitro Kart) recovered from a spin while in second to finish fourth ahead of Nash Gierke (Tony Kart).
Two drivers left as Daytona winners in the Kid Kart division. Holden Harder (Emmick) emerged as the top driver in Day 2 Final, edging out Saturday winner Jacob Schaible (Emmick). JJ O’Neill (Praga) grabbed the third step on the podium over Prefinal winner Max Cristea (Top Kart) and Adam Wooldridge (Birel ART).
The calendar is now set to turn over to 2019, with WKA gearing up for five more events to complete the championship season. The next stop is the GoPro Motorplex on March 29-31 in Mooresville, North Carolina.