EKN Trackside – 2019 SKUSA Winter Series – Round 4 – Homestead
Norberg, Myers and Mars scored wins to cap SKUSA ‘pre-season’ program
Croc Promotion USA's AJ Myers stormed back on Sunday after his Saturday issues to score his third win of the Winter Series
(Photo: OnTrack Promotions)
The final round of the Superkarts! USA Winter Series provided the intensity expected with championships on the line. The drivers had all put in a full day of wheel-to-wheel competition on Saturday running in the clockwise direction around the 12-turn AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex Presented by MG Tires, and that experience brought more drivers into the mix on Sunday. The racing in X30 Senior boiled over during the final laps, and after the dust cleared and the penalties had been assessed, Rolison Performance Group’s Ryan Norberg emerged with his third win of the year and the Winter Series title. Rain tires were the right call for the Pro Shifter main and, in the tough conditions, Croc Promotion USA’s AJ Myers again emerged as the star, matching Norberg’s total of three wins to earn the title. Luca Mars was a front runner all weekend in X30 Junior and was in the fight for the Sunday victory, which came his way after the on-track winner was assessed a jump start penalty. All in all, the racing was very good to cap off the Winter Series and bodes well for what we’ll see on the 2019 SKUSA Pro Tour, which opens with the WinterNationals at CalSpeed Karting during the first weekend of March.
Weather played a role in Sunday’s storyline as a short burst of hard rain arrived just as the Briggs 206 driver hit the track for their main event. The rain would return later in the day, but it was not near as aggressive and lasted only long enough for National Director of Competition Joe Janowski to kept tires as ‘racers choice’.
A field of 36 talented drivers filled the grid for the PSL Karting X30 Senior sessions, and PSL’s own Arthur Leist (BirelART) displayed his skills as he qualified P1 by 0.012 seconds ahead of the reigning World Champion Lorenzo Travisanutto (Kart Republic). Franklin Motorsports’ Brandon Lemke (Merlin) had the speed as well and was third in qualifying, timing in ahead of CRG Nordam’s Olin Galli (CRG) and RPG’s Patrick Woods-Toth (Kosmic) to complete the Fast Five. Point leader Ryan Norberg (RPG / Kosmic) was sixth.
Leist and Travisanutto maintained their positions in the Prefinal, but it was Norberg who was on the move, advancing to third to put himself on the inside of the second row for the start of the main. CRG Nordam’s Austin Garrison (CRG) had qualified eighth, but advanced to fifth behind Galli at the checkered. The fight in the second half of the top-10 was pretty physical during the Prefinal, with guys like Samuel Lupien (RPG / Kosmic), Christian Brooks (Nash Motorsportz / CRG) and Collin Daley (DRT Racing / DR Kart) muscling their way into the top-10 during the 13-lapper.
In the final, the gloves came off and post-race penalties were aplenty. After a strong and clean start, the lead pack developed quickly and would see Travisanutto eventually work his way to the lead, but not for long. Travisanutto was eventually punted from the lead by Galli mid-way through the race, which was one of two penalties for the Brazilian, which would eventually remove him from the podium. On the final lap, having worked his way to second, Brooks was preparing to take his shot at the lead when it appeared that Galli short-braked heading into turn eight – the first of two back-to-back hairpins at Homestead. Brooks made significant contact as he was also likely setting up to dive to the apex in an overtake attempt. Additional contact was made down in the second hairpin as Galli ran the defensive inside line, but Brooks then shot left to try to run the outside. Brooks did in fact take the lead on the exit of the corner as Norberg and Woods-Toth filled any gaps as they took their shot at the win. At the checkered, Brooks just edged out Galli by 0.049 seconds for the on-track win, but not surprisingly, his push-back bumper was activated on both sides and the subsequent five-second penalty dropped him to 14th in the official classifications. When the dust had cleared and the penalties calculated, Norberg took the win ahead of Woods-Toth in the second Rolison Performance Group 1-2 finish of the season. Garrison was less than a second behind all of the chaos, and he was advanced to the podium in third once again the penalties were assessed. To cap the top-five, Leist and Lemke were fourth and fifth. Travisanutto came back to 11th on the final results sheet.
When the rain arrived for the second main event of the afternoon and had stopped within 20 minutes, the Mad Old Nut Racing Pro Shifter were not left in a position to gamble on slicks. As the fourth class in the rotation, the track was still too wet to roll the dice on that option, and the teams had all gone to work bolting on MG rains and adjusting their set-ups. At the green, Croc Promotion USA’s AJ Myers quickly bolted to the lead, having topped both qualifying and the Prefinal. When the shortened 21-lap race went green, MRC’s Billy Musgrave (Aluminos) was quickly into second behind Myers. The desired battle between the two powerhouses never materialized as an errant left front put Musgrave on the sidelines on the exit of the inner loop after just three laps. In Musgrave’s absence, Myers drove away to an unchallenged 7.972-second victory. PSL Karting’s Mathias Ramirez (BirelART) capped off a consistent SKUSA Winter Series with a runner-up finish, his fourth straight podium. Ramirez was the only driver to finish on the podium in all four races. CRG Nordam’s Pedro Piquet (CRG) finished third, while his CRG teammates Kyle Wick and Max Hewitt were fourth and fifth, respectively.
PSL Karting / 3G Kart Racing’s Jordon Musser (BirelART) completed his domination of the Winter Series program, scoring his fourth main event win over a short field in Croc Promotions USA Master Shifter. RPG’s Dan Monteiro (Tony Kart) used his consistency to score another second-place finish, while Musgrave Racing Company’s Luke Bhola (Aluminos) recovered from a mid-race spin to finish third.
After battling from the tail of the grid in the Prefinal to the final step of the Rolison Performance Group X30 Junior podium on Saturday, CRG Nordam’s Noel Leon got off to a better start on Sunday, qualifying fourth before winning the Prefinal over Luca Mars and Diego Contecha. The main event was completed before the arrival of the rain, so that track was in perfect condition. A four-driver pack broke away early in the main with Leon, Mars, and Contecha being joined by Saturday winner Mackenzie Clark (Prime Powerteam / Birel). Clark led after the halfway point but he was eventually shuffled back to fourth as Leon took the lead. Over the final laps, Mars chased Leon down and tried a last ditch move on the outside of turn 10 but just couldn’t make it stick. Leon took the on-track victory, but a penalty for jumping the start dropped him to fourth, handing the win to Mars. Clark advanced to second to complete a tremendous weekend, while Contecha filled out the podium. With the penalty enforced, Leon was fourth in the final tally, ahead of RPG’s Branyon Tiner (Kosmic), who was very quick all weekend and had posted the fastest lap in the Prefinal.
Scott Roberts (Speed Concepts Racing / Tony Kart) came out of the gate strongly in Chuck G Fabrication X30 Master, qualifying on pole by two tenths over Renato David (Orsolon Racing / Tony Kart) and Martin Pierce (COMPKART). Roberts and David raced hard for the Prefinal win, but David took control in the end of take hold of the pole position for the final. With Roberts and Pierce running nose-to-tail in second and third, Texas ProKart Challenge X30 Master champ Miguel Mier (Crosslink Competition / Tony Kart) had raised his game and was in the fight. Sadly, Pierce would find himself afoul of the technical regulations post-race with a penalty for rear track width, which dropped him to the tail of the field for the 18-lap final. Truthfully, the penalty made for an exciting main as Pierce knifed through the field, passing at willing in the turn eight hairpin, darting quickly to the apex coming out of the right-hand turn seven to overtake with precision. David took the impressive win over Rodrigo Piquet (KartMini), but it was Pierce’s drive back to third that ultimately stole the show.
PSL Karting’s Caleb Gafrarar (Birel) drew first blood in the Orsolon Racing Mini Swift category, qualifying on the pole on Sunday morning, but no one was going to hold back Supertune USA’s Kai Sorenson (Tony Kart). The Californian qualified second and then won the Prefinal over his Supertune USA teammate Anderson Leonard (Tony Kart) after the pairing pulled away from the field. DucTard Racing’s Jakub Kolar (Formula K) teamed up with Gafrarar for finish third and fourth, setting up what would be a wild main event. With the track beginning to dry at the completion of the second rainstorm of the day, almost a dozen of the Mini Swift drivers hit the track on rain tires, but the call was ultimately not the correct one. Slicks were the way to go and Sorenson ran away and hid all by himself, posting the fastest lap of the race enroute to a 7.098-second victory. Behind him, a six-driver battle was incredibly entertaining as the competitors all played the chess game to vie for the final positions on the podium. When the dust had settled, Texan Jack Jeffers (Benik) had emerged from the group to take second, chased to the line by Kolar. Speed Concepts Racing’s Paul Bocuse (Energy) was fourth ahead of Kartsport North America’s Christian Miles (Kart Republic). Leonard and Gafrarar were in the fight all day, and capped their Winter Series program finishing in sixth and seventh.
Santiago Biagi (Exprit) dominated the action in Late Apex Kartworks KA100 Junior, topping all three sessions. Biagi edged William Cox (Tony Kart) by just 0.070 seconds in qualifying but then took a 1.6-second win the Prefinal over Dylan Christie. Cox was fourth behind Bryson Morris in the 13-lap sprint. In the main, the KA100 Junior drivers enjoyed dry running, and Biagi removed any doubt that he was the guy to beat on Sunday, running away to a 5.408-second win over a strong four-driver battle for the final positions on the podium. Cox took the runner-up position at the checker, just edging Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Parolin) at the line. Christie was on their bumpers following a hectic fight on the final lap that also brought Annie Rhule (Solo Kart) back into the battle once again. In KA100 Senior, Julie Boos (Tony Kart) scored the win over Nathan Martin (FA Kart).
Salim Hanna (Tony Kart) came out of the gate strongly to win the pole in the Medstep Racing Micro Swift class, but Matias Orjuela (Praga) again staked his claim on the class with a 5.8-second in the Prefinal. When the rain arrived at the start of the Briggs 206 main event, action was halted for a few minutes and SKUSA officials made the wise decision to wait for the small cell to pass. With the Micro Swift drivers gridded up and ready to go, they elected to push 206 to after SKUSA’s youngest drivers and the kids put on an impressive show in challenging conditions. Orjuela was dominant again and took the win by 6.789 seconds, but the star of the show was likely Luis Umana (Tony Kart). Umana started 15th after a DNF the Prefinal. Umana handled the rain like a pro and drove through the field, finishing second with a fast lap just 0.4 off Orjeula’s winning pace. Karsyn Walters (Tony Kart) performed well all weekend, and scored her second podium of the weekend in third.
Comet Kart Sales’ Austin Morris (Eagle) qualified on the pole in the RYSA Racing 206 Senior class, but reigning series champion Colin Warren (TS Racing / VLS) took the lead immediately in the Prefinal to win by over a second from Jack Copeland (RYSA Racing / BirelART). Morris recovered on the final lap after getting dropped to fifth, finding a way Zack Skolnick (VSR / Tony Kart) and Frankie Barosso (RYSA Racing / BirelART) on the final lap. As has been detailed, the afternoon rain hit hard just as the Briggs 206 drivers began their main, so the raced was halted after two laps. Once the initial downpour subsided, SKUSA rolled the Micro Swift drivers from the grid to get their race in while the Briggs 206 karts were re-gridded for a complete restart. With a total wet track and light rain still failing at the start of the race, Morris was the only driver to bolt on rain tires, but he had issues with a couple of spins and was unable to fully capitalize on the opportunity, finishing third. Copeland and Skolnick were incredibly impressive running their MG slicks in the rain, and Copeland never put a wheel wrong to score a 1.069-second triumph over Skolnick. With Morris in third, Warren and Barosso capped the five-driver field.
In 206 Masters, Andre Duek (VSR / Tony Kart) had things handled in the main event, pulling away to score the win by 15 seconds over Jorge Ruiz (TBKart) and Dan Breitenstein (RYSA Racing / BirelART).
With the second SKUSA Winter Series in the books, all eyes now focus on the launch of the 2019 Pro Tour with the running of the third annual WinterNationals at the Calspeed Karting Complex on March 1-3. The Superkarts! USA staff will tidy up the championship calculations this week to officially announce the Winter Series championships, who will receive free entry packages for this fall’s SuperNationals 23. Series runner-ups will be awarded an entry package into one of the three Pro Tour races, while third place finishers in the points get a $500 credit through MotorsportsReg.com for any SKUSA promoted event in 2019. The Briggs 206 champions will be awarded a brand new KA100 engine. In addition to the over 100 sets of MG tires that were doled to every podium finisher, this year’s Winter Series certainly provided value for the excitement dollar.