EKN Trackside: 2019 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SummerNationals – Sunday Report
French doubles up as Jarsocrak caps off season with wild photo finish at New Castle Motorsports Park
Jake French doubled up on the weekend to give Croc Promotion five of the six wins in Pro Shifter for 2019 (Photo: EKN)
The 10th annual Superkarts! USA SummerNationals are now an exciting chapter in the organization’s history, and the final round of the 2019 Pro Tour was waged on Sunday at New Castle Motorsports Park. The event was treated with almost perfect mid-August Indiana weather and the new track configuration helped to provide the stage for some tremendous racing and, of course, the crowning of SKUSA’s newest national champions. Rolison Performance Group’s Ryan Norberg made history, securing his fourth straight championship in the X30 Senior category, truly an unparalleled accomplishment in the 25-plus years of SKUSA competition. Norberg finished second to Mike Doty Racing’s Brandon Jarsocrak in an wild finish that had to be seen to be believed, but Ryan’s recovery from a lacklustre WinterNationals was the stuff of legend. In the Pro Shifter class, we witnessed the newest chapter in the emergence of Kyle Wick as the top driver in the sport, as the CRG Nordam pilot completed a strong and consistent season to secure the national championship and the national #1 plate for 2020. The Croc Promotion USA duo of Jake French and Billy Musgrave dominated the weekend with a pair of 1-2 finishes, with French re-establishing himself as a true shifterkart star, but it was Wick’s run of six consistent finishes that earned him a well-deserved title.
The championship in Pro Shifter had three drivers separated by eight points going into the final round, with Kyle Wick (CRG Nordam) now in the lead after Saturday’s action ahead of Andrew Bujdoso (CM / BTM) and defending champion AJ Myers (CRG Nordam). Wick struck first, setting fast time in qualifying (1:11.623), about two tenths off the mark put down by Saturday winner Jake French (Croc Promotion USA) the day before. French was fourth in the session and moved up to third in the Prefinal, recording the fast lap of the race as his Croc Promotion USA teammate Billy Musgrave worked past Wick for the win. The runner-up for Wick in the Prefinal really set himself up well for the title run heading into the main event as his rivals needed to not only beat him, but pad in some positions for a chance at stealing the SKUSA #1 plate. French remained calm in the Final, settling into the fourth spot as Myers jumped up to second ahead of Wick, all trailing Musgrave. Five laps in, French began his march to the point, working past both Wick and Myers, and eventually Musgrave. From there, French pulled out to a 1.1-second advantage to finish the season with a main event sweep of the SummerNationals – giving Croc Promotion chassis five wins in the six rounds. Musgrave completed the 1-2 sweep, while Wick edged out Myers for the third spot at the line. The position was a non-factor in the title chase, as Wick secured the championship and became the ninth different driver to earn the headline shifterkart title in SKUSA Pro Tour history. Completing the top-five on the day was GFC driver Hunter Pickett.
With the championship not clinched through the first day of racing at the SummerNationals, Race Liberante (J3 / CompKart) did exactly what he needed to do in order to leave as the Pro Shifter 2 champion. Liberante gained maximum points in the final round, securing fast lap in qualifying before leading all the laps in Prefinal and Final to become the SKUSA Pro Tour champion. Behind him was the battle for second with Connor Robles (MRC / Croc Promotion) stepping up once again on Sunday to drive to his second runner-up position. Baylor Griffin (Orsolon / CRG) ended up third for his first podium finish ahead of Graig Alvarez Jr. (CRG Nordam) and Calvin Ming (MRC / Croc Promotion).
The championship in X30 Senior was locked following the third straight win by Rolison Performance Group / Kosmic driver Ryan Norberg, earning an unprecedented fourth straight SKUSA Pro Tour championship. That meant all the focus was going to be on who came out with the victory in the final round with points not an issue. Championship challenger Brandon Jarsocrak (MDR / Kosmic) came up short, but stepped up in the final round to be the driver to beat early, posting fast lap of the session to edge out Sebastian Montoya (TM / Tony Kart) and Norberg by 91 thousandths. Norberg drove away to the win in the Prefinal as Jarsocrak fell to third behind Trey Brown (Nash / FA Kart). The lead group include the trio along with others until three broke away – Norberg, Jarsocrak and Alex Bertagnoli (KSNA / Kart Republic). The former Junior champion seemed to have the pace to out run Norberg and Jarsocrak. Norberg however took the top spot coming to the white flag, and then ran a defensive line through the final circuit. Their slow pace around the ‘SuperMile’ circuit allowed the group fighting for fourth to close up in the final few corners. As they came out of I-70, the karts all fanned out with a three wide photo finish. At the line, Jarsocrak scored the victory by 38 thousandths ahead of Norberg with Hannah Greenemeier (RPG / Kosmic) on the outside for third. Greenemeier was penalized for contact earlier in the race with Billy Musgrave (MRC / Croc Promotion), promoting SKUSA #2 plate holder Samuel Lupien (RPG / Kosmic) to the third spot on the podium with Bertagnoli fourth and Braden Eves (Crosslink / Exprit) in fifth.
The KA100 Senior category was one of the most dramatic finishes to not only the race, but the championship and continued once the checkered flag waved. Four drivers – Austin Osborne (IRM / Tony Kart), Nick Persing (Nash / FA Kart), Nick Ramirez (PGR / Ricciardo), Blake Hunt (KSNA / Tony Kart) – came into the final day separated by 79 points in the championship. With a number of non-championship drivers at the front, the numbers had to be crunched nearly every lap, and in the case of the final lap of the day, every corner. Matthew Mockabee (Energy) stole the 10 point bonus in qualifying while Pauly Massimino (MDR / Kosmic) took the win in the Prefinal. Saturday winner and point leader Osborne put himself into the third spot, among the lead group early, needing to finish eighth or better to secure the title no matter the results for the other three. On lap six, Osborne began losing positions and eventually fell off completely with a flat right rear tire do to a bad valve stem. It was the second race of the six rounds Osborne was sidelined with a flat tire, and this round would become his drop race.
This opened up the title for the other three drivers, all with a chance to surpass Osborne depending on their finish and ability to gain the fast lap. Ramirez was able to grab the fast lap of the race just as Osborne began slowing, joining Massimino and Garrett Adams (Comet / FA Kart) at the front battling for the win. Ramirez needed to win the race claim the title, and for a few feet coming to the checkered flag, he held the lead. The lead trio went three wide with Ramirez coming out of I-70 with the lead. Adams and Massimino sandwiched Ramirez, with Adams reaching the line first and Massimino in second. The third place result for Ramirez meant he would come up short of Osborne’s total with a drop by 15 points. Attention then turned to the fight for fourth, with Persing able to come away with the position in the final lap. Persing’s fourth place result jumped him ahead of Osborne by 11 points, coming off the track as the provisional champion. Officials however penalized Persing, along with one other driver for two wheels out of the tram line at the start, thus receiving a three-second penalty. That dropped him to ninth in the final results – moving John McCusker (MDR / Kosmic) to fourth and Mockabee to fifth – and dropped Persing out of the championship and into the third position in the standings. Osborne experienced a wide range of emotions, believing he had lost the title due to a flat tire, and ended the day learning he was the inaugural KA100 Senior champion.
The title in KA100 Junior was just as exciting throughout the day, as the duel between Kyffin Simpson (SCR / Tony Kart) and Connor Zilisch (LAK / Tony Kart) played out all day. Simpson came in leading by 29 points, with Zilisch holding the advantage factoring in the drop. Zilisch struck first with the fast time in qualifying, and was able to edge out Simpson for the Prefinal win. Logan Adams (Comet / FA Kart) joined the duo all day, fighting for the top spot and played the spoiler. Fighting for the second spot with Simpson allowed Zilisch to get away and score his first victory of the season to clinch the championship. Adams came away with the second spot with Simpson in third, ending up 45 points short in the title chase. Tyler Wettengel (KSNA / FA Kart) won the battle for fourth ahead of Chloe Chambers (MDR / Kosmic) and third-place in points Ethan Ho (APM / Tony Kart).
X30 Junior provisional champion Freddie Slater (Supertune / Tony Kart) sat out Sunday’s action with his total points enough to have Round Six his drop race with a zero entry. This made the focus solely on the race win with not points championship on the line for the 46 drivers. Josh Pierson (RPG / Kosmic) set fast time in qualifying, dropping to second behind Branyon Tiner (RPG / Kosmic). John Burke (Supertune / Tony Kart) came out of the main event, holding off a massive group of drivers after a defensive line throughout the final few laps for his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory. The strategy worked, and Burke was able to grab the checkered flag first. Brent Crews (KSNA / FA Kart) made a great move at the I-70 corner to steal the second spot ahead of Tiner and Jonathon Portz (Nash / FA Kart). Jason Leung (RPG / Kosmic) climbed 15 spots in the 16-lap race to earn fifth, dropping Pierson to sixth.
The championship was decided Saturday in X30 Master with Matt Johnson (Nash / FA Kart) earning a third straight main event victory. Johnson remained toward the front of the field, setting the fast time in qualifying and led the majority of the Prefinal. Former SuperNats winner Renato Jader David (Orsolon / Tony Kart) worked past for the win, setting up for a duel in the main event. Renato led the opening laps of the Final with Johnson taking over, and driving away with fast laps of the race to earn a fourth straight victory. Vatche Tatikian (PGR / Ricciardo) was a strong third with John Bonanno (J3 / CompKart) moving over to the Master class Sunday to end up fourth after pacing the Super Master field on Saturday. Billy Lewis (MDR / Kosmic) put on a show, coming back after a DNF in the Prefinal, climbing from 14th to fifth at his home circuit. X30 Super Master champion Jon Persing (Nash / FA Kart) grabbed his third victory of the season over Steve Martin (Nash / Tony Kart).
The streak came to an end for Jordon Musser in the G1 division. Musser (PSL / Birel ART) secured the title on Saturday with a fifth straight victory and was vying to sweep the 2019 main events. Ryan Kinnear (PGR / Ricciardo) and John Crow (MRC / Croc Promotion) had other ideas. Kinnear beat out Musser for the fast time in qualifying and edged out for the win in the Prefinal. Both Kinnear and Crow jumped ahead of Musser at the start of the Final. Crow held off Musser for a few laps until they had contact on the exit of turn one. Crow held on while Musser continued with the second spot, and began running down Kinnear. The two Texans battled again, with heavy contact between the two multiple times on the exit of turn one. Kinnear came across the line as the provisional winner with Musser in the second spot. Both received five-second penalties – Musser for avoidable contact with Crow, and Kinnear for avoidable contact with Musser. Those penalties moved Crow up to the top step of the podium with Kinnear second and Musser third. G2 driver Brett Harrelson (Nash / CRG) drove to fourth overall, winning for a fifth time on the year. Justin Peck (RPG / Kosmic) was fourth in G1. Gunnar van der Steur (SodiKart) and Miguel Garcia (SodiKart) completed the G2 podium.
Four points separated Kai Sorensen (Supertune / Tony Kart) and Christian Miles (KSNA / Kart Republic) in the Mini Swift point standings heading into the final round. Miles helped his case with fast time in qualifying, however, a rare mistake at the end of the Prefinal attempting a pass on Sorensen dropped him to sixth. Sorensen’s Prefinal win pushed the title in his favor, needing to finish second or third depending on who gained the fast lap of the race. The lead group ended up being the top-four in the championship, including Anderson Leonard (Supertune / Tony Kart) and Parker DeLong (Nitro Kart). Miles put in a valiant effort, but was shuffled off on the exit of the ‘Green corner’ before the white flag, losing ground to the remaining three. Sorensen never left his wingman, helping to push Leonard to his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory. DeLong completed the podium with Miles fourth and Sebastian Ng (Nitro Kart) rounding out the top-five.
Nitro Kart dominated the day in the Micro Swift, sweeping the podium. Saturday winner Aryton Grim set fast time in qualifying while Spencer Conrad took the Prefinal win. Carson Weinberg joined them in the lead group, and looked to have the pace to grab the victory. Coming to the white flag, Grim made contact with Conrad’s right rear, nearly launching up and over but continued on. That allowed Conrad to get away as Weinberg fought with Grim for the second spot. Conrad earned his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory with Weinberg edging out Grim for the second spot. Alfie Slater (Tony Kart) was fourth with Caleb Tarter (Nitro Kart) in fifth.
The 12 champions have been decided for the 2019 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour. The 10th season for the long running national championship concluded with a successful SummerNationals at the New Castle Motorsports Park – ending with zero red flags on the day. The organization now turns its attention to the end of the regional program, with the year culminating with the SKUSA SuperNationals 23 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this November.