EKN Trackside: Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 23 – SuperSunday Report
Musgrave, Formal and Claman-Demelo earn headline victories in Las Vegas
Billy Musgrave joined the four-win club at the SuperNationals with a dominating performance in Pro Shifter (Photo: EKN)
For the 23rd time, the Superkarts! USA hosted the big daddy of them all – the SuperNationals. SuperSunday was conducted outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino for the 10 race groups, 12 categories after four days of work on and off the track. Throughout the week, over 500 different stories were written, highlighted by personal triumphs or dreams dashed. The dust has settled and for 12 drivers, their story are in the history books as winners of the SKUSA SuperNationals 23.
SuperSunday opened up with one of the categories we knew was going to provide some great drama for 20 laps – KA100 Senior. It went down to the wire last year, and went past the checkered flag this year to decide the second winner of the class. The focus was on pole position driver Brandon Lemke (Franklin / Merlin). Three heat wins put him P1 with Pauly Massimino (MDR / Kosmic) on the outside. The field worked through the opening corners clean until turn 4. Third-place starter Oliver Calvo (LEM / Praga) made a late move inside Lemke, and drove over the front end of the Merlin. The contact dropped Lemke to 13th and we thought out of the race for the victory. The contact put Massimino into the lead, where he paced the field until Aussie Scott Foster (KSNA / KF Kart) took over with Calvo eventually getting up to second. Meanwhile, Lemke was on the charge, reaching the top-five with fast laps of the race and put himself into third, running down the leaders. In the last two laps, Lemke was able to go from third to first, and was able to hold the lead through the final corners to reach the checkered flag first for an amazing comeback performance. Unfortunately, due to what we believe was the opening lap contact, Lemke suffered a pushback bumper penalty of five seconds, dropping him to fifth in the order. This promoted Massimino to the top of the podium for his first SuperNationals victory. Contact between Foster and Calvo in turn eight took them out of the top-five, promoting top qualifier Jake Drew (FW / CompKart) to second, SKUSA Pro Tour champion Austin Osborne (IRM / Tony Kart) to third and Michael Michoff (RPG / Kosmic) to fourth. Hard charger went to Michael Geringer up 25 spots to 10th. His run put three Franklin / Merlin machines in the top-10 with Josh Hotz ninth.
Micro Swift was another fun and exciting race, with a fourth different winner in the category in its first four years at the SuperNationals. Spencer Conrad (Nitro Kart) led the field to the green flag after winning the first two heat races. The WKA champion set the pace for the first 16 laps, coming under pressure late from CRG Nordam drivers Enzo Beltrao Nienkotter and Gabriel Koenigkan – who started 13th. Nienkotter – who’s father Leonardo Nienkotter is a three-time SuperNationals winner – grabbed the lead prior to the final circuit. Conrad made his move at turn four on the final circuit, and as they pushed wide, Bradley Majman (KSNA / Kart Republic) slipped past them both to go from third to first. More fighting behind him into turn 10 allowed Majman to drive away to the checkered flag for his first victory, giving Australia its first win in the Micro Swift category and the fourth different nation in as many years. The fight for second saw Ava Hanssen (Franklin / Merlin) slip from fourth to second by the time they reached the line. Hanssen now ties 2012 S2 runner-up for the best finish by a female driver at the SuperNationals. Conrad came out with the third position while Luis Umana (Tony Kart) and Koenigkan completed the podium. Nienkotter slipped back to sixth after leading at the white flag. Hard charger went to Jan Philipp Krull as the German drove the new GFC chassis from 49th to 23rd in 18 laps.
The rebirth of the G1 name at the SuperNationals will have Matt Hamilton as the winner. The Kiwi and 2013 S4 victor recovered from no laps in qualifying, fighting through from 21st on the grid to top-five results in the heat races. The put him fourth on the grid, and only took him two corners to lead for the first time all week. From there, Hamilton drove his Aluminos to fast laps of the race to establish an eight-second advantage after 20 laps to record the victory. Four-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion Jordon Musser (PSL / Birel ART) was perfect up to lap one of the main event, yet did not have the pace to claim his first SuperNationals victory. It was a repeat of 2013, with Hamilton winning and Musser placing second to match his personal best result at the SuperNationals. The fight behind them was for third, as 23-time SuperNationals starter and three-time winner Bonnier Moulton (MSquared / Tony Kart) held off 2017 victor Ryan Kinnear (PGR / Ricciardo) in the closing laps. Front row starter John Grother (DKC / Sodikart) completed the podium in fifth.
In the same race group, G2 crowned the inaugural winner at the SuperNationals with Nathan Stewart (PSL / Birel ART) putting his name into the record books. SKUSA Pro Tour champion Brett Harrelson (Nash / CRG) grabbed the holeshot but only led the first three laps until Stewart took over and drove away to a three-second advantage. Harrelson fought off Patrick O’Neill (RWR / CRG) for second with Ken Schilling (Aluminos) and Jonathon Allen (Aluminos) completing the inaugural podium.
The first of three headline divisions was next, as the X30 Senior took to the track with four-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion Ryan Norberg (RPG / Kosmic) on the pole position with a perfect score leading up to the main event. Norberg was able to retain the lead through the first two circuits. 2017 World Karting Champion Danny Keirle (Fullerton) made a move for the lead on lap three, pushing both wide and allowing Zachary Claman-Demelo (REM / Kosmic) to slip by for the lead. That move triggered Norberg to drop into the blender, eventually falling down to the 12th position. ZCD led a three driver break-away that included Keirle and Christian Brooks (Nash / FA Kart). Near the midway point, they began racing hard for the lead and that allowed former Junior winner Jak Crawford (Nash / FA Kart) to close in and move from fourth to first. He and Keirle worked together to break away in the closing laps with Claman-Demelo trailing in third. On the final circuit, Keirle made his move at turn 10, diving as far inside as possible with Crawford running a defensive line. The two made contact at the apex, pushing wide and allowing Claman-Demelo with another third to first move, this time for the victory. The former IndyLights and IndyCar driver crossed the line for the victory, becoming the fourth Canadian to win the category (Morad, Orcic, Cooper). Norberg fought his way forward and slipped by for the second spot down the final straight to cross the line as the runner-up. Norberg, who posted fast lap of the race, suffered a pushback bumper penalty, dropping him off the podium and into eighth. That promoted Keirle to second and Crawford to third. Brooks finished fourth for his second podium finish in the class. SKUSA Pro Tour vice champion Brandon Jarsocrak (MDR / Kosmic) grabbed his first podium at the SuperNationals after five previous tries, placing fifth. Hard charger was Texas ProKart Challenge champion Kaden Gray (Core / Tony Kart), using the Guaranteed SuperSunday Starting Position with his regional title to make the main event. Starting 41st, Gray gained 22 spots to finish 19th.
X30 Junior was a repeat of last year’s KA100 Junior fight. Connor Zilisch (LAK / Tony Kart) and James Wharton (Parolin) were able to break away from the field starting first and fourth. Trailing was third-place starter Chloe Chambers (MDR / Kosmic), keeping pace with the top two with each lap. Zilisch led early until Wharton took control, and stayed there until the closing laps. They swapped the lead in the final four laps, bringing in Chambers on the final circuit. Chloe took advantage on the final circuit, moving into second and pushed Wharton back to third. Zilisch ran a defensive line down the final straight, with Chambers finding enough space to run along the inside wall. The two drifted wide on the exit, nearly making contact. As they did, Wharton ran the normal entry and dove inside both, beating them to the line for the victory in a photo finish. Wharton edged out Zilisch by 25 thousandths of a second for his second SuperNationals victory, first in X30 Junior. Chambers went for it, and put in a valiant effort on the week and the final circuit to end up third. SKUSA Pro Tour champion Freddie Slater (Supertune / Tony Kart) was able to get away from the rest of the field, crossing the line in fourth. A pushback bumper penalty took that position away, giving it to Robert de Haan (Nash / Energy) – up 12 spots – and moving Slater to the fifth spot on the podium after starting 18th. Hard charger however went to Maximilian Opalski (RPM / Tony Kart), up 29 spots to 10th while Diego Contecha (Orsolon / Tony Kart) moved up 26th positions to ninth, recording fast lap of the race.
History was made in the X30 Master main event as Aussie Kip Foster completed a sweep of SuperNationals 23 for his fourth victory at the event. Foster (KSNA / KF Kart) led all 20 laps of the main event, running unchallenged to the checkered flag. His win puts him in the record books with Connor De Phillippi as the only two drivers to win four times at the event. SKUSA Pro Tour champion Matt Johnson (Nash / FA Kart) trailed, waiting for Foster to make a mistake and it never came. He was able to fend off 2016 winner Renato Jader David (Orsolon / Tony Kart) for the runner-up spot. Jess Peterson (PGR / Ricciardo) earned his first podium finish in the class, second of his career with a drive from seventh to fourth as Bruno Martins (Piquet / CRG) finished fifth. Vatche Tatikian (PGR / Ricciardo) overcame zero laps in qualifying, raced his way into the main event from the LCQ, and earned the hard charger award by advancing 24 positions to 17th.
The KZ category always brings the spectators and those in the paddock to the grand stands and fence lines. This year’s main event did not disappoint with another thrilling 25 laps. Leading into the main event, last year’s runner-up Marijn Kremers (PSL / Birel ART) dominated the category. Grabbing the holeshot, he lead early on but was not able to pull away. Four drivers kept him close, including two-time S1 winner Danny Formal (LEM / Formula K). The Costa Rican was flying early, and took over the lead on lap seven. Kremers responded to reclaim the top spot on lap 10, all while Mathias Ramirez (Trackmagic) and KZ2 World Cup winner Emilien Denner (DKC / Sodikart) trailed. Formal finally made his move on lap 20, retaking the lead and never looked back. Formal led the final five circuits to claim the victory and be part of the three-win club at the SuperNationals. For Kremers, it was another disappoint leaving as the favorite and only placing runner-up. Ramirez thought to have third in hand until a mechanical issue put him on the sideline with two laps remaining. Maximilian Paul (DRT / DR Kart) charged from eighth and took the third spot, ahead of Denner and Noah Milell (Tony Kart). Hard charger was Vincenzo Sarracino (PSL / Birel ART), up seven spots to eighth.
Kai Sorensen (Supertune / Tony Kart) completed his final Cadet season on top, earning the SKUSA Pro Tour championship and winning the Mini Swift main event at the SuperNationals. It was not easy, coming from ninth on the grid after an issue in Heat #3. Sorensen charged quickly, and was into the lead by lap four with teammate Enzo Deligny on his bumper. Deligny took the lead for one lap, but Sorensen responded by taking back the position. It went down to the wire, as the closest finish of the day. Deligny was able to grab the lead on the exit of turn 10 and the run down to the final corner. He left no room on the inside and Sorensen went to the outside, setting up the over-under move. Deligny came out of the final corner, celebrating too early as he thought he had won. Sorensen however was able to slip inside and reach the line first by 23 thousandths of a second. Austin Jurs (Franklin / Merlin) started second and ended up trailing the leaders the entire distance to finish third in his first SuperNationals. 2017 Micro Swift winner Vinnie Phillips (Fusion / Kart Republic) climbed 10 spots to fourth with 2018 SKUSA Pro Tour Micro champion Max Garcia (KSNA / Kart Republic) landing on the podium in fifth in his first year of Mini. Hard charger went to Cooper Lisle (Fusion / Kart Republic), going from 41st to 16th.
The KA100 Junior division ended with a Green-White-Checkered after a full course caution was brought out with two laps remaining. Prior to that, top qualifier John Burke (Supertune / Tony Kart), last year’s winner James Wharton (Parolin) and SKUSA Pro Tour champion Connor Zilisch (LAK / Tony Kart) were shuffled out of the top spots by a charging Andrea Kimi Antonelli (KSNA / Kart Republic) and Brent Crews (KSNA / Kart Republic). Kimi took over the lead on lap six while Crews eventually caught him and the two leaders diced it up before the full course caution came out on lap 18. SKUSA did not count the yellow flag laps, providing a wild two lap dash that brought the entire field together. Kimi and Crews kept the rest of the field back and battled for victory with Crews able to secure the top position, reaching the line first ahead of the Italian. Zilisch was third when the green flag waved at the restart, but fell down to fifth at the checkered with two-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion Carson Morgan (Supertune / Tony Kart) and Wharton working around him. Morgan suffered a 3-second penalty for blocking along with a 5-second penalty for pushback bumper. Zilisch also received a 3-second penalty for blocking, which moved Wharton to third, Cole Morgan (Supertune / Tony Kart) to fourth and Maximilian Opalski (RPM / Tony Kart) on the podium in fifth.
The final headline division wrapped up the SuperNationals 23 as Pro Shifter and Pro Shifter 2 hit the track with the lights getting brighter as the sun set behind the Rio. Billy Musgrave (MRC / Croc Promotion) joined CDP and Foster as a four-time winner at the SuperNationals, winning his third straight. Musgrave launched off the line and was never touched again to complete a perfect SuperNationals from start to finish. The start was wild for the Pro class, as SKUSA separated the two categories for the main event. Contact in the opening corner saw a number of competitors have the race end there, including Rory van der Steur (CM / Magik) who did flip with a twist directly on his head and back. Thankfully, he was able to walk away. The Pro2 drivers handled the turn 1 area with patience, not hitting any of the broken karts on the track. Musgrave eventually pulled away to a 2.4-second advantage over former teammate Jake French, completing his second race with PSL / Birel ART. Mathias Ramirez (GFC) overcame a broken chain in qualifying to drive from last in all the heat races, knifing through the Pro2 drivers and avoiding the wreck in the main event to drive to third with Cody Hodgson (Aluminos) holding off Sam Claes (DKC / Sodikart).
Pro Shifter 2 was the return to the SuperNationals for Race Liberante in 12 years, racing the S5 Junior class and landing on the podium that year at Sam Boyd Stadium. Liberante (HMG / CompKart) led all 25 laps to establish a 3.8-second advantage, completing the memorable season for the SKUSA Pro Tour champion. The fight for second was epic, and Micah Hendricks (MRC / Croc Promotion) came away with the runner-up position ahead of Vicente Salas (MRC / Croc Promotion) in his first SuperNationals start. Calvin Ming (MRC / Croc Promotion) held the second spot early but fell back to fourth. Dalton Egger (RPG / Tony Kart) also overcame zero laps in qualifying to work himself up to P8 on the main event grid. Egger jumped up to fifth early and remained there to grab his first SuperNationals podium.
SuperNationals 23 is now in the books, and the many stories that led up to SuperSunday from the beginning of 2019 had their final chapter written. In 364 days, another round of winners will be crowned at SuperNationals 24 in 2020. Until then, preparation begins now to become a winner on SuperSunday.