California ProKart Challenge Returns to Action in 2020
Double-race weekend at Willow Springs hosted second and third rounds of the season
The ProKart Challenge returned trackside on June 12-14 with the second and third rounds contested on the kart track at the Willow Springs International Raceway. Racing for Superkarts! USA had been shut down since the March weekend of the SKUSA Pro Tour WinterNationals in New Orleans, but welcomed triple-digit numbers for each of the two rounds of regional racing program under almost-perfect weather conditions at in Rosamond, California. Attendees followed social distancing guidelines to help keep officials and competitors safe while enjoying the three-day event.
“Nothing can replace the feeling of being at the race track,” stated Superkarts! USA owner Tom Kutscher. “This was just what our staff and the competitors needed after three months of staying at home – or as front-line essential workers. I want to thank our entire crew and racing partners for laying the groundwork to bring us back to the track, providing the optimal guidelines for everyone to follow, as well as those racers and teams who followed them to a ‘T’.”
A number of drivers also followed the guidelines for a sweep on the weekend. Four-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion Ryan Norberg returned to his winning ways, earning a clean sweep in the X30 Senior division. Norberg swept Round Two on Saturday with a wire-to-wire victory in the Final over Jacob Gulick and Jonathon Portz. Sunday for Round Three was the same, driving away to a near six-second advantage after 22 laps for a second victory and sweep on the day. Jonathon drove to second, with brother Edward Portz finishing third.
2012 SKUSA Pro Tour Junior champion Luke Selliken has found his niche in the KA100 Senior category. Selliken was at the top of the results sheet after every session, earning both victories on the weekend over a 26-kart field. Saturday, Michael Michoff led the opening two circuits before Selliken took over and drove away to a 1.6-second advantage at the checkered flag. Michoff held on to second, with Caleb Shrader climbing up to third. Selliken went wire-to-wire on Sunday with a 4.8-second margin of victory. The fight was for second, with Michoff earning the spot for his third straight podium result of the season. Shrader made it a repeat of the Saturday podium with a drive to third.
Two-time SKUSA SuperNationals winner Billy Cleavelin set the tone in the X30 Master division all weekend. Cleavelin led all 22 laps of the Saturday final, including recording fast lap of the race, to earn a 4.7-second victory. Travis Irving and Alex Gutierrez joined him on the podium. Sunday was a repeat of Cleavelin at the front of the field all day, driving away to a 6.2-second advantage in the main event. Gutierrez set fast time in the race, edging out Irving for the second spot on the podium.
Also earning sweeps were Brett Harrelson in the G2 class and Chris Muecke in Shifter Master, both running unchallenged in their categories. And while the weekend was not a sweep against their own classmates, it meant wins in the column towards championship points.
A field of 17 drivers battled in the Mini Swift category, with one driver earning the victory in both rounds. Round One winner John Antonino set the tone with fast time in qualifying on Saturday. He led the Prefinal until a charging Parker DeLong took over the point and went on to win the session. That was the winning move of the day, as DeLong went wire-to-wire in the Final for the victory. Logan Chambers kept it close, crossing the line 49 thousandths behind at the checkered flag. Wyatt Vidovich finished third, while Antonino drove up to 4th from 17th after a DQ in the Prefinal for a spark plug issue. The final results were very similar on Sunday, with Antonino setting fast time in qualifying and DeLong winning the Prefinal. Antonino led the first 11 laps of the race until DeLong slid past for the race win. DeLong and Antonino ran 1-2 the entire Final, with Parker setting fast time of the race in the 20-lap run for his second win on the weekend. Chambers completed the podium in third.
The Micro Swift division welcomed 12 drivers on the weekend with great racing on both days. Cypress Andruss was able to score the victory in each of the main events. Saturday, Andruss overcame some issues in qualifying and the Prefinal to charge through the field in the Final. Starting 11th, Cypress climbed up the order with fast laps of the race, taking over the lead with three laps remaining. He would go on to earn the victory ahead of top qualifier and Round One winner Tristan Murphy and Prefinal winner Brody Budelli. Sunday saw Andruss toward the front of the field; however, it was Nico Sarphati taking fast time in qualifying and Murphy winning the Prefinal. Murphy led the first eight laps of the Final until Cypress took over, leading the remainder of the race for his second victory on the weekend. Sarphati pushed Murphy back to third to complete the podium on Sunday.
Steve Martin had a perfect weekend in progress in the X30 Super Master class. Martin swept the action on Saturday, leading wire-to-wire in the main event over Steve Wiener and Jared Booher. Sunday began with a new name at the top, as Booher edged out Martin for the fast time in qualifying by three hundredths of a second. However, Booher retired after one lap in the Prefinal, allowing Martin to drive to the win and then run unchallenged to the victory in the main event. Wiener was runner-up, as Booher retired after three laps to claim third place points.
It was a similar format for results in the S5 Junior Stock Moto category with Round One winner Kailey Meris winning both main events. Saturday was a sweep for Meris, driving away to a 4.7-second advantage over Charlotte Cheung. On Sunday, only two thousandths of a second separated the best lap in qualifying between the two, with Cheung getting the advantage and breaking up the perfect score on the weekend for Meris. In the Prefinal, Meris grabbed the holeshot and drove away to the win, then repeated in the Final, driving out to a 8.2-second advantage for her second victory.
The X30 Junior division welcomed two new winners for the 2020 season. Kyriakos Sioukas was able to sweep the action on Saturday for his first win of the year. Sioukas edged out Frankie Mossman and Logan Toke for the fast time in qualifying – with all three within one tenth of a second. After getting pushed back to third early in the Prefinal, Sioukas came back to win the 14-lap race. From there, he went wire-to-wire in the Final for the victory. Toke won the battle for second over Round One winner Jesus Vasquez Jr. Mossman took the reins on Sunday, setting fast lap in qualifying. Toke was a close second, and finished behind Mossman in the Prefinal. However, a penalty for contact early in the race dropped Mossman to fourth and gave Toke the pole position for the main event. After Toke led early, Sioukas put himself at the point in the Final. He would lead until the final circuit, when he was forced to pull off for a broken rear bumper. This gave Mossman a clean run to the checkered flag for his first victory of 2020. Toke joined him on the podium in second, with SKUSA Pro Tour Mini Swift champion Kai Sorensen making his Junior debut with a third-place result.
Sioukas added a second win on the weekend, thanks to his performance in the KA100 Junior division. The Round One winner was only two hundredths of a second from a sweep on Saturday in the category. Ethan Lampe edged out Sioukas for fast time in qualifying. Sioukas took over in the Prefinal to score the win before leading all 22 laps in the Final for a second straight victory in the category. Lampe ended up second with Logan Toke in third. Sunday was a competitive day with three different drivers ending the sessions on top. Jacob Hoover was quickest in qualifying, just ahead of Sioukas and Toke. Sioukas went on to win the Prefinal and led early in the Final until falling off the pace and out of the race by lap 11. Hoover took over and led up to Lap 20 before Toke grabbed control. Toke held on to score his first win of 2020 with Lampe following through to second. Juliette Jensen advanced up to third as Hoover retired on the final circuit.
The KA100 Master division saw two drivers each earn a round sweep on the weekend. Tim Meyer made his 2020 debut in the category and swept the action on Saturday. His victory was capped off by a green-to-checkered performance in the Final, driving away from Ron Jenkins by 2.8-seconds with Steven Jasinski in third. Round One winner Nick De Graaf struggled on Saturday, but bounced back on Sunday to sweep the action. De Graaf went wire-to-wire in the main event for a 1.9-second victory. Meyer drove to second with Jenkins finishing in third.
The Pro Shifter division was split between Robert Heck Jr. and four-time SKUSA SuperNationals winner Billy Musgrave. Heck took the victory on Saturday after Musgrave retired due to a mechanical issue. Sunday, Musgrave returned for a clean sweep ahead of Heck. Vicente Salas and Anthony Freese each swept a round in the Pro Shifter 2 category. Round One winner Salas controlled the action on Saturday, ahead of Freese and Nathan Haney. Sunday was all Freese, driving away to a six-second advantage over Salas with Haney in third. Jacob Yesnick and Luca Bortone shuffled up the top spot all weekend in Shifter Senior. Yesnick was able to secure the victory on Saturday, winning by nearly six seconds. Bortone was classified as the Sunday winner with Yesnick retiring after 14 laps in the main event.
SKUSA owner and ProKart Challenge promoter Tom Kutscher was forced to modify his podium presentations and infamous post-podium raffle drawings that have become a fan favorite in order to honor CDC guidelines. Yet he was still able to make sure all top 3 winners received their trophies on site after tech clearance each race day. He even honored a key component of the 2020 PKC raffle prizes promised, as he hand-delivered 20 sets of FREE Evinco tires to drivers in their pits during the Sunday event, after a random drawing took place behind the scenes with the driver tech sheets.
The second half of the ProKart Challenge program is now on the calendar – with a second double-round weekend planned for July 10-12 at the Santa Maria Kart Track. Rounds Four and Five will be contested in the popular West Coast town with pre-registration now open online. The revised 2020 SKUSA Pro Tour is also set to host a unique and memorable event, encompassing all six rounds of racing for the season in two weekends. The SKUSA Summer Festival is slated for August 6-9, hosting Rounds One, Two and Three, along with August 13-16 for Rounds Four, Five and Six – all at the New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle, Indiana, and with a special endurance race event for four classes between the two. Registration for both weekend events is currently open online as well, with more info to come on the enduro races.