EKN Trackside: 2020 SKUSA Pro Tour Summer Festival – Round Four Report
Deukmedjian and Cicero grab first victories to kick off finale weekend in New Castle
The final weekend of the 2020 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour is underway as Friday hosted the fourth round of the championship chase. Teams and drivers remained at the New Castle Motorsports Park since the end of the opening weekend on Sunday, returning on-track Wednesday for unofficial practice. Official practice on Thursday provided two days of testing on the new ‘Reverse National’ layout, utilized for the first time in SKUSA competition. Today, despite forecast throughout the weekend, was dry with overcast skies before they cleared by the end of the main events. The second half of the championship chases began with drivers establishing themselves further into the hunt or moving themselves up the order to challenge come Sunday.
X30 Senior is the last class on the track each session, and was contested under sunny skies for the first time on the day. Prefinal winner Thomas Nepveu (PSL / Birel ART) and Round Two victor Luca Mars (SCR / Redspeed) led the field to the green flag. Nepveu was shuffled back to fourth as Mars and Arias Deukmedjian (KSNA / Kart Republic) set the pace for the main event. Eventually, top qualifier Brandon Jarsocrak (MDR / Kosmic) and Nepveu made it a four-driver battle for the victory. Deukmedjian led at the white flag lap and ran the defensive line. Nepveu, up to second, tried to find a way past with Mars on his bumper. The two made contact at the ‘Blue’ corner, sending Nepvue off into the grass and allowed Jarsocrak to slide past for the runner-up spot. Thus, Deukmedjian – the 2018 X30 Junior Pro Tour champion – had a clean run to the checkered flag to earn his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory in the category. Mars ended up third on the podium with Braden Eves (KSNA / WPK) and two-time winner Bryson Morris (RPG / Kosmic) completing the top-five. Nepveu fell to ninth in the order.
The KA100 Senior class welcomed the third different winner as well for Round Four. Luca Mars (SCR / Redspeed) and two-time winner Bryson Morris (RPG / Kosmic) sat on the front row for the main event. A lead pack of six drivers formed in the early laps, and showed patience in waiting until the closing moments of the race for them to start shuffling. The lead changed multiple times on the final circuit, with Nathaniel Cicero (RPG / Kosmic) putting himself into the lead at the ‘Cell Tower’ corner. From there, the SKUSA Winter Series champion held on to earn his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory. Mars came around in second with Garrett Adams (Comet / Kosmic) in third. Morris was fourth with Round One winner Brandon Lemke (Franklin / Merlin) in fifth.
Pro Shifter welcomed the fourth different winner of the 2020 SKUSA Pro Tour season. Breaking up the Magik Kart sweep is 2017 champion Jake French (PSL / Birel ART). French was second after qualifying behind 2016 title winner Danny Formal (ANSA / Charles Leclerc). Formal won the Prefinal with Round Three victor AJ Myers (Magik) slotting into second. Formal grabbed the holeshot but French went on the attack quickly. On lap two, French took the lead from Formal and was able to keep the top spot for the remainder of the 18-lap race to earn his first victory on the season. Myers worked past Formal for the second step of the podium with Billy Musgrave (Factory Kart) earning his best finish of the program in fourth. Fast time went to Round Two winner Rory van der Steur (Magik), ending up fifth.
Contact at the opening corner of the main event helped to decide the contenders in the Pro Shifter 2. Prefinal winner Anthony Freese (PSL / Birel ART) was involved along with race winner Baylor Griffin (Orsolon / CRG). That shook up the order through the opening lap with Vincente Salas (Factory Kart) and Gavin Bayliff (Trinity / Birel ART) out front. They ran 1-2 the entire race, with Salas earning his first SKUSA Pro Tour victory. Bayliff landed on his first SKUSA podium in second. Jason Henrique (GFC) was fighting with Round Three winner Josh Pierson (RPG / Kosmic) for the third spot with contact putting Pierson on the sideline. Henrique crossed the line in third, but was penalized five seconds for the contact with Pierson. That promoted Annie Rhule (Magik) to the third step of the podium and put Henrique in fourth. Zach Schiff (HMG / CompKart), making his 2020 debut, ran fifth.
G1 went down to the wire with Scott Barnes (HMG / Intrepid) and Joe Ruch (Race Factory) battling throughout the main event. On the final circuit, Barnes ran a defensive line through the final corners, with Ruch finding enough space to attempt a pass. The two made contact and Ruch flipped after driving over the front end of Barnes. ‘Skitchy’ kept the engine running and limped across the line for the victory. Anthony Stiffler (HMG / CompKart) was second with Ruch unable to complete the final lap. Nathan Stewart (FGM / Birel ART) kept his streak alive at four, sweeping the day in G2. Stewart drove to a 10-second advantage at the line over Justin Peck (RPG / Kosmic) and Ken Schilling (Aluminos).
Scott Roberts (SCR / Redspeed) put himself back into the championship lead with a third victory in the X30 Master class. Roberts fought with top qualifier and Prefinal Miguel Mier (Crosslink / Exprit) all main event. Mier led the majority of the race with Roberts moving to the point, and holding on for his third victory. Mier was second with Salvo Sparacio (Solo Kart) a close third while Adam Pettit (Solo Kart) had issues at the start, half a track behind in fourth. Nick Tucker (Nitro / Tony Kart) earned his third win in the KA100 Master class. Tucker worked past Jonathan Silva (RPM / Tony Kart) on the final circuit to earn the victory with Ron Jenkins (Nash / EOS) caught up in contact while Pettit was working back around them, retiring after five laps.
The X30 Junior race was a bit wild and ended with penalties deciding the winner. The main event saw a lot of shuffling for position and eventually led to Round Three winner Jace Park (SCR / Redspeed) flipping on the exit of the ‘Scoreboard’ corner with multiple driver vying for the same piece of race track. That separated the field at the front with Max Opalski (RPM / Tony Kart) jumping out to the lead. He was eventually run down by a trio, led by Prefinal winner Carson Morgan (Tony Kart). Morgan led the final five laps to cross as the provisional winner, only to be moved back three seconds for a pushback bumper penalty. Round Two winner, Paul Bocuse (SCR / Redspeed), was second but a pushback bumper penalty for him promoted Round One victor Brent Crews (KSNA / Kart Republic) to the top of the podium. Morgan and Bocuse completed the podium with Opalski removed from the results for a weight not properly fastened. Alex Stanfield (Crosslink / Exprit) was classified fourth with Jeremy Fletcher (Benik / EOS) up 10 spots to fifth.
John Burke (Supertune / Tony Kart) went from zero to hero in the KA100 Junior class. An issue leaving the grid in qualifying kept him from recording lap, putting him at the back of the 26 driver field. Burke drove up to 8th in the 11-lap Prefinal with top qualifier Carson Morgan (Tony Kart) earning the win. The top-10 karts were within reach of each other through much of the race. Burke was shuffled back to 19th on the opening lap of the race, but fought his way forward every lap. While reaching the top-five, Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Supertune / Tony Kart) made a bold move in the I-70 corner, nearly passing three drivers into the corner. Contact was made and dropped Morgan and Max Opalski (RPM / Tony Kart) back and allowed Burke to jump into the lead. Burke drove to the victory, his third of the Pro Tour program. Brent Crews (KSNA / WPK) ended up second with Thomas Annunizata (TFR / Kart Republic) earning his first SKUSA Pro Tour podium in third. Morgan ended up fourth with Westin Workman (TimmyTech / CompKart) placing fifth.
The Mini Swift victory was decided on the final circuit. A large group formed at the front and continued to shuffle throughout the main event. Top qualifier and Prefinal winner Caleb Gafrarar (PSL / Birel ART) was up front with Sebastian Wheldon (JC / Kosmic) charging his way forward to the front with fast laps of the race. The two went side by side on the final circuit into the scoreboard corner. Contact between them and others shuffled up the order and Round One winner Parker DeLong (Nitro Kart) took advantage, coming out as the leader. DeLong held on to reach the checkered flag first for a second victory. Salim Hanna (Montoya / Tony Kart) followed him through for second with Round Three winner Max Garcia (KSNA / WPK) winning the fight for third. Gafrarar ended up fourth with Helio Meza (IRM / Tony Kart) fifth.
While we have seen clean and exciting racing throughout the Micro Swift category during the opening weekend, the fourth round ended with a number of penalties deciding the podium. Vivek Kanthan (MDR / Kosmic) came across as the provisional winner but a pushback bumper penalty took him off the top step. Cameron Weinberg (Nitro Kart) crossed the line in second but an unsportsmanlike penalty following the checkered flag removed him from the results. A pushback penalty to Isaac Malcuit (Comet / Kart Republic) and blocking penalty to Asher Ochstein (Benik) promoted defending champion Jack Iliffe (IRM / Tony Kart) from fifth to first. Kanthan was classified second with Malcuit in third. Ochstein and Salvador Della Vecchia (Exprit) completed the top-five.
Round Five is scheduled for Saturday at the New Castle Motorsports Park. Similar to the SuperNationals, it will be ‘Situation Saturday’ with the SKUSA Pro Tour championship picture more defined by the results of Round Five in the 12 categories competing.