EKN Trackside: 2021 SKUSA WinterNationals – Sunday Report
Myers and Zilisch stand on top of pro podiums in New Orleans
Nitro Kart's Connor Zilisch scored a thrilling X30 Senior victory in the second round of the SKUSA WinterNationals
(Photo: On Track Promotions)
After enjoying a thrilling day of WinterNationals competition on Saturday to launch the 2021 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour at NOLA Motorsports in Avondale, Louisiana, the drivers and teams returned to the track on Sunday to do it all over again. A midday shower added a wrinkle in the storyline, and the finals were packed with action. Six drivers completed weekend main event sweeps on Sunday, as Jeremy Fletcher (X30 Senior), Cole Morgan (KA100 Senior), Noah Baker (KA100 Junior), Enzo Vidmontiene (Mini Swift), Gianmatteo Rousseau (Mini Swift) joined defending SKUSA Pro Tour Pro Shifter champ AJ Myers in starting the season with two victories. That said, on more than one occasion, the winners did not cross the line first as pushback bumpers penalties played a role in final classifications.
The Rolison Performance Group sponsored X30 Senior class was the first affected by the light rain that hit the facility at the very end of the Prefinals. Rain began to fall on the opening lap of the 10-lap race and sent the top-three off the track. After a lap of wet running, SKUSA brought out a full course yellow and eventually the red flag to end the session. The decision was made to go to lunch break and come back with a complete restart. The rain shower lasted less than 20 minutes, but the restart of the Prefinal was still run on a very wet track. Connor Zilisch (Nitro Kart / Redspeed) showed his mastery of the tough conditions to take the win and the pole for the main event.
The X30 Final was a stunner, with an early lead pack consisting of Zilisch, Thomas Nepveu (PSL Karting /Birel ART), Hannah Greenemeier (Rolison Performance Group / Kosmic), and Saturday winner Diego Ramos (Racing Edge Motorsport / Kosmic). Nepveu went to the lead for a time early on, but many eyes were on Norberg as he was a key focus of the main event, starting 18th, and quickly working his way into the top-10. Norberg was joined by his RPG teammate Branyon Tiner (Kosmic) in his march to the front, and by the halfway point, he was into 7th. A three-wide battle for the lead with less than five minutes to go at the end of the backstraight brought Norberg and Tiner into the fight for the lead, just as Greenemeier pulled off with an engine issue. The final three laps were truly spectacular. Ramos led over Zilisch, Nepveu, and Norberg with two to go, but Norberg immediately slipped past for third. Zilisch made his bid for the lead and the win on the penultimate lap as he slipped inside Ramos for the lead in Turn 5, and Norberg followed suit by dropping Ramos to third in the Turn 12-13 chicane. This move let Zilisch get away and as the Senior rookie led down the backstraight, his challengers fought each other instead of trying to draft back to the leader. Ramos and Nepveu went three-wide with Norberg into Turn 3 with Nepveu taking the spot, but over the remainder of the lap, Ramos worked back to second with Nepveu and Norberg in third and fourth. PSL Karting’s John Burke (Birel ART) was just outside the fight for the lead and capped the top-five. Tiner ended in sixth.
After scoring a commanding win in Saturday’s PSL Karting Pro Shifter main event, AJ Myers (Magik Kart USA) completed his sweep of the weekend to begin his 2020 title defense in style. The new Indiana resident shocked the paddock in qualifying with the fastest lap of the weekend, being the first driver to dip below the 60-second mark with a stunning lap of 59.765 seconds. After winning the Prefinal, Myers got the holeshot in the 20-lap main event and never looked back, winning by 4.316 seconds over PSL Karting’s Jake French (Birel ART), who finished second in all four races to keep himself in a strong position for the championship. Danny Formal (Leading Edge Motorsports / Formula K) finished third, just a couple of seconds behind French. Billy Musgrave (MRC / Factory Kart) worked all race to keep Michael Stevens (PSL Karting / Birel ART) at bay, taking fourth as the duo capped the top-five. For his efforts, Myers took home $5000 cash with his two wins, while French pocketed $2000. Musgrave and Formal each won $500 for their third-place finishes.
The start of the CKR USA Master Shifter final was a bit of a mess, but amidst the chaos, Skitchy Barnes (HMG / Compkart) grabbed the holeshot to pull out to the early lead. Saturday winner and polesitter Jordon Musser (PSL-Pauly Restaurant Group / Birel ART) slotted into second but was out of the race on lap five with a broken exhaust pipe. This left Barnes to repeat his Round 1 battle with Vincent Cossard (SRR / CRG), a chase that went from green to checker. Cossard led for two laps mid-race, but Barnes took over on lap 14 and powered to the win, taking home $3500 on the weekend, adding to his second-place finish on Saturday. Cossard earned a $1500 for second and third-place finishes. Terry Lawrence (CKR) stepped up his game and finished third to complete the podium, while Robert Fiege (Exprit) and Anthony Stiffler (HMG / Compkart) capped the top-five.
The Parolin USA X30 Junior main was an edge-of-your-seat performance with a handful of drivers taking turns up front. Carson Morgan led all but one of the first 12 laps, when Christian Miles (Mike Doty Racing / Tony Kart) muscled his way to the lead. The winds began picking up in the afternoon and the headwind coming down the straight turned the draft into instant ‘turbo’ and Miles was immediately passed when the trio behind him lined up. This draft resulted in continual passes on the backstraight lap after lap and tightened the eventual battle for the win. The trio of Jeremy Fletcher (ATK / Tony Kart), Frankie Mossman (Compkart), and Jack Jeffers (Speed Concepts / Redspeed) teamed up and slashed the gap to the leaders as they battled, and this would change the course of the race as Fletcher was on a mission. Fletcher moved to third in the waning laps and then, on the penultimate circuit, Morgan dropped a wheel coming out of Turn 15 which opened the door for Fletcher to throw a late move into Turn 17 to take the outright lead. Fletcher held off all challenges on the final lap to complete the drive of the weekend, winning by 0.136 seconds over Max Garcia (Will Power Kart). Morgan recovered to finish third, ahead of Mossman in fourth and Jeffers in fifth, after he slipped by Baker on the final lap.
Nevada’s Jess Peterson was lined up to repeat his Saturday victory in Comet Kart Sales X30 Master, qualifying on the pole to set up for a win in the Prefinal. The Ricciardo driver got a great start in the main and led early before Eric Molinatti (CKR) moved to the front. Molinatti’s race ended early on lap five when he lost the chain. Peterson took over the lead and eventually pulled away from Mario Barrios (RPG / Kosmic) to score the on-track win. However, like a number of race winners from Saturday, Peterson was issued a three-second pushback bumper penalty that dropped him to second behind Danillo Ramalho (REM / Kosmic) in the final results. Barrios completed the podium in third, ahead of Magno Gaia (Orsolon / Tony Kart) and Curtis Terry (Thomas Racing / Kosmic).
The DNJ Intermodel Services Micro Swift category was lined up as the first Final of the day, and the track was still completely wet for the start of their race, which was altered from 18 laps to 19 minutes plus one lap. At the green, Gianmatteo Rousseau (Nitro Kart) showed impressive skills in the wet and bolted to the early lead, eventually stretching out a comfortable gap to take a 4.721-second win over Keelan Harvick (Nitro Kart), who worked to close on the margin once he made his way through from sixth on the grid. Harvick turned the fast lap of the race in the process, and like Rousseau, displayed impressive kart control in the difficult conditions. Isaac Malcuit started in eighth and steered his way up to third. Ashton Woon (Nitro Kart) and Augustus Toniolo (RPG / Kosmic) completed the top-five.
Immediately following Micro Swift in the race order, North Texas Karters KA100 Junior was the class that would see the complete transition of the track from wet to dry, as the rain had stopped even before the X30 Seniors had started their Prefinal. A vast majority of the drivers stuck with the MG rain tires, which ended up being the right call for the leaders, but a brave few elected to roll the dice and gamble with slicks. The track had dried considerably in the five minutes between classes, and a dry line was visible when the KA100s went green. A rain-tire-shod Noah Baker (Supertune / Tony Kart) mastered the changing conditions and scored a 7.288-second win over Parker DeLong to sweep the weekend’s mains and take the point lead. The spotlight was on Jack Jeffers (Speed Concepts / Redspeed), who was on slicks and fell back deep in the field early. As the track dried and Jeffers built heat into his Evinco slicks, he went on a charge, advancing through the top-10 with ease over the final five laps, eventually passing Danny Dyszelski (Magik Kart) on the final lap to get onto the podium in third. Dyszelski held on for fourth while Jeremy Fletcher (ATK / EOS) capped the top-five.
With the track now all but dry, Kart Racing Solutions KA100 Senior was on deck and the opening lap took everyone by surprise. Brandon Lemke (Team FMS / Merlin) took the lead from the start and looked poised to begin his bid for the race win, but the veteran got caught out by the grip level and a wet patch on his first run through the fast right-hand turn 14 and pushed straight off the track. Lemke’s Merlin suffered damage and walked away from his kart in the infield. Connor Ferris (Team Ferris Racing / Kart Republic) encountered the same conditions and he too went off, but not as deep into the grass and he was able to continue, albeit well back, eventually working back to 17th. This opened the door for 2019 SKUSA Pro Tour KA100 champ Austin Osborne (Iron Rock Motorsports / Tony Kart) to take the lead, but he would eventually drop to third behind Jace Park (Trinity Karting Group / Tony Kart) and Saturday winner Cole Morgan (RPM / Tony Kart). Morgan was the quickest of the trio and powered to the front, winning over Park by 2.712 seconds. Leonardo Colavita (Kosmic) and Adrian Cruz (CRD / Kosmic) finished fourth and fifth.
The Leading Edge Motorsports Mini Swift drivers put on a show with a five-driver fight at the front that saw a number of leaders and countless position changes. Jack Iliffe (Iron Rock Motorsports / Tony Kart) led early before Enzo Vidmontiene (Benik) took control ahead of Oliver Wheldon (JC Karting / Kosmic). Ben Maier (Nitro) held the spotlight for much of the race as well as he eventually worked to the front after starting ninth, and he and Vidmontiene pulled away to make it a two-driver battle for the win on the final lap. It got extremely wild on that last circuit as Vidmontiene took the lead at the end of the backstraight. Maier came back to steal the position back in the Turn 12 and 13 chicane, but that brought Wheldon back into the fight. Vidmontiene went back by Maier in the left-hand Turn 15 and after Wheldon came through with him, he then stormed inside of Turn 17 to take the lead and the on-track win. Sadly, a pushback bumper penalty would drop Wheldon from the win to fifth and advance Vidmontiene to the victory. Maier took second, while Jack Iliffe completed the podium. Oscar Iliffe finished fourth, ahead of Wheldon in the final classification.
In all the classes, the racing was stellar. Unlike the 2020 attempt, this year’s SKUSA WinterNationals was completed in full and the racing was tremendous. The Pro Tour will be back on-track on the May 21-23 with SpringNationals at Utah Motorsports Campus, and EKN will be there to provide full coverage.