EKN Trackside: 2021 United States Pro Kart Series – Heartland Grand Prix Preview
Ninth season continues with return to New Castle Motorsports Park
The United States Pro Kart Series presented by MG Tires is coming off a record-breaking weekend to begin its ninth season. A record turnout showed for the Southern Grand Prix at Ocala Gran Prix in March, with similar numbers set for this weekend’s event – the Heartland Grand Prix at the New Castle Motorsports Park. Rounds Three and Four will be contested at the New Castle, Indiana facility, reaching the 250 pre-entry mark for the seven IAME categories on the weekend, about 40 less then the record set last month.
The New Castle Motorsports Park has been a track on the USPKS for all nine seasons. In recent years, the facility was the finale location before moving to the opener in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in the nine-year history, the layout will change from the ‘National’ layout to the ‘Backwards #1’. Drivers will go in the clockwise direction, including the Monza section on the second long straight. It was used for the Route 66 Sprint Series opener a few weeks ago, along with the KRA event last weekend, providing several the USPKS competitors the opportunity to learn this new layout prior to this weekend. Because of the size of the track (1-mile, 17-turns), no LCQ races will be used with every driver scheduled to start in the Prefinal and Final races on the weekend.
eKartingNews.com is proud to be providing the ninth season of Trackside Live program with United States Pro Kart Series. Tim Koyen will be calling the action all weekend from New Castle. Those unable to attend can listen in to the live broadcast – presented this weekend by A-Maxx Racing, Franklin Motorsports and D.I.D Chain. Bookmark www.ekartingnews.com/live and follow the EKN social media channels for more throughout the weekend in Indiana.
The two Senior divisions are led in the championship chase after the opening weekend by one driver. EKN February Driver of the Month Connor Zilisch (Nitro / Redspeed) – who recorded a victory in both X30 Pro and KA100 Senior. His championship lead in both is at 30 points. Fellow race winner Arias Deukmedjian (KSNA / Kart Republic) sits second in X30 Pro. The rest of the top-five are within 93 points, including Mathias Ramirez (SCR / Redspeed), four-time SKUSA champion Ryan Norberg (RPG / Kosmic) and Alessandro de Tullio (Parolin USA). Defending champion Brandon Jarsocrak (MDR / Kosmic) went the opening weekend without a podium, sitting sixth in the early title chase, going to a track where he’s won in the past, but yet to stand on top of the podium since 2018. The X30 Pro field is at 33 drivers, including the return of Hannah Greenemeier (RPG / Kosmic) to USPKS competition along with British driver Louie Westover (Solo Kart USA) making his first series start.
In the KA100 Senior class, AJ Myers (Magik Kart USA) and defending champion Brandon Lemke (FMS / Merlin) are the drivers leading the chase on Zilisch. Both Myers and Lemke stood on the podium in both main events while Zilisch had only one trip with the win on Saturday at Ocala. The Sunday winner was Lemke provisionally until a two-position penalty for contact with Zilisch on the final circuit. That promoted 2017 title winner Alex Bertagnoli (FMS / Merlin) to the top of the podium. He sits fifth in the standings with Hayden Jones (Nitro / Redspeed). With a 59-driver field, there will be several drivers in the chase. Do not count out NCMP’s own Logan Adams (Comet / Kosmic) who is always fast at home. Route 66 Sprint Series winners include Aiden Levy (TF / Tony Kart) and Lemke.
The two Junior categories are also led in the championship chase by one driver – EKN March Driver of the Month Jeremy Fletcher (TF / OTK). Fletcher, the only driver to stand on the podium both days in Ocala, split the wins in the X30 Junior class with Paul Bocuse (Parolin USA), who sits 91 points back of Fletcher in the standings heading into the weekend. Cameron Weinberg (Tony Kart) is third with Noah Baker (Supertune / Tony Kart) and Rowan Gill (MDR / Kosmic) completing the top-five. Christian Miles (MDR / Kosmic) came on at the end of the Ocala weekend as one of the quickest drivers, now heading to a favorite NCMP track. At 31 entries, there will be numerous karts fighting within the lead group all weekend long.
Fletcher was able to earn both victories in Ocala in the KA100 Junior class. His point lead is 78 going into the weekend ahead of new Andretti Autosport Junior driver Sebastian Wheldon (JC / Kosmic), who was on the podium both days with Fletcher. Parker DeLong (RPM / Tony Kart) was runner-up in his class debut, sits third with Helio Meza (IRM / Tony Kart) fourth and Cameron Brinkman (FMS / Merlin) in fifth. Wheldon was able to score a day-sweep at the Route 66 Sprint Series event with Austin Jurs (FMS / Redspeed) also earning a victory. They could be among names battling for victory on the weekend, along with Chase Hand (RPG / Kosmic), who is carrying some strong momentum with a win on the west coast.
The pre-entry number for X30 Master is matching the record set in Ocala with 26 drivers. Defending champion Scott Kopp (FMS / Exprit) leads the early chase, holding on to a 16 point advantage over Danny Robertson (RPG / Kosmic). Both drivers stood on the podium both days, with Robertson earning two runner-up results while Kopp ended the weekend with a victory on Sunday. Mario Barrios (RPG / Kosmic) earned his first series victory on Saturday, and trails Kopp in the standings by 31 points. Scott Roberts (SCR / Redspeed) sits fourth, winning five times last year at the SKUSA Pro Tour Summer Festival. 2018 champion Laurentiu Mardan (TecnoKart USA) is fifth, another driver with success at NCMP. The wildcards on the weekend will be the inclusion of Renato Jader David (Orsolon / Tony Kart) and Derek Wang (Crosslink / Exprit) to the class. Both are making their USPKS debuts, and considered to be among the top Masters drivers in the USA and around the world. Renato is the defending ROK Cup Superfinal champion and Wang has nine trips to the Rotax Grand Finals, winning a third-straight Challenge of the Americas title this winter on the west coast.
Each of the main events in the Mini Swift at Ocala went down to the wire. Enzo Vidmontiene (Benik) and Diego Ardiles (Supertune / Tony Kart) were able to grab the victory each day. Ardiles has the advantage overall, leading the championship heading into NCMP with Vidmontiene back by 20 points. Ben Maier (Nitro Kart) was runner-up each day and is third in the standings, only 29 points out of first. Oliver Wheldon (JC / Kosmic) is fourth with Tyler Roberts (Parolin USA) in fifth. At 33 entries, a several drivers will be in the hunt for podium positions. Two weeks ago, Indy Ragan (FMS / Merlin) and Sarah Bradley (Nitro Kart) recorded victories at the Route 66 Sprint Series.
The Micro Swift class is at 32 pre-entries for the weekend at New Castle. Two different drivers won in Ocala with Isaac Malcuit (AKT / Kart Republic) and Keelan Harvick (Nitro Kart) at the top of the podium. Harvick holds the advantage in the standings, ahead of Malcuit by 19 points. Augusuts Toniolo (RPG / Kosmic) is back by 50 points, coming off a win at the local KRA event at NCMP. Ethan Tovo is fourth in the standings, out by 106, sweeping the entire Route 66 Sprint Series weekend two weeks ago.
Be sure to follow the social media channels for eKartingNews throughout the weekend and be sure to catch EKN Live playing all weekend long.