First Winners Decided at California ProKart Challenge 2021 Opener
Superkarts! USA California regional championship underway following weekend in Buttonwillow
The 17th season of the California ProKart Challenge hosted the opening event of the season at the Buttonwillow Raceway Park. Round One of the five-event, six-round championship took place on April 24-25 at the Buttonwillow, California facility. Ideal racing weather welcomed more than 120 entries in 11 categories, as racers began their bid for a victory and endeavor toward the 2021 championship. The two-day event saw the racers take the track on Saturday for practice and qualifying, with the Prefinal and Final events held on Sunday.
The largest category of the weekend was the Nash Motorsportz KA100 Senior with 33 drivers. Qualifying saw seven drivers clock in a time within one tenth of the fastest lap, set by Dante Yu. He led the opening five laps of the Prefinal until he was eventually shuffled back to the sixth position. Colorado driver Macy Williams took over the lead and led the remainder of the 12-lap race for the win and pole position in the main event. After leading the first circuit, however, Williams lost the advantage on lap four. Blake Nash then established himself into the lead until just before the halfway point, when he was relegated back to third by Yu and Oliver Calvo. Yu led first and then Calvo, before Nash returned to the point on the penultimate lap. The three battled hard on the final circuit, with Nash able to make an exciting move from third to first in the final two corners, reaching the checkered flag for his first victory in the category. Calvo ended up second, with Yu rounding out the podium. Senior rookie Kyriakos Sioukas and Luis Perez finished fourth and fifth.
The West Coast Motorsports KA100 Junior class was also a large field with 20 drivers. Jesus Vasquez Jr. and Lanie Benjamin were the two quickest drivers in qualifying, separated by just 29 thousandths. Not far off was Chase Hand, who jumped from third to first in the opening lap of the Prefinal and led the entire 12 laps. Vasquez put on the pressure in the Final as the two exchanged the top position several times. In the end, Hand was able to make a last lap pass stick, reaching the checkered flag first over Vasquez. Junior rookie G3 Argyros earned a third-position podium finish in his debut, with fellow rookie Christian Cameron fourth and Benjamin fifth.
Nearly as large of a field was the P1 Racing Engines Micro Swift, with 19 competing on the weekend. Matthew Cagle started off as the driver to beat, edging out Keegan Ellsworth for fast time in qualifying by 73 thousandths to earn his first series top qualifier honor. Sitting fifth was Sebastian Hauser, the 2020 series finale winner. Hauser worked up to the lead after the halfway point of the Prefinal, going on to win. That was the winning move as he never relinquished the lead in the 20-lap Final, holding off Cagle at the checkered flag. Last year’s champion Tristan Murphy completed the podium, with Ashton Woon and Tyren Scott rounding out the top-five.
A similar path to victory was followed in the Formula Works Mini Swift category. Johnie Stamps came out of the qualifying session with fast time out of the 17 drivers in his class debut. Recording the fifth quickest lap was William Rasmussen. After just two laps into the Prefinal, Rasmussen was up to the lead and went on to score the race win. He set the pace for the 20-lap Final, with Ryan Giannetta as the lone challenger. Giannetta took the lead on lap 17, but on the last lap Rasmussen was able to work past for the lead and the victory by two tenths. Nico Saraphati improved to a podium spot in third, while Keagan Kaminski was the hard charger of the race, up from dead last to fourth, gaining 13 positions. Charlie Smith completed the top-five.
You can’t think of the California ProKart Challenge and not see Billy Musgrave. The seven-time series champion kicked off the opening campaign for an eighth title with a near-perfect score in the Positive Beverage Pro Shifter division. Musgrave went wire-to-wire on the weekend, setting fast time in qualifying and leading all laps of the Prefinal and Final. Vicente Salas took fast lap in the Final, finishing second with William Ferguson joining them on the podium. Logan Chambers won his debut in the Empire Karts S5 Junior Stock Moto division, outlasting top qualifier Alex Mercado on the weekend. Kailey Meris was the lone driver in the Shifter S125 class.
Jeff Rice, last year’s vice-champion in the Mike Manning Karting X30 Master class, did what he was unable to do in 2020: win. Rice came away from the weekend with the victory in the opening round. He missed out on the fast time in qualifying with Arman Cornell securing the best lap and then finished second to Terry Giffen in the Prefinal. Giffen led the opening 15 laps of the Final until he retired, handing the lead and victory over to Rice, who finished four seconds ahead of Robert Switzler, with Scott Nealon in third. Ryan Vincent was the lone driver in the HRT Driver Development X30 Senior category, with Alex Mercado solo in the Rolison Performance Group X30 Junior class.
It was a dominating debut for KC Cook in the MDG Karting KA100 Master class. Cook cleared the eight-driver field by four tenths of a second in qualifying, before leading all the laps in the Prefinal and Final. Ronnie Swaim ended up second with Richard Hensley in third.
The California ProKart Challenge resumes the 2021 season with a special double-header weekend in Fontana, California. Rounds Two and Three will be held on June 18-20 at the CalSpeed Karting facility. Saturday and Sunday will see two separate rounds of racing, with Friday as a full practice day.
Prior to the second event of the California ProKart Challenge, the SKUSA Pro Tour resumes on the May 21-23 weekend as the 12th edition of the SpringNationals will be held at the Utah Motorsports Campus in Grantsville, Utah.