EKN Trackside: Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 24 – SuperSunday Report
Wild main events decide the nine class winners for the 24th running of event outside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Italian Matteo Vigano added his name to the list of winners at the SuperNationals, taking $10,000 home with victory in Pro Shifter (Photo: EKN)
It took 746 days before SuperSunday returned as the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals 24 was completed on Sunday, December 5 outside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With the COVID-19 pandemic postponing the event in 2020, the ‘Mission Possible’ continued with the venue change just days before the December 1 opening day of on track session. SKUSA pulled off the 20-mile move to the LVMS property and enjoyed the new host hotel of Resorts World Las Vegas, welcoming 483 entries over the nine categories competing for the record books.
SuperSunday began with the youngest division of the event as Micro Swift sponsored by Team Benik welcoming 46 drivers. Top qualifier Ethan Tovo (Nitro Kart) took over the lead from pole sitter and three-time heat winner Keelan Harvick (Nitro Kart) on the opening circuit. Tovo led for the first five laps before Harvick took the top position back. They were joined by Phaethon Saradpon (Kart Republic), and pulled away from the rest of the field. Harvick led with Tovo on his bumper, showing great patience and waiting until the final circuit to pull the trigger. Tovo grabbed the lead in turn five, but Harvick was quick to respond into the chicane that followed. They ran side by side down the final straight, with Harvick able to inch ahead and cross the line first by 53 thousandths of a second. Saradpon was a close third at the checkered flag with Jaxon Porter (Benik) earning the hard charger honor, advancing 15 spots to fourth just ahead of Ashton Woon (Nitro Kart), who started eighth. Fast lap of the race (51.476) went to Jesse Philips (Birel ART), with the Great Britain driver the top international finisher in sixth. SKUSA Pro Tour champion Gianmatteo Rousseau (Nitro Kart) started third and finished seventh.
Redemption was the mission at hand for Brandon Lemke (FMS / Merlin) in the KA100 Senior division sponsored by Motorsports Country Club of Cincinatti. After qualifying eighth overall, he recorded one heat race win with the final moto, helping to put him fourth on the main event grid behind top qualifier and three-time heat winner Cole Morgan (RPM / Tony Kart), heat winner Thomas Annunziata (MDR / Kosmic) and six-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion Carson Morgan (RPM / Tony Kart) in his Senior debut. Morgan – the 2021 SKUSA Pro Tour champion – and Annunziata were able to pull away from the rest of the field to run 1-2. That was until a red flag came on lap 15, bunching up the field and setting up for a nine-lap shootout. Among those back in contention were Carson Morgan, Lemke, Matias Fernandez (SLA / Ternengo Kart), and Connor Zilisch (Team Nitro / Tony Kart). Zilisch started 10th but found himself backwards at turn one on the opening lap. He was 12th at the restart thanks to fast laps of the race, and quickly near the top-five when the race restarted.
Carson took the lead and held the spot until coming to the two laps to go signal when Annunziata grabbed the spot. Both Cole and Zilisch pushed Carson back to fourth by the time they reached the white flag. Into turn one, both Morgan’s and Zilisch went three-wide. Contact between Carson and Zilisch pushed them into Annunziata at the apex. Carson climbed over the shoulder of Annunziata, spinning them sideways. Zilisch bounced off into the lead with Cole able to avoid all of it and find himself on Zilisch bumper. Into turn four, Fernandez climbed the rear of Carson, pushing them into the side of Zilisch and eventually all went into the exit barriers. This allowed Lemke, who started the lap in sixth, coming away with the lead. Lemke, who crossed the line first in 2019 only to have a pushback bumper penalty, found redemption after 110 weeks with his patience to earn his first SKUSA SuperNationals victory, and a $2,000 payday
The rest of the top-five came across the line with Trey Brown (RPM / Tony Kart) in second, earning $1,000, Oliver Calvo (LEM / Exprit) third, 2019 winner Pauly Massimino (RPM / Tony Kart) fourth and Nicholas Terlecki (FMS / Merlin) fifth. Calvo was handed a five-second penalty for contact, while Massimino fell down the order for a three-second pushback bumper penalty. That advanced Terlecki to third and a $500 check, up 22 spots total. Kyriakos Sioukas (AKR / Tony Kart) was moved to third, advancing 10 spots total while Marco Filice was classified fifth after starting 32nd. The hard charger honor went to LCQ transfer Max Opalski (RPM / Tony Kart), credited with advancing 29 positions. Massimino was classified seventh ahead of Calvo with Caleb Shrader (RPG / Kosmic) in ninth. Another amazing story throughout the week was Nick Brueckner (Orsolon / Tony Kart), who put chemo treatment on hold to compete at the SuperNationals 24. Brueckner finished third in the LCQ to start 37th, finishing 10th.
The KA100 Junior sponsored by DNJ Intermodal Services was a two-driver battle until the final lap. Pole sitter Jeremy Fletcher (TF / Tony Kart) won two of the heat races, finishing third while Helio Meza (IRM / Tony Kart) recorded three top-five finishes to start third. They were able to get away from the field with second-place starter Salim Hanna (RPG / Kosmic) trailing, but as the race progressed continued to lose time to the top-two. Meza positioned himself on the bumper of Fletcher, setting up for a last lap run. Meza took the lead as they received the white flag, heading into turn one. Running a defensive line into turn four, Fletcher pulled an over-under move to be on the inside of Meza as they exited the corner. With the kick back at the exit, the two pushed wide and Meza had no where to go, clipping the barrier with the right front and damaging it enough to be unable to continue. Fletcher went unchallenged to the checkered flag, scoring his first SuperNationals victory. Meza’s teammate Cooper Shipman (IRM / Tony Kart) recorded fast lap of the race (47.711) as he climbed from eighth to second with Hanna in third. Austin Jurs (FMS / Redspeed) and Parker DeLong (RPM / Tony Kart) crossed the line in fourth and fifth, but penalties dropped them out of the top-five, moving Christian Cameron (AKR / Tony Kart) to fourth after starting 14th and Noah Baker (Supertune / Tony Kart) into fifth from a ninth starting spot. Top qualifier Jesus Vasquez Jr. (Nash / EOS) started fifth but was involved in early contact, eventually pulling off track. Hard charger honor went to Brayden Robertson (Crosslink / Exprit), advancing 21 spots to 11th.
Patience was the key move in the Mini Swift category sponsored by Orsolon Racing. Three-heat winner Oliver Kinnmark (Parolin USA) led the field to the green flag and was the top driver in a large group that made up the lead pack. The Swedish driver led the opening 12 laps until SKUSA Pro Tour champion Enzo Vidmontiene (Benik) knifed his way to the point after starting ninth. It was a vast improvement after getting stuck in the slow group for qualifying and ending up 23rd overall. He had finishes of eighth, ninth and third in the heat races, showing the passing ability throughout the event. After leading four laps, fourth-place starter Oliver Wheldon led for a circuit before Vidmontiene took back the position. From there, Vidmontiene put in a solid lap heading to the white flag before the fight for second amped up on the final circuit. This was enough of a gap that Enzo was able to cruise to the checkered flag to score his first SuperNationals victory. In the heated battle for second over the last lap, top qualifier Vivek Kanthan (Parolin USA) came away with the position with Kinnmark crossing the line in third. Kinnmark suffered two penalties after the checkered flag, one for jumping the start and another for blocking. That dropped him down to 11th in the final classification. Asher Ochstein (Supertune / Tony Kart) was fourth, but a pushback bumper penalty dropped him off the podium and into ninth. That promoted Wheldon to third in his first SuperNationals with Pro Tour vice-champion Jack Iliffe (IRM / Parolin) into fourth, up nine spots. Roman Kamyab (Fusion / Birel ART) from Great Britain advanced seven positions to fifth. Christian Costoya (Parolin USA) from Spain had fast lap of the race (50.483), climbing 10 spots to 10th. The hard charger honor went to Isaac Malcuit (AKT / Kart Republic), moving up 15 positions to 25th.
The top four of Master Shifter sponsored by RLV ran together the entire 24-lap distance. Top qualifier Jordon Musser (PSL / Birel ART) was able to grab the holeshot from the pole position over front row start Ryan Kinnear (PGR / Ricciardo) as two-time heat race winner Joey Wimsett (DRT / DR Kart) came from fifth on the grid, jumping ahead of former SKUSA Pro Tour champion and SuperNationals winner John Crow. Musser led the first 15 laps until Kinnear made his bid for the lead. Two laps later, Musser responded with the move into the chicane, which bottled them both up and allowed Wimsett to slip past both coming onto the long straight. That was the move for the victory as Wimsett sailed away to a 1.4-second victory. Musser, a five-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion – crossed the line second but given a three-second penalty for a pushback bumper. That promoted Kinnear to the runner-up spot and Crow to third ahead of Musser. Scott ‘Skitchy’ Barnes from Bermuda won the fight for the fifth and final spot on the podium. Kinnear posted the fast lap of the race (44.106) while Ben Schermerhorn (PSL / Birel ART) was credited with hard charger, advancing nine spots to eighth.
Several drivers began the X30 Senior sponsored by Rolison Performance Group with the goal of challenging for the victory. Roughly seven formed the lead pack after the opening lap action unfolded, led by front row starters Pedro Hiltbrand (PSL / Birel ART) and Thomas Nepveu (Trinity / Kart Republic). Nepveu, who earned the pole position thanks to two heat race wins, never led a lap in the main event. Hiltbrand set the pace for the opening five laps before the shuffle began. Colombian driver Diego Contecha (Orsolon / Kart Republic) took a turn before Pedro recovered the spot. Connor Zilisch (Team Nitro / Tony Kart) moved up from his sixth starting spot to lead for a lap before Contecha reclaimed the lead.
At the same time, four-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion Ryan Norberg (RPG / Kosmic) continued his march forward after falling back to sixth early on. Once he was able to chase down Contecha, Norberg was quick to pull the trigger for the lead on lap 18. Consistent lap times over the final six circuits helped Norberg pull away to a 1.2-second advantage at the checkered flag for his first SuperNationals victory, and a $3,000 payday. Contecha finished runner-up to earn $2,000 with Hiltbrand in third for $1,250. Zilisch fought back up to fourth, a $750 check, pushing Nepveu to the fifth position for $500. None of the top-10 drivers came across the scales with a pushback bumper, including top qualifier Jake Drew (GFC), 2016 SuperNationals winner Jake Craig (Tony Kart), Dante Yu (Nash / EOS), Dalton Hanes (LEM / Tony Kart) and fast time driver Colin Warren (CDR / EOS) with a 45.940-lap time. Hard charger of the race was Trey Brown (RPM / Tony Kart), utilizing a provisional starting spot from the California ProKart Challenge, charged forward from the 43rd starting position to end up 14th.
Jeremy Fletcher put his name into the record books for a second time on the day, also winning the X30 Junior class sponsored by SpeedLab Racing Engines. Fletcher (TF / Tony Kart) started fifth after placing seventh, 11th and first over the three heat races. By lap three. Fletcher took over the lead from pole sitter Justin Adakonis (MDR / Kosmic). From there, Fletcher was never challenged for the top spot as he pulled away to a 4.6-second advantage at the checkered flag. Fletcher now joins Connor De Phillippi (2005) as the only drivers to win twice at the same SuperNationals. The fight for second went down to the wire with Junior rookie Max Garcia (MPG / WPK) crossing the line with the position ahead of Chase Hand (RPG / Kosmic). Hand, who posted the fast lap of the race (46.285), was penalized for three seconds for a pushback bumper penalty, promoted Adakonis to the third spot and Caleb Gafrarar (RPG / Kosmic) to fourth. That advanced Canadian Ayden Ingratta (SCR / Redspeed) to fifth as Hand fell down to the eighth position. Hard charger of the race was Gaston Irazu, improving 13 spots to 25th in the 24-lap race.
One of the most exciting races throughout the week at the SuperNationals 24 came in the X30 Master sponsored by AM Engines main event. 2016 SuperNationals winner Renato Jader David (Orsolon / Tony Kart) had a perfect event running into the Final with fast time in qualifying and winning all three heat races. He led the opening four laps until former Pro Tour champion Matt Johnson (Nash / EOS) took over after starting fourth. Johnson was able to established a solid lead, however, the duo of Martin Pierce (FDM / CompKart) and Renato were able to run him down by the five laps to go signal. Derek Wang (Crosslink / Exprit), who started second, lost the lead group but the defensive driving by Johnson with two laps remaining allowed him to close back up, making it four drivers fighting for the lead on the final two circuits.
Pierce was able to work past Johnson at the chicane, brining Renato with him as Wang was a close fourth heading to the white flag. Once again in the chicane, action took place with Pierce leaving enough room for Renato to slide inside. They drifted wide on the exit, and Johnson ran the over-under-outside move to the left turn of the chicane. He ran the outside line through turn nine and ten, with Renato on the inside. The two ran side-by-side to begin the run down the back straight to the final corner with Wang drafting now in third. With better exit speed onto the straight, Wang made it three wide, ducking to the inside of both Johnson and Renato into the final turn. At the line, Wang reached the checkered flag first by a mere 78 thousandths of a second ahead of Johnson, who barely held onto his machine in the marbles on the outside. Pierce was able to squeak past Renato for third at the line, however, a three-second jump start penalty dropped Jader David to fifth, moving Danillo Ramalho (REM / Kosmic) to fourth. Johnson recorded the fast lap of the race (46.830) while ‘Pistol’ Pete Vetter (RPG / Kosmic) was hard charger in his first SuperNationals start, advancing 14 spots to 20th.
Pro Shifter sponsored by PSL Karting was the final main event contested, taking place just after the sun set behind the Nevada mountains surrounding Las Vegas. Matteo Vigano (PSL / CL), with two victories in the heat races, started from the pole position with 2019 KZ SuperNationals winner Danny Formal (LEM / Formula K) starting on the outside of the front row. As the lights went out to begin the 24-lap event, Formal grabbed the holeshot ahead of Vigano. Formal led the first three laps of the race until Vigano made his move in turn one of lap four. The close maneuver opened the door for 2019 World Champion Marjin Kremmers (PSL / Birel ART) to slide past as well. From there, Vigano posted fast laps of the race (43.175) to establish a 1.2-second advantage for his first SuperNationals victory, and the $10,000 payday. Kremers fought off Formal for a third straight runner-up finish at the SuperNationals and $5,000 with 2019 winner taking home $2,000. Riccardo Longhi (PSL / Birel ART) improved one spot to fourth for $1,000 while SKUSA Pro Tour champion and top qualifier AJ Myers (Magik Kart USA) advanced eight spots to fifth, taking home $500. The hard charger of the main event was Vincenzo Sarracino (Magik Kart USA), up 20 spots to 13th.
The SKUSA SuperNationals 24 is complete, with the ‘Mission Possible’ task a success. All the hard work and dedication by those within the SKUSA organization paid off as nearly 500 racers from all over the world enjoyed five days of competition outside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Planning for the 25th SuperNationals has already begun, with the hopes of celebrating the silver anniversary of the event making it the best event ever.