EKN Trackside: 2022 SKUSA WinterNationals – NOLA – Saturday Report
Kremers and Fletcher score headline main event wins to start Pro Tour campaigns
Jeremy Fletcher made a masterful last-lap pass to take the win in Saturday's X30 Senior main event
(Photo: Ken Johnson - On Track Promotions / Studio 52)
The Superkarts! USA Pro Tour kicked off its 13th season today at the NOLA Motorsports Park facility in Avondale, LA with the fifth running of their WinterNationals. NOLA’s 1.1-mile, 17-turn circuit features a multitude of overtaking opportunities which resulted in another thrilling day of close-quarters competition. A total of nine classes of IAME and KZ categories were on the docket, and from the very start of the day, weather played a key role in the overall storyline. As forecast, rain arrived on the scene early in the morning, eventually delaying the start of the official sessions, but it also sent the field onto rain tires for both qualifying and then shortened Prefinals. Only X30 Senior ran their Prefinal on slicks as the last class in the rotation. In the headline classes, GWR / Team Felon’s Jeremy Fletcher (Tony Kart) emerged from a thrilling multi-kart battle in X30 Senior to score his first top-tier Pro Tour victory, while PSL Karting’s Marijn Kremers (Birel ART) dominated the Pro Shifter category from start-to-finish. It was the first SKUSA win for each driver; the first Senior victory for Fletcher and the first win for Kremers in a shifter on American soil. In the Junior races, Caleb Gafrarar (X30 Junior) and Helio Meza (KA100 Junior) scored the wins.
Not surprisingly, Speedlab Racing Engines X30 Senior provided an action-packed show to cap the day. After adding the Pro Shifter program to his weekend duties on Friday morning after PSL teammate Cooper Becklin withdrew due to a rib injury, Kremers set about approaching a double-duty effort. He qualified on pole for both classes and nipped Fletcher by just over a tenth to top X30 qualifying. The eight-lap Prefinal was wild as it was the first ‘dry’ race of the day, but the conditions were still sketchy in several corners and this surprised Kremers in turn 11, as he went off-track on the opening lap. This opened the door for Zach Claman Demelo (Benik) to take the lead, but Nate Cicero (RPG / Kosmic) was the man on the move and he overtook ZCD enroute to a 0.111-second win over Pauly Massimino (RPM / Tony Kart). In the final, a lead battle developed that included Fletcher, Cicero, and Massimino, as well as Thomas Nepveu (TKG / Kart Republic) and Hayden Jones (RPG / Kosmic). Fletcher, Nepveu, and Jones all took turns up front in a non-stop chess match scrap that kept everyone on their feet. On the final circuit, Jones had found his way to the lead but it was a surprise dive by Fletcher past Jones into the turn 12-13-14 chicane that flipped the expected script. Fletcher held the lead through the final corners despite being challenged aggressively by Jones and Nepveu. The turn 17 brawl was spirited with significant contact and the sprint out of the final corner left three drivers within two-tenths at the line, as Massimino and Cicero stood on the podium in second and third. Nepveu took fourth, ahead of Kremers and Jones (who received a three-second PBB penalty). Kremers pushed all race from 14th after his Prefinal miscue, but it was Norberg who was one of the biggest movers as he started 28th and found himself in the battle with the lead pack on the final circuit. Norberg finished fifth on-track, but a PBB penalty dropped him to ninth. The actual hard charger was defending X30 Senior champion Hannah Greenemeier (Kosmic), who advanced from 36th to eighth to salvage her day.
In Pro Shifter, Kremers commanded the day, qualifying on the pole ahead of winning the Prefinal. That said, the wet Prefinal was pretty wild, as Kremers made a small mistake early in the race and went off, allowing Jacob Gulick (GFC) to close up. Gulick returned the favor with three to go, going off-track in turn 17 to fall to third. The final was all Kremers, as he dropped a monster holeshot and then pulled away to a 3.416-second win over AJ Myers (Magic Kart) and Kyle Wick (GFC Karting / Trackmagic). Gulick finished fourth ahead of Hunter Pickett (GFC).
Vincent Cossard (PSL Karting / Birel ART) won in Masters Shifter, ahead of Victory Jimenez (Tony Kart) and Ken Schilling (Aluminos).
Rolison Performance Group’s Caleb Gafrarar (Kosmic) took the main event the X30 Junior class and began the day with pole in wet qualifying over Max Taylor (Full Tilt Racing / LN Kart). At the start of the Prefinal, however, Gafrarar was shuffled off the track in turn when Brandon Carr (Benik) contacted him from behind. Gafrarar fell to 17th and immediately began his drive back to the front, while Carr went on to win by enough margin to cushion a six-second penalty for incident responsibility. Gafrarar eventually rose back to sixth, turning the fast lap in the process. Max Garcia (WPK) finished second over Charlie Smith (Nash / EOS) in the Prefinal. In the Final, Gafrarar was a man on a mission and advanced from sixth to the lead by the end of the second lap. It wasn’t an easy run by any means, as Mesa, Garcia and Carr also spent time up front. Mesa looked primed to contend for his second win of the day, but he lost his chain on lap 6 while leading. In Mesa’s absence, Gafrarar pulled away slowly over the final laps from Carr and Garcia to take a 1.937-second win, a performance that included the fast lap of the race. Garcia threw everything he had at Carr on the final lap, coming up just short on an over-under attempt in the final corner, losing out on the position by just 0.004 seconds. Taylor and Cooper Shipman (Iron Rock Motorsports / Tony Kart) wrapped the top-five.
In Evinco Tires X30 Master, Danillo Ramalho (Racing Edge Motorsports / Kosmic) stretched away from reigning champion Mario Barrios (Rolison Performance Group / Kosmic) throughout to score the dominant win, although Barrios would not make it to the finish due to a flat tire. This advanced Pete Vetter (RPG / Tony Kart) to second ahead of Curtis Terry (Thomas Racing / Kosmic).
Fletcher is doing double duty this weekend in X30 Junior and Ryan Perry Motorsports KA100 Junior, he timed in P1 in qualifying ahead of Carson Morgan (RPM / Tony Kart). Fletcher did not make the green flag of the Prefinal, as his kart stalled on the formation lap. The Prefinal belonged to Morgan, who led every lap to win over Canadian Cedric Lupien (Rolison Performance Group / Kosmic). In the Final, Lupien, Morgan, and Alex Stanfield (GWR / Tony Kart) pulled away early, and Morgan made his bid for the lead on lap 6 in turn 10. Stanfield turned things up as well and took his turn on the point on lap 9, and the other Texan who stepped in to make some noise was Peyton Phillips (Supertune / Tony Kart). With Morgan, Phillips, Stanfield, and Lupien racing for all the marbles on the final lap, Morgan appeared to check up on the entry to a number of the final corners, which caused an accordion effect that bunched everyone up. Stanfield was able to get past Phillips to make his bid for the win in the final corner, in which Morgan checked up again and their contact and subsequent inability to get back to power quickly allowed Lupien to pull a classic over-under from third that gave him a scant 0.230-second win at the line over Stanfield. Morgan was only 0.090 behind Stanfield in third. Cole Kleck (Arcane Motorsports / Tony Kart) and Nick Brueckner (Orsolon Racing / Tony Kart) completed the top-five.
Before winning the main in the X30 Junior class, RPG’s Caleb Gafrarar topped the wet weather qualifying sheet in Nash Motorsportz KA100 Junior. Gafrarar relented the lead in the Prefinal to Helio Meza on the second lap, and the Texan paced the rest of the eight-lap race to secure the pole for the final. Gafrarar held on for second. In the 20-lapper, Meza lead from the pole and then paced the field from flag-to-flag. Gafrarar battled with Christian Cameron (Speed Concept Racing / Tony Kart) early but Cameron would eventually fall to sixth. As in the Prefinal, Gafrarar finished second in the final tally. The driver on the move was Parker DeLong (RPM / Tony Kart), who powered his way up from 17th to finish third, turning the fast lap of the race as the hard charger. Ernesto Rivera (RPG / Kosmic) and Oscar Iliffe (Iron Rock Motorsports / Tony Kart) were actually in a fight for third, with Rivera gaining the position, but they would both drop to fourth and fifth after penalties were assessed. Rivera was issued a blocking penalty, while Iliffe had a PBB infraction.
Keelan Harvick (Parolin) led the way in Parolin USA Mini Swift qualifying, topping Vivek Kanthan (Parolin) by almost two tenths. In the Prefinal, Harvick pulled away to win by over six seconds over Kanthan to secure the pole for the main, but this trend did not continue in the 18-lap final. P2 starter Kanthan launched early at the green and led the outside line into the opening corner well ahead of Harvick. Kanthan would be issued a three-position penalty for the infraction, dropping him to 13th in the final classification, but the early damage was already done for Harvick. After things settled down, Jack Iliffe (Parolin) found himself in the lead with Oliver Wheldon (LN Kart) in tow, and the duo stretched away. Wheldon made his move past Iliffe at the halfway point but would relinquish the position back before the end of the race. On the final lap, Wheldon made a stellar move with a tight line through the double-apex turn 3-4 to take the lead from Iliffe, but a pushback bumper penalty added three seconds to his race distance, which vaulted Iliffe to the official victory. Wheldon took second, ahead of Kai Johnson (Energy) in third. Harvick finished fourth, and Carson Weinberg (CRG) finished, each remaining in the top-five despite receiving five-second penalties for incident responsibility.
Troy Ferguson (Benik) swept the day in the Benik-sponsored Micro Swift category, timing in P1 ahead of Sawyer Chambers (Nitro Kart) in the wet conditions to secure the pole for the shortened Prefinal. In the main, Ferguson led from green to checker, eventually pulling away to a dominant 9.149-second victory. Rocco Simone (Parolin) ran second in the early going but was eventually reeled in and passed by the duo of Kai Mars (Kart Republic) and Royce Vegas (Benik), but they made contact exiting turn one and fell down the order to finish 13th and 8th, respectively. This allowed Simone to slide through to take second, while Nicolas Orbezo (Tony Kart) passed Chambers on the final lap for third. Luke Giglio (Birel ART) rounded out the top-five.
The drivers will return to the facility on Sunday for the second round of this year’s SKUSA Pro Tour, when the weather is forecast to be sunny with temperatures in the high-70 or low-80s. Make sure to follow EKN’s Facebook or Twitter accounts for the immediate top-10 results from every official session.