EKN Trackside: SKUSA Pro Tour WinterNationals – Saturday Report
Turney, Formal, and Levy score impressive senior wins
Turney claimed victory just days after winning at the FIA Karting European Championship in Spain
(Photo: On Track Promotions)
The opening round of the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour rocked the Orlando Kart Center on Saturday, as the organization’s national series kicked off with the annual WinterNationals. The intensity was high all day long and the long main events made tire management part of the strategy for the Pro classes. The tighter nature of the 13-turn OKC layout added to the excitement as it delivered close competition and aggressive driving. The weather was ideal all day with sunny skies and temperatures in the high-80s. In the Pro Shifter class, a spectacular battle between Danny Formal (RPG / Kosmic) and Billy Musgrave (Factory Kart) was a race-long affair, as Formal had to draw on all his experience to hold off the Californian for 24 laps. In the end, Formal earned the big win for RPG and OTK. Kart Republic factory driver Joe Turney emerged from an epic fight with five-time SKUSA champ Ryan Norberg (RPG / Kosmic) for the win in X30 Senior, while Aden Levy (Team Tarp / Alonso Kart) scored the KA100 Senior after on-track winner Fernando Luque (Tony Kart) was issued a pushback bumper penalty.
The X30 Senior battle was electric up front, with Norberg leading early after driving around the pole-starting Turney in the opening run through turns one and two. Turney slipped back by quickly to assume the lead but Norberg settled in comfortably to chase the leader. After hounding Turney, Norberg would go back by with a nice inside move in turn eight on lap 10, but the Brit returned the favor in turn 10 on the very next lap. Sodi Racing driver Harley Keeble (Piquet Sports / Sodi Kart) had fought his way to third during the opening circuit and slowly reeled in the lead duo, closely as they battled. Just a lap later, Norberg tried to pass Turney on the inside of turn five after he defended in turn four and the resultant contact allowed Keeble to get a run and drive around the outside of Turney in turn six to take the lead. Turney went right back by in turn 12 later in the lap and this overtake slowed the leaders and brought Hayden Jones (Trinity Karting Group / Kart Republic) and Brandon Carr (RPM / Tony Kart) into the scrap.
The second half of the race saw Turney stretch away with Norberg after getting by Keeble, but the fight for the final step of the podium had Keeble leading comfortably over a trio that included Jones, Carr, and the rapidly advancing Matheus Morgatto (PSL Karting / BirelART). Morgatto was on the move and worked past both Carr and Jones to move to fourth, which is where he would cross the line. Turney dug deep and found more pace late in the run to hold Norberg at arm’s length as he stretched his margin of victory to 0.807 seconds at the checkered flag. Keeble crossed the line with an incredible third-place finish only to lose the result when he was just light at the scales. This promoted Morgatto up to third, Jones to fourth and Carr to fifth. Outside the top-five, Trinity Karting Group’s X30 Senior rookie Caleb Gafrarar (Kart Republic) turned in a monster drive as the Hard Charger, knifing his way from last on the 33-kart grid after a Prefinal DNF to finish 8th, advancing 25 positions.
The fight in PSL Karting Pro Shifter was focused on polesitter Danny Formal (RPG / Kosmic) and P3 starter Billy Musgrave (Factory), who was the lone driver in the field running the IAME 175 SSE powerplant. Formal nailed the holeshot to take the lead, and the next 24 laps featured Musgrave applying relentless pressure as he searched for a way past. Despite showing a nose and even trying an outside line in turn six on a few occasions, Musgrave could not complete the overtake even though Formal was managing “cooked rear tires” as tire degradation was part of the category’s storyline for the day. Formal used all his experience to hold on for the win, and even though he crossed the line in second, Musgrave would not join the winner on the podium after getting hit with a jumpstart penalty, which dropped him to fourth. AJ Myers (Magik Kart USA / Magik Kart) chased the lead duo all race but fell short despite closing slightly in the waning stages of the race, and he told EKN post-race that he too had no grip left, flat-sliding all over the tracks as the lap times increased. Myers advanced to second with the Musgrave penalty, while defending SKUSA Pro Tour champion Marijn Kremers (PSL Karting / BirelART) moved from 15th on the grid to third after suffering a flat tire in the Prefinal. Kremers turned the fast lap of the race, signalling his intent to fight for the win on Sunday.
In the International Motorsports Master Shifter category, Daniel Dibos (International Motorsports / Lenzo Kart) dominated the action to score the win over Luis Mendez (PSL Karting / BirelART) and OKC track owner Andre Martins (OKC / Tony Kart).
The Nash Motorsportz KA100 Senior main event was as tight as expected. The opening laps were incredibly hectic as the field sorted itself out, and midway through the race, Frankie Mossman (Tesoro Raceworx) was in the lead battle along with Noah Rosser (GWR / Tony Kart), Collin Lloyd (T1DR / Magik Kart), Finnegin Bayliff (Trinity Karting Group / Kart Republic). A motor issue eventually sidelined Mossman while he led, taking him out of contention. At the halfway point, Aden Levy (Team Tarp / Alonso Kart) was seventh but he had the speed to close on the lead pack and would play a role in the end result. Senior rookie Fernando Luque (Tony Kart) proved to be the ‘disrupter’, aggressively working his way forward, making contact with Bayliff at one point, which helped to advance Levy to six. Levy eventually passed Anthony Rivera (Energy) for fifth while Luque moved to second behind Rosser. Luque could smell a victory as he passed Rosser for the lead, but as is often the case in KA100 Senior, we were far from done. Over the last five laps, SKUSA Winter Series champ Peyton Phillips (RPM / Tony Kart) moved past Luque for the lead. With two to go, Luque drove Rosser off on the exit of T9 and then he moved to third to try to chase down Phillips and Levy. At the white flag, the lead duo seemed to have things handled with a significant gap back to Luque, but Phillips went defensive in T4 and T8 leading onto the backstraight, and this brought Luque back into the fight for the win. Levy did the over-under on Phillips in T8 to take the lead on the run down to T9, and while he exited with the lead, Luque threw a ‘Hail Mary’ lunge to the apex of T12 from way back and came out with the lead and the on-track win. Unfortunately for Luque, a pushback bumper penalty dropped him to seventh and put Levy on the top of the box. Phillips and Lloyd completed the podium, while Henry Wheeler (BJR-MDR / OTK) advanced from eighth to fourth ahead of Josh Campbell (RPM / Tony kart), who had started 12th.
Rolison Performance Group’s Ernesto Rivera (Kosmic) brought the momentum of his SKUSA Winter Series title to the opening X30 Junior main event of the Pro Tour, sweeping all the Round 1 sessions for a perfect day. After qualifying on pole and winning the Prefinal, Rivera led the opening lap but eventually fell back to the tail of a five-kart train of RPG drivers, which included Max Taylor, Teddy Musella, Jackson Wolny, and Diego Ardiles. After falling back, Rivera began his march back to the front, methodically working forward before arriving on the bumper of race leader Taylor on lap eight. Rivera made the move for the lead on lap 19, getting inside Taylor in turn four and completing the pass in turn five with a little contact as he held his line before turning in. Taylor chased Rivera through the final laps to finish just 0.829 seconds back. The podium was all RPG, as was the top-five, with Wolny scoring his first SKUSA Pro Tour top-three. Musella and Ardiles rounded out the top-five.
Michel Garrido (Alessandros Racing / EOS) was in a league of his own all day on Saturday,topping each competitive session of the day in Aspen Sport Fuel KA100 Master. Mario Barrios (Rolison Performance Group / Kosmic) was the only driver to challenge Garrido during Qualifying, setting a time 0.081 seconds behind Garrido. After that, Barrios failed to see the flag in the Prefinal and Final, allowing Garrido to win the Prefinal by 5.7 seconds, crossing the line in the main event 23.4 seconds in front of second-placed driver Jesus Portilo (Alessandros Racing / Tony Kart). Factory Kart driver Shengyi Wu was able to endure the 22-lap Final, taking home third place. In fourth and fifth, although neither of the pair finished, Lucas Iglesias (Alessandros Racing / Redspeed) and Barrios, who showed front-running pace in stints during the Final, could have contended for a win.
Steven Miller (CDR / Kart Republic) showed once again why he’s one of the best 100cc Junior drivers in the country at the moment, taking victory for the opening round of the 2023 SKUSA Pro Tour in Greyhound Racing Seats KA100 Junior. Miller ran away with the win in the Prefinal by 2.1 seconds over Florida native Oliver Wheldon (JC Karting / LN Kart), who showed good pace and looked to have the pace and luck to potentially challenge for a win come the Final. Wheldon got that break when, during the opening laps, Miller spun under braking from the lead, dropping him down the order and promoting Wheldon to the point. Miller fell to eight but throughout the next 20 laps, he clawed away at Wheldon’s lead, getting past on lap 13, where Miller stayed until he crossed the line for a crucial win to start his 2023 Pro Tour. Wheldon ended up with a respectable second while Chase Buscaglia (GWR / Tony Kart) was masterful in his advancement through the field, making a pair of impressive over-under moves to achieve his first SKUSA Pro Tour podium in third after starting the Final in 14th. Alex Mercado (Speed Concepts Racing / Redspeed) ended a promising day in fourth, while Keagan Kaminski (Formula Works / GFC) finished in fifth.
The majority of the 20-lap Evinco Tires Mini Swift main event saw a trio of drivers up front, having pulled away early to fight it out amongst themselves. Kai Johnson (Team Benik / Benik), Marco Romero (Team Benik / Benik), and Tristan Murphy (RPM / Nitro Kart) locked together to pull away, but their last-lap battling allowed the next group to close in, which was led by Travis Pettit (Trinity Karting Group / Kart Republic). Pettit was leading a pack from fifth on back, before he reeled in Ashton Woon (Supertune / Parolin), who had been running alone in fourth. The final lap was thrilling, as Pettit had caught the lead trio in turn nine after Murphy took over the lead in turn eight, sending the group three-wide down the backstraight. On the exit of the corner, Johnson and Murphy made contact and slowed, which allowed Pettit to navigate his way through the group and even try an outside move on Johnson in turn 12 for the win. He couldn’t make it stick, but still brought home a stellar second. Johnson held on to win by just 0.220 seconds over Pettit, while Woon capitalized on the contact as well to move into third, pushing Romero to fourth and Murphy to fifth.
The Sodi Racing USA Micro Swift main event was won by Juan Garciarce Davila (Parolin), as he was able to get past Prefinal winner Maxwell Macha (Parolin USA / Parolin) to score a 0.459-second victory. Gavin Dakay (Benik) turned in a very impressive performance to cap the podium in third after qualifying 12th and driving up to third in the Prefinal. Dakay edged out Liam Nachawati (Parolin), who posted the race’s fastest lap enroute to fourth. Colton Schniegenburg (Energy) capped the top-five.
The teams and drivers will return to the Orlando Kart Center on Sunday for the second round of the Pro Tour, and if Saturday’s racing was any indication, we’re in for an even more entertaining day of competition.