EKN Trackside: 2023 United States Pro Kart Series – Indiana Grand Prix – Sunday Report
Wick, Garrison and Shipman earn first victories on the season
The 2023 United States Pro Kart Series is past the halfway point with the conclusion of the Indiana Grand Prix on Sunday. The third event of the season closed out at the New Castle Motorsports Park with the eight main events held on a day that began with a quick storm, and end with an even stronger storm as podium ceremonies were being held inside the main building of the New Castle, Indiana facility. The weather played a role in the opening main event and then from there, bright sunshine allowed for the remaining races to run uncontested. In total, six drivers earned their first victories of the USPKS season.
The weekend was a duel between AJ Myers (Magik Kart USA) and Kyle Wick (GFC Karting) for the top spot in the SRP Engines Pro Shifter division, which ran as the final category in the weekend order. Wick struck first with the top time in qualifying while Myers won two of the three heat races to secure the pole position. The holeshot for the 18-lap main event went to Myers, as he was able to establish a solid lap after Wick went into the marbles early on and last ground. As the race pushed on, Myers’ advantage continued to shrink until Wick was on his bumper. Lap 13 is when Wick made the move, diving inside at turn six, and from there was able to inch away in the closing laps. At the line, Wick took his first USPKS victory by just under a second, recording fast lap of the race. Myers settled for second, putting in a solid weekend toward the championship. The fight behind them was for third with Jacob Gulick (GFC Karting) picking up the spot ahead of Hunter Pickett (PSL / Birel ART) with Tahlon Yockel (Magik Kart USA) right there. Championship leader Marijn Kremers (PSL / Birel ART) fell down to the seventh spot after an early charge up to fifth.
It was a weekend of unpredictability in the Franklin Motorsports X30 Pro category. Three different heat race winners and a lot of drivers in contention throughout Saturday brought on a wild opening half of the 18-lap main event. Top qualifier Diego Ramos (PSL / Birel ART) led the field to the green flag and the action began quickly. Outside polesitter Braden Eves (MPG / Kart Republic) went on the attack and took the lead on lap two. They were joined at the front by two-time defending champion Ryan Norberg (RPG / Kosmic). As they completed lap three, Norberg made a move on Eves for the lead into turn one. They went side by side with Eves holding the outside line. As they made their way through the exit, the two made contact. That resulted in broken front-end components for Eves and knocked Norberg back outside the top-five. This allowed Speedsportz winner Joe Turney (CDR / Kart Republic) to take advantage and grab the lead, establishing a sizeable margin with Austin Garrison (SCR / Redspeed) up to second. It appeared to be a similar script from the Texas Grand Prix with Turney out front, however, Garrison was not losing ground. He inched closer to Turney with each lap and by the halfway point, was into the lead. Turney’s pace was not there, and he continued to lose positions to Ramos and then a charging Norberg. Garrison’s late race pace allowed him to keep the gap consistent throughout the closing laps, driving away to a 2.3-second advantage for his first USPKS win since 2019 in Ocala. Norberg recorded the fast lap of the race, working past Ramos for the second position. Turney held on for fourth with fellow Brit Harley Keeble (Piquet / Sodi Kart) up six spots to fifth. Championship leader Brandon Carr (RPM / Tony Kart) improved four spots to finish 12th on the day.
The main event in the Mike Doty Racing KA100 Senior class went down to the final circuit. A total of 51 drivers took the track for their 18-lap main event, led by Braden Eves (MPG / Kart Republic). He along with Connor Ferris (TFR / Kart Republic), Mick Gabriel (AEM / Kosmic) and Senior rookie Cooper Shipman (IRM / Tony Kart) made up the lead group. Eves led the opening five laps before Gabriel took a turn along with Ferris. Eventually, Eves put himself back into the top spot by the halfway point. From there, the top-four sized each other up for the final laps to battle. As they took the white flag, Ferris went for the lead at turn one. Eves held the outside line, and the two slowed up just enough for Shipman, who was sitting third, to slip past for the lead into turn two. That was the winning move with Shipman getting away with enough space to go unchallenged to the checkered flag for his first victory in the category. Ferris ended up a close second to close out a solid weekend. The fighting for position continued behind them with Gabriel and Eves, as they would be swallowed up by the second pack. This allowed John Burke (Tesoro / CRG) to slip up into the third spot at the line ahead of Gabriel and top qualifier Austin Jurs (Redspeed) to complete a drive up from 15th to fifth. Harley Keeble (Piquet / Sodi Kart) also improved 10 spots to sixth, dropping Eves down to seventh at the line. Championship leader Peyton Phillips (Hi5 / Tony Kart) was in the pack, and ended up eighth after starting sixth.
It is now three in a row for Ernesto Rivera (RPG / Kosmic) in the Rolison Performance Group X30 Junior category on the season. The victory was not without a fight as top qualifier Anthony Martella (SCR / Redspeed) and Steven Miller (CDR / DAP) were in the hunt early. Martella led the opening three laps before Rivera led for the first time. Miller then took his turn two laps later, only to lose the post once again to Rivera. From there, Rivera put down consistent lap times to keep both Martella and Miller behind. In the end, Rivera went unchallenged in the closing laps to complete his third straight victory at USPKS in the class. Martella held off a late charge by Miller for the second spot. Oliver Wheldon (JC / LN Racing Kart) advanced three positions to fourth while Jensen Burnett (REM / Kosmic) made it two Canadians in the top-five.
The final results of the BBS Racing Engines KA100 Junior class were decided after the checkered flag was waved. It was a busy first half of the race with the numbers in the lead pack and the leader itself changing each circuit. By the halfway point, the lead group was three including Steven Miller (CDR / Kart Republic), Austin Olds (MPG / Kart Republic) and Ernesto Rivera (RPG / Kosmic). While they had a good advantage over the second group, they began fighting. Oliver Wheldon (JC / LN Racing Kart), who started ninth, broke away from the second pack and began to reel in the leaders with their continuing fighting for the lead. Eventually, he was there and set up for the four drivers to battle for the win. Miller ran a defensive line throughout the final circuit, setting up for the wild drag race to the line. Olds attempted a run on the inside at the kink but was forced into the grass, slowing his progress. Wheldon was the next to charge, and went to the inside as well, this time pushed off into the grass as they were reaching the line. Rivera darted to the outside, making it a three-wide finish with Miller reaching the line first. Officials, however, disqualified Miller for ‘swerving coming to the checkered flag’ and thus handed Wheldon his first USPKS victory in the category. It was not by much as Rivera nearly got to the line before him, missing out on a third straight win in the category by only one thousandth of a second. Olds ended up on the podium in third with Junior rookies Caleb Tarter (MPG / Kart Republic) and Isaac Malcuit (MMR / Gillard) completing a solid weekend performance with top-five results in their first USPKS weekend of the season.
The weekend belonged to Laurentiu Mardan (Tecno Kart USA) in the Speed Concepts Racing KA100 Masters class. Mardan won two of the three heat races and led the field to the green flag for the 18-lap Final. The former series champion jumped out to the lead with Adam Crepin (Gillard) on his bumper. After the halfway point, Crepin’s pace began to slow, allowing Mardan to establish a good size lead. Eventually, two-time winner Mike Rolison (RPG / Kosmic) ran down Crepin and took the second spot. He then set his sights on Mardan, cutting into his lead. While there on the final circuit, Rolison was unable to make a move for position as Mardan claimed his first victory of the season. Rolison settled for second with Mario Barrios (RPG / Kosmic) picking up his second straight third-place result. Miguel Mier (Orsolon / Tony Kart) finished fourth with Niki Coello (FMS / Merlin) in fifth.
The only main event on the day effected by weather was the DNJ International Services Mini Swift division. The rain during warm-up made for a damp track for the first main event to roll out. The question was how quick was the track going to dry. As the national anthem was playing, teams and drivers were making their final decisions on the grid as to what tire to utilize. The front row of Marco Romero (Team Benik) and Tristan Murphy (RPM / Nitro Kart) were on rain tires while row two including Michael McGaughy (RPM / Parolin) and Travis Pettit (TKG / Kart Republic) were on dry tires. As the green flag waved, the rain tires held the advantage with those on dry tires trying not to drive off into the grass. That quickly changed as by lap five, the dry line was formed and the lap times began to drop. Up front, Romero and Team Benik teammate Royce Vega were up front on rain tires along with Carter Barkis (AKT / Energy), who started back in 25th. There time at the front dwindled with the lack of water on the track, and charging his way on the dry tires was McGaughy. He held on with the dry tires to only fall back to eighth early before driving his way to the front of the field. By lap 10, he was into the lead and pulled out to a two-second advantage on the same lap. McGaughy continued his consistent pace, establishing an eight-second gap ahead of second to record his first career USPKS victory. Pettit slipped down to 12th early but moved forward once the track dried as the second-best driver on dry tires. For Pettit, it is his podium of the season. Behind them was a battle for third that ended with Jaxon Porter beating out Trinity Karting Group / Kart Republic teammates Lucas Palacio and Kai Mars for his first podium of the season in his first USPKS start. Cameron Marsha (RPM / Nitro Kart) was part of the fight, recording fast lap of the race in sixth. In total, TKG put six drivers in the top-10. Barkis, Romero and Vega fell down to finish 12th, 13th and 15th as the top finishing drivers on wet tires.
A total of two drivers have won all three races on the season, and the second is in the Team Ferris Racing Micro Swift class. Parker Ives (RPM / Nitro Kart) put in a flawless performance in Sunday’s 16-lap main event. Ives led the field to the green flag and led every circuit. He was challenged early on by Maxwell Macha (SLA / Sodi Kart) until losing the draft in the second half of the race. Ives drove away to a four-second advantage at the checkered flag for his third-straight USPKS victory. Macha was run down late by Enzo DeGennaro (TFR / Kart Republic) and Aston Wyatt (Speedsportz / Birel ART) but held on to secure second for a third-straight event. Zayne Burgess (Piquet / Sodi Kart) put in a great drive, improving five spots to fifth but hard charge of the race went to Colton Schniegenberg (GWR / Energy) by gaining 11 spots to finish right behind in sixth.
The 2023 United States Pro Kart Series will continue in two months with its first trip to the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati in Batavia, Ohio on the August 24-27 weekend to complete Round Four of the 11th championship season.