Article & Photo By: Sean Buur
The PRD Pan Am Crown of Karting presented by RLV/PRD-USA, Bryan Herta Autorsport, Vega Tires, Honda Performance Development, Acceleration Karting, Fastech Racing, LAKC and CalSpeed Karting took place at AutoClub Speedway in conjunction with the IZOD Indy season finale October 17th-19th. Drivers from South America, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and California competed for a $20,000 purse, two Bryan Herta Autosport prize packages and a Honda GHX50 engine in five classes. The event went off in the Fan Zone located directly in front of the main grandstands in full view of all who entered the speedway. Make sure to check out and “like” PRD-USA on Facebook for exclusive photos and videos from the event.
Otherwise a flawless event, one slight hiccup during practice on Friday initiated a minor modification to the track for spectator safety. The 18-turn 6/10ths of a mile track was fast, with a 650' back straight. The red flag never flew all weekend long, a testament to the quality of the layout and the drivers. The track crew did a fantastic job and the officiating was spot on all weekend.
“What struck me most about this event was the depth and quality of the drivers,” describes Art V from RLV/PRD-USA. “Our numbers were not huge, but they represented the best of the best in kart racing. We had a lot of really good drivers, they performed extremely well and put on a great show for the spectators in the fan zone.” Art went on to say “As a result of this weekend’s success RLV/PRD-USA has reached a tentative agreement with two major ‘fortune five hundred’ sponsors. Also discussion with a European Engine Manufacturer is underway intending to include their engine package in the PRD Pan-Am Crown.”
Prizes for the event were numerous, spanning from cash and trophies to a day at the races with Bryan Herta Autosport IndyCar team. Winners in the Mini Cadet and Cadet classes received “a day at the track” with Bryan Herta Autosport at AutoClub Speedway in 2014. The winner and one guardian will join the Herta IndyCar team on race day for all the pre-race festivities in the pits, meet the team, the drivers and the owners. They will get a behind the scenes garage tour, up close and personal interaction with the cars and see the first hand inner workings of the team. The winner will be part of the team's photo shoot and enjoy VIP seating for the exciting IndyCar event.
PRD Pro Crown - 1st place $5000, 2nd place $2500, 3rd place $2000, 4th place $1000, 5th place $1000, Hard Charger $500.
PRD Junior - 1st place $3000, 2nd place $1000, 3rd place $500
PRD Grand Masters - 1st place $2500, 2nd place $1000, 3rd place $500
PRD Cadet Champion – Bryan Herta Autosport Award
Honda Mini Cadet Champion – Bryan Herta Autosport Award and a Honda GHX50 Engine
PRD Cadet was the first race group to hit the track for qualifying. Miles the Machine Farhan topped the charts with a time of 37.026. Johnny Dressler slotted in for P2 less than two tenths off Farhan's #981. The pre-final win went to Dressler with Lucas Medina finishing in 2nd place and Farhan in 3rd. The top three had a nice gap back to the rest of the field. From the drop of the green flag, the main event belonged to Medina. Farhan and Justin Hodge fell in line on lap one and sat in wait on Medina's rear bumper. It looked like it was going to be a scrap all the way to the finish, but Farhan retired only five laps into the 30 lap event. Hodge too fell short of completing the scheduled distance leaving only Dressler to challenge Medina for the win. Medina had a slight gap back to Dressler in the #11 as the laps flew by. Medina, all the way up from South America brought it home for the win and the Bryan Herta Autosport prize package. Medina also scored a K1 Race Gear custom suit and $100 cash from P1 Engines. Dressler finished in 2nd place, three seconds in back of the winner. Gary Lyles finished off the podium with a solid run up to 3rd place. Fifth place finisher Justin Hodge also won a rebuild from Fleming Racing Engines.
Paul Bonilla looked to have things pretty well covered after seeing the times in Masters PRD practice. He was the only driver of the weekend trying to do the double by winning both the Masters and Senior categories. The gap lessoned in qualifying as the field narrowed the gap drastically. Bonilla secured the pole with a 35.708 but the entire class was within a second now. Ron Rossetti was less than a tenth back and determined to take the fight to Bonilla. Rossetti led Bonilla to the finish in the heat race, but Bonilla bounced right back to win the semi-final. Bonilla grabbed the holeshot beginning the 30 lap final with Steve Ryckebosch and Will Jadiker getting ahead of Rossetti. As Bonilla sped off into the distance Jadiker and Rossetti were moving up. Vatche Tatikian was ineligible for the prizes since he didn't meet the age requirement, but the other Masters drivers were cool with him starting in the back each time and having some fun. He too was on the charge and quickly found himself in 3rd place. Ryckebosch ran solidly in 2nd before retiring on lap 20. This bumped Tatikian and Rossetti into 2nd and 3rd place, though well behind Bonilla. Ten seconds was the gap at the checkered flag for Bonilla over Tatikian and Rossetti, The tech barn had the last word and Bonilla was stripped of his victory. Tatikian couldn't claim the prize as a youngster so the $2500 winner's purse was passed to Ron Rossetti. A nice even $1000 went to 2nd place finisher Will Jadiker while Hector Torrez earned $500 for his efforts in 3rd.
PRD Junior was the largest class of the weekend with 24 entries. Brenden Baker showed speed from the time he unloaded off the trailer, but one look at the entry list and you knew this was going to be a bare knuckles fight to the finish. The first seventeen drivers were all within 8/10ths of the fastest qualifying time set by Hollywood Christian Brooks. Brooks ran an impressive 34.515 to score the pole away from Baker. Baker landed P2, a scant .091 off the pace of Brooks. The heat race saw Brooks maintain his pace and score the win over Baker, but Baker got bounced in tech and had to start the pre-final from the back. Through 25 laps in the pre-final Baker poured on the coals to gain back lost ground. Brooks scored the pre-final win over New Jersey driver Dario Cangialosi. Baker drove up to an impressive 3rd, giving him the inside row to begin the 30 lap final. Brooks was on fire, no doubt about it, but Baker wasn't going to give up without a fight. The green flag waved with Brooks jumping out to an early lead. Baker and Cangialosi fell in line knowing it was a long race. By halfway the lead duo of Brooks and Baker had gained a slight advantage on their east coast rival Cangialosi. Action behind the leaders was intense as Dylan Cartier, Hannah Grisham, Justice Lepe, Julia Boos, Nathan Seegrist and Joey Paonessa all looked for track position. Although Baker turned the fastest lap of the race he was unable to successfully attack Brooks. Brooks bought it home for a flag to flag win over Baker and Cangialosi. Cangialosi came under fire from Justice Lepe in the closing laps. Unfortunately Lepe didn't make it to the finish, his day ending a few laps before the checkered flag. Cartier led the main pack of drivers to the line for a well deserved 4th place finish. Boos, a WKA driver from Pennsylvania made her trip worth while with a fifth place finish. Brooks’ effort was awarded $3000 in prize money and $200 contingency cash from Nash Motorsportz. Baker took home $1000 and Cangialosi went home to Jersey with a great finish and $500.
Originally the PRD Senior Pro class was split in to an A and B pro class. Austin Elliott rallied the Senior Pro drivers together in an effort to combined them into a single PRD Pro Crown class. The race promoter blessed their request and the race was on! The prize packages were combined, paying back to 5th place. A hard charger prize of $500 was also added into the mix. Paul Bonilla, Wesley Boswell and Matt Johnson were the quickest in Pro Crown practice throughout the six sessions. Madd Matt Johnson earned the pole over Wesley Boswell in the closest qualifying session of the weekend. The top eight drivers were within .075 of the pole time. Harrison Mills, David Vasquez and Bill Cleavelin rounded out the fast five. The top two qualifiers split the heat race wins and headed into the semi final. Johnson led them home to the finish, but Jake Craig was on the charge, finishing second after a late race move on Boswell. Austin Elliot was in the hunt as was Alejo Fernandez.
The final was fantastic all throughout the running order. Johnson accelerated at the green flag to get the initial lead over Craig, Boswell, Fernandez, Bonilla and Elliot. Craig was quick to pounce, diving inside Johnson at the end of the front straight. Bowell followed Craig through a few corners later dropping Johnson back to 3rd and into the clutches of Bonilla and Elliot. The top five ran nose to tail, bunching up slightly as a local yellow flag came out for a heavy impact into the tires involving Clevelin and Fernandez. Johnson was able to sneak past Boswell on an ensuing lap to regain 2nd place. Billy Musgrave started the final from the back of the pack, in 18th position. He was flying in the 30 lap final and one of only two drivers (Chris Cricca the other) to post race laps in the 34's. Cricca and Musgrave were on the move, gaining position after position as the laps went by. Cricca was around Lloyd Mack, he was around David Vasquez, and when Bonilla and Boswell crashed out together he was into the top five. Musgrave too tapped the top five with only a few laps remaining. Craig led the way with only Johnson to challenge him for the win. Cricca was up around Elliot for 3rd and onto the podium but that wouldn't last. Craig brought it home with a couple kart lengths to spare, earning $5000 in prize money and $300 off labor on a Hyper Racing Engines rebuild. Johnson finished in 2nd place, disappointed, but still happy to be on the podium and the winner of $2500. Cricca was docked 2 spots for contact resulting in positions being gained. He dropped to 5th and won $1000. This moved Elliot up and on to the podium with Craig and Johnson. Elliot scored $2000 for his podium placing. The hard charger award went to Billy Musgrave. 18th to 4th was an impressive run. He scored $1000 for his 4th place finish and another $500 for being the hard changer.
The final class to take the track at the inaugural PRD Pan Am Crown of Karting was the Honda powered Mini Cadets. Long time karter and Mini Cadet dad Howie Idelson described the Honda Kid Kart motor that this class is running as “the best thing to happen to the sport in a long time.” One look on the faces of the competitors and a lack of DQ's in tech proves he might be right. Cole Keith Cotham was consistently the quickest throughout practice, but Jaden Goetz stepped up his efforts in qualifying to turn the fastest lap of the session. Goetz went a 48.089 for the pole with Cotham turning a 48.325 for P2. The heat race saw Cotham back on top with Goetz as the only driver able to keep pace. Kasey Gillis led the field to the finish in 3rd place. The prefinal played out the same with the running order Cotham, Goetz and Gillis. The 12 lap Mini Cadet race was one of the best this year, as the winner wasn't decided until the very end. Three groups of three did battle in front of friends, family and fans. The lead trio consisted of Catham, Gillis and Goetz. Pack #2 was Ian Dodge, Jalen Mack and Chance Gibson. Chase group #3 was Dane Idelson, Camden Goetz, and Cooper Hicks. Every lap they seemed to change positions multiple times. Cotham got a great start, but was ran down by Goetz and Gillis. Once together they never separated again. Cotham led the opening circuits before Gillis took his turn out front. The two traded the lead several times before Goetz worked his way to the point. With only two laps remaining Cotham was back to the front and had only a few feet of an advantage over Gillis and Goetz. Cotham took the double checkered flags for a well deserved win. With it came the Bryan Herta Autosport prize package, some good bragging rights and a K1 Race Gear custom suit. Gillis finished his race in 2nd place with Goetz on his heals for 3rd.
Trophies were handed out on the IZOD IndyCar front straight, on display to the fans awaiting the start of the MAVTV 500. The stage was set on top of the IZOD series hauler used for the driver introductions. The champions and their fellow competitors were led up the stairs to the red carpet where they were presented to the crowd, awarded their beautiful trophies and interviewed by PRD Pan Am Crown of Karting representative and legendary karter Rick Fulks. Parents and guests of the podium finishers were driven along with the drivers in their own private shuttle tram to the Autoclub Speedway infield. There they were guided through the garages before being brought out to the front straight. As the drivers got the royal treatment the guest gathered along the banking to shoot photos and videos of their drivers. No karting podium has ever been this cool and 200 laps into the MAVTV 500 the faces of the podium drivers still glowed with smiles.
Thank you to all drivers, teams and supporters of the event:
2 Wild Karting, Acceleration Karting, Adkins Speed Center, Adams Motorsports Park, Bryan Herta Autorsport, Buddy Rice Karting, CalSpeed Karting, Comet Kart Sales, D-Power Racing, Darcy DeCoste Racing, Empire Karts, Fastech Racing, Fleming Motorsports, Hi-Rev Engines, Honda Racing Development, Hyper Racing Engines, International Racing, K-1 Race Gear, LAKC, Mack Motorsports, Mike Manning Karting, Nash Motorsportz, New Jersey Sprint Series, Nevada Kart Sport, P-1 Engines, PRD-USA, Phil Giebler Racing, PKS, R&M Enterprises, RLV, Sanner Racing, Snow Racing Engines, T.S. Racing, Vega Tires, Woltjer Engines.