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CKI Grand Prix of California - Saturday Report


Wheel to wheel action began Saturday at the Championship Karting International Grand Prix of California around the CalSpeed Karting circuit. The six divisions contesting the third round of the premiere American series filled the day with three rounds of heat races around the 3/4-mile course. Though the racing was close and tight, there were no real surprises on the day as those projected to be at the front were there and have secured the front starting spots for Sunday’s Prefinal action.

Championship leader Gary Carlton (CRG) grabbed the holeshot to begin the opening heat with Jacob Neal (CRG) sliding in behind for second briefly until sliding wide into turn three. That allowed Alex Speed (Tony Kart) to move up to second. Lap four was Neal’s opportunity to gain back the position, as he did so through turn three and four. This allowed Carlton to pull out to a small gap over the other three drivers with Gregory Liefooghe (Intrepid) trailing Neal and Speed. Two laps later, Speed struck back and retook the second spot once again as they surprisingly cut into Carlton’s lead while racing one another. The second half of the race however Carlton stretched out his lead but things changed on lap 10 when Speed pulled off with an unknown mechanical issue. Carlton went on to take the win by seven-tenths over Neal with Liefooghe crossing the stripe third.

Carlton led flag to flag in the second heat aboard his PCH Motorsports/SSC East/CRG with Neal continuing to pressure his teammate throughout the 12 laps. Speed retired early after running second at one time with Liefooghe dropping out on lap nine, with the top two the only karts on track.

Neal was able to grab the holeshot to begin the final heat race with Carlton and Speed coming together in the third corner. Speed continued on as Carlton needed to restart his machine. Neal and then Liefooghe would battle for the remainder of the race until Liefooghe put his Leading Edge Motorsports entry to the point and took the win. Neal ended second with Carlton getting back by Speed after he graciously waited for him to pass by.

The starting grid will look similar to the heats with Carlton and Neal lined up on row one with Liefooghe and Speed in row two.

Chris Wehrheim was quick all day Saturday and earned the P1 spot for the KF2 Prefinal
(Photo: Go Racing Magazine)

A great jump for pole sitter Richard Benitez (Kosmic) at the drop of the green to begin the opening heat race gave him a solid advantage as the field shuffled through the opening corner. Both Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart) and Alex Speed (Tony Kart) slid by outside pole sitter Brendan Phinny (Top Kart) into turn one who seemed to have been caught sleeping at the start. Benitez and Wehrheim paced the field early as they put a gap over Speed and Phinny while Joel Miller (Tony Kart) moved up to fifth quickly, getting by Brett Felkins (Intrepid) and Will Martindale (Tony Kart). On lap six, Phinny was able to get by Speed for the third position and began to close on the front duo. At the same time, Wehrheim was plotting his move by Benitez, doing so on lap eight which allowed both Phinny and Speed to close in. The four went two-by-two into the first corner with Wehrheim coming out with a sizeable lead after slight contact with Benitez, who slotted back into second and now began to try and hold of Speed who moved back into third. When they were given the two laps to go signal, Speed made his move by Benitez, sending the J3 Competition driver wide through turns three and four which allowed Speed, Phinny and a charging Miller to slide through for position. At the checkered, Wehrheim took the win with Speed holding off Phinny for second. Miller placed third with Benitez a tough fifth place run.

Phinny was caught sleeping again at the start head flagman Matt Long threw an early green flag. Benitez and Speed slide by Phinny with Wehrheim joining them in a four kart battle for the lead. Speed was able to get by Benitez as Wehrheim and Phinny both followed through to drop him back to fourth. Wehrheim was able to pressure Speed, running the quickest laps of the race, but a slight bobble cost him ground as Speed had half a second advantage with two to go. The gap would be cut into slightly but Speed would hold on for the win after the 12 laps were completed. Phinny held on to third with Benitez fourth. Miller would finish fifth after only completing seven laps with both Felkins and Martindale retiring early.

The start was near perfect as the field screamed into the first corner side by side which resulted in a bit of contact with Phinny and Speed. This allowed Felkins and Miller to swing around for the second and third spots behind Benitez. Behind them, Phinny, Speed, Martindale and Wehrheim put on a great battle for a couple of laps before Phinny broke free. He then chased down Felkins, who was running third after Miller had gotten around for position. Once Phinny caught Felkins, the two made contact and Phinny began to have brake issues. Felkins retired early while Phinny fell back to the tail of the field. Meanwhile up front, Miller continued to close the gap on Benitez as the laps clicked off. Wehrheim however was able to reel in both the leaders while running the fast laps of the race. At the white flag, Miller made an amazing late-braking move into turn three, which caught Benitez off-guard and sent him wide, allowing Wehrheim to slide by as well. At the line, Miller took the win by two-tenths over Wehrheim. Speed ended up fourth with Martindale fifth.

Three solid results put Team Top Kart’s Wehrheim on the pole position with Speed set to start alongside him on the front row in his Wunder-Bar Racing/Tony Kart entry. Miller’s win helped put him third in the order with Benitez set to start fourth. Phinny will go from P5 with Felkins and Martindale lined up behind him.

Joey Licata Jr. will continue to lead the IAME Senior field on Sunday
(Photo: Go Racing Magazine)

IAME Senior
A poor jump for outside pole sitter Andre Nicastro (Italkart) caused the field to bunch up, along with contact that resulted in Neil McCoy spinning from the fifth starting spot spread the field out and around the carnage. Pole sitter Joey Licata Jr. (CRG) was joined up front with Mason Marotta (Intrepid) and Nicastro once the field with the rest of the field sorting themselves out. Licata continued to lead with Nicastro getting by Marotta for second on lap six of the nine lap event, then turning his attention as he pressured Licata for the lead. On the white flag, Nicastro made his move and got by Licata for the lead, taking the victory. Licata ended up second with Marotta third. Michael Hogg (Top Kart) took advantage of the opening lap contact to move up to fourth with Timmy Bachman (Top Kart) also a beneficiary as he came from 19th to fifth.

The inside line continued to as the place to be on the start with Nicastro again getting a terrible jump at the start of the second heat with Licata, McCoy and Marotta all sliding through, this time with no issues in the opening corners. In the first few laps, Licata and McCoy put some distance on Nicastro, who was able to slide by Marotta with Hogg following through. At the halfway mark, Hogg was able to draft by Nicastro for the third spot as they came down the front straight as he began to chase down the front two. At the two to go signal, it looked as if the top five would remain unchanged until Hogg looped around his Top Kart in turn five, rejoining the race at the tail of the field and finishing 16th. Licata would go on to take the win with McCoy on his bumper. Nicastro and Marotta crossed the line third and fourth with Joe Paterson (Tony Kart) edging Neil Alberico (Top Kart) for the fifth spot.

Licata led the field to the green flag for the final time of the day with the field getting through the opening corners with no issues. Licata was pressed early as Marotta was able to work by for the lead. The two pulled away as Hogg would again advance quickly from seventh up to third as Nicastro slotted into fourth. The front two fell into a comfortable rhythm until the final lap when Licata put the pressure on Marotta. No move was attempted as Marotta took the victory over Licata. Hogg ran alone in third with a charging Alberico up to fourth with another drive forward from 14th starting spot, getting by Nicastro near the end. Both Paterson and McCoy ran within the top-five however each retired early with separate incidents in turns three.

Licata’s win and two runner-up finishes put him on the pole once again for Sunday’s Prefinal run with Marotta now set to start outside the front row. Nicastro will move to the third spot with Bachman going from P4 after putting in a solid day of results from starting dead last. Hogg and Cody Jolly (Tony Kart) - making his first IAME Senior start - will go from row three.

Gustavo Menezes continues to pace both KF3 and IAME Junior
(Photo: Go Racing Magazine)

The racing action for the day began with the first KF3 heat race. The field was unable to work through the first corner as pole sitter Gustavo Menezes (Tony Kart) was sent sideways before the apex, collecting the Kosmics of Nicholas Silva and Tristan DeGrand. Taylor Miinch (Top Kart) would benefit from the opening corning ciaos to assume the lead followed by Phil DeLaO (CRG). The duo ran 1-2 for the majority of the race until DeLaO spun alone on lap seven in the turn three section near the pit lane. That dropped him to the tail of the field, allowing Miinch to cruise to the victory with Alessandra Madrigal (Kosmic) and Shawn Sharkey (Merlin) moving up to second and third. DeGrand and Silva worked back up to fourth and fifth with Menezes ending up sixth.

It was a clean start to open up the second heat race for the KF3 group with Menezes showing the way and Silva tucked in behind in second. DeLaO quickly got around Silva for second in the second half of the track on the opening lap with DeGrand and Miinch making up the early top-five. Menezes put in a couple solid first few laps on cold tires to get out to nearly a two second advantage after three laps. DeLaO worked to hold off a hungry pack behind him with Silva all over his bumper but on lap five, he would pull off the track with brake issues. Menezes easily took the win by over four seconds with Silva placing second. Madrigal was able to work by both DeGrand and Miinch for third.

DeLaO’s troubles continued as he was unable to start with the field and came from the pit lane to join the action of the third and final heat. Menezes continued to pace the field with Miinch able to work by Silva for second through the opening corners while Sharkey fought to hold off DeGrand for fourth position. Lap after lap, Menezes continued to get quicker, eventually taking the win by nearly three-seconds. Silva was able to get by Miinch early one and secured the second spot at the checkered flag with Miinch losing another position, this time to DeGrand in the final lap of the nine lap event to drop to fourth. Madrigal would work by Sharkey to complete the top-five.

Despite his sixth place finish, the two wins still put Menezes on the pole for the Prefinals. Silva will also continue to start outside the front row. Miinch and Madrigal will go from row two with DeGrand and Sharkey one row behind.

Finishing no worse than second, Brendan Baker will start from P1 in the Cadet division
(Photo: Go Racing Magazine)

IAME Junior
The inside lane was the fast way through the opening corner of the IAME Junior first heat as pole sitter Gustavo Menezes (Tony Kart) and third place starter Tristan DeGrand slid through to lead the field cleanly through. The rest of the field shuffled through, working into a single file order. The top two put some distance on third, which belong to Phil DeLaO (CRG) until lap six when Taylor Miinch (Top Kart) moved around for position. DeLaO then lost another position to Louie Pagano (Birel), dropping him to fifth. Menezes would lead all the laps to win by eight-tenths over DeGrand. Miinch finished third with Pagano and Kiel Spaulding (Top Kart) completing the top-five. DeLaO would retire on lap seven with a broken throttle, placing him 17th in the order.

Menezes once again broke away from the field after getting the green flag to begin the second heat race. The field would get through the opening corner fine until a little bit of bumping cost Shawn Sharkey (Merlin) and Alessandra Madrigal (Kosmic) their race early. Up front, Menezes was out to a two-second lead over DeLaO until he pulled off on lap two with engine issues. That gave Spaulding the second spot with Miinch all over his rear bumper with DeGrand, Pagano, Raquel Martinez (Top Kart) and Camden Geise (CRG) in tow. Menezes sailed to the win by three-seconds over Miinch. Spaulding moved up to third with Pagano and Martinez completing the top-five. Contact shuffled DeGrand back twice in the final stages of the race as he crossed the line in 14th. A great drive was put in by Critical Zone Racing’s Sabre Cook as she came up from 19th to ninth in the nine lap event after having engine issues in qualifying.

Another pile up in turn three in the opening lap of the final heat race cost Madrigal another race along with Jake Craig (CRG) and Dylan Lupton (Birel). Up front, Menezes paced the field and was again quick on cold tires as he stretched out to a solid lead over Miinch and DeLaO. Menezes and Miinch inched further away lap by lap as DeLaO fell into the clutches of Spaulding and Geise. Miinch kept Menezes in sight the entire nine laps however he would not be able to close in as the Tony Kart West driver would sweep the day with all three heat wins. Geise was able to work by Spaulding for third, bringing DeGrand with him. DeLaO would fall back to seventh behind Pagano.

Menezes will continue to lead the field on Sunday with Miinch set to start alongside him. Spaulding and Pagano will fill row two with DeGrand and Martinez in row three.

After numerous failed attempts to get the Cadets going, the opening heat finally got underway. The race was a wild one with numerous lead changes but in the end it was Parker Thompson who scored the win. Brendan Baker was just 0.03-seconds back with Michael Womack trailing. Slater Stowell and Nick Ramirez finished fourth and fifth.

Pole sitter Zane Smith overcame his troubles from the first heat to lead all seven laps of the second heat. He was pressured the entire time by Baker and Stowell. Willy Axton won the fight for fourth with Colton Herta finishing fifth.

A third different winner took home the final heat race in the Cadet division with Baker this time getting to the checkered flag first. Smith led the majority of the race until Baker was able to slide by in the final lap for the win. Smith held on to second ahead of Stowell with Wyatt May and Axton rounding out the top-five.

Baker’s solid day puts him on the pole for the Prefinal with Stowell in the second slot. Thompson will go from P3 with Axton in the fourth spot while Ramirez and May start on the third row.

Article Credit: ekartingnews.com
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