The championship chases are shaping up the contenders – and the pretenders – with the running of the sixth round of the Superkarts! USA’s ProKart Challenge North series on August 15 at the Jim Russell International Karting Center. After a month off from competition, the program got back to business contesting the 0.68-mile ‘Reverse Sprint’ circuit at the Sonoma, California facility for the first time in PKC’s history. The second season of the Northern California series has truly brought a strong regional program to the area for those interested in shifter kart and TaG racing – along with a solid unity among those competing. The racing has also improved each outing, with more and more drivers entering into the battles for the lead, mixing up the championship fights.
One driver, however, has been the focal point in the past few months. Brett Buckwalter added to his win streak – now at three – following the TaG Senior feature race Saturday afternoon, and has positioned himself as the #1 driver heading into the series finale in September. Buckwalter led the qualifying session with Larry Fraser and championship leader Will Martindale all within two-tenths of each others’ fastest lap. Martindale and Fraser, however, began the racing on a sour note as the two made contact through the tic-tac-toe section, allowing Buckwalter to pull out to a solid win in the opening heat race ahead of Nic LeDuc – with Brett Felkins sliding up from seventh to third. In the next session, Felkins had the better opening lap on the cold MG Tires, and was able to lead the first time by the stripe to begin the second heat race. From there, he led all eight laps for the win, with Buckwalter pacing himself on Felkins rear bumper – as Andrick Zeen worked by LeDuc for third.
Daniel Bray enjoys his first trip to the top of the S3 podium with Jason Toft and Tommy Thompson
(Photo: Tony Leone - Superkarts! USA)
The drive of the day, however, came in the feature – when Buckwalter was shuffled back to the eighth spot on the first lap. Jumping into the top-five the next time by, Buckwalter worked to join the lead group of Felkins, Zeen, and PKC newcomer Matthew Powers. Felkins was leading when his fuel line broke loose, causing him to slow down and wreak havoc behind him -- as drivers shuffled to avoid making contact with the retiring Felkins. This gave Buckwalter the chance he needed to sling-shot by the rest of the lead pack, and from there Buckwalter showed the way to the checkered flag for his third straight victory. Zeen crossed the line roughly three seconds back, with LeDuc completing the podium. Martindale would earn the hard charger award, coming from last on the grid to fifth, just behind JP Cadoux.
The S3 division continues to impress week in and week out with another great show on track. The top five in qualifying were separated by less than two-tenths of a second, led by point leader Jacob Neal. Just 69-thousandths behind was New Zealand transplant Daniel Bray, with returning class champion Jason Toft getting some extra seat time during his Skip Barber National schedule break. Neal was slow to get off the line to begin heat one, while Bray broke a chain in the opening lap – which allowed Toft to show the way ahead of Steve Reasoner and Tommy Thompson. Reasoner would have the advantage off the line to begin heat two, as he led all eight laps to the win. Behind him, Toft fought off Thompson and Bray for the second spot – as Neal spun on lap six while battling for the position and fell to sixth in the order.
The 20-lap feature was an eventful one, with Reasoner showing the way in the opening lap – until both Thompson and Bray were able to work by for the top two spots. Toft would move up to third by lap seven, with Neal working to fifth by lap eight as Thompson continued to show the way. Bray made his move for the lead on lap 12, assuming the top spot from Thompson who now had to deal with Toft. Two laps later, Toft took over the second spot and set his sights on Bray. Methodically working on Bray, Toft was unable to make a move as he came up 0.176-seconds short at the line with Bray taking his first win of the season. Thompson and Reasoner held on to third and fourth, with Neal unable to advance past the fifth position.
Making his PKC North debut, Casey Scherer stole the S4 feature win
(Photo: Tony Leone - Superkarts! USA)
S4 witnessed the PKC debut of Casey Scherer -- and he was able to outgun the championship contenders in the sixth round of the season. Alex Keith showed the way early on, edging standings leader Jamie Wilson by just 25-hundreths of a second for the pole award, with Peter Workum just one-tenth back. Once racing got underway, Keith controlled both heat races, with Workum getting by Wilson in the first heat for the second spot, and Wilson taking the third spot ahead of Scott Cooper.
The main event early run-down was a familiar Keith-Workum-Wilson show, as Cooper fell out of the front pack in the opening lap. Things changed near the halfway point, when Scherer began his charge forward. Having retired on lap six of the second heat from a spin, Scherer worked to come from the tail of the field up to Wilson’s bumper. From there, he took one position at a time, first by Wilson, then by Workum, setting up for Keith. It would be the final lap where Scherer would seal the deal, getting to the line first for the victory by 0.681-seconds. Workum took the third and final step on the podium as he and Keith each gained points on fourth place finisher Wilson.
Craig Corwin has many victories with the PKC North program. However, this past weekend he earned his first in the TaG Master category. The defending G1 champion made the switch to the TaG category – and swept the action. Corwin led all the laps, including both heat races, with the exception of the opening lap of the feature. Round five ‘sweeper’ Jeff Deehan was able to get the jump at the green to pace the field on the opening lap before Corwin assumed the position to take the victory. Deehan was a solid second ahead of Jim Zootis, with point leader Steve Elo having a tough feature race, finishing just off the podium.
PKC North regular Craig Corwin earned his first TaG Masters victory, outrunning Jeff Deehan and Jim Zootis
(Photo: Tony Leone - Superkarts! USA)
A rare sweep happened in the HPV 2 Junior division, as Dylan Lupton was on top of his game Saturday. Like Corwin, Lupton paced the field in the two heat races, running ahead of Luis Tyrrell and point leader Kiel Spaulding, who swapped the second spot. In the feature race, however, Tyrrell and Spaulding stepped up and challenged Lupton early on. Tyrrell took his turn at the point before Spaulding paced the field in the middle portion. Once all the jockeying for position calmed down, Lupton escaped with the lead and went on to earn the checkered by just 0.224-seconds over Tyrrell – with Spaulding crossing in third. Lupton nearly swept the Junior divisions, as he showed the way in the TaG Junior category throughout the day – until lap 19 of the feature with a mechanical issue. That gave the win to Austin Elliott, with Maxx Marian placing second. Lupton would still be classified third with only three drivers competing.
Fresh off his Jim Russell Racing Drivers School session for his 2008 PKC North S1 championship, Cody Hodgson positioned himself to repeat with his third S1 feature win of the year. Battling rival Jacob Neal all day, Hodgson took the feature win by 0.961-seconds after the 20-lap battle. On track at the same time, Jim Kidd extended his points lead in the G1 class with his third feature victory, edging Ethan Wilson. The PKC North finale promises more competition for these top two contenders, as more and more drivers come out to prepare for SuperNats XIII.
The series will wrap up the 2009 season with the seventh and final round set for September 12 at the same Sonoma circuit – with the configuration to be the Reverse National layout. For more information on the Superkarts! USA’s ProKart Challenge itself, head to www.prokartchallenge.com or call 951-491-0808.