Article by: Superkarts! USA
The 2010 season for the Superkarts! USA ProKart Challenge North program got underway this past weekend at the Jim Russell International Karting Center, which is located on the grounds of Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. A solid group of 63 competitors traveled to the popular karting circuit to contest in nine divisions, including the organization’s new Stock Moto ladder progression class structure. The weather did not cooperate too often during the opening round as Friday’s practice sessions saw rain cover the area for most of the day. Heavy fog pushed back the start to Saturday’s action, as well, but thanks to the cooperation of the competitors and the determined SKUSA staff, they were able to get all the racing in before the sun ducked behind the Northern California mountains.
The Superkarts! USA organization brought out a solid opening round prize package for those who earned their way onto the PKC North podium. Before racing began, Friday attendees were treated to a fabulous tri-tip BBQ dinner thanks to the Thomas family and head grillmaster Scott Jeffery. A few attendees also took advantage of free ride-along drifting demonstrations with the head instructor of the Jim Russell Racing School as well. Once the racing was completed Saturday, all of the first place podium finishers received a Mother’s Polish bucket full of car and kart care products. Also given away, aside from the unique PKC trophies, were a free set of MG Tires, a five-gallon can of VP Racing Fuel, and two free entries to the next PKC North event. SKUSA is all about giving back to their customers, and the response from many of the new PKC members was enthusiastic.
In the new headline S1 category, Fritz Leesmann set the pace in qualifying as the only driver to dip below the 49-second mark with a 48.909-second lap time, quicker than Tommy Thompson by over three tenths. The 2008 PKC Stock Moto champion Jason Toft moved up to third in qualifying when Brett Buckwalter – the defending TaG Senior champion – was found to be noncompliant in the tech inspection for using the wrong fuel brand. Leesmann and Thompson led the way through the first eight-lap heat race while Brett Felkins got the jump on Toft for third, holding the spot through the checkered. Leesmann, however, would be moved to third in the order for jumping the start. Felkins and Toft would be the early pace setters in the second heat before Leesmann recovered the point once again on lap five, going on to score the win. Toft ended up second with Felkins third and Thompson back to fourth.
The 20-lap main event began with contact between Toft and Felkins in the opening corner. The result dropped Toft to the tail of the field and eventually out of the race, moving Thompson up to second. In addition to the contact, a seriously fast lap on cold MG tires allowed Leesmann to extend an early lead. Pacing the field for all 20 circuits, Leesmann scored the inaugural S1 Pro Stock Moto victory for PKC North competition. Thompson held on to second while Felkins fell off the pace, allowing Buckwalter to battle forward to claim the third step of the podium in his Stock Moto debut.
Matt Alcorn set the tone in the S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto category as he has shown great progression in the series program. Outrunning the competition in qualifying by just over half a second, Alcorn went on to earn consecutive five-second victories in the heat races before stomping the field to a 15-second win in the 20-lap feature. It was certainly an impressive performance. Neil Joseph was the lead challenger throughout the day until lap 17 of the feature, when he spun off track due to water contact. This handed the second spot to Jared Woolf and moved Cameron Pringle up on the third step of the podium.
The new S3 Novice Stock Moto was a two-dog fight that saw David Gwin and Christopher Yettito scrapping throughout the day in the class debut. Gwin struck first with top honors in qualifying before the two split the heat races. Gwin had the early advantage in the feature before Yettito took the point on lap three, when Gwin retired early with a stuck throttle. Yettito went unchallenged to score the inaugural win. On track at the same time, defending ProKart Challenge South S4 champion Jeff Smith punctuated his 2010 debut with a sweep of the proceedings. Smith narrowly edged Alex Keith for the pole in qualifying, posting a 50.985-second lap. After a slow start, Smith bounced back in the opening heat to edge out Brad Shaffer for the win. From there, he went flag-to-flag in the second heat and the feature as well, scoring the win by 12 seconds over Shaffer and Jack Arluck.
Veteran Larry Fraser led the always-stacked TaG Senior category at the opening round. In a battle of youth versus experience, Fraser edged Dylan Lupton for the pole in qualifying by just seven-hundredths of a second. Lupton kept constant pressure on Fraser in the opening heat, but Fraser still went on to lead all eight laps for the win with David Harwin a close third. The start of the second heat saw Lupton and Harwin getting shuffled back as Jess Peterson and JP Cadoux got by on the opening lap. This allowed Fraser to break away for the easy win, as Peterson held off a charging Harwin for second. Lupton would retire near the halfway mark with a broken exhaust. Fraser led the field to the green flag for the feature race and quickly broke away from the rest of the field battling for second. Harwin held the spot, fighting off Taylor Young, until a charging Lupton was up to fourth by lap three. After working by Young, Lupton battled Harwin for the second spot. Once into second, Lupton quickly attacked Fraser near the halfway mark as the two battled for the final ten laps. Lupton had the advantage each time by the stripe except for the final time, as Fraser was able to make a last lap pass stick, beating Lupton to the line by 0.068 seconds for the victory. The third spot on the podium was also decided on the last lap, as Troy Diede was able to work by Harwin for the position.
The TaG Master class saw a clean sweep as well, as former G1 driver Ethan Wilson has made a successful move to the Touch and Go package for the 2010 season. Wilson led all but one lap in the first heat before going wire-to-wire in the second and the 20-lap main event. Wilson scored the victory by seven seconds over Peter Workum, with Jeff Deehan rounding out the podium. Deven Sanchez made a splash in his PKC North debut, leading the day’s action in the TaG Junior category. Out-pacing Austin Keller and Austin Thomas in qualifying, Sanchez scored the win in both heat races and led all 20 laps for the feature win to cap off his perfect day. Keller battled back to claim second after some heat race issues, while Niki Luna started off the season with a podium finish in third.
In HPV-2 Junior competition, it was Kathryn Cornell who led in qualifying, although Daniel Langon led things in the opening heat race as Cornell dropped back to fourth. Langon battled with Jonny Norris for the lead in the early goings of the second heat until Cornell joined the fight, sliding by on the final lap to take the win. From there, she would lead all 20 laps for the feature victory, three seconds ahead of Norris – with Jarred Campbell getting by Langon for third. Making its PKC North series debut, the S5 Junior Stock Moto category had one lone entry, although more drivers are scheduled to join the program as the season progresses. Daniel Langon went unchallenged to earn maximum points to start off the year.
The next PKC North race is set for March 12-13, returning to the Jim Russell International Karting Center at Infineon Raceway. The SKUSA crew will first head to Willow Springs Raceway for the second round of the ProKart Challenge South on February 26-27. These events will lead into the opening round of the SKUSA Pro Tour, set for April 16-18, at the JRIKC circuit in Sonoma, CA.