Article by: Superkarts! USA
After rain and wind kept the drivers of the ProKart Challenge North series in their trailers during the Friday’s available practice day, they emerged ready for battle when Saturday dawned sunny and cool at the Jim Russell International Karting Center. As the temperature rose through the day, so did the excitement on the racetrack, as the Infineon Raceway facility provided the perfect venue for some close racing – including two of the races which were decided by less than four hundredths of a second. In the closest race of the day, Phil Giebler (FA Kart) won over a strong TaG Senior class when he nipped Bobby Kelley (Maddox) by a scant 0.008 seconds in a drag race to the line. In the S1 Pro Stock Moto class, Nic LeDuc (GP) scored his first PKC gearbox win by holding off a charging Brett Buckwalter (Italkart) at the end of the 20-lap run.
LeDuc’s emergence in the PKC North program will put his name in the hat for the race win at the upcoming SKUSA SpringNationals, the opening round of the new Pro Tour. STA Racing’s LeDuc wasn’t the primary contender for the win this past weekend, however, as Fritz Leesmann (CRG) was certainly the man to beat. The Aluminos driver qualified on the pole ahead of Buckwalter by three tenths, and proceeded to score wins in both heat races to remain on the front row for the main. After getting off the line slowly and dropping to fourth, Leesmann worked his way back to the lead. It was not to last, however, as a broken shift arm put him on the sidelines, opening the door to the remainder of the field. Cameron Karting’s Buckwalter would assume the point, but LeDuc had worked into the challenge position and eventually took over the top spot before stretching a small advantage. Buckwalter would pick up the pace over the final laps, but came up just short, taking second to LeDuc. Tommy Thompson (Energy) came out of a hard-fought battle for third with the final podium position, finishing ahead of Jason Toft (GP) and Brad Dunford (CRG).
In S2, Matt Alcorn (Energy) was following Leesmann’s lead, sweeping qualifying and both heat races as he ran just behind all seven S1 drivers who were in the same race group. The tone of Alcorn’s day would match Leesmann’s, as an errant airbox brought out the meatball flag, taking him out of the lead and eliminating what would have been a sure victory. This advanced the thrilling battle for second into a fight for the win, as Jared Woolf (Intrepid) and Cameron Pringle (GP) were running nose-to-tail. Pringle would eventually come out on top to score his first PKC win, finishing ahead of Woolf and Cambrian’s Jamie Wilson (Birel). Rocky Mountain Kartworks’ drivers Cole MacEwen (GP) and Christian Bird (GP) rounded out the top-five. In the S5 Stock Moto Junior class, Daniel Langon (GP) was awarded the win after Christian Schureman (GP) was docked a position for jumping the start.
The S4 Stock Moto Master category attracted 12 drivers to Infineon, and Jeff Smith (Mirage) was the class of the field, sweeping the day’s events. In the main, however, Alex Keith (Energy) showed that he had dialed in his chassis, matching Smith’s pace through the 20-lap event. Keith stuck with Smith throughout the race but could never challenge, eventually crossing the stripe in second. Jim Inglebright (GP) would finish third, ahead of Andrew Mewhirter (Intrepid) and Mike McDonough (GP), who had trekked in from Colorado for the race.
The TaG Senior race was one of the best of the day, as Giebler was magnificent in coming from the tail of the field after a heat two DNF. The day began with Dave Harwin (Tony Kart) and JP Cadoux (Energy) leading the way in qualifying. Jess Peterson (Intrepid) would join the party in the first heat as he and Harwin scrapped for the win, but the rematch would not happen in second moto as Harwin was out on the warm-up lap with a mechanical issue. Attrition claimed Giebler, Cadoux and Fraser as well, putting fast drivers at both ends of the main event grid – with Peterson starting on pole thanks to his heat two victory. Position One’s Bobby Kelley and Devin Lindsey (Maddox) were also in the front two rows, joined by Jordan Jadallah (CRG). As the final got started, a turn one incident put Fraser and Cadoux to the back and also advanced Giebler into the top 10. Over the next 20 laps, Giebler reeled in the lead group, expertly working his way forward to Kelley, who had assumed control of the race. As each driver turned great laps, Giebler proved to have the edge as he inched closer. The veteran would take over the lead heading into turn one on lap 17, but Kelley took it right back in the right-hander after the Tic-Tac-Toe section of the track, making a big statement in the process. Giebler would make one last-ditch effort heading to the checkered flag, nipping his young rival by just 0.008 seconds at the line. Jadallah would take third ahead of Lindsey and Harwin, while Fraser was able to recover to sixth. Peterson’s solid day came to a close on lap eight, when he retired with a mechanical issue.
The TaG Junior race was thrilling as well. Kathryn Cornell (Intrepid) and Niki Luna (CRG) were the first to battle to a photo finish, finishing up what was an incredible main event dice that featured multiple overtaking maneuvers each lap. Luna topped qualifying with a 53.415-second lap to sit at the top of the chart over Deven Sanchez (Avanti), and he would then go on to sweep the heat races to start on the pole for the main. The race quickly became a two-kart battle, and both Luna and Cornell would take several turns up front. On the final lap, Luna sat in second and timed a run coming out of the final corner, pulling to the outside of Cornell at the stripe. The CRG would come up just short, as Cornell won by 0.037 seconds. Jack Freese (Birel) would complete the podium in third, ahead of Austin Keller (Tony Kart) and Austin Thomas (GP).
TaG Master was all Craig Corwin (Rosso Corsa) on this day, as he qualified on pole and won all three races. Ethan Wilson (Tony Kart) tried to match Corwin with some strong starts, but he would need to settle for second on this outing. In the main, Jeff Deehan (GP) finished up in third, but not after being chased by Peter Workum (Intrepid), who turned the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of a podium finish. Paul Hohlbein (Emmick) rounded out the top-five.
The final class of the day was HPV2 Junior, where Kathryn Cornell scored her second win of the weekend – topping Jack Freese (Birel) and Jonny Norris (PCR) for the top step of the podium.
Throughout the day, the buzz around the paddock centered on the upcoming SKUSA Pro Tour, which will invade Infineon Raceway on the April 16-18 weekend. SKUSA received entry confirmation from a majority of the drivers in the paddock, and they are now expecting 20+ competitors in a majority of the nine classes on the dance card. The PKC North series will take the month of April off to support the SpringNationals, but they will return on April 30 – May 1, heading back to the Jim Russell International Karting Center for round three. The SKUSA crew will first head to the Grange Motor Circuit for the third round of the ProKart Challenge South on March 26-27.