A picture perfect weekend completed at the New Castle Motorsports Park as the opening round of the WSK North American Series by CKI wrapped up Sunday. Dodging a bullet with the weather during the first weekend of April, the CKI group put on a well-orchestrated event to open up the inaugural season of the new series. The racing on-track was hotly contested though dominance was a factor as four drivers doubled up on the weekend to lead the way out of round one in the title chase.
Certainly the top two established themselves yesterday as both Arie Ouimet (CRG) and Phil DeLaO (CRG) were the drivers to beat. The same could be said in qualifying for Sunday’s action with Ouimet the early provisional pole during the 15-minute session. DeLaO however would steal the spot with a solid 1:03.234 lap time. Ouimet, learning he was trailing, dropped into pit lane to make some changes to his SSC East entry. Getting back out on track, Ouimet was able to better his time but was unable to dethrone DeLaO from the top spot. Joey Wimsett (CRG) was a solid third as Joel Miller (Kosmic) continued to improve as the session went on but was unable to better Wimsett’s time. Madeline Komar (Maranello) dropped her time each circuit and rounded out the fast-five.
Ouimet got the jump as the green flag waved to begin the Prefinal race. DeLeO slotted into second while Wimsett and Miller fought for third. Wimsett dove inside Miller into turn two, allowing Komar to follow through. The front three then broke away as Miller fought to gain back fourth from Komar, doing so at the inner hair-pin. The front three ran within striking distance of one another as they swapped the fast lap of the race. Ouimet posted the quick time the most and was able to extend a gap to take the win. DeLaO ran second the entire 12 laps and ran the fastest lap of the race in his final circuit to cut Ouimet’s advantage to 0.808-seconds. Wimsett was a close third with all three drivers running consistent times. Miller ran alone in fourth with Komar retiring on lap seven with mechanical issues.
As the green flag waved to begin the Final, DeLaO got a great jump on the outside line to steal the lead. Ouimet came right back to take point in the next corner as DeLaO got a little wide which allowed Wimsett to assume the second spot. With DeLaO on the charge, Wimsett dropped a wheel exiting the second corner as they began lap two, allowing DeLaO to slip back into the position. The top four seemed to be spread out until DeLaO pounced on Ouimet for the lead. Taking over the position, DeLaO paced the field until lap six when racing gremlins struck again, this time in the form of broken springs on the exhaust causing the engine to lose much of its power. That force DeLaO to the pit lane and another chance at the win gone. Meanwhile, Wimsett took advantage of having Ouimet just in front of him. With a deep braking move into the inner hair-pin, Wimsett went to P1 briefly before Ouimet struck right back to reassume the point. From there, the two ran nose to tail with no exchanges for the lead as Ouimet was able to take the checkered flag for his second victory of the weekend and the championship lead leaving round one. Wimsett took the runner-up spot once again with Miller duplicating his third place run from yesterday. Komar continued to improve in her KF2 debut, crossing the line fourth with DeLaO classified fifth.
Out of the gate for the 15-minute qualifying session for the TaG Senior group, the Top Karts of Taylor Miinch and Kyle Wiegand were the early pace setters. After a few laps on track, Wiegand was the first to break into the 1:05s and hold the provisional pole. After just a few laps, the native Indiana driver pulled into the pit lane happy with his performance and looking to save his tires for the day. Meanwhile, Saturday’s winner Neil Alberico (Wild Kart) was steadily improving as the session went on, eventually besting Wiegand’s time. Getter faster a few more times by the line, Alberico ended up with a 1:05.636 lap time to secure the pole. Wiegand would end up second in the order ahead of fellow Indiana driver Conor Daly who improved his times from yesterday aboard his FA Kart. Also improving was rookie Andrew Hobbs (Merlin) as he made a late charge to climb up to fourth in the order when the session completed, moving Miinch down to fifth. Saturday’s surprise performer Robert Bujdoso (PCR) encountered engine failure early on in the session and recorded no time, forcing him to start from the tail of the field on a different engine.
Wiegand got the jump at the green and held the point to begin the Prefinal as the rest of the field filed in behind. Miinch’s race would come to an end on lap two as his chain broke while in the third position. The top two stretched out the lead as Daly fought off TJ Koyen (Merlin), who advanced up to fourth from eighth. Lap by lap, Alberico was faster and faster, eventually taking the lead and extending it over Wiegand. At the line, Alberico won by over six-seconds ahead of Wiegand. A great battle for third ensued with a number of drivers joining in as Daly’s Rotax power seemed to be struggling on the straights. As the race went on, Aldridge was the driver on the move as he worked himself up to third with Hobbs and Koyen completing the top-five.
The feature race would be Alberico as he stamped in what was a solid opening weekend for the WSK North American Series weekend. From the pole, Alberico took the point and led wire-to-wire for his second victory and weekend sweep. Grabbing the lead, Aldridge was running second going into turn five when he and Wiegand went for the same real-estate. Wiegand went spinning off with Aldridge falling to the tail of the field as well. With the contact, it allowed Alberico smooth sailing out front while Hobbs and Daly made up the top-three. Miinch was quick to redeem his DNF from the Prefinal as he was up to fourth and put Hobbs behind him by lap three. After Daly and Miinch exchanged for the second, they seemed to be very equal and unable to gain any ground on Alberico. Behind them, Wiegand was on the charge following the opening lap contact. Getting up to fourth with three laps to go, he began closing in on second and third with Michael Politis (Merlin) in tow. With the white flag waving, Wiegand inched closer and closer. Coming into the inner hair-pin, Daly was alongside Miinch looking to retake the second spot when Wiegand dived to the inside of both to make it three wide. The group exited the corner all shuffling for position with Wiegand eventually coming out with the second spot coming out of the next corner. Politis also benefited as he snuck through to steal third from Daly and Miinch in a thrilling finish to the weekend. Alberico’s sweep has him leading the championship chase over Wiegand with Bujdoso in third thanks to his solid run on Saturday.
Saturday’s KF3 pole winner Alessandra Madrigal (Kosmic) was out of the box quick to hold the provisional pole in Sunday’s session, matching lap times to the previous days. Lap after lap, Madrigal continued to get quicker and dropped below the 1:06 mark. Her 1:05.909 set the bar for the field with Sunday’s winner Mason Chelootz (Top Kart) the only driver able to challenge. As the session went on, his times dropped and in the end, just came short to breaking the 1:06 mark, just 0.96-seconds off her time. Kyle Smith (PCR) posted a solid time to line up third and inside of row two for the Prefinal with Raquel Martinez (Top Kart) and Broc Yocom (Intrepid) completing the fast-five.
Madrigal was able to time the green flag perfectly and jumped out to the lead through the opening corner of the Prefinal but Chelootz struck back with a great move into the second corner. Madrigal then settled in behind, drafting by down the last straight to return to P1 before the stripe. The front two then extended a solid lead over Martinez who had positioned herself alone in third after getting by Smith. As the race wore on, Madrigal and Chelootz continued to outrun Madrigal with no position changes. At the line, Madrigal took the win by 0.459-seconds over Chelootz. Martinez was a comfortable third but unable to close in on the top two. Yocom fought to fourth early on after getting by Smith and spent most of the race fighting off Evan Komar (Maranello). As they battled, Palmer managed to catch both and in the final lap, passing both to secure fourth at the line over Yocom and Komar.
Drama began before the green flag of the Final as Chelootz pulled off during the warm-up lap with what appeared to be brake issues. After he and his mechanic adjust a few things on his Top Kart, he restarted but would have to wait in pit lane as the field was getting the green flag. Madrigal and Palmer were now the front row with Martinez able to slide into second through the opening corners. The front three established a solid gap over fourth place Yocom quickly as he began fending off the trio of PCR drivers. With Chelootz joining the field at the tail of the pack, he drove with a mission toward the front. By lap 12 of the 18 event, Chelootz had caught Palmer for third and began reeling in Martinez in second. Out front, Madrigal was untouchable as she drove to her first win of the weekend. On the final lap, Chelootz inched closer and closer to Martinez. Getting a great draft down the final straight, Chelootz dove to the inside in the final corner. As the two exited the turn the two made contact resulting in Martinez spinning off and Chelootz crossing the line in the grass. Officials however would place Chelootz behind Martinez in the final order, putting them eighth and ninth. This moved Palmer up to the runner-up finish and Yocom on the podium in third. Overall, Madrigal took the overall victory with Chelootz and Palmer ending up second and third.
As the first group to hit the track for qualifying, the Leopard Junior field started off the day with some excitement for the provisional pole. Nearly every driver saw his or her name at the top of the order during the 15-minute session. Early on Saturday winner Camden Geise (CRG) was quickest on cold Bridgestone tires with Raquel Martinez (Top Kart) quick as well. Once the tires warmed up during the session was when the top spot was like a revolving door. Saturday runner-up Alessandra Madrigal (Kosmic) and Dore Chaponick (FA Kart) were among the contenders before the solid laps by Joel Jens (Merlin) and Robby Seward (Tony Kart) put them to the top of the order. As the session went on, the times improved until Chaponick landed the best time of the run with a 1:0.427 to claim the pole. Jens ended up second, just a tenth back with Madrigal, Sebastian Ordonez (Kart Mini) and yesterday’s top qualifier Karl Weber (Birel) rounding out the fast five.
Chaponick and Jens led the field to the green flag for the start of the Prefinal with Chaponick getting the jump as the green flag waved. Madrigal and Ordonez were able to place Jens back to fourth in the opening corners and set their sights on Chaponick early on. Completing lap three, Madrigal and Ordonez partnered up to draft by Chaponick for the lead as the lead group was a solid seven karts with Jens, Weber, Geise and Shawn Sharkey (Merlin). Madrigal seemed to put some distance between her and the rest of the field as Ordonez and Chaponick swapped the second spot a few times. After Chaponick settled into the spot, Ordonez felt pressure from a charging Sharkey and Geise. After getting by the Kart Mini driver, both were able to relegate Chaponick back to fourth as Sharkey and Geise set their sights for Madrigal. By lap 8, Sharkey got some help from Geise to motor by Madrigal for the lead. She fought back as Geise forced the issue. He came away with the spot as Sharkey was able to put some distance quickly on them. Geise continued his charge to rejoin Sharkey while Madrigal fell under attack by a host of others. Geise set up for a final lap, final corner pass to steal the lead and edge out for the win. After a number of position changes in the final laps, Raquel Martinez (Top Kart) improved on her 12th qualifying position to advance to third at the checkered flag ahead of Ordonez and Chaponick.
With Geise and Sharkey on the front row, they produced two failed attempts at the green. Officials then moved Martinez and Ordonez to the front and they as well played games with head starter Matt Long. Finally getting the green, Martinez used the inside line to her advantage to assume the point while Ordonez was shuffled to the outside and lost a number of spots in the first few corners. Crossing the line for the first time, Martinez led with Geise, Chaponick, Weber and Sharkey making up the top-five. Some jostling around the second lap allowed the front three to pull away as the rest of the field made up a large pack behind them. Out front, Geise got a great run down the long straight and assumed the lead.
After four laps, the groups remained the same however the driver on the move was Madrigal as she had worked her way up to fourth from ninth on the grid to lead the second group and set her sights on the leaders. Following her through was Prefinal retiree Kiel Spaulding (Top Kart) has he posted the fast lap of the race to that point to move into fifth after starting 12th. Lap six, the lead group began to get racey with Martinez and Chaponick taking a turn at the point, which allowed Madrigal to close in and make it a four-kart battle royal at the halfway mark. As they continued to dice up at the front, the field strung out and one by one, began closing in on the lead group. With five laps to go, Geise returned to the point with Martinez and Chaponick in tow along with other to make it eight karts running together. Fighting for position behind them, Geise extended his lead to half a second over Martinez who was now finding pressure from Madrigal.
Two laps to go, Geise continued to make no errors to keep his lead while Madrigal was now chasing the leader with Martinez and Chaponick on her bumper giving her a little drafting help. Working together, the trio ran their fastest laps of the race to close in on Geise’s bumper to receive the white flag. With the pressure on, Geise posted his fastest lap of the race to hold off the charge of Madrigal, who was just not close enough to make a move in the final corner, crossing the line 0.124-seconds back. For Geise, the double win weekend gave him the event winner status and the championship lead after round 1. Martinez held on to third to complete the race podium. Chaponick was fourth across the line with Robby Seward (Tony Kart) credited with the fast lap and placing fifth.
Rotax Mini Max
The qualifying session for Rotax Mini Max was a battle of Kart Mini versus FA Kart making up the fast five. Brothers Dalton and Logan Sargeant led the way aboard their Kart Minis during the run with Dalton able to break the 1:09 mark with a 1:08.894 lap time. Logan was back of him to line up together on the front row for the Prefinal. The third spot shuffled around early on until Patricio O’Ward locked in the spot and was followed by his FA Kart teammates Devlin DeFrancesco and Cole Glasson.
From the drop of the green, Dalton Sargeant had the race in hand. Getting away cleanly from the start, Sargeant would drive to a six-second win to secure the pole position for the Final. Logan Sargeant started outside row one and would lose a number of spots through the opening corners. Both DeFrancesco and O’Ward would move forward to put Sargeant back to fourth. The trio ran a close race for the entire 10 laps with Sargeant able to get back third from O’Ward but DeFrancesco held on to finish second. Glasson lost ground early on to the fight for second and ended up alone in fifth.
Once again, the race at the front of the field was a one man show as Dalton Sargeant went wire to wire once again for the victory. At the start, O’Ward was pushed wide the opening corner, dropping to tail of field, however, he was back up to top-five by end of first lap. DeFrancesco stayed within striking distance in the early laps though he would fall back into the grasp of Logan Sargeant and O’Ward later in the race. The trio put on a good show with O’Ward able to win the battle for the spot over Sargeant and DeFrancesco. Glasson was a comfortable fifth at the line. Sargeant’s perfect score earned him the event title as O’Ward and DeFrancesco leave the weekend second and third in the championship chase.
With more rubber down on the track follow a day of racing, times improved for the qualifying session in the Comer Cadet group. Leonardo Stoia (PCR) was the provisional pole sitter early on and looked to have the spot locked until near the end when Davey Manthei Jr. (Wild Kart) and Zane Smith (Top Kart) stepped up the game. After swapping the top spot, Manthei came away with the position with a 1:17.232. Smith was 0.14-seconds back with Hunter Corbitt (Top Kart) sliding up into third to put Stoia to fourth. Sting Ray Robb (Wild Kart) completed the fast-five.
The Prefinal came down to a three kart battle with Manthei, Smith and Corbitt in position to take the win. The drivers put on a show in the 10-lap race with a number of position exchanges. The race came down to the final corner with Smith able to come away with the win by 0.133-seconds over Manthei and Corbitt. Robb was alone in fourth with Stoia dropping back to fifth in the order.
Rather than three, the lead group was four as Stoia joined the fight for the 12-lap Final. Smith led from the drop of the green with Manthei, Corbitt and Stoia falling in behind. The four ran nose to tail the entire race, never making move. Corbitt and Stoia lost a bit of ground to the top two but regained the lead draft within the closing laps. Coming to the checkered, Smith chose the inside line down the long final straight with Manthei going to the outside. It looked as if Manthei could pull out the move from the outside however Smith went into the final corner deep and held the position. Corbitt ducked down to the inside of Manthei as he went wide on the exit to slide into second with Stoia getting by as well to steal third. Contact on lap 11 between Rocha and Camden Donaldson (Birel) ended their fight for the fifth spot in the last corner, moving Robb up to the position at the checkered. Smith’s win helped put him to the top of the event rankings to be named the event winner with Rocha and Corbitt completing the podium.
The CKI group leaves New Castle with high spirits following a great weekend of weather and even better racing on the track. With the contenders now identified in each of the six categories, teams and drivers will now focus on their attention toward round to, set to go May 14-16.