Article by: Superkarts! USA
With the running of the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals XIV last month in Las Vegas, the inaugural season of the SKUSA Pro Tour came to a close in dramatic fashion. Outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, a record-breaking crowd of nearly 500 racers competed for five-days – with the nine championship categories closing out the final step in the chase for the title. The top-three drivers in the final standings -- including the champions – have won the rights to the coveted national number throughout the 2011 season. And for a select few, SKUSA and its series partners offered up a number of contingency programs to further add to the series prize purse.
“The first year of the SKUSA Pro Tour was a successful season,” commented Tom Kutscher of Superkarts! USA. “I can’t thank all of the drivers, teams and series supporters enough for making this inaugural season what it was.”
The two headline categories – S1 Pro Stock Moto and TaG Senior – offered up a total of $16,000 to split toward their championship prize fund. Thanks to a runner-up finish in Vegas, Fritz Leesmann took home the $5,000 championship check in S1 while Phil Giebler’s solid performances throughout the season helped him take home a similar payday in TaG Senior. Leesmann made his Stock Moto debut in 2010 after spending the last few years ranked as one of the top ICC drivers in North America. Scoring a victory in his first regional outing, Leesmann followed suit at the SKUSA SpringNationals taking the opening round win and leaving as the championship leader. Another victory at the SKUSA SummerNationals put Leesmann in the driver’s seat for the title, which he clinched with another solid performance in Vegas. Giebler – the 2007 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year – returned to the sport that helped build his racing resume for so many years. Like Fritz, Giebler was the top dog at the SpringNationals, scoring the main event victory both days. Another win and podium finish at the SummerNationals all but clinched the title – as he locked it up with a top 10 result last month.
Coming on mid-way through the season, former national champion Alex Speed also entered the Stock Moto program and came out successful. A win and runner-up at the SKUSA SummerNationals, Speed nearly pulled off an event sweep at the SKUSA SuperNats and earned his third victory – first headline win – at the event. His performance helped him leap up to the second spot in the title chase and a $2,000 paycheck. Completing the top three was championship contender Clinton Schoombee. A winner at the SpringNationals, Schoombee struggled to keep pace in the final two rounds of the tour, but managed to hold on to earn the #3 plate for 2011, along with $1,000 in cash.
Giebler’s chief rival on the year in TaG Senior was Larry Fraser. Despite not electing to compete in the category at the SuperNationals, the NorCal driver ended up second in the final standings – and collected $2,000 for his efforts. Though Travis Lowe lost a spot on the podium in the main event at the SuperNats, his performance over the three days of competition added to his SpringNationals points total to help him finish the year third in the standings. His Vegas run helped him score the #3 plate for 2011 and a $1,000 check.
The S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto championship chase came down to the final few laps of the season, with Derek Crockett coming through with the title – thanks to his victory at the SuperNats. Entering Vegas behind in the standings, Crockett needed to finish ahead of championship leader Matt Alcorn in every on-track session. The St. Louis driver did just that and defeated the rest of the class challengers as well –going on to sweep the category from qualifying to the main event for his first-ever win at the SuperNationals. The win locked up the title for Crockett, while Alcorn was forced to settle for second in final standings. Scoring the #3 national plate for 2011 is S2 rookie Lukas Johnson. A graduate of the S5 Junior Stock Moto program, Johnson was impressive throughout the year and should be a contender for the title next season.
Phil Conte battled until the end, and his effort paid off with a championship in the S4 Master Stock Moto division. Heading into Vegas with the point lead, the battle in the second largest class at the SuperNationals was a long and difficult fight for the SoCal driver. Heading into the main event sitting 15th overall, Conte was involved in an opening lap incident that left his machine wounded. Determined to make it to the end, Conte muscled on to finish 19th and earn enough points to hang on to the number one spot and the Pro Tour championship. Fellow SummerNationals winner Peter Workum ended up second, unable to close any ground on Conte over the course of the final event. The same went for third place standings finisher Jonathon Allen, who also encountered a difficult end result in Vegas – but managed to hold on to the third spot in the point chase.
Fernando Diaz also held on through the SuperNationals to earn the title in the G1 category. In the open shifterkart division for drivers over the age of 30, Diaz was among the contenders at the SuperNationals and clinched the championship with a seventh place finish in Vegas. Eduardo Martins was able to gain points on Diaz, driving to a podium finish at the SuperNats, but could not overcome the difference to take over the top spot. Roy Montgomery ended the year third in the final tally, completing the season with a 14th place run at the SuperNationals. The TaG Master title went to Ethan Wilson. The event winner at the SpringNationals, Wilson was able to hold off a late-season charge by SummerNationals event winner Steve Wiener. Brian McHattie drove to a third place finish at the SuperNationals, helping him move up in the order to third in the final point standings.
One of the closet point battles of the season took place in the S5 Junior Stock Moto division. Four drivers entered the SuperNationals with a chance at the title, leaving it to the best driver in Vegas a shoe-in for the championship. Daniel Langon ended up being that driver. A main event winner at the SpringNationals, Langon nearly swept the category at the SuperNats, taking the victory and securing the title by 27 points over previous point leader Austin Schimmel. The Colorado driver kept pace with Langon, but the NorCal driver escaped all challengers in the feature race. Texas driver Alex Tartaglia was consistent on the season and was the only driver in the top four not to score a main event victory. His effort earned him the third position in the standings over two-time series winner Christian Schureman. Luis Tyrrell scored the TaG Junior championship title, as he outlasted Enzo Mestre over the course of the season – while Emily Maddison edged out Austin Thomas for the third spot in the standings.
Colton Herta – son of IndyCar driver Bryan Herta – put in an amazing drive at the SuperNationals to stamp an exclamation point on his TaG Cadet championship. Entering the event as the point leader, Herta was forced to drive from the tail of the field in each heat race after a technical mishap in qualifying. Starting 21st in the main event, Herta drove a calculated 15-lap race to end up on the third step of the podium and score the title by just 20 points over second place finisher Parker Thompson. SpringNationals event winner Noah Grey finished fourth in Vegas, helping him to finish the year third in the final point standings. A new class for SKUSA – and thanks to the partnership with Vortex Engines – Herta also earns a trip to the 2011 Rok Cup International Final in Italy as an added reward for the series champion.
In addition to the championships earned by the nine #1 drivers, those same stars are recognized in the inaugural ‘Circle of Champions’ and will receive complimentary entries for the 2011 Pro Tour – valued at more than $1,100 each. This prize package is designed by SKUSA, with the goal to keep its best drivers in the sport and to support its racers as they continue developing as karters.
“The nine drivers earning the #1 plate warrant the credit for their efforts and our ‘Circle of Champions’ program helps promote that,” continued Kutscher. “These individuals are the stars of the sport as of today, and you will know every time you race against them next season. Our hope is to see each of the champions return and defend their crowns in 2011, and help to increase that feeling of stardom within the sport felt in the early days of the SKUSA era. I want to congratulate each driver for their award, and I’m looking forward to seeing them next season.”
The 2011 Superkarts! USA North American Pro Tour is set to begin the weekend of April 29-May 1, with the SpringNationals scheduled to be contested at the P1 Kart Circuit in Tucson, Arizona. This event will be followed by the SummerNationals at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway in Colorado – July 15-17. The season will then come to a close in Vegas once again for the SKUSA SuperNationals XV at the Rio November 16-20.
For more information on anything related to SKUSA, visit the www.superkartsusa.com website or call the SKUSA head office at 951-491-0808.