Article by: Superkarts! USA
Superkarts! USA got its new season off to a great start on Saturday when their ProKart Challenge South series made its first visit to Adams Motorsports Park in Riverside, CA. The historic facility rolled out the red carpet for the leading southern California racing series – and the result was a day of incredible racing, new winners and a lot of happy drivers. The weather was excellent for the February event, as sunshine and warm weather set the perfect stage. On track, S1 pilot Brad Dunford got the ‘gorilla’ off his back in winning his first main event, continuing his rise to the upper echelon of the sport, while Master pilot Robert Marks topped a stacked S4 field to begin the championship chase. Other winners included Race Liberante (S2), Sebastian Scaglia (S3), Micah Hendricks (S5), Howie Idelson (G1), Travis Lowe (TaG Senior), Paul Bonilla (TaG Master) Austin Dement (TaG Junior) and Jake Drew (TaG Cadet).
There is no doubt in anyone’s minds that Adams is a ‘driver’s track’ – and the challenge that was put before the SKUSA competitors was approached with excitement and respect. While there was talk from a small group of racers about the facility’s viability for a PKC event, the end result was an impressive display of racecraft that left those in attendance with a newfound respect for the track and their fellow competitors. It was truly a promoter’s dream, with incredible wheel-to-wheel racing and not a red flag all day.
“I will be honest that I was a little miffed with the comments and subsequent ‘boycott’ by some of our racers, as I was personally disappointed that any of my customers would think that I would take them to a track that I didn’t think was safe for them to race,” stated Tom Kutscher, SKUSA President. “But the class and quality of the racers who attended made me so proud to call them SKUSA competitors. They treated the track and each other with respect – and the racing was amazing! Troy Adams and his crew went above and beyond in working with us, and the result was one of our most enjoyable season openers in years! We will be back to Adams!”
In the headline Extreme Karting-sponsored S1 Pro Stock Moto class, Kartel Motorsports’ Ryan Phinny put his Wildkart on the pole in qualifying over Phil Giebler (FA Kart), but he could not hold back the veteran in the first heat race after leading early. Giebler came back in the second 10-lap moto to pace the field once again, but Aluminos driver Brad Dunford (GP) emerged as the driver to beat, taking control of the second heat race, which provided him with the advantageous pole position for the 20-lap main. At the green light, Dunford pulled the holeshot while Giebler shot to the inside of Phinny, who defended aggressively by moving to the right. The two made light contact, but they were out of the race immediately with a bent axle (Phinny) and a damaged right front tie-rod (Giebler). This allowed Dunford to power away unchallenged to his first career S1 victory. Peter Abba (CRG) would finish second ahead of 2010 PKC South S2 champ Ryon Beachner (Tony Kart), who finished on the podium in the third spot in his S1 debut.
The 2 Wild Karting S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto category featured a thrilling battle as well, as it was a two-driver fight for the win – which saw eventual victor Race Liberante (CRG) and runner-up Nicky Freytag (Intrepid) put right in the middle of a fight with a pair of S1 drivers. Liberante was able to keep the S1 pilot behind him during the 20-lap dice, effectively using the competition to keep Innovative Karting’s Freytag at bay. Vivek Tandon finished third in his Kimball Williams-tuned CRG.
The Select Shifter / DR Racing Kart USA S3 Novice Stock Moto fight was great to watch, as these drivers were able to log some valuable experience on a very challenging racetrack. Second-year SKUSA competitor Jessica Sollberger (DR Kart) was impressive as she took the pole by 0.387 seconds over freshman Sebastian Scaglia (CRG) and then held her competition back to win the opening heat race. Scaglia would step up in the second heat to slip through to take the lead and his first PKC win, and he would follow that up with a great run in the main event. Select Shifter’s Sollberger dug deep to hang with the leader but faded in the late going, although she kept her focus long enough to fend off the determined advances of PKC newcomer Kellen Guthrie (Arrow).
The best performances of the day could be arguably tagged to the G Phactory S4 Master Stock Moto class, as a pair of runs from the opposite ends of the grid kept the fences lined. While reigning S4 SuperNationals winner Jimmy McNeil put his CRG on the pole in qualifying, it was his father-in-law Robert Marks (CRG) who was able to get the holeshot and the win in the opening heat race. McNeil was expected to scrap with Marks at the start of the second moto, but he pulled into the scale line on the warm-up lap with a mechanical, changing the complexion of the entire day and handing the win to Marks, who wrote his name on the inside of the front row for the main event line-up. What this did was set up the best drive of the day, as putting ‘JM’ at the tail of an S4 field guaranteed 20 laps of calculated excitement. While Marks dropped the hammer at the green to run away and hide from his competition, McNeil was busy knifing through the field with razor-like precision. McNeil would advance all the way to second, making moves throughout the race that proved his reputation as the leading S4 driver in the country. Randy McKee (Intrepid) turned in a stellar run to third, as he was in the lead trio all day. Wayne Mello (Tony Kart) and Chris Fosso (Intrepid) capped the top-five, as Mello recovered from a Heat #1 DNF while Fosso turned in his best career PKC effort to advance during every session.
The S4 Magnum drivers were challenged by Adams’ grueling layout, but both Robert Morales and Marc Lewis toughed it out through to the final checkered flag, turning great lap times in the process. Morales would take the win over Lewis in the 20-lap main event, setting up what is expected to be a season-long battle.
To cap the shifter classes, where S5 and S3 ran together, S5 contender Micah Hendricks (Intrepid) was able stay in front of S3 winner Scaglia to keep in-class competitor Augie Lerch (Intrepid) at bay. Hendricks would take the overall E.U.S.I S5 Junior Stock Moto win over Lerch and Tyrrell. In addition, Howie Idelson (Sodikart) topped the G1 class over John Cram (Arrow).
As always, the Tony Kart West TaG Senior class was a highlight, with defending PKC South champion Phil Giebler (FA Kart) leading the way in qualifying over Devin Lindsey (Tony Kart) and Travis Lowe (Kosmic). Giebler held off Lowe in the opening heat and looked set to win the second moto before dropping from the field with just three to go with a mechanical issue. This afforded Lowe the opportunity to take the win over Lindsey, setting up a great fight in the final that featured four drivers dicing for the entire 20-lap duration. The lead duo was joined by Senior rookie Kiel Spaudling (Top Kart) and Adrian Starrantino (DR Kart) in the scrap, which eventually saw Lowe power to the lead with confidence and poise. After taking the lead, Lowe settled into his pace and slowly slipped away from his challengers to win by 2.030 seconds. Lindsey and Spaulding completed the podium, while Matt Johnson (Tony Kart) and Billy Cleavelin (CRG) wrapped the top-five.
In Leading Edge Motorsports TaG Master, Paul Bonilla (Arrow) was untouchable, winning over Ian Thomas (Birel) and Ralph Bush. Austin Dement (DR Kart) handled the TaG Junior class all day, while Jacob Drew (CRG) followed suit in the Phil Giebler Racing TaG Cadet category. Tony Kart West’s Carter Williams was on the pole in TaG Junior, but a misunderstood meatball flag sent him to the pits from second in the first heat, as the flag was meant for Jesse Huaman (CRG), who had lost his chain guard. Dement walked away once the two leaders were sent off the track, and he would not be challenged again en route to a 6.922-second win over Kartel’s Luis Tyrrell (Wildkart) in the final. Williams came back to complete the podium at the end of the day.
Drew’s performance in the TaG Cadet class impressed the entire paddock as the class made its PKC debut. SKUSA is thrilled to have such an amazing group of young competitors in the program and they were all incredible in putting on an exciting show. Drew was able to stretch away to win all four on-track sessions, but both Noah Grey (FA Kart) and Colton Herta (DR Kart) picked up speed throughout the day to close in on Drew’s pace with Grey taking the runner-up position. This class is going to be one of the major highlights of the 2011 Superkarts! USA season.
The ProKart Challenge South series continues on March 11-12 at Willow Kart Track in Rosamond, CA. The SKUSA crew will be back in action before that, however, as the 2011 PKC North schedule kicks off in just under three weeks in Dixon, CA on February 25-26. On the national stage, the SKUSA Pro Tour is promising to take the organization to the next level, as 200+ drivers are expected for the SpringNationals at Musselman Honda Circuit (formerly P1 Kart Circuit) in Tucson, AZ on April 29 - May 1. The race to the 15th annual SuperNationals is on – and these drivers who are hitting the track in SKUSA races are all getting valuable experience on the new MG-SK tire, which is getting rave reviews.