Article by: Superkarts! USA
A new era has dawned on the ProKart Challenge North program with the opening round of the 2011 season at the Kinsmen Kart Club facility in Dixon, California. Entering its fourth season, the PKC North operation will branch out to a total of five new circuits – including Dixon – to fill out the six-race championship program after centering the first three seasons around one facility. Despite the terrible weather forecast for the weekend, Friday’s practice day and, more importantly, Saturday’s race day was accomplished under sunny, albeit cold, skies. The temperature did not hamper the action on track, as the eight categories provided excellent racing. Austin Elliott made his Senior debut on the weekend, scoring the impressive victory in the competitive TaG Senior category. Brett Buckwalter (S1), Jared Woolf (S2), Ryan Rasberry (S3), Casey Scherer (S4), Glenn McKinnon (TaG Master), Austin Dement (TaG Junior), and Davey Manthei, Jr. (TaG Cadet) also kicked the season off with exciting victories.
The Dixon circuit is a short eight-turn, 3/8-mile circuit that demands a well-tuned kart package –and PKC tested the endurance of the drivers with two 12-lap heat races and a 20-lap main event. With the new expansion of the PKC North series, the opening round welcomed many new and happy competitors to the program, some of which took home a victory, with all of the drivers respecting one another throughout the day with no major incidents.
“We can label this as a successful opening event,” commented Tom Kutscher, SKUSA President, reflecting on the weekend. “The weather put a scare in us and a few racers, but our staff and the competitors stuck with it and produced a great Saturday of racing. I’m happy to see a lot of new faces in the crowd, mixed in with a number of our loyal participants. The people here at Kinsmen welcomed us, and we hope to continue our relationship in the future. This event will help build the new foundation of our program for the rest of the season.”
Taking the headline role for the event was the Peterson Wealth Management-sponsored TaG Senior category where Senior rookie Austin Elliott (Top Kart) stole the show throughout the day in the 15-kart field. Elliott and fellow TaG Senior rookies TJ Fischer (RK Kart) and Kathryn Cornell (Intrepid) made their debut in the category, setting the tone as they took the top three slots in qualifying over veteran David Harwin (Tony Kart). Elliott showed the way in both heat races, while Cornell bested Fischer in each of the 12-lap runs as the rest of the field shuffled for position behind them. At ease with leading the field to the green flag for the main event, Elliott quickly put some distance between himself and the fight for second. Running untouched as he did for the entire day, Elliott would take home the big victory by 2.82 seconds. Fischer was able to work by Cornell for the second position to round out a very young but talented podium. Troy Diede (Intrepid) placed fourth as he beat out Mike Botelho (Tony Kart).
Brett Buckwalter began his championship chase in the Leading Edge Motorsports-sponsored S1 Pro Stock Moto class with a near-perfect weekend. Out qualifying Jason Toft (GP), Buckwalter (Italkart) drove away to the win in the opening heat race. Unable to make the starting grid for the second heat due to a mechanical issue, Buckwalter had to watch from the sidelines for the second round as Toft took the win. Bouncing back for the feature, Buckwalter led all 20 laps of the feature race to earn win number one of the season, nearly nine seconds over Toft.
Starting out last season with two runner-up finishes, Jared Woolf improved on that with a victory at the 2011 opener in the Sunshine Daydream Creations-sponsored S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto class. The fight for the 10 bonus points for top qualifying time was a tight battle, with Woolf (Intrepid) edging out last year’s S5 champion Daniel Langon (GP) by six-hundredths of a second. Woolf grabbed the holeshot and powered away from the S2 rookie to score the first heat win. Poised for a second heat win, Woolf was leading the way until lap five when pushing the limits of his Intrepid, he dropped off course and ended his race. This gave the lead to Reed Stevens (Corse), until Adam Booker (Intrepid) and Sean McDonald (Italkart) snuck by for position on the final lap. As the lights went green to begin the 20-lap feature, Stevens stalled on the front row of the S2 grid, shuffling the field around him as they launched off the line. Coming across the stripe for the first time, Booker led the way – with Woolf gaining the most to sit second. The duo would run that way until lap 16, when Woolf pulled the trigger to work by for the lead. Woolf stretched out to a near three-second advantage by the time the checkered flag waved to secure the victory, with Booker crossing ahead of Jamie Wilson (Birel) to complete the podium. The S3 Novice Stock Moto class witnessed an event sweep by Ryan Rasberry (CRG) as he outran Chris Yettito (Birel) in each on-track session.
In the Fastech Racing-sponsored S4 Master Stock Moto, a sweep was in the making – until Casey Scherer broke through for his first PKC victory. Previous TaG Master winner and champion Rob Soares (GP) made his first S4 start by securing the pole position in qualifying over Colorado driver Mike McDonough (GP). Soares took both heat wins while McDonough, fellow Colorado driver David Conyers (GP) and Scherer (GP) fought over the second spot. The feature saw the field dwindle following a couple incidents. The opening lap put McDonough and two others on the sidelines while on lap three, Conyers suffered a broken radiator after contact with another competitor. Soares and Scherer continued on up front – with Scherer taking over the top spot on lap seven. Soares examined his teammate for a number of laps and tried for a pass, when he misjudged the move and took himself out of the race on lap 16. Scherer would go on to take the win handedly over former G1 driver Jim Kidd (Italkart), with Nick Galante (Trackmagic) crossing the line third. However, Galante was removed from the results with an improper reed cage. This moved Soares up to the third step of the podium.
Glenn McKinnon (Tony Kart) was able to escape the opening round with the victory in the Cambrian Go Karts-sponsored TaG Master division. McKinnon snatched the pole position ahead of reigning SKUSA Pro Tour TaG Master champion Ethan Wilson (Tony Kart) by a slim 0.087-second. McKinnon drove away to a large win in the first heat before placing behind Wilson in the second. The top four kept close in the 20-lap feature, with Wilson leading the majority of the way over McKinnon – who appeared to be buying his time. On the final lap, McKinnon would stick a pass to overtake the top spot from Wilson, holding on to take the checkered. Randy Froom (Intrepid) held off Derrick DeLong (Birel) for the third step of the podium.
Austin Dement ruined Blaine Rocha’s chance at an event sweep in the Bordogna Racing Engines TaG Junior category, stealing the feature win in the 13-kart race. Rocha (Wildkart) showed the way from qualifying to the start of the feature, leading all 24 laps from the two heat races and until lap 13 of the feature – when Dement (DR Kart) took over the top spot. Dement, a championship contender last season, edged out the Cadet graduate to take the win by just two-tenths at the checkered flag. Rocha settled for second, with Ashlie Couch (Top Kart) completing her first PKC start with a third place podium finish.
Making its debut as part of the ProKart Challenge North program, the Cambrian Go Karts-sponsored TaG Cadet class welcomed 11 new competitors to the series. Stealing the spotlight throughout the day was Davey Manthei Jr. as he piloted his Wildkart at the front in each of the on-track sessions. After scoring the pole position, Manthei took the win in both heat races before he would be challenged in the feature. Hunter Corbitt (Top Kart) and Garrett Dixon (Birel) were able to relegate Manthei back to third in the opening laps of the main event. Returning the favor quickly, Manthei reassumed the lead on lap four. Able to break away from his challengers, Manthei powered on to the victory by nearly three-seconds, with Corbitt holding Dixon at bay for the runner up spot.
The SKUSA crew will be back in action for the PKC North program, as round two is set for the All Star Karting facility in Prairie City, CA on March 25-26 – just two weeks after the ProKart Challenge South series hosts its second round on March 11-12 at the Willow Springs Raceway kart track in Rosamond, CA. Plans are in full force for the second season of the SKUSA Pro Tour – with nearly 200 drivers expected to contest the 2011 SpringNationals at Musselman Honda Circuit (formerly P1 Kart Circuit) in Tucson, AZ on April 29 - May 1.