Article by: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine
The recently formed Cal State Karting Series made its world wide debut the weekend of March 5-6 at the CalSpeed Karting Center in Fontana, CA. The inaugural event was the merging of two good regional programs into one new power series that took the best from both and combined them into one. With Saturday practice for all classes and racing slated for Sunday, there was no shortage of track time. Most of the 127 entries took advantage of the beautiful weather on Saturday to log some laps and prepare for the next day’s adventure.
Micro Max was the only class to run their race program all on Saturday and had the honor of being the first official race group of the new series. They jockeyed in and out of the practice program to get their practice, qualifying and racing in. Two drivers were entered in this fledgling class, Preston Anderson and Dezel West. Anderson was dialed in, and quickly set the bar in qualifying. West got faster every time on track, but by the time the main event rolled around he was no where near the speed of Anderson. Anderson never lifted in the 14 circuit final, lapping West by halfway. Seeing how much West has improved over the last year I expect a challenge in the coming events.
Sunday rolled off with perfect racing conditions and Kid Karts taking to the track with twelve qualifiers. Hudson Morrow didn't miss a beat, taking right over from where he left off last year, on the pole with a time of 1:14.327. Joseph Daniele qualified P2 with Dezel West, and Wyatt Wyllie on row two. Morrow went on to win the prefinal, but the main event saw plenty of action late in the race as four drivers hunted Morrow for the win. Late in the contest Morrow looked secure in his bid for the season opening win, but Tannor Hudspeth, West, Kanyon Vermillion and Anthony Willis all closed the gap. West was able to lead a lap but shuffling around in the final laps split the lead pack into two groups. Morrow scored the win with West and Willis right behind him. Hudspeth and Vermillion finished a few seconds later.
Junior 1 Comer was second on the grid for qualifying and saw Scott Huffaker in the top position. Myles Farhan qualified P2 and he was the only one able to keep pace with Huffaker in the heat race. After a little shuffling in the opening laps, Huffaker was well clear in the lead. With his head down and his right food down, he managed to hold on to a nine-second advantage at the line for the race win. Behind him the remaining field fought tooth and nail for the runner up position. Second place changed hands no less than six times with Ryan Schartau salvaging his day with a hard fought 2nd place. Farhan, Noah Garza and Anthony Sawyer completed the top five.
KPV2 posted fifteen drivers in qualifying, with Brenden Baker scoring the pole. Baker, recently moved up to Junior 2 so this was a great way to make his mark early in the new season. Jesse Huaman and Brandon Reed qualified 2nd and 3rd, less than a tenth off Baker. Bad luck in the prefinal saw Baker out early and Huaman take the win over Reed, Parker Thompson, Haley Jenni and Carter Williams. The final was fantastic as Huaman and his CRG led five Tony Karts into turn one. The gap back to the field quickly grew to a few lengths as Jenni, Thompson, Reed and Nick Ramirez sorted out the chase. Huaman’s advantage didn’t last long as Jenni quickly closed the distance with her compatriots in tow. Jenni kept looking inside of Huaman in turn one, but he held on for six laps before giving up the point to Jenni. With Jenni out front, pressure from behind came in the form of Thompson, and together they managed to break the draft of Huaman, Reed and Ramirez. While Jenni and Thompson made it look easy, our pole sitter was doing things the hard way, driving up from the back to the front. The main chase group, led by Baker, joined the second group on the road in the battle for best in class. Thompson made his move as he and Jenni traded blows up front. It was anyone’s guess who might come up with the win, but one thing was sure it would be Jenni or Thompson. Huaman held off the advances of Baker for as long as he could, but it was Baker who gained the final podium position with an outstanding performance. Thompson made a late race move that stuck, robbing Jenni of the win. They crossed the line one and two, well clear of a chasing Baker in 3rd. Huaman and Reed finished out the top five.
The Rotax Max Senior pole went to John Wallace III with a time of 50.745. Jeremy Kane sat a few tenths back in P2 with Scott Saunders and Steven Barros making up row two. The prefinal was not kind to Wallace, whose race ended a few laps early, but up front Saunders and Kane put on quite the show with Bobby Kelley. Kane scored the win and started the long 24 lap final from the pole. Turn one saw Kane get shuffled back to 4th and Saunders take over the lead followed by Kelley and Jorge Cevallos. The duo of Saunders and Kelley distanced the pair of Cevallos and Kane in the early running, but it was only by a few kart lengths. Kelley chased Saunders, but the heavy action was behind, and continued well past the checkered flag. Kane was able to get past Cevallos before halfway, but the time lost was too great for him to make a run at the win. Saunders had it pretty easy up front, not feeling direct pressure from Kelley, but one slipped corner the killer was there to strike. The dozen or so drivers stayed pretty much together for the entire distance with Saunders finishing 1st by just a few feet ahead of Kelley. There was some discussion about 3rd place after the bell, but when it was all sorted out Kane was the driver on the 3rd step of the podium. Cevallos finished in 4th and Wallace rebounded up into 5th.
It is not too often in KPV1 that a driver dominates the class from start to finish, but Jake Drew did just that this weekend. From the drop of the first green in qualifying, Drew was on top. His pole time of 55.275 was 7 tenths quicker than off pole driver Christian Brooks and he carried that speed well into the heat race. With Drew in another zip code, the battle for 2nd in the final was shaping up between Brooks, Colton Herta, Chase McDaniel and Skylar Estrada. The dark horse we didn’t count on was Justice Lepe. Lepe finished the heat race well back and started the final from nearly last place, but he was on fire in the final, turning laps half second faster than the leader Drew. There was no doubt that Drew was going to win this race barring any bad luck on his part, and he did just that. Drew put 13 seconds into the field in only 20 laps of racing. It was so boring out front, I’m surprised he didn't fall asleep and drive off track. It was quite a display of driving by the #29 and one he should relish for quite a while. Behind Drew, Herta, McDaniel, and Estrada played cat-n-mouse, allowing Brooks to close the gap along with a charging Lepe. Lepe was impressive to say the least slicing his way into 2nd place by lap 7. Herta and Brooks managed to keep in his draft, but they had to settle for 3rd and 4th. Estrada rounded things off a few seconds back in 5th.
Jon May was the quickest in the combined Rotax Junior and Junior 2 PRD qualifying. May was just a tick quicker than Parker Thompson and Dakota Dickerson. May and Dickerson where the two Rotax entries, while Thompson made his PRD debut. Jake Craig was 4th overall and 2nd quick in PRD. The two classes had a staggered start with the Rotax duo starting in front of the PRD crowd. May and Craig saw victory in the heat race with their main rivals both falling out early. The final was superb as May and Dickerson were evenly matched in Rotax competition and Craig survived a bevy of attacks in PRD to procure the win. Dickerson never left the rear bumper of May, but May was too strong and Double D had to settle for 2nd on the day. After his heat race setback, Thompson charged to the front after Craig, but a mechanical ended his day, leaving Craig to run solo to the finish. Wyatt May showed speed early in the contest, but a late race attack by Jason Hannegan cost him the runner’s up position. Hannegan finished in 2nd place and Wyatt capped off the podium in 3rd.
Senior PRD TAG Controlled was the best race of the day. With 22 entries vying for position in qualifying it was Camden Geise earning the pole with a 51.848. Elder statesman, Mad Matt Johnson held down P2 with Donny St. Ours returning to the seat in 3rd and Dylan Nobile in 4th. The field was tight, but Geise made it look easy, pulling out a small lead over Johnson and Scott Saunders in the prefinal. Raquel Martinez, in her debut race as a Senior, impressed with a drive up from the very back into a second row starting position of the final. Turn one in the final was a dream come true for Geise as nearly the entire field stacked up behind him at the apex. Geise entered turn two with a 25 kart advantage and no intention of giving it up. Saunders gave chase, as did Johnson, but no one was gaining ground. Unfortunately for Geise and even more so for Maya Gutierrez a red flag came out for an injured driver on course. Gutierrez was unharmed, but the full restart meant that Geise was a sitting duck. Being the fair minded guy I am, I reminded him of that just as they got the command to fire the engines back up. As predicted, Geise got freight trained by Johnson and Martinez, but what I didn’t count on was Geise embracing his inner manhood on the last lap. Johnson, Martinez and Geise swopped the lead for the remaining laps as Lloyd Mack, Josh Harris and Dylan Nobile gave chase just a few feet back. Jonathan Miller was the dude on the move climbing into contention for a podium. Attrition was high and many front runners paid the price, but the lead trio never wavered, as Miller, Ty Matta and Bradley Espinoza sat in wait. Geise made the move of his career to pass Johnson on the last lap with only a few corners remaining. Johnson looked back outside for the last chance setup down to the finish line, but Martinez snuck in and pilfered it from his driving gloves. Geise took a great win with Martinez second, 0.283-second back and Johnson a very close 3rd. What a finish and I was rewarded with a big fat “I told you so” point from Geise at the podium. I will never doubt again.
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
Junior 1 PRD and Mini Max ran together with a combined total of 20 drivers. Nicky Hays set the benchmark in Mini Max qualifying with a time of 53.399, while Jake Drew did the same in PRD with a time of 52.844. Both classes came down to the wire in the prefinal with Drew just edging out Christian Brooks, and Royal McKee doing the same to Hays. The final was one not to be missed as Hays and McKee battled it out right until the end in Mini. Chase McDaniel was in the hunt for most of the 20 lap final too, but a bad run in traffic lost him some ground and he settled for a 3rd place finish. McKee grabbed an early lead before handing it off to Hays. Both drivers are fresh off great finishes at the Challenge of the Americas event held here a few weeks earlier and neither was willing to give an inch on track. Hays regained the top spot only to lose it again a few laps later. Hays put in a final surge with only a handful of laps remaining. It was just enough to keep McKee at bay and score the win. In PRD, it looked to be the Brooks and Drew show as the lead duo hammered out a quick lead over Cooper Whitbread and Zach Arthur in the opening circuits. Brooks led the way with Drew in tow, but their 25 kart length lead began to vanish once Colton Herta cleared the Rotax crew on track. Herta made quick work of Arthur and Whitbread and set his sights on the leaders. Within only a few laps Herta was in the draft and Drew and Brooks were coming under fire from behind. These three are used to racing in tight quarters and did a fantastic job of racing for the win. With times two-tenths quicker than his rivals it was no surprise that 15 laps into the race Herta had the lead. Brooks fought back as did Drew but in the end it was Herta with his hands in the air receiving the checkered flag. A nice move by Drew on the last lap got him by Brooks for 2nd place. Whitbread stayed close for 4th place, but it was a long wait until we saw Anthony Sawyer cross the line in 5th place.
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
Rotax Masters was the final class slated in the race program on Sunday. Always a fun class to watch, and a fearful one to drive, the Masters drivers rarely disappoint. Paul Bonilla bested a field of talented gents in the test against the clock with a time of 51.702. ‘The Crow Show’ John Crow slotted in for P2 while Tony Rossetti and Steve Dzurilla filled out row two. Bonilla’s pace in the heat race was impressive on his way to the win. Crow remained in 2nd place, but Kevin Manning put his foot down and finished in 3rd. The final saw Bonilla make it look easy. Manning and Crow went toe to toe early, but mechanicals later in the race ended both their days. Dzurilla, who was crazy fast at the Rotax COA race, pulled away from series co-promoter Andy Seesemann to finish in 2nd place, but had nothing for Bonilla on the day. Rossetti stayed in the thick of things to keep Seesemann honest, but ultimately Andy earned the final podium position. With Bonilla running solo to a five-second advantage, things are looking good for him in the upcoming weeks of Rotax racing.
With the first Cal State Karting Series 2011 event in the books, it is hard to find a fault. The weekend went off with no major issues and even with a short red flag finished within a few minutes of the scheduled time. Personally, I am looking forward to the upcoming round 2 of the series at Adams Motorsports Park on April 2-3, hosted by So-Cal Sprinters. The Adams track is always a challenge and many of the youngsters have never driven a lap in anger there. We are in for a real treat come April. One of the best things to come out of this series is the online portal calstatekarting.com . Online registration, results, a forum, everything Cal State Karting is only a mouse-click away.