Kiwi doubles up in S1 as NorCal driver earns one of two TaG Senior features from Honda Racing/HPD SpringNationals to take home $1,000 each
Article By: Superkarts! USA
TUCSON, AZ (May 1, 2011) – Five months following the end of the inaugural Superkarts! USA Pro Tour season, the sophomore year of the organization’s top tier program kicked off in exciting fashion with the running of the Honda Racing/HPD SpringNationals. The Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona was the backdrop for what could be considered a ‘mini-SuperNationals’ – as the level of competition and the racing that took place during the series opening two rounds on Saturday and Sunday rivaled that of the famed annual event.
Drivers in the eight Pro Tour categories began their quest to become part of the ‘Circle of Champions’ program for 2012, with the two Pro classes duking it out for a piece of the $3,500 cash purse on the line. With the support of Honda Performance Development, all the podium finishers in the Stock Moto categories received a new top-end rebuild kit to further establish their support in the sport of karting and the SKUSA organization.
New Zealand driver Daniel Bray pulled off the double as he earned the checkered flag in both S1 Pro Stock Moto features to take home the $1,000 weekend point winner check. In TaG Senior, Northern California driver Brett Felkins stood on the podium both days, including a win on Saturday, to help him score the cool $1,000.
Bray was the class of the field in S1 Pro Stock Moto sponsored by Superkarts! USA. Bray’s only slip-up was in qualifying – as he was edged out by 0.094-seconds by Brad Dunford, who posted a new track record with a 48.453-lap. From there, Bray won both heat races and then the main event by just over two seconds, including the fast lap of the race. Veteran Tom Dyer held off a charging S1 rookie Lukas Johnson for the runner-up step on the podium. During Sunday’s round two qualifying session, it was Bray who edged out the competition and posted a new track record (48.237). Bray was in position to score the opening heat race until trouble struck on the final lap. The rear gear sprocket spun on his axle, forcing him to lose valuable horsepower. This allowed the field to pass him heading to the checkered flag. Johnson came away with the victory, while Bray finished seventh. In heat two, Bray knifed his way forward to reassume the point as they took the white flag, going on to score the win. From there, Bray led wire-to-wire to score his second victory of the weekend and control the championship lead heading to the SummerNationals. Johnson completed his S1 debut weekend with another stellar performance on the day, placing second to Bray. Everything came together on the second day for Ryan Phinny, as he ran consistent throughout the day to earn a third place finish in the feature. With Bray taking the $1,000 check, Johnson earned $500 for placing second on the weekend total with Dyer scoring $250 for third.
With 33 drivers entered in TaG Senior sponsored by Phil Giebler Racing, no one driver stood out as the clear-cut favorite heading into the event. The results on the weekend reflected that, emphasizing consistency and staying out of trouble with the reward being the $1,750 purse to the top three on the weekend. Mason Marotta began Saturday’s round one as the driver to beat as he posted the fast lap in qualifying. Marotta looked to be in the hunt for the win in the opening heat until a broken throttle slowed his pace and put him nearly last in the order. That allowed Louie Pagano to claim the win after holding off Senior rookie Dakota Dickerson and veteran Matt Johnson. In heat two, Johnson scored the win over a determined Dickerson with Brett Felkins now into the mix. Pagano was the early leader of the main event – and was pressured by Johnson until he was forced to pit lane with a loose rear bumper. This put Felkins in the challenger role. On lap 11, Felkins took over the lead and was able to gap the fight for second. At the line, Felkins scored the victory by 1.3 seconds over Pagano and Dickerson – posting a podium finish in his first ever Senior-level start.
Marotta shook off the mechanical issues he encountered Saturday to claim his second pole position on the weekend during Sunday’s session. A slim 0.003-second margin was all that separated his 49.777-lap and Brazilian Andre Nicastro’s fast lap – with Johnson also within one-tenth of Marotta. From green to checkered, Marotta scored the win in heat one with the same challengers in tow while Johnson won a three-kart battle in heat two with Marotta and Nicastro trailing. In the main event, Johnson led for the majority of the race with five karts forming the lead pack. On lap 17, Marotta made his move for the lead as they exited turn one. Johnson fought back on lap 19, bringing Dickerson with him through turn 10. At the checkered to complete lap 20, Johnson held off Dickerson for the victory, with Felkins completing the podium. When the final points were tallied, Felkins scored the $1,000 check with Dickerson taking home $500 and Johnson $250.
Two Arizona drivers claimed victory in S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto sponsored by Zanardi America – Nicky Freytag and Kyle Hathcox. Freytag began round one as the top driver in qualifying. However, a stall on the start of heat one sent him to the tail of the 31-kart field, eventually finishing 19th. This gave the opportunity for last year’s runner-up in the championship standings – Matt Alcorn – the chance to claim the top spot and the race win over returning driver Patrick Cushenberry and new chassis importer and Pro Tour sponsor Arie Luyendyk, Jr. Trouble struck for both Cushenberry and Luyendyk, with Hathcox taking advantage to move into the top five and he eventually drove to the win over Alcorn and Evan Walters. As the field completed the first of 20 laps for the main event, Hathcox led the way with Freytag jumping from sixth on the grid to second. The two exchanged the lead position a number of times leading up to the final lap. With Freytag ahead, Hathcox made a move into turn one but lost some ground as they exited the corner. He came back one more time in turn ten, but Freytag was able to fight him off and earn the checkered flag. Hathcox settled for the second step on the podium, with Walters joining them in third.
Texan Jake French sat on top of the time chart following Sunday’s qualifying session following a poor 19th fast lap in Saturday’s session. Joining him at the front in heat one was Hathcox and Cushenberry, as the trio put on a good show with both managing to work by French after 10 laps. In heat two, Hathcox continued to show the way with French on his tail, finishing that way at the checkered. Both were joined by Ryan Kinnear and a charging Freytag in the main event. On lap six, French was running second when he went too deep into turn 10, allowing Kinnear and Freytag both by and gave extra room for Hathcox out front. Running his fastest laps of the race in the final laps, Hathcox stretched out to a 3.215-second victory. Kinnear would win the battle for second over Freytag and French.
Jimmy McNeil doubled up in S4 Master Stock Moto sponsored by Leading Edge Motorsports. McNeil was at the top of the charts on Saturday throughout qualifying and the two heat races before Jason Campbell stepped up to challenge him in the main event. Campbell took over the top spot on lap two, with McNeil finding himself trailing for the first time on the day. They would run that way until the halfway mark when McNeil returned to the point. Campbell closed back in with two laps remaining and applied the pressure to McNeil. On the final circuit, the two made contact through turn nine and both spun. Campbell kept his engine running and continued on to the checkered flag while McNeil stalled and push-started his ride, crossing the line in second position. A protest was filed and officials ruled that Campbell was to be placed behind McNeil in the final results, putting McNeil on the top of the podium and Campbell on the second step. Finishing third was accomplished kart road racer Lance Lane, making his first sprint track start since the late 1990’s. On Sunday, McNeil swept all four sessions on track, this time with Nick Firestone giving chase. Through the two heat races and the 20-lap main event, Firestone kept it close but was unable to match McNeil’s pace. Last year’s G1 Pro Tour champion Fernando Diaz capped off the weekend scoring the third step in the final.
No class was more dramatic than TaG Master sponsored by MG Tires. Billy Cleavelin was a clear-cut favorite for the main event victories following his performances in qualifying and the heat races. After placing second to David Harwin in Saturday’s qualifying session, Cleavelin won the two heat races in convincing fashion. Cleavelin was well on his way to victory in the main event until lap 13, when his engine began losing power. He would motor on, but not at full power with the fight for second closing. With two to go, Cleavelin was left in the dust as Brian McHattie and Larry Fraser split him down the front straight. McHattie came away with the lead and he powered on to score the victory. Fraser finished second with Jim Russell Jr. advancing up to the podium in third. The same scenario played out on Sunday, this time with Cleavelin scoring the pole position in qualifying and scoring similar wins in the heat races as he did on Saturday. After losing the lead in the opening lap to McHattie to begin the main event, Cleavelin established a comfortable lead once again. About the same time it occurred Saturday, Cleavelin’s engine began to misfire and lose power - ultimately diagnosed as an ignition problem. Once again, Cleavelin would relinquish the lead. At the same time, Harwin was running second when he pulled off track with engine issues, as well. All this action moved the fight for third into a battle for the victory with McHattie, Fraser and defending Pro Tour champion Ethan Wilson. The trio exchanged positions in the final laps before McHattie took the point and put down two strong final laps to claim victory number two as Fraser beat out Wilson for second.
The TaG Junior class sponsored by Italian Motors USA saw two drivers split the main event victories on the weekend. Austin Dement scored the win during Saturday’s action, with Canadian Parker Thompson earning the checkered flag Sunday. Jake Craig edged out Dement for the top spot in qualifying for round one, but Dement struck back with the win in heat one. Craig came back to win heat two with Dement right there. With Bailey Murphy joining the mix for the main event, the trio exchanged the lead a number of times until Craig went deep into turn 10, leaving room for Dement to steal the lead. With a great final lap, Dement scored the victory over Craig and Murphy. Sunday was similar, this time with Dement taking the honors in qualifying, Craig winning heat one and Dement back to the front in heat two. In the main event, Dement was out to a solid lead when his radiator became loose, rubbing the rear tire. Officials black flagged him off track – and that handed the lead to Thompson, who would cruise to a one-second victory to complete his Junior debut weekend. Sonny Cervelli put in a great performance to win the battle for second over Craig.
The front of the S5 Junior Stock Moto sponsored by PureKarting.com was a two-driver affair. Austin Schimmel and Alex Tartaglia – two top returning drivers from last year – led the way throughout the weekend despite a very competitive field. Schimmel struck first, scoring the quick lap in Saturday’s qualifying session with the duo splitting the heat race wins. Tartaglia, however, held the advantage as the day wore on, pushing to a two-second victory over Schimmel – with Luis Tyrrell completing the podium. Schimmel would pick it up on Sunday, sweeping the day’s action with Tartaglia challenging him every session. This time, Micah Hendricks drove a great race to earn his first trip to the Pro Tour podium in third.
TaG Cadet sponsored by Tony Kart West was dominated by defending Pro Tour champion Colton Herta. The second-generation driver scored the main event victory both days, sweeping Sunday’s action. Sting Ray Robb and Davey Manthei, Jr. were able to better Herta’s time in qualifying to begin Saturday’s round one action. Once the wheel-to-wheel action began, Herta jumped to the front and never looked back. After taking the two heat wins, Herta drove to his first victory of the weekend. Robb was able to cut dramatically into his lead but came up short in the end, settling for second ahead of Manthei. On Sunday, Herta never relinquished the top spot from qualifying to the final checkered flag – with a seven-second advantage in the main event. Christian Brooks won the battle for second with another second-generation driver – Flinn Lazier – placing third.
The contenders are set, the bar has been raised, and the excitement has been built up for the 2011 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour. While the increase in numbers for the SpringNationals was a welcomed addition – with plenty of new and returning faces – the projected entries for the second event of the series, the SKUSA SummerNationals, are expected to eclipse those recorded this past weekend. The July 15-17 event set for the Grand Junction Motor Speedway in Colorado is sure to not disappoint.
About Superkarts! USA:
Established in 1995, Superkarts! USA is dedicated to shifterkart and TaG racing and is the leader in the field, currently promoting five regional racing series. Racing programs are currently running in Southern California, Northern California, Hawaii, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa, in cooperation and support from official tire supplier MG Tires. In 2011, the organization is promoting the second edition of the SKUSA Pro Tour, which features a pair of major events in Arizona and Colorado, all leading up to the annual SKUSA SuperNationals, the biggest shifter kart race in the world, held every November in Las Vegas, NV. For more information on SKUSA, please visit www.superkartsusa.com