Reigning Pro Tour TaG Senior champion stamps return with win as Dunford earns third triumph of season in S1
Article By: Superkarts! USA
SAN DIEGO, CA (June 23, 2011) – With the season changing to the summer months, the ProKart Challenge South program is aiming at the final stretch of its 2011 season after completing round five of the six-race championship on June 18. In partnership with the San Diego Karting Association, the Superkarts! USA regional series held the latest event at the Qualcomm Stadium on a temporary circuit, roughly 9/10 of a mile long. The fast design of the course provided the backdrop for some close finishes and exciting racing with picture perfect Southern California weather. Among those able to leave San Diego with a victory included headline winners Phil Giebler and Brad Dunford.
The Tony Kart West-sponsored TaG Senior category has by far been one of the most competitive classes of the season, and the championship battle will rage on to the finale in August. Despite the solid number of regular drivers, a few ‘wild-cards’ are playing into the chase in the final few events. Reigning SKUSA #1 plate holder Phil Giebler returned for just his second PKC start of the season and was quick out the gate as he recorded the fastest lap in qualifying (51.482). Making his first start of the season, veteran John Zartarian was second quickest – with point leader Travis Lowe clocking in third ahead of championship rivals Devin Lindsey and Billy Cleavelin. Trouble struck early for Lowe in the opening heat race, retiring after two laps with a mechanical issue and then Cleavelin just four laps later. Out front, Giebler and Zartarian were greeted by P6 starter and SKUSA Pro Tour winner Matt Johnson. After a 10-lap scrap, Johnson emerged with the win over Zartarian and Giebler, with Lindsey a solid fourth. The front four continued their fight into heat two, joined by the charging Lowe and Cleavelin, who started at the back. In just six laps, Lowe was into the lead and drove on to a near two-second win over Lindsey and Johnson, with Cleavelin up to fifth behind Giebler. With the stage set for a 15-lap shoot-out, trouble hit some of the front-runners. Lowe was the first to drop off the pace, eventually running with a flat tire but muscling through to finish fifth. Johnson would retire on lap three with a broken coil wire, leaving Giebler, Lindsey and Cleavelin to break away from Zartarian to make it a three-driver fight. The final five laps were wild, as the drivers exchanged position numerous times, with Giebler coming away the victor in a photo finish – just 0.016-seconds ahead of Cleavelin at the line – with Lindsey in tow. John Wallace III was fourth, just two seconds back of the fight.
The battle in the Extreme Karting-sponsored S1 Pro Stock Moto championship has been intriguing to watch – with nothing close to being decided. Defending class champion Clinton Schoombee began the San Diego round on the right path, earning 10 extra bonus points for posting the fast lap in qualifying (49.971), with Ryon Beachner and Peter Abba both four-tenths off. Championship leader Brad Dunford was unable to post a lap, after not reporting to the grid on time. Schoombee was well out ahead in heat one until an electrical problem put him on the sideline. This gave the lead to Beachner – until a charging Dunford stole the position as the white flag waved. On the final lap, Dunford made contact with an S2 driver, but still managed to cross the line first. Officials, however, penalized Dunford for the contact, giving Abba the heat win and Dunford back to second with Beachner third. Abba led the way to begin heat two, before Dunford took over the spot quickly. As Dunford led, Schoombee closed in lap by lap until making the pass for the lead as they completed lap nine. After an intense battle on the final lap, Schoombee held off Dunford at the line by just five-hundredths of a second with Beachner up to third. As they lined up to begin the 15-lap main event, Beachner was sidelined after losing a wheel on the warm-up. Once the lights went out to begin the race, Schoombee fell to the back of the mixed field after getting off the line very slowly. This left Dunford and Abba out front with the point leader pulling away early and quickly. As the laps clocked off, Schoombee continued charging forward but came up four-tenths short at the end, with Dunford scoring the checkered flag for his third victory of the season – with Abba in third.
The 2 Wild Karting-sponsored S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto class continued showing strong numbers, highlighted by a number of future SKUSA S1 stars at Qualcomm. Current point leader and SKUSA Pro Tour race winner Nicky Freytag led the way through qualifying with a 50.113 lap time as championship rival Vivek Tandon posted the second quickest ahead of Billy Musgrave, making his first season start. Freytag and Musgrave went back and forth with the lead in heat one until lap nine when Freytag made contact with another driver from another class, resulting in him unable to finish. That put him seventh in the results as Musgrave took the win by two seconds over Tandon – with 2010 SKUSA Pro Tour S5 champion Daniel Langon winning the fight for third. Freytag’s troubles continued as he retired after just two laps in heat two with a mechanical issue. Up front, Musgrave and Tandon continued their battle. Tandon was able to grab the edge on the final lap for the win, with Musgrave crossing ahead of Langon. Despite all the trouble Freytag encountered, he was up to the challenge of another drive forward from the back of the grid. By the fourth lap of the main event, Freytag positioned himself in P1, jumping by both Musgrave and Tandon. At the checkered, Freytag scored his second PKC victory by just over four seconds. The other three battled for the second spot until lap 12 when Tandon attempted a pass by Langon and spun, collecting Musgrave in the process. This sent Tandon and Musgrave to the tail of the field, leaving Langon to cruise to second with Bryan Lemon up to third.
For much of the season, the G-Phactory-sponsored S4 Master Stock Moto category has been the domain of Jimmy McNeil. Both at the Pro Tour level and at the previous four PKC events, McNeil has shined with five of six main event victories and one runner-up finish to cap off his season resume. His rivals stepped up their game in San Diego, led by Willy Musgrave – who made his first season start. Musgrave showed the way in qualifying with a 50.553-lap, just 85-thousandths quicker than series regular Randy McKee. Doug Hayashi was third quickest with McNeil fourth and Steve Donia fifth. Musgrave got away cleanly to begin heat one, going on to score the win as they shuffled behind him. At the checkered, McNeil worked his way to second with Donia in third. The second heat was a close one, as you could have thrown a blanket over the top three when they crossed the line after 10 laps. Musgrave once again earned the win with McNeil just 34-thousandths behind and Marks in third, all within a tenth of a second at the stripe. The trio continued their fight into the 15-lap main event, each leading once up to lap nine – when Marks went wide and spun while leading. That put him to the tail of the field and left Musgrave and McNeil to duke it out. McNeil took over the lead as Marks spun, and went on to score his fourth PKC main event victory, just half a second ahead of Musgrave. Donia completed the podium, with Hayashi and McKee rounding out the top-five.
Five drivers were able to score event sweeps, leading the way all day through qualifying, the two heat races, and the main event. Kellen Guthrie helped his cause for the Select Shifter/DR Kart-sponsored S3 Novice Stock Moto championship with a clean sweep, including the main event fast lap 10-point bonus. Point leader Jessica Sollberger moved herself forward after a slow qualifying, starting second in the main event until an opening lap wreck dropped her to the tail of the field and out of contention. Vatche Tatikian and Austin Countryman completed the podium. While the Leading Edge Motorsports-sponsored TaG Master category has enjoyed a competitive season with no one driver standing out, Tom Nields did just that in San Diego. The karting legend returned to the driver’s seat, taking part in his first PKC event and dominating the day’s proceedings with a nine-second victory in the main event. Ryan Rush placed second, with point leader Steve Wiener in third. Colton Herta continued his streak in the Phil Giebler Racing-sponsored TaG Cadet division, earning his fourth straight main event victory. The event sweep also helped to add to his lead in the Rok Cup International Final Shoot-out, with the season finale to decide just who will take part in the October 16 event in Italy, thanks to SKUSA and Vortex Engines. Christian Brooks and Noah Grey completed the podium on the day. Marc Lewis and Micah Hendricks ran uncontested in the S4 Magnum and the S5 Junior Stock Moto division, sponsored by EUSI.
Carter Williams backed up his first victory of the season in the EUSI-sponsored TaG Junior class last month with his second in San Diego. Visiting driver Mason Daughters from Missouri led the way in qualifying with a 52.901, bettering Williams’ time by just under two-tenths. Daughters led the first half of heat one before Williams took over the position and earned the race win. In heat two, Daughters returned the favor, leading all but the first lap en route to the checkered flag. The duo was joined up front in the main event by SKUSA Pro Tour winner Parker Thompson, who worked his way forward from a tough qualifying result. Daughters led to begin the race, with Thompson slotting into second ahead of Williams. They ran that way until four laps to go when Williams pulled the trigger. Williams worked by Thompson and then two laps later, around Daughters for the lead. On lap 14, Daughters’ carburetor came loose, forcing him to pull off. This moved Thompson up to second, but unable to challenge for the victory as Williams took the checkered flag. PKC-newcomer Kyler Repella finished third to complete the podium.
Next on the docket for Superkarts! USA, the team will travel back north for round four of the ProKart Challenge North program in Monterey, California. The July 1-2 event will be the final for SKUSA prior to the SKUSA Mothers® SummerNationals on July 15-17 at Grand Junction Motor Speedway in Colorado. Information on both events can be found at www.superkartsusa.com.
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.