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SKUSA Pro Tour

SKUSA Pro Tour SpringNationals Sunday Report
Written by eKartingNews.com   
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 12:53
The final day of the Superkarts! USA Honda Racing/HPD SpringNationals completed a near perfect start to the 2011 SKUSA Pro Tour. The Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona and the nearly 170 drivers on hand provided an exciting show from the morning hours in qualifying to the last corner of the final main event of the day. The weather was the best it had been all weekend with comfortable temperatures and a slight wind. Leaving the weekend, eight drivers have put themselves in the best position at claiming the Pro Tour championship, including a couple double winners on the weekend.

TaG Senior

The qualifying session for TaG Senior was an open pit lane, but no one waited to take the track for the 12-minute run as all 33 karts hit the track. Louie Pagano (Birel) was the provisional pole holder early until SKUSA SuperNationals winner Andre Nicastro (Italkart) took the position from him. Five minutes in, the top driver from Saturday’s qualifying session - Mason Marotta (Tony Kart) - moved to the top spot. Nearly every driver came into the pit lane to make changes, looking for some extra speed but it appeared that no one was able to better their own personal best. That was until Matt Johnson (Tony Kart) found Marotta on track and used him as a rabbit. Johnson jumped to P3 to move Pagano down to fourth. Marotta’s 49.777 was best and he would end the session with another pole position on the weekend with Nicastro starting outside row one of heat one. Adam Isman (Italkart) had a great session, posting the fifth fastest lap to complete the fast-five.

Marotta kept his P1 position as the TaG Senior field was clean through the start of heat one. Johnson shuffled Nicastro back to third, while Pagano and Devin Lindsey (Tony Kart) were right there. The group was busy with Nicastro back up into second and a host of others fighting for third. Saturday winner Brett Felkins (Intrepid) was the driver on the move from his sixth starting spot. By the halfway mark, he was on the bumper of Pagano looking for a way by for the third spot. Nicastro kept close to Marotta with two to go as Felkins now was into the third position and closing in on the front two. Nicastro looked at the big picture and did not make an advance on Marotta, who would score the win. Felkins was a close third with Pagano and Johnson capping off the top-five.

Nicastro was shuffled back from his outside row one position at the start of heat two as Marotta and Felkins showed the way with Johnson in the mix. Before they crossed the line for the first time, Johnson passed Felkins for the second spot. A great start for rookie Dakota Dickerson (Arrow) who found himself up to fifth after starting ninth before they completed lap two and quickly to the back of the lead pack. Completing lap four, Johnson found himself taking the lead as he and Marotta pulled about three lengths on Nicastro in the third spot. With two to go, Nicastro was there and Marotta felt it, drafting by Johnson for the lead into turn one. Their jostling allowed Dickerson to close in as well after he put away Felkins. Johnson held on for the victory with Marotta and Nicastro close. Dickerson had an issue in the final corners, allowing Felkins back by for fourth.

Aside from a few drivers at the back of the field, the start to the main event was clean with Johnson coming away with the lead over Nicastro, Dickerson, Felkins and Shawn Cricca (FA Kart). With a push from Dickerson, Nicastro jumped to the point on lap two with Felkins and Marotta rejoining the lead group. The lead group continued to mix it up during the first half of the race with Dickerson taking the lead briefly before Johnson returned to the point. At the halfway mark, Johnson led with Felkins, Marotta, Dickerson, Martin Plowman (Zanardi) and Nicastro in the lead group. On lap 12, Plowman lost ground to the leaders as he experience carburetor issues, leaving five to fight it out for the win. Johnson continued to lead as they mixed it up behind him. On lap 17, Marotta made the move for the lead as the exited turn one. Johnson sized him up and returned the favor on lap 19, brining Dickerson with him in turn 10. As they made their way around for the final lap, Dickerson kept the pressure on Johnson. Coming to the final corners, Johnson was able to get a good run, just enough to keep Dickerson from attempting a pass. At the line, Johnson took the victory over Dickerson with Felkins ahead Marotta and Nicastro. With his performance on the weekend, Felkins took home the $1,000 paycheck as the weekend point leader.

S1

Saturday winner Daniel Bray (GP) took to the track first in S1 qualifying and set the bar for the field to match. Bray’s third lap was best of the session and a new track record for the configuration with a 48.237. Lukas Johnson was second in the order with Tom Dyer making it a GP 1-2-3. Ryon Beachner (Tony Kart) and Clinton Schoombee (DR Kart) capped off the fast-five while both Brad Dunford (CRG) and Fritz Leesmann (CRG) did not mount their transponders and would have to start from the tail of the field.

The holeshot for heat one went to Bray as he, Dyer, and Schoombee made up the front three with Johnson dropping to fourth. Beachner held on to the tail of the lead group to make it five drivers in the front pack. Johnson regained one position back as he worked by Schoombee and set his sites on the veteran Dyer. At the halfway point, Bray held nearly a one-second advantage and it grew larger with Johnson all over Dyer with Schoombee and Beachner waiting in the wings. Johnson continued to attempt at taking the spot away from Dyer, but the veteran showed why he is a two-time SuperNationals winner. Things got crazy in the final corners of the race. Bray slowed big-time, allowing the fight for second to close right in. At the final corner, Bray had no power and they all scattered around him. At the line, Johnson earned the win with Schoombee, Beachner, and Dyer crossing behind. Leesmann and Dunford were able to cross the loop before Bray did, putting him seventh in the order with a rear sprocket the culprit to his mechanical issues.

Johnson brought the field to the front straight grid for the second heat race and performed his first holeshot as a S1 driver. He would lead Dyer, Schoombee, Leesmann and Beachner around the circuit. Bray, looking to recover from his heat one mishap, was into P5 by the end of lap two. A few laps later, Schoombee fell off the pace as Leesmann, Bray, and Beachner all worked by for position. Bray continued to advance, into third by the halfway point, up to second with two laps to go and then took the lead from Johnson as they started lap nine. Bray would score the win by six-tenths over Johnson with Dyer, Ryan Phinny (Wild Kart) and Leesmann rounding out the top-five.

Aside from the rear sprocket issue, the day belonged to Daniel Bray. The Kiwi grabbed the holeshot and never looked back for the victory. Johnson gave chase but Bray posted the fast laps of the race to pull out to a three-second victory and the $1,000 paycheck as the weekend point leader. Johnson, earned another podium finish in his S1 debut and leaves Tucson as the second place driver in the championship. Dyer ran third with Leesmann challenging early. This brought Phinny into the mix. As the laps clicked off, Phinny continued on the charge. First getting by Leesmann and then on lap 11 he worked around Dyer for third. Phinny earned the final podium spot for the day while Beachner worked around Leesmann to drop him to sixth in the final order.

S2

The front of the field looked much different in S2 qualifying on Sunday compared to Saturday. Evan Walters (Intrepid) held the provisional pole while a number of karts sat in the pit lane. Logan Jones (GP) took the spot from him with about six minutes to go. Jake French (Birel) was the driver to watch as he moved up to P2 on his out lap, then found some clear track to take the top position on the time chart. His 48.599-lap was best with Jones dropping to second. Patrick Cushenberry (CRG) ended up third in the order with Kyle Hathcox (CRG) and Arie Luyendyk Jr. (Zanardi) capping off the fast-five.

Holeshot for heat one went to Cushenberry from P3 on the grid but French came right back as they exited turn one to take back the point. Hathcox slid in behind them to form a three kart breakaway with Josh Lane (DR Kart) in fourth and Jones in fifth. Completing lap two, Hathcox drafted by Cushenberry for the second spot, allowing French to put three kart lengths on the two. With Hathcox into second, he cut right into the gap and closed right in on French’s bumper. Lap four, Hathcox drove past French in the same spot he advanced before and put himself at the point for the first time on the day. Completing lap seven, Cushenberry drafted around French for the second spot as Hathcox continued to stretch out his lead. At the checkered, Hathcox took the win by six-tenths of a second over Cushenberry and French. Daniel Langon (GP) was able to run down Lane and work by for fourth in the final lap.

As the lights went out for heat two, Lane’s kart did not move as his powerplant had an issue and luckily the field worked around him without any issues. Hathcox took the lead with French, Cushenberry, and Langon in the lead group. With four to go, the battle for third between Cushenberry and Langon gave the front two some distance and the second pack to close in and steal some positions. Walters moved into the third spot while Langon held fourth and ‘Cush’ dropped outside the top-five. Hathcox went on to score the win with French a close second. Walters ended up third with Langon and Ryan Kinnear (Intrepid) ahead of Cushenberry.

Hathcox held his P1 position as the lights went out to start the 20-lap main event for the S2 group. French held second as they pulled a slight gap on Kinnear, Saturday winner Nicky Freytag (Intrepid), Cushenberry and Walters. Lap four, Cushenberry and Walters made contact on the exit of turn five, taking them out of contention. At the same time, French took over the top spot but it was short-lived with Hathcox back in the spot after completing lap five. Lap six, French missed turn 10, allowing Kinnear and Freytag by for position and giving Hathcox more room out front. The front four stayed consistent with Hathcox holding a two-second advantage over the trio fighting for second. He would be too strong, posting his fast lap on lap 19 to secure the victory by 3.215-seconds. Kinnear held second at the white flag. French looked inside at turn four but the two bogged on the exit. This gave Freytag the room to move into third to put French back to fourth. Kinnear would cross the line second ahead of Freytag and French. Langon ran alone in fifth for a solid result in his first S2 weekend on the Pro Tour.

S4

A number of drivers from the front of Saturday’s main event sat on pit lane for the first half of the S4 qualifying session. Mike McDonough (GP) held strong with the provisional pole after a quick two-lap run and down into pit lane. A 49.362-lap was the bar he set for the drivers still on pit lane, over 10 drivers waiting for the final half of the session and a clear track. With four to go is when the pit lane drivers began posting their out laps. As he did Saturday, Jimmy McNeil (CRG) jumped to P1 in the order on his out lap, dropping the hammer on a 48.923. Nick Firestone (Zanardi) moved up to the second spot on his second circuit, still about two tenths back of McNeil’s lap. They would stay that order with McDonough back into the third spot. Fernando Diaz (GP) picked up the pace over the night and was fourth in the session with Roy Montgomery (CRG) rounding out the fast-five.

McNeil grabbed the holeshot and stretched out to a good lead early with McDonough into second briefly before Firestone took the spot as they completed the first lap. Firestone put distance on the pack for third with Montgomery now into the position with McDonough now back in fifth behind Diaz. McNeil stretched out to over a two-second advantage for the win ahead of Firestone. Diaz finished a good run into third with Montgomery in fourth and PP Mastro (CRG) up into fifth.

Two for two on the holeshots for the day was McNeil as he led the way to begin heat two with Firestone not letting him get away early. Diaz, Montgomery and Mastro held their positions through the opening laps. McNeil was just too strong as he pulled out to another good lead, scoring a 2.3-second victory. Firestone was second once again ahead of Diaz and Montgomery. Mastro had an issue on the final lap and that moved Lance Lane (DR Kart) into the fifth spot.

McNeil grabbed the third holeshot of the day to begin the 20-lap main event with Firestone there in second. Montgomery moved up to third with Rob Logan (CRG) jumping from sixth to fourth with Diaz dropping to fifth. At the halfway point, McNeil’s lead was just over two-seconds over Firestone as Diaz now ran third ahead of Montgomery and Lane. 15 laps down, the situation was the same with McNeil holding the same gap over Firestone. Diaz gapped a bit from Montgomery as he was coming under fire from Lane with Logan and Bouhuys right there. That was until Lane slid wide trying to pass Montgomery, dropping back to seventh as the rest moved up one position. McNeil went on to score win number two and the Pro Tour championship lead. Firestone put in a solid effort for second. Diaz ran to his first podium in S4 with Montgomery and Logan rounding out the top-five.

TaG Master

Billy Cleavelin (CRG) remedied the problems that stole his victory away on Saturday as he topped the charts in TaG Master qualifying. Larry Fraser (GP) held the provisional pole until Cleavelin took to the track and assumed the position on his second lap. Cleavelin bettered his time on lap three, posting a 50.589. Fraser held second until a late charge by Scott Falcone (Arrow) put him into the second spot in the order, moving Fraser to third ahead of David Harwin (Tony Kart) and round one winner Brian McHattie (FA Kart).

Cleavelin and Fraser used the inside line to pull out to the front of the field to begin heat one. McHattie dropped to third in the order until Harwin worked by for the position. The next time by, Harwin went by Fraser, as he was hooked up and put himself into the lead chase position to reel in Cleavelin. On lap six, Fraser dropped a wheel on the exit of turn four. This gave Falcone room to pressure and allowed Harwin a break away opportunity. Falcone pounced and took the third spot from Fraser into turn two with McHattie working by into turn four. Out front, Cleavelin ran to a 1.753-win over Harwin. Falcone ended up third with McHattie fourth and Fraser back to fifth.

Harwin got the shaft at the start of heat two as he dropped off on the exit of turn one, falling to eighth the first time by the stripe. Cleavelin broke away quickly with Fraser up to second with McHattie, Jim Russell Jr. (Parolin), and Falcone making up the top five after two laps. They continued to fight behind Cleavelin as he had nearly two-second advantage on McHattie, who now held the second position. Falcone charged back forward, reclaiming the third spot and then second from McHattie as they began lap six. Lap seven, Russell spun in turn one, dropping him outside the top-10 and moving Harwin up to fourth with Fraser back to fifth. Cleavelin went on to win by 1.489-seconds. Falcone ran second with McHattie third, Harwin fourth and Fraser fifth.

For the first time all day, Cleavelin found himself trailing with McHattie getting a great jump to begin the main event with Harwin, Falcone, and Fraser. Cleavelin reassumed the top spot on lap two and McHattie went into defensive mode with Harwin on his bumper. Starting lap four, Harwin got around him in turn one with Falcone sliding by in turn four briefly before losing ground and dropping to ninth in the order. Six laps in, Cleavelin’s lead was 1.5-seconds over Harwin with McHattie, Wilson and Fraser. At the halfway mark, Fraser was able to capitalize on mistakes from Wilson and McHattie to move into third with Russell and Falcone able to close back in. Starting lap 12, Falcone spun while trying to get inside of Russell, losing his shot at the top-five finish. At the same time, Harwin pulled off to pit lane with an engine issue, moving the fight for third now for second. Just seconds later, trouble again struck Cleavelin as he slowed on lap 14, allowing the fight for second to move into the battle for the win. Fraser then pulled the trigger and worked by McHattie for the top spot. McHattie fought back and that gave Wilson a shot for second. This allowed Fraser to pull away to at least 10 kart lengths. They would line up and cut into the advantage with McHattie able to get back out front as the two to go signal was given. McHattie put down two great laps at the end and scored his second victory of the weekend to establish himself as the championship leader. Fraser and Wilson fought through the final corners but it was Fraser with the second position and Russell right there in fourth. Chuck Gafrarar (Parolin) drove his way to fifth after not recording a lap in qualifying.

TaG Junior

Round one winner Austin Dement began Sunday’s action where he left off last night, at the top of the time charts. The DR Kart driver posted a 50.805-lap to score the pole position for the opening heat race. Bailey Murphy (CRG) was second in the session with Canadian Parker Thompson (Tony Kart) up to third with Jake Craig (CRG) and Christian Munoz (Sodi Kart) completing the fast-five.

Craig was unable to get started and missed the initial start of the first heat but was able to reassume his fourth place position. After a second missed start, the front two rows swapped to put Thompson and Craig now on the front to pace the field to the green flag. They finally got the green flag with the field getting through the opening corners clean. Thompson took the lead with Dement sliding inside of Craig for second to begin the race. About eight karts made up the lead pack early with Thompson getting freight-trained by Craig and Dement to start lap four. With some more shuffling, the lead group was now five with Murphy and Munoz in the mix. Munoz lost ground on lap six, leaving the front four to fight it out for the final two laps. Craig led with Thompson on his bumper as they got the white flag but Dement pushed by for the second spot. Craig had a solid final lap to secure the win as Dement took the second spot over Thompson. Murphy dropped back in the final lap and came under pressure from Sonny Cervelli (Tony Kart). In the final corner, the two made contact and dropped them down the order to put Carter Williams (Tony Kart) and Juan Jimenez (Sodi Kart) into the top five.

The first attempt at the second heat was a red flag for half the field getting caught up in a turn one incident. After regrouping the field, the green flag waved again. Craig got a bad run through the opening corners as both Dement and Thompson worked by for position. The front three remained consistent until the final lap when Craig attempted a pass on Thompson that was not the best, taking both off the track in turn 10. That allowed Dement to cruise to the checkered with Munoz up to second, Jordan Redlin (Italkart) to third, Blaine Rocha (Wild Kart) fourth and Jimenez fifth.

Dement got a great start from the pole position to begin the main event as he had nearly a one second advantage after the opening lap over Rocha, Munoz, Jimenez, and Curtis Paul (Tony Kart). As the laps went on, Dement’s radiator became loose and began rubbing the tire. SKUSA officials elected to meatball flag him off the track and when he ignored them, he was black-flagged off the track. This gave Thompson the lead as he drove to a one-second victory in his first TaG Junior weekend with SKUSA. Cervelli won the battle for second over Craig and Murphy with Rocha placing fifth.

S5

Austin Schimmel (GP) began the day with the top time in S5 qualifying. His 49.671-lap was best in the session. Saturday winner Alex Tartaglia (Intrepid) gave it all he could but was unable to better Schimmel’s time. Miguel Lopez (GP) was third in the order with Luis Tyrrell (Wild Kart) and Micah Hendricks (Intrepid) rounding out the fast-five. Tartaglia grabbed the holeshot to begin heat one but it would be Schimmel who would came away with the win after eight laps. Tartaglia made an error that allowed both Tyrrell and Lopez by for position with Hendricks placing fifth. The second he was nearly the same with Tartaglia getting the better start but Schimmel would eventually work by and take the victory. Tyrrell was able to take second with Tartaglia back to third. Lopez ran fourth with Ryan Rudolph (GP) finishing fifth. The main eventually came down to two drivers - Schimmel and Tartaglia - after Lopez grabbed the holeshot and Tyrrell led early. Once out front, the two returning S5 championship contenders from last year put on a great show with Schimmel completing the sweep on the day over Tartaglia. Hendricks drove a great race to earn his spot on the podium with Rudolph and Tyrrell completing the top-five.

TaG Cadet

The day for TaG Cadet was all Colton Herta (DR Kart). The defending class champion was on rails and swept the day’s action. Herta posted a 55.685-lap in qualifying with Flinn Lazier (Tony Kart) posting the second quickest lap of the session ahead of Sting Ray Robb (Wild Kart), Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) and Davey Manthei Jr. (Wild Kart). Herta won heat one by four-seconds with Lazier holding on to second ahead of Robb, Brooks and Tate Holleran (FA Kart) and the same advantage in heat two over Brooks, Robb, Lazier and Holleran. The 16-lap main event saw Herta pull out to a seven-second margin of victory to position himself as the championship leader leaving the SpringNationals. Behind him was a great fight between Lazier and Brooks for second. At the line, Brooks would come away with the position with Holleran earning fourth ahead of Garrett Dixon (Birel).

Recap

The book is closed on the opening weekend for the 2011 edition of the SKUSA Pro Tour. The Honda Racing/HPD SpringNationals will go down as a ‘mini’ SuperNationals with amazing racing and large fields. The eight championship leaders are now identified, which sets the stage for the SKUSA SummerNationals in July at the Grand Junction Motor Speedway in Colorado.