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SKUSA Pro Tour

Superkarts! USA Confirms 2011 Pro Tour Champions
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 11:50
The second season of the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour completed last month with the running of the SuperNationals XV in Las Vegas outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. Following a record-breaking event that witnessed over 500 drivers competing, the eight championship categories closed out the final stop of the five round title chase - and decided just who would be part of the SKUSA ‘Circle of Champions.’ In each of the eight divisions, the top three drivers earned the coveted national number plates for the 2012 season in addition to the championship purse.

The two headline categories -- S1 Pro Stock Moto and TaG Senior -- were awarded roughly $18,000 in cash and prizes to split toward their championship fund. Superkarts! USA welcomed its first international driver to its champion alumni in S1. New Zealand’s Daniel Bray locked up the class title at the SuperNationals following a successful 2011 season. The 24-year old was the event winner at the SKUSA SpringNationals with two wins, and while the feature results were not as high as he had hoped, Bray scored the second highest total at the SummerNationals to lead the standings heading into the SuperNationals. Overcoming a mechanical issue in qualifying, Bray fought strong through the heat races and the main event to land third in the main event to secure the title. California driver Tom Dyer was his closest rival throughout the season. The veteran was the top performer at the SummerNationals, but come up just short in the end thanks to an upsetting finish at the SuperNationals to close the year second in the standings. S1 rookie Lukas Johnson was impressive in his first season, standing on the podium in three of the five feature races to earn the #3 plate for the 2012 season.

Consistency and speed were two keys to the championship performance put in by TaG Senior driver Brett Felkins. The 18-year-old from California finished the year on the podium in all five main events, including two victories. Through the SpringNationals and SummerNationals, including all the heat races and features, Felkins finished inside the top-four in all but one. Despite early issues, Felkins worked his way forward at the SuperNationals to earn a career-best fifth place in the category. Keeping with the rookie trend found in the Pro categories, 15-year old Dakota Dickerson impressed in his first season in the Senior category. Making his first-ever Senior start at the SpringNationals, Dickerson drove to two podium finishes to end up second overall for the event. Staying out of trouble at the SummerNationals, Dickerson held onto the second position in the standings with two top-eight finishes. A tough finish at the SuperNationals was his only blemish on the year -- and he will proudly carry the #2 plate in 2012. Finishing third was Las Vegas’ Matt Johnson. A veteran of the sport, the 32-year old overcame adversity nearly each weekend to help earn his place toward the top of the standings. A DNF to begin the year, he bounced back the next day to score the second feature win of the SpringNationals. A third and fourth place at the SummerNationals solidified his position in the title chase, and a seventh at the SuperNationals was just enough to keep him in the third position overall.

The S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto category for 2011 was a preview of the future shifterkart stars in Superkarts! USA. Three young guns led the way this season as Kyle Hathcox emerged to earn the class championship. The 19-year old from Arizona was impressive at his home-state event in the Spring, scoring finishes of 1-2. Another runner-up at the SummerNationals followed, including a DNF that kept the point chase close. After qualifying issues put him near the back at the SuperNationals, Hathcox drove like a champion in the heat races to gain much-needed points and a top-10 starting spot. Finishing 10th in the main event locked up Hathcox’s first Pro Tour title. Chasing him were Cory Milne and Nicky Freytag. Milne was hot the second half of the season after an up-and-down SpringNationals. A double victory weekend at the SummerNationals put him in contention. While the Colorado driver recorded the best results of the contenders at the SuperNationals, placing fifth in the main event, it was not enough and he would have to settle for second by just 38 points. Freytag was consistent in the main events on th year, but his heat race results hurt him in the long run. Four top-four feature results, with three podiums, filled out his resume heading to the SuperNationals. A better heat effort put Freytag in position to challenge for the title, but falling down to ninth in the main event hurt his chances and put him third overall on the season.

Jimmy McNeil was head of the class all season in the S4 Master Stock Moto category. Four straight victories heading into the SuperNationals all but clinched the title prior to the Vegas event. The Californian was in the hunt to defend his SuperNats crown until a mechanical issue took him out of contention in the main event. By that time, enough points had been earned for McNeil to secure his first Pro Tour title. Arizona driver Nick Firestone was one of two other drivers to stand on the podium through the year twice. Firestone visited the second step once at the SpringNationals and the third step once at the SummerNationals. Missing out on the podium by one position, Firestone’s S4 debut at the SuperNationals helped secure the #2 plate for 2012. Earning the #3 plate for 2012 is Illinois driver Lance Lane. Thanks to a podium finish on the opening day at SpringNationals, Lane remained in the title chase with a couple of top-10 finishes. Keeping that momentum through the SuperNationals, Lane finished the year third in the standings.

It was an emotional year for Ohio driver Brian McHattie. Racing in the memory of a karting mentor, McHattie drove with determination and a heavy heart en route to the TaG Master title. Three straight feature wins and a runner-up finish put McHattie in the driver’s seat for the championship heading to the SuperNationals. Despite a tough week, McHattie persevered in the main event to finish a strong sixth, and secure the point lead to take home the #1 plate for next season. The battle for second was close, with Nevada’s David Harwin edging out California’s Larry Fraser. Harwin ended McHattie’s win streak at the SummerNationals, backing it up with two top-four previous finishes. A tough event in Vegas kept Harwin from earning any ground in the title chase, holding on to the second spot. Fraser was solid for much of the year, recording four podium finishes heading into the SuperNationals. A qualifying misshape put Fraser behind early, as he battled back only to place 17th in the main event. The early success on the year secured him the #3 plate for the 2012 season.

The battle in the S5 Junior Stock Moto division was a two-driver affair. Austin Schimmel and Alex Tartaglia placed in the top-three last year and returned to the chase in 2011. They exchanged victories at the SpringNationals, with Tartaglia getting the edge at the SummerNationals to lead the standings by 30 points heading into the SuperNationals. Up to the challenge, Schimmel stepped up to the occasion by posting solid heat results and scoring the main event victory. The performance helped him move to the top of the standings and clinch the 2011 Pro Tour championship. Tartaglia struggled in Vegas, despite coming back to finish fourth in the main event and one spot better in the standings than the previous year. Ryan Rudolph, the only other driver to score a feature win on the year, finished second at the SuperNationals to secure the third place in the championship chase.

Unpredictable could be the best way to describe the season in TaG Junior. Both on the track and in the championship chase, you never knew what was going to happen. Heading into the SuperNationals, Jake Craig and Canadian Parker Thompson led the standings, with Austin Dement in third. Craig and Thompson were forced to miss the Vegas event, leaving Dement a chance to steal the title. Despite two wins on the year, Dement was hampered in the chase for the title by a disqualification at the SpringNationals. With a very competitive field at the SuperNationals, Dement battled hard and was the top American driver in the main event with a fifth place finish. The complete performance however was not enough to leap over Craig and Thompson in the standings. Craig, from California, was awarded the class championship off three top-three finishes - one victory included - on the year to beat out Thompson by 27 points. Thompson recorded four straight top-five finishes, including a victory, in his first year in the Junior ranks to carry the #2 plate next season.

Introduced to the Superkarts! USA organization last season, the TaG Cadet class has seen just one driver at the top - Colton Herta. The 2010 champion defended his title this past year with a similar dominating performance. With an event sweep at the SpringNationals, Herta nearly pulled off another at the SummerNationals until a mechanical issue ended his race early on day one of the SummerNationals. With a near perfect score, Herta was recording solid results in Vegas until he was involved in a wreck in the main event, ending his chance at his first SuperNationals win. The plus side of the week was earning his second TaG Cadet title. For his efforts, Herta will once again represent SKUSA to compete at the Rok Cup International Final in Italy in October 2012, a value of $5,000. Washington driver Davey Manthei Jr. ended the year second in the standings. A winner at the SummerNationals, Manthei stood on the podium three times on the year en route to the vice-champion position. Colorado’s Flinn Lazier put in a similar performance, with three straight third-place finishes to secure the third spot in the championship chase.

All eight of the drivers that earned the #1 plate in 2011 will be part of the ‘Circle of Champions’ program for 2012. Each will receive free entries, race tires, and race fuel/oil for the 2012 SKUSA Pro Tour, valued at $2,800 each, all with the goal of keeping the best drivers in the sport and to support its racers as they continue to develop as karters. Honda Performance Development (HPD) awarded the top three drivers in the Stock Moto categories with a Pro Tour prize fund, including $500 to each champion, $300 to second and $100 to third, totaling $3,600.

The 2012 Superkarts! USA Pro Tour is set to begin the weekend of April 20-22 at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Glendale, Arizona for the third annual SKUSA SpringNationals. The venue for the SummerNationals will be the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah on the July 20-22 weekend. The traditional end to the season will continue to be the SuperNationals, with the 16th running of the event set for November 14-18, 2012 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. For more information on the 2012 Pro Tour season or anything related to SKUSA, visit http://www.superkartsusa.com or call the head office at 951-491-0808.