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SKUSA Winter Series

EKN Trackside – SKUSA Winter Series – Round 3 Report
Tuesday, 11 February 2020 10:13

CRG driver Olin Galli scored a convincing X30 Senior win in Round 3 of the SKUSA Winter Series in Homestead
(Photo: On Track Promotions)

The Superkarts! USA Winter Series is wrapping up this weekend at the AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex Presented by MG Tires, and the third round of the four-race series on Saturday provided some incredible action. The 12-turn, 0.7-mile track is being run in the clockwise direction for this doubleheader, and the technical nature of this layout provided more than enough of a challenge for the drivers in the paddock this weekend. Piquet Sports’ Olin Galli (CRG) proved to be the man to beat in X30 Senior, taking the lead midway through the race before pulling away to score the victory. In the X30 Junior and KA100 Junior classes, Italian phenom Andrea Kimi Antonello steered his KartSport North America Kart Republic chassis to dominant wins to extend his victory streak to six straight races to begin the 2020 SKUSA season. Antonelli has not yet been beat in the Winter Series this year and has all but clinched both class championships.

Galli qualified on pole for the Rolison Performance Group X30 Senior class, and led early in the Prefinal before RPG’s Ryan Norberg (Kosmic) assumed the point on lap three, holding the position to take the win to earn the inside front row starting spot for the 22-lap main event. After the initial opening lap chaos that saw Arias Deukmedjian jumping the point, Galli quickly assumed the lead and was never challenged after that, leaving those behind him to fight for the final podium positions. A scrap for the position developed between Norberg and Deukmedjian that came to head on the final lap, as Deukmedjian was able to overtake the point leader and four-time SKUSA Pro Tour for the position. It was a strong performance by Deukmedjian, but the podium for Norberg was his third straight and has positioned him solidly to defend his Winter Series championship on Sunday. Solo Kart USA’s Louie Westover earned his second top-five finish with a fourth-place result while impressive rookie senior Luca Mars (Redspeed) capped the top-five.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli is now six-for-six in SKUSA Winter Series main events in 2020, having won every Final in KA100 Junior and X30 Junior (Photo: On Track Promotions)

The Junior ranks of this year’s Winter Series have been like a proving ground for Kart Republic factory driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The 14-year-old Italian has dominated the action in both Orsolon Racing X30 Junior and AM Racing KA100 Junior, showing lightning pace and impressive racecraft. Alessandro De Tullio (Exprit) topped the 33-kart grid in qualifying and then continued his pace to win the Prefinal, only to get docked three seconds for jumping the start. KartSport North America’s Brent Crews (Kart Republic) advanced to the Prefinal win after finishing second on-track, as he and Antonelli, who had qualified fifth, chased De Tullio to the checkered flag. The final was all Antonelli. He quickly took the lead from Crews and simply marched away from the field to score a 3.910-second triumph to extend his win streak to three races. Behind him, the action was certainly hectic and would see PSL Karting’s French driver Sasha Maguet (Birel ART) advance from his fifth-place starting position to finish second. Crews continued his strong start to the season by finishing third, making it three different nationalities on the podium. Mateo Rubio-Luengo (Tony Kart) and John Burke (Tony Kart) finished fourth and fifth.

The battle for the KA100 Junior win had a much different storyline as a DNF in the Prefinal put Antonelli to the tail of the 20-kart grid for the start. Knowing that he needed to get out and away from the competition, Rubio-Luengo left the chaos to pull a two-second lead in the early going, running clean and fast laps. Antonelli was taking no prisoners coming forward, advancing to second by the halfway point. Rubio-Luengo was setting an impressive pace out front as the final five laps arrived, and he was doing well to keep the gap between and Antonelli as a constant. The Italian had other ideas, and he continued to pick up the pace, cutting into the lead by a few tenths each lap. Antonelli made his move for the lead and the win on lap 20 and would stretch out to a six-second lead over the final couple of circuit. Rubio-Luengo cruised home to second with a four-second advantage over Thomas Annunziata (Kart Republic), who emerged from an entertaining battle for the final podium spot with Anderson Leonard (Tony Kart), Christian Miles (Kart Republic), Crews, Logan Adams (FA Kart) and Raiden Nicol (Tony Kart).

Billy Musgrave earned yet another SKUSA Pro Shifter, driving an iKart to the triumph in Homestead on Saturday
(Photo: On Track Promotions)

The Team Montoya Pro Shifter class featured a battle between a pair of multi-time SKUSA SuperNationals winners and an upstart driver from Indiana. 2019 SuperNats Pro Shifter winner Billy Musgrave and KZ victor Danny Formal faced off against Harden Motorsports Group’s Devon Smith-Harden all day. In the final, Musgrave got the holeshot and took the lead, running an iKart chassis with veteran Chris Lobaugh turning the wrenches, but both Formal and Smith-Harden were on their games. Formal (Leclerc) was able to take second away from Smith-Harden, but the Compkart driver fought back on lap 12 and went back to P2 in turn 2, a position that he would hold through the remainder of the race. Musgrave ended up winning by just over three seconds. Smith-Harden and Formal completed the podium. Big kudos to Smith-Harden for going toe-to-toe with two of the best shifter kart drivers in the United States and not backing down at all.

Orsolon Racing’s Baylor Griffin (Tony Kart) controlled the Elf Oil Pro Shifter 2 class, and he was quick enough to be at the tail of the three-kart Pro Shifter group featuring Smith-Harden and Formal. Griffin didn’t need to battle the Pros, and instead looked after this own race and scored the win by just over six seconds from Chente Salas (Croc Promotion). HMG’s Dillon Johnson (CompKart) completed the podium. In the G1 category for drivers 30 years of age and older, Msquared Karting’s Justin Peck dominated the action to take his third win of the Winter Series, beating out Ken Schilling (Aluminos) and Anthony Stiffler (DR Kart). Peck clinched the Winter Series championship in the process.

Orsolon Racing’s Renato Jader-David simply dominated the PSL Karting X30 Master action to clinch his defense of the Winter Series title, winning all three main events on the season to close out the championship chase. An opening lap skirmish put Solo Kart USA’s Adam Pettit to the tail of the field, which opened the opportunity for Nash Motorsportz’ Brett Harrellson (FA Kart) to fight with Crosslink Competition’s Miguel Mier (Exprit) for the final positions on the podium. Mier was patient through the race as he sat third, biding his time, that is until Sal Sparacio (Solo Kart) began to close as Harrellson started to defend during the final laps. This back up the duo and Sparacio made a bid for the podium to the inside of the hairpin turn eight, but he came up short and could not complete the pass. In the end, Sparacio would join Harrelson on the podium as Mier was found in an non-compliant spark plug in tech.

Jed Perkins dominated the Margay Ignite Senior action all day on Saturday, winning the main event to put his name in the championship discussion (Photo: On Track Promotions)

The Margay Ignite program has been an incredible addition to the SKUSA Winter Series in 2020 and a total of 34 drivers are on the grid this weekend. The entire day was dominated by 17-year-old Jed Perkins, who turned his performance up a few notches from the January opener. In qualifying, Perkins was over seven tenths quicker than Evan Stamer in the Ignite Senior class, and, in fact, Masters driver Dan Breitenstein timed in second overall to lead the over-30 category. On the opening lap of the Prefinal, Stamer made a move on Perkins for the lead in the turn eight hairpin, but he hit the right-hand turn seven curb a little too aggressively on his approach and his foot slipped off the brake pedal and he spun trying to recover. This dropped Stamer to the tail of the field but he was stellar in his return to sixth over the 10-lap run. Perkins pulled away to the win while Zack Skolnick finished second, topping a three-driver battle that included Alexander Searle and Canadian Charlotte Lalonde, who did not attend the January weekend. In the 20-lap final, Perkins made quick work of his competition as he pulled away to what ended up being a stunning 4.467-second win. Perkins’ pace and consistency quickly had those behind him realizing that they were racing for second and, as a result, the fight heated up over the second half of the race. An issue dropped Skolnick out of the battle before the halfway point and, in the end, Stamer completed his drive back to the podium after his Prefinal spin following a race-long dice with Alexander Searle, who finished third. January winner James Perkins finished fourth to keep his name in the championship hunt for Sunday while Daniel Costa rounded out the top-five. It will be interesting to see the father-son duo of James and Jed Perkins battling it out for the title on Sunday as both are in the hunt.

After dominating qualifying for the Ignite Masters group, Breitenstein paced the Prefinal as well but he was given a 10-second penalty for advancing his position after reaching the commitment cone on-track during the formation lap, and this advanced Matt Krechel to the win and the pole for the main event. Tim Hannen and Phil Pignataro finished second and third in the Prefinal to state their intent on the main event win. Krechel took the early lead in the Final and it quickly became a four-driver dice with Hannen, Pignataro, and, eventually Breitenstein, once he arrived back on the scene. The quartet battled all race long, swapping positions, but Krechel maintained his spot up front to score the on-track win. However, Krechel had hurt his opportunity for victory from the opening green flag, having failed to properly slot into his tram line coming to the start, which comes with a five-second penalty. His lead at the line was just not enough to overcome the penalty. This moved Hannen to the win, and Krechel to second. Pignataro finished third while Breitenstein ended the day in fourth. These results most certainly tightened up the points, bringing Hannen closer to the front in what is now a two-way battle.

Nate Cicero made a statement with his KA100 Senior win in January, and the RPG driver backed it up with a second-straight triumph to lead the point standings (Photo: On Track Promotions)

The Haase Karts KA100 Senior category was dominated by a New York driver who made his SKUSA debut at the Winter Series event in January. Running the Rolison Performance Group, Nate Cicero (Tony Kart) came out of the gate with a focus, and he was never really challenged all day after qualifying on the pole. Cicero jetted away in the Prefinal from pole, and then did the same in the Final, pulling away to a 5.526-second win. Connor Ferris (Kart Republic) and Garett Adams (FA Kart) asserted their intentions on the podium in the Prefinal, finishing second and third, and they battled it out for those spots in the main event as well. With Cicero out front and cruising to the win in the Final, Ferris would emerge with the runner-up spot, having taken the position for good on lap 14. Adams finished third to complete the podium. Yannick Rolland and Brian Boly rounded out the top-five.

Miguel Costa took the Saturday victory in the Mini Swift category (Photo: On Track Promotions)

In Speed Concepts Racing Mini Swift, Matias Orjuela (Parolin) nipped Miguel Costa (Kart Republic) for the pole. After qualifying third, Max Garcia (Kart Republic) settled into the lead pack for the 10-lap Prefinal and eventually took the lead in the late going to secure the pole for the longer 20-lap Final. After some early excitement, the race developed into a two-kart battle between Garcia and Costa as they pulled away from their competition. Garcia was content to run second for the second half of the race, but made his move on lap 17 to take the lead. Costa tucked back in and then fought back on the final lap, retaking the lead in turn two. This front-running duo was not done with the excitement, as Garcia stole back the point on the final run into the turn-nine hairpin. It appeared that he may have grabbed back the victory, but in defending for the left hand turn 10, Garcia allowed Costa to run a quicker line through T11-12 and the challenger won the drag race to the checkered flag by just 0.163 seconds. Costa scored the win, Garcia was second and Franklin Motorsports driver Cameron Brinkman (Merlin) turned in a strong performance to complete the podium in third. Salim Hanna (Tony Kart) and Sebastien Wheldon (Kosmic) rounded out the top-five.

Iron Rock Motorsports’ Jack Iliffe (Tony Kart) started the day off on a positive note in New Castle Motorsports Park Micro Swift, topping qualifying by six tenths and he maintained that pace in the Prefinal, edging out Augustus Toniolo (CRG) for the win and the pole for the 20-lap main. The final proved to be a much more competitive race, as Texan James Moss (Tony Kart) led the first six laps of the race. Iliffe would eventually work his way back to the point, but things got interesting in the late-going. With Toniolo closing fast from third and the laps winding down, Wheldon took the lead from Iliffe with two laps remaining with a strong move in turn 10. Iliffe went to work trying to get back by and the final lap was thrilling, as Wheldon held off both Iliffe and Toniolo to score his second Winter Series win of the series, most definitely putting himself into championship contention. Kai Johnson, who led the point standings coming into the day, finished fourth on-track but a jump start infraction for Toniolo and a tram line infraction for Iliffe on the start dropped them both back positions, advancing Johnson to second. Iliffe ended up with the final step on the podium while Toniolo was fifth. The penalties shook up the points calculations and have put Wheldon and Johnson in a tie for the championship lead coming into Sunday.

The final round of the SKUSA Winter Series on Sunday will see nine drivers officially crowned as the series champions, and each and every driver who traveled to Homestead to shake the off-season dust will now be ready to tackle the 2020 SKUSA Pro Tour, which kicks off on the March 13-15 weekend at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans with the fourth running of the WinterNationals.