|November 20, 2009 News
|EKN Trackside: SKUSA SuperNationals XIII - Friday Report
It has begun…the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals XIII has begun as the first official day of action completed outside the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Qualifying and the first round of the nine classes were contested with the Vegas Strip in the back drop. Many thought the ’08 edition was the best karting event ever in North America. This year’s event however is shaping up to the biggest and brightest karters and motorsports enthusiast have ever seen. With the grids full, emphasis was put on the qualifying session while the opening round of heat races mapped out the type of racing and passing zones we would see throughout the weekend.
Official action got underway on Friday morning with the TaG Junior drivers taking to the temporary road course at the Rio Hotel and Casino. Broken into two groups, Michael Tejeda led the way early on in the opening slower group. As the 12-minute session progressed Felipe Fraga and Austin De Ment moved to the top of the charts. When the checkered flag waved, De Ment secured the provisional pole position with a lap of 44.507 in his Top Kart.
After a very brief break, the faster TaG Junior took to the track. As expected, it was not long before the overall order rotated, with the Group 1 drivers taking over the top of the charts. Jake Dennis quickly jumped to the P1 position, coming under constant attack from Yago Cesario and Tristan DeGrand. In the end, Dennis secured the pole position with a time of 44.349 in his Top Kart.
The order was further shuffled after technical inspection, with Austin De Ment, Micheal Tejeda, Joel Jens, Miguel Lopez and Adam Dowler all disqualified.
The first Heat race of the day featured the Group A and Group B drivers going head-to-head. Starting P1, Jake Dennis got away cleanly when the green flag, holding off early challenges from Kiel Spaulding, Raquel Martinez and Yago Cesario. As heat was built up in the tires, Spaulding began pressuring Dennis for the lead. Eventually finding a way past the Top Kart duo steadily established a gap on Cesario and Martinez battling for third. As the 12-lap race affair entered the closing stages, England’s Dennis retook the lead from California’s Spaulding, while Yago Cesario took over third place. When the checkered flag waved, Dennis had scored a 0.895-second win over Spaulding. Yago Cesario finished third, crossing the stripe ahead of Martinez and Yuri Cesario.
TaG Junior drivers returned to the track in Heat two, with the Group C and D drivers doing battle. While Tristan DeGrand started P1, his run at the front was short lived however, as Luis Tyrell soon worked his way into the lead. By lap three the order had further shuffled, with Austin Self becoming the new leader, ahead of Tyrell, Pierre Gasly, Luca Caspari and Jesse Lazare. By the halfway point of the 12-lap race, Self had a half second lead over Tyrell, who was coming under increased pressure from Gasly. Just as the white flag waved for the final lap, Gasly found a way past Tyrrell for second place. The excitement was not over however, as Gasly immediately challenged Self for the lead. While able to briefly get alongside the leader, it ultimately cost him a position, as Lazare executed a dynamite inside move to steal second place just prior to the checkered flag. Out front, Self captured the win in his Birel chassis. Behind the front trio at the stripe were a recovering DeGrand and Marco Tulio.
Next up was the G1 karts. Jason Campbell led the way early on, before Kelly Baker, having sat in the pits in the opening laps, took over the top. With the battle for the pole position going down to the final few laps, Antonio Dettori earned the provisional pole position on his 11th lap, turning a fast time of 42.452 in his Energy chassis.
After two extra warm-up laps due to problems with the grid, the first standing start of the day featured Kelly Baker getting away cleanly to take the lead over Doug Cox and Fernando Diaz. Attacking the temporary road course, Baker quickly established a one second lead over second place. Behind the Italkart driver, Diaz and Cox battled for P2, with Diaz taking the position on lap four. Cox fell a further position a few corners later, as Antonio Dettori found a way past into third place. As the race progressed, Baker further expanded his lead over second place to more than two seconds. In the end, Baker ran uncontested to the victory ahead of Diaz, Dettori, Cox and Andre Martins.
When the KF2 karts rolled on-course, it quickly became apparent that multiple drivers would be in contention for the pole. Maxime Bornert, Alex Barron, Nicolaj Moller-Madsen battled for the top spot early, with Alex Speed, Jake Lloyd and Brandon Masiano joining the fray. In the end, CRG’s Maisano captured the pole position with a time of 42.736, holding off a late challenge from Senior rookie Gustavo Menezes.
Following a brief break, the KF2 pilots were behind the wheels and on track for their opening 12-lap Heat race. Utilizing a rolling start, the initial attempt was waved off with cars not properly aligned. Nicolaj Moller-Madsen enjoyed the best launch of the leaders, taking the top spot at the end of lap one, ahead off Alex Barron, Neil Alberico. The order further shuffled by the completion of lap two, as Alberico found a way past Barron. As second through fourth battled for position, Moller-Madsen established a three second lead. As the race progressed, Maisano, having started P1 and being involved in some first turn contact, slotted into third just ahead of the hard charging KF2 rookie Taylor Miinch. Top-three changed once again on lap six, as Miinch passed Barron for third place. While the final stages of the Heat race featured plenty of action in the back half of the top-10, no one was going to catch Moller-Madsen’s Energy chassis. Maisano and Miinch completed the top-three, leading Baron and Alex Speed to the checkered flag.
The opening of two S3 groups featured Jason Toft quickly working his way to the top of the speedcharts in his GP chassis, turning a fast lap of 42.355. While Tommy Thompson got within striking distance, he was unable to knock Toft from the P1 spot when the checkered flag waved.
Almost immediately after the karts rolled off track, the second batch of S3 drivers rolled out of the pitlane. As expected the faster group was almost immediately up to speed. Early on Memo Gidley led the way, before the current EKN Driver Rankings No. 1 Stock Moto driver Tyler Bennett jumped to the top-one spot via a lap of 42.286. Just as numerous drivers started pitting to save their tires for the Heat races, Tom Dyer took over the P1 spot with a time of 42.194 on lap seven. The GP race pilot held the position until the checkered flag, holding off Bennett.
Ending the morning activities, the opening S3 Heat race featured the Group A and B drivers going head-to-head. Tom Dyer, starting P1, got away cleaning from the standing start, holding off the challenges Tyler Bennett, Eddie Olpin and Jason Toft. As the tires got up to temperature, Dyer and Bennett began establishing a multi-kart advantage over Olpin and the rest of the top-10. As the race progressed, GP’s Dyer utilized repeated fastest race laps, to slowly but steadily get away from Bennett. Behind the lead duo, Toft improved one place on lap seven, taking over third place. The order remained unchanged until the checkered flag waved, with Dyer taking the victory over Bennett and Toft, while Olpin and Brad Dunford, having recovered from a poor start, completed the top-five.
Almost immediately after the karts were off track, the Group C and D S3 drivers lined up for their 12-lap Heat race. Former Champ Car driver Memo Gidley got a good launch when the lights went out, holding the P1 position over Jacob Neal, Keenan Schmitke, Kyle Wiegand and Christopher Barkley. With Gidley and Neal running in close formation, the duo pulled out a two second gap over new third place driver Wiegand in the opening three laps. After several laps of no change among the top-five, the order suddenly shuffled on lap seven, Barkley took over third place in front of Wiegand and Schmitke. On lap later, Neal decided he wanted to lead the way, finding a way past Gidley. From that point forward, the CRG driver never relinquished the lead, taking a 0.347s win over Gidley. Barkley completed the top-three, leading Wiegand and Schmitke to the stripe.
After a brief lunch break and warm-up for the afternoon groups, the action resumed with the SuperPro Group B karts on-track for their lone qualifying session. After the tires warmed-up, the battle for the top-spot heated up, with Mathew Mair and recent Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. swapping the top spot, just ahead of Seppo Monkkonen and Alan Sciuto. As the 12-minute session passed the halfway mark, Jeremy Iglesias took over the top spot ahead of former EKN Driver of the Year Sciuto. Marco Ardigo joined the fight for the provisional pole, moving into the P2 place. In the Intrepid’s Iglesias ended the session on the provisional pole position with a time 41.371.
Next on track was SuperPro Group A, the faster group, for their 12-minute session. With many of the drivers electing to wait before going out for a fast lap, IndyCar Rookie of the Year Raphael Matos led the way early on, just ahead of Daniel Bray, Phil Giebler and seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher. By lap four the order among the top-five had shuffled, with Matt Jaskol taking over the P1 spot. His run heading the timing sheets was short lived however, as Davide Fore, Norman Nato and Sebastian Buemi all taking turns in the P1 position. The next driver to take over the provisional pole position was Jonathan Thonon, edging the best time from Group B. As the 12-minute session came to a close, it was anyone’s guess who would secure the pole. Bas Lammers, having taking over the top spot on lap eight in his Intrepid, in the end held the place all the way to the checkered flag.
With qualifying completed the headline SuperPro drivers returned to their seats for their opening Heat race. After multiple attempts to get the grid in the right order, the race eventually got underway, with Jonathan Thonon getting the best launch of the front-runners, leading the opening lap ahead of Jeremy Iglesias, polesitter Bas Lammers, Anthony Abase and David Fore. Then suddenly the order changed up front at the start of lap three when Thonon suddenly slowed, giving Lammers the lead over Iglesias. Thonon would eventually pull off with a broken exhaust. One lap later, Iglesias was out front of Lammers, Abbasse, Fore and Kozlinski. Behind the lead pack, seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher was on the move advancing from deep in the field to 13th place. Out-front, Iglesias was steadily pulling away from Lammers, who in turn was edging away from Fore who was forced to defend his position from the reigning world champion Kozlinski. Just the field got set to get the checkered flag, the top-five shuffled a final time, as Kozlinski slotted into third, before Anthony Abbasse and Gary Carlton came together sending the duo to the rear of the field. Iglesias in the end proved unbeatable in his Intrepid, scoring a commanding 0.618s win over Lammers and Kozlinski. Completing the top-five were Norman Nato and Fore.
The TaG Master drivers got behind the wheel next, taking part in a 12-minute qualifying run. Upon the tires getting up to ideal operating temperature, Larry Fraser led the way ahead of Billy Cleavelin, Kip Foster and JP Cadoux. As the 12-minute session passed the halfway mark, the battle for the pole position heated up, with Fraser and Cleavelin separated by less than a tenth of a second. With the vast majority of the front-runners pulling in early to save their tires for the Heat races, the GP race pilot secured the pole position with a lap 45.002 at the waving of the checkered flag.
The TaG Master drivers were next on-course for their Heat One rolling start. Timing the green flag to perfection, Larry Fraser and Kip Foster held their P1 and P2 position into turn one. Unfortunately the rest of the field was less fortunate, with a multi-car collision in the hairpin bringing out the red flag. Upon clearing the incident, a full restart was performed, with Fraser and Foster again getting a good launch to hold the top-two spots ahead of Billy Cleavelin, Eric Jones and JP Cadoux. Fraser, having held off some early pressure from Foster, soon had a half second lead. That advantage however vanished as the field reached the midway point of the 12-lap race, when Foster passed Fraser for the lead. That proved just the start of the battle for the win, as Fraser retook the top spot one lap later. The battle for third was just as heated, as Jones found a way past Cleavelin. Battling all the way to the checkered flag, GP’s Fraser scored the win over Foster and Cleavelin. Jones and Chadoux ended the 12-lap affair in fourth and fifth.
Up next at was the youngest shifter kart pilots via the S5 class. With the pole for the Heat races up for grabs, Lukas Johnson took the early lead, ahead of Reid Arnold, Dylan Kwasniewski, Austin Schimmel and Tyler Kingston. Just before the five-minute mark, Corey Neveau and Kiel Spaulding took over the top two positions. While second and third place changed hands on the final lap between Johnson and Neveau, Spaulding earned the pole via a lap of 43.807 in his Top Kart entry.
As the lights came on, the S5 drivers took to the track for their Heat One race. Kiel Spaulding, getting what appeared to be a jumped start, led the way into and exiting turn one. Behind the early race leader, Lukas Johnson quickly slotted into second place, ahead of Dylan Kwasniewski, Corey Neveau and Reid Arnold. Over the course of the opening three laps, Spaulding rapidly established a nearly two second advantage. Just as it appeared the top-five would run unchanged to the checkered flag, Kwasniewski fell to sixth, while Arnold and AJ Myers repeatedly swapped third place. Spaulding, never coming under any pressure of note, scored the win over Johnson, Arnold, Myers and Neveau.
Under continued bright and sunny conditions, the S4 drivers rolled on-course for their lone qualifying session. Taking the early advantage was Mike Jones, topping the speed charts ahead of Kyle Hathcox, Paul Russell, Todd Edgington, and Jason Campbell. Just as the 12-minute session approached the halfway mark, the red flag was shown for contact between P2 driver Edgington and other drivers on the back straight. With no apparent injuries, the session resumed a short time later. While all the drivers were able to quickly get back up to speed, no one was able to better the 43.383 posted by Zanardi’s Jones.
The last shifter kart race of day one featured the 12-lap Heat One race for the S4 class. In what was a clean start, Mike Jones led the field into turn one, with Todd Edgington, Paul Russell, Kyle Hathcox and Jeff Littrell in hot pursuit. Showing good speed on cold tires, Jones quickly had a multi-kart advantage. That order soon shuffled, as Russell spun and had to wait for an opening before resuming his race. Just as it appeared Jones was on his way to a comfortable win, he slowed on the back straight with the carburetor falling off, giving Edgington the lead over Hathcox, Littrell, Jared Woolf and Steve Perdue. The order was not finalized, as Hathcox not only challenged Edgington for the lead, but found a way past. When the checkered flag waved the GP of Hathcox had scored the win over Edgington, Littrell, Woolf and late race charger Craig Sender.
The final qualifying sessions of the event featured the TaG Senior group taking to the track. Broken into two groups, Group One was first on-track. Upon the drivers building heat into their tires, former Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was the early driver to beat, in front of Justin Copelin, Brendan Phinny, Matt France and Chris Scribner on the timing monitors. As the six-minute mark of the 12-minute qualifying session was reached, Hugo Ouellette joined the fray slotting into P3. No-one could match Wheldon’s 43.935, giving the Top Kart driver the provisional pole position.
Immediately upon the track becoming clear, the faster Group 1 TaG Senior pack was on-track. Upon getting the tires up to temperature, Bobby Kelley became the early leader, just ahead of Taylor Miinch, David Sera and Miles Maroney. Sera became the provisional polesitter on lap three, bettering the fast time from Group Two as he moved to the top of the charts in the 12-minute session. Upon the five minute mark being broken, things really heated up as Michael Valiante, Andre Nicastro, Gustavo Menezes and Stepanova Nekeel trading places among the top-five. Only decided in the closing stages, Nicastro secured the pole with a lap of 43.666 in his Italkart entry.
The final races of the day featured the large TaG Senior fields rolling on-course. First up was Group A vs. Group B. Going two and three wide into the first turn hairpin, David Sera emerged with lead at the end of lap one ahead of Andre Nicastro and Justin Coplen. Nicastro, having started P1, quickly responded by retaking the top-spot by lap three. With Sera right on his rear bumper, the duo steadily pulled away from Coplen, Taylor Miinch, Brett Buckwalter and Gustavo Menezes battling for the remainder of the top-five. Fighting for position all the way to the checkered flag, Nicastro held off Sera for a narrow win. Coplen, having fallen back to fourth, crossed the stripe, after contact with Buckwalter. Completing the top-five were Miinch and Menezes.
Upon gathering all the stranded cars from the track, the Group C and D race pilots were set to get the green flag for the final race of the day. Unfortunately the initial start was waved off when the starter did not like how the field was not lined up. In what was an exiting launch, Michael Valiante passed Bobby Kelley for the lead. Behind the duo, John Zartarian took over third place in front of Dan Wheldon and Remo Ruscitti. The order changed after just three laps, as Wheldon worked his way into third place. Out front, Valiante and Kelley were on a charge, building full second advantage on the chasing pack. As the 12-lap race passed the halfway mark, Kelley began applying increased pressure on the more experienced Valiante. With the increasing dicing, Wheldon closed right up on the duo. Over the course of the final four laps, the trio traded the lead multiple times, with all three front-runners taking a turn out front. Wheldon, holding off a last lap charge from Kelley, emerged with a 0.087 win in his Top Kart entry. Valiante completed the top-three, leading Ruscitti and Wimsett to the checkered flag.
The 13th annual Superkarts USA! SuperNationals resumes on Saturday with Heats Two and Three for all nine classes. eKartingNews.com will once be providing exclusive live trackside coverage via http://www.eKartingNews.com/live For photos, head over to http://www.ontrackpromotions.com Complete coverage including results and other links can be found at the EKN Event Page.