|February 07, 2012 News
|EKN Exclusive: ProKart Challenge - 2012 Season Preview
For anyone who counts a SKUSA membership card among the stack in their wallet, the SuperNationals in Las Vegas will always be the end goal of a season’s racing. That said, thanks to the list of lucrative programs that Superkarts! USA has devised to reward regional participation, the road to the Rio most definitely starts this coming weekend. SKUSA’s flagship regional program – the ProKart Challenge – officially launches its six-event schedule at Buttonwillow Raceway Park on Friday and Saturday, pitting the best in the state against one another. The fields are filled with national talent, and they are expected to grow from last year.
SKUSA runs a combined S1 / S2 race group on their regional platform and the PKC line-up is expected to close on 20 drivers for 2012, surely a precursor for what they’ll see on the Pro Tour. Last year’s PKC S1 champion Brad Dunford will be looking to defend his title from an expanded class line-up, as a number of young pilots have graduated from S2, making things interesting. Coming off a four-win season, including the Buttonwillow ‘Shootout’, Dunford will again be under the Aluminos tent, and pre-season testing has been extremely positive. Dunford’s primary competition from 2011 - Clinton Schoombee - is fired up and ready to challenge in his Select Shifter-prepped DR Kart, as he has put together a focused effort that could pay-off with more consistency in 2012. Buttonwillow will be interesting, as 2Wild Karting’s Ryon Beachner (Tony Kart) swept last year’s mid-season event, and as he enters his second season of S1 racing, he could be a leading contender to wrestle the crown from Dunford.
| Brad Dunford will defend the S1 title with a host of returning contenders and rookies chasing him|
The S1 class will be bolstered by a number of S2 graduates this year, including 2011 Pro Tour champion Kyle Hathcox, and race winners Nicky Freytag (SpringNats) and Cory Milne (SummerNats). Freytag (FA Kart) won the S2 title on the PKC South trail last year, and will move to Phil Giebler Racing for 2012, and in the heads-up race group of S1/S2, he was able to run among the S1 stars. Hathcox showed his mettle in winning the Pro Tour S2 title last year, and while he won’t get to use his #1 plate, he’ll certainly be a force in S1. Milne (GP) won at the SummerNationals in Grand Junction last year, and he’s part of a solid group of S1 drivers who will earn their ‘A’ license for 2012. Hathcox and Milne are not expected to run the full PKC schedule, but their participation at the Buttonwillow opener, and likely the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix, will definitely raise the bar.
Another exciting storyline in the S1 class is the new effort being planned by reigning S4 Pro Tour and PKC champion Jimmy McNeil. As the outright leader in the S4 program over the past two years, McNeil has elected to take another shot at the headline S1 category for 2012 and he is making a 110% effort to win the crown on SKUSA’s toughest stage. Add in the continuing development of Peter Abba, who may be aboard a new Vemme kart this weekend, and the S1 group is as good as it’s been in a couple years.
The fight for the title in S2 should be interesting, as the primary focus will likely be put on drivers such as Vivek Tandon (CRG), Matias Podboj (CRG), and Michael Leib (CRG), who finished in that order in the series points, behind Freytag. Both Tandon and Podboj won S2 mains in 2011, so they should be ready to go for more this time around. That said, the return of former PKC frontrunner Bobby Legate (CRG) will mix things up, as he is focused on getting back on-form for a planned jump back to S1 in 2013. Recent testing has delivered impressive results. News that Billy Musgrave may also mount a challenge on the S2 crown takes things to the next level as well.
| A new champion will be crowned in S2 for 2012 with Matias Podboj among the top contenders|
Another pair who could shake things up if they run the full program is the sibling duo of Troy and Cody Diede. Now running as a family team, both drivers have the ability to be in the top-five in 2012. S3 champion Jessica Sollberger (DR Kart) and fellow graduate Ryan Raspberry will add to a solid field, as they challenge the S2s for the first time.
With the graduation of a number of drivers into S2 from S3, this year's Novice category will see the addition of new racers to the series. John Morgan (DR Kart) and Steve Ryckebosch are the first to add their names to the roster for 2012.
S1 / S2 Provisional Entry List
|Billy Musgrave (S2)||2Wild Karting||Tony Kart|
|Bobby Legate (S2)||Legate Racing||CRG|
|Brad Dunford (S1)||Aluminos||GP|
|Clinton Schoombee (S1)||Select Shifter||DR Kart|
|Cody Diede (S2)||Diede Racing Team||CRG|
|Cory Milne (S1)||Aluminos||GP|
|Fauzi Dib Saad (S2)||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Jamie Wilson (S2)||Cambrian Karting||Birel|
|Jason Atwood (S2)||NA||NA|
|Jessica Sollberger (S2)||Select Shifter||DR Kart|
|Jimmy McNeil (S1)||Team Visalia||CRG|
|Kyle Hathcox (S1)||Aluminos||GP|
|Matias Podboj (S2)||Kimball Williams Racing||CRG|
|Michael Leib (S2)||Kimball Williams Racing||CRG|
|Nicky Freytag (S1)||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Peter Abba (S1)||Extreme Karting||CRG|
|Ryan Raspberry (S2)||CRG California||CRG|
|Ryon Beachner (S1)||2Wild Karting||Tony Kart|
|Troy Diede (S2)||Diede Racing Team||CRG|
|Vivek Tandon (S2)||Kimball Williams Racing||CRG|
| Brett Felkins returns to ProKart Challenge competition and will replace the 435 with the no. 1 plate for 2012 in TaG Senior|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
The TaG Senior class is about as stacked as any regional series could hope for. All three national number plate holders will be in action at Buttonwillow, and the chase for the guaranteed SuperNationals starting spot will be heated. SKUSA Pro Tour champion Brett Felkins will once again team with Greg Bell in a Leading Edge Intrepid, and the #1 plate will look good on that kart. Dakota Dickerson (Arrow) and Matt Johnson (Energy) are also entered, turning the whole event up a notch. Dickerson will remain with his proven Arrow chassis, while Johnson will make his debut on an Energy as Buddy Rice Karting rolls out their new chassis for the first time in PKC action.
Over 20 drivers are expected for the series, and the trio above will have their hands full with the competition. The top-two from last year’s PKC South championship chase will be back, as title winner Travis Lowe (Energy) and runner-up Devin Lindsey (Tony Kart) both came on strong in 2011. Veteran Bill Cleavelin (CRG) will once again run in the TaG Senior class on the regional level, sharpening his skills for his planned attack on the TaG Master class on the Pro Tour. Austin Elliott (Top Kart) and TJ Fischer (RK) are expected to trek down from NorCal, and they will need to face off against a grid that will include Jess Peterson, Chris Cricca (FA Kart), Andrew Weiner and Emily Maddison (FA Kart),
TaG Senior will see a similar graduation as S1, as a number of last year’s top TaG Junior drivers are planning to advance. Three of the top-five in Pro Tour TaG Junior points from 2011, including champion Jake Craig (CRG), are expected to be in the field. Austin Dement (DR Kart) and Mason Daughters (FA Kart) will also step up to challenge the Senior establishment.
TaG Senior Provisional Entry List
|Andrew Weiner||Weiner Racing||CRG|
|Ariel Jiminez||Mike Manning Karting||CRG|
|Austin Dement||DR Racing Kart USA||DR Kart|
|Austin Elliott||Team Topkart||Topkart|
|Bill Cleavelin||Mike Manning Karting||CRG|
|Brett Felkins||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
|Bronson Eggert||Cambrian Karting||Birel|
|Chris Cricca||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Dakota Dickerson||Dickerson Racing||Arrow|
|Devin Lindsey||Devin Lindsey Racing||Tony Kart|
|Emily Maddison||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Jack Freeze||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
|Mason Daughters||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Matt Johnson||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy|
|Matt Koerner||Koerner Motorsports||Italkart|
|Shelby Sanders||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
|Timmy DeSilva||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy|
|TJ Fischer||Cambrian Karting||Birel|
|Travis Lowe||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy |
| With McNeil moving to S1 in 2012, Robert Marks becomes the new target for the large contingent in S4|
The S4 line-up for 2012 is absolutely packed with top drivers, although the biggest news for the paddock was McNeil’s decision to take a shot at the S1 Pro class. Behind McNeil, the field is tight and drivers are all focused on raising their games in the absence of the #1 plateholder. McNeil’s father-in-law Robert Marks was consistently his primary competition in 2011, and his challengers will feature PKC regulars like PP Mastro (CRG), Phil Dunford (GP), Doug Hayashi (Tony Kart), Wayne Mello (Tony Kart), Darrell Tunnel (CRG) and Randy McKee. Throw in the planned return of Roy Montgomery (CRG), Fernando Diaz (GP) and Jonathan Allan (GP), and the fact that NorCal stud Jimmy ‘The’ Kidd (Italkart) is travelling south to campaign the program, and this season is stacking up to be an epic battle. The final piece of the puzzle is the move of veteran Trevor McAlister back to the shifter ranks, teamed again, as he was in the early days of the ProMoto Tour, with Leading Edge Motorsports’ Greg Bell. This pairing could change everything in 2012 should McAlister be back on his past form.
S4 Provisional Entry List
|Al James||2Wild Karting||Tony Kart|
|Darrell Tunnell||Team Visalia||CRG|
|Doug Hayashi||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart|
|Jim Kidd||Cameron Karting||Italkart|
|Kassy Loving||Cameron Karting||Italkart|
|Ken Schilling||Extreme Karting||GP|
|Robert Marks||Team Visalia||CRG|
|Roy Montgomery||Kimball Williams Racing||CRG|
|Todd Sholta||Team Visalia||CRG|
|Trevor McAlister||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
|Wayne Mello||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart|
| Pro Tour race winner David Harwin is among the favorites in TaG Master PKC competition for 2012|
(Photo: On Track Promotions - otp.ca)
One of the highlights for the SKUSA program in 2011 was the continuing growth of the TaG Master category, which swelled on the Pro Tour and enjoyed a full field of 40+ drivers at the SuperNationals. This year, the growth looks to be focused on the ProKart Challenge as well, as a strong field of upwards of 20 drivers is possible. Not only is the size of the field impressive, but the quality is there, as half of the Pro Tour’s top- six will call the PKC their regional base for 2012. National #2 David Harwin (Tony Kart) must be considered the favorite, unless of course, you ask former #1 plateholder Ethan Wilson (Tony Kart). Wilson and Harwin will likely go head-to-head all year, but the addition of Larry Fraser will help make it a three-driver dice. This lead group should grow thanks to the announcement that Kevin Manning is planning for full attack on the PKC TaG Master title with his father Mike on the wrenches, and should Paul Bonilla elect to bring his Rok TT-powered Arrow to the game, all bets might be off. Leading Edge Motorsports’ Paul Holbein and Randy Froom should also make things exciting.
TaG Master Provisional Entry List
|Alex Assanti||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart|
|Allan Svela||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart|
|David Harwin||Harwin Motorsports||Tony Kart|
|Ethan Wilson||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Harinda DeSilva||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy|
|Kevin Manning||Mike Manning Karting||KnK|
|Kim Ryan||2 Wild Karting||Kosmic|
|Paul Bonilla||Full Throttle Karting||Arrow|
|Paul Holbein||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
|Randy Froom||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
|Steve Weiner||CRG California||CRG|
|Vatche Tatikian||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
| 2011 TaG Junior PKC champ Carter Williams returns to defend his crown|
SKUSA’s internal ladder system for their Stock Moto and TaG classes continues to payoff each year, as young drivers move their way into the next chapter of their careers. This year in TaG Junior, a number of former Cadet frontrunners will see their way in category, making things very exciting as the class begins to grow on the regional level. The Junior class is ripe with new talent, as sophomores like 2011 champion Carter Williams (Tony Kart), Blaine Rocha (Arrow) and Dallas Hollins (FA Kart) are ready to step into the limelight. The rookies to watch will be two-time TaG Cadet Pro Tour champ Colton Herta (DR Kart), Noah Grey (FA Kart) and Justice Lepe (DR Kart).
TaG Junior Provisional Entry List
|Blaine Rocha||Kartel Motorsports||Arrow|
|Carter Williams||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy|
|Colton Herta||DR Racing Kart USA||DR Kart|
|Dallas Hollins||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Garrett Dixon||Energy Corse America||Energy|
|Jarrod Campbell||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
|Justice Lepe||DR Racing Kart USA||DR Kart|
|Justin Yanez||Cambrian Karting||Birel|
|Michael Michoff||Cambrian Karting||Birel|
|Noah Grey||Phil Giebler Racing||FA Kart|
|Scott Huffaker||Energy Corse America||Energy|
|Thomas Boost||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy|
| Christian Brooks is coming into the 2012 season with momentum to be the new TaG Cadet champion|
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
The ProKart Challenge launched its TaG Cadet program in 2010, and from the very beginning, second generation driver Colton Herta has been the driver to beat. Herta’s graduation to the TaG Junior category for the new year has opened things up for the current batch of TaG Cadet pilots, as they will welcome their chance to run for the big trophy. Drivers to watch out of the box include Christian Brooks (Energy), Jake Drew (CRG) and Hunter Corbitt (Top Kart). Brooks and Drew were top-five in the points last year in the PKC South series, while Corbitt won the title in the North program. Hayden Wagner (DR Kart) will look to step up this year after finishing fifth in the TaG Cadet points last year, while Anthony Sawyer (DR Kart) and Jack Von Quillick (Intrepid) will attempt to follow suit as they were eighth and ninth, respectively, in the 2011 post-season tally.
TaG Cadet Provisional Entry List
|Anthony Sawyer||DR Racing Kart USA||DR Kart|
|Carsen Enright||DR Racing Kart USA||DR Kart|
|Christian Brooks||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy|
|Eric Nacimiento||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy|
|Hayden Wagner||Pitts Performance||DR Kart|
|Jack Von Quillick||Leading Edge Motorsports||Intrepid|
On the Line
Superkarts! USA and the PKC staff have put together a solid prize package for the 2012 season, reaching the $65,000 that include prizes from MG Tires, Mothers Polish, Honda Performance Development (HPD), VP Fuel, as well as to trips to Brazil, France and Italy that will give a handful of lucky PKC racers that chance to compete abroad. The champions in each SuperNationals classes taking part in the ProKart Challenge program will gain that vital SuperSunday Guaranteed Starting Spot. For many, bragging rights will be enough reward as over 100 drivers will take part in the series to label the best that California has to offer.