The 2012 edition of the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals began two days ago outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas as nearly 500 drivers made their way onto the temporary circuit for the first time. Friday (November 17) marked the first day of three where results on track matter - with qualifying and the opening round of heat races taking place.
The day commenced under overcast and cloudy skies on a track that is most-favourable to all the racers here, touting it as one of the best tracks ever for the SKUSA SuperNationals.
Following a seven minute warm-up run for the morning classes (S4, S5, KZ2, and TaG Senior), it was time for the qualifying runs to determine the grids for the three heat races to come for each class.
First up was the large S4 class, with the contingent broken up into two groups. In Group 2, the initial one's on-track, Willy Musgrave (Tony Kart) was the early driver to watch virtually the entire session, securing the provisional pole via a fast lap of 45.758. Canadian Don McGregor (Italkart) and Chris Perreault (Vemme) were 15th and 24th respectively. Group 1 wasted little time going quicker. In the end, defending champion Bonnier Moulton (Tony Kart) posted a lap of 45.353 to secure the pole. The 16-time SuperNats competitor and two-time winner edged out Brian Fisher (DR Kart) by just two-thousandths of a second. Championship contender Eddie Olpin (Kosmic) ended up third over SummerNationals winner Trevor McAlister (Praga) and defending King of the Streets winner Jordon Musser (Birel). Musgrave’s time slotted him sixth overall.
Next up in the morning qualifying runs were the youngest Stock Moto drivers, S5 Junior. While Patricio O'Ward (GP) led the way early on, it was Carter Williams who proved quickest in the second half of the session, earning the pole with a 46.169-second fast lap. O'Ward held on for second, just ahead of Andrew Evans (Kosmic), Jim McKinney (KGB) - the current SKUSA Pro Tour points leader - and Kiwi driver Marcus Armstrong (GP), making his first shifterkart and SuperNats start. Canadian Nelson Learn (GP) was 25th.
As expected, the headline KZ2 class fight for the pole and the Oakley Lead Foot award proved entertaining to watch. Featuring a mix of the best from USA and abroad going head-to-head, second generation driver Max Verstappen (son of former Formula One driver Jos Verstappen) proved the racer to beat, securing the Oakley award and pole with a quick lap of 43.586 aboard his CRG machine. Marco Ardigo (Tony Kart), a two-time former champion, was P2, followed by Patrik Hajek (Praga), Rick Dreezen (Tony Kart) and Ben Hanley (ART GP). Seven different brands were represented in the top-10, including defending race winner Anthony Abbasse (SodiKart), the Energy of American Gary Carlton in seventh and former KF2 champion Armand Convers (Kosmic). Philip Orcic (Zanardi) led the Canadian contingent in 17th, ahead of Zach Meyer (GP) in 22nd, Michael Vincec (Vemme) in 24th, and Nico Fattore (GP) in 27th.
Completing the morning qualifying sessions was the huge TaG Senior class, which was split into two groups. Stepanova Nekeel (LH) was on-top throughout the Group two run, posting a lap of 46.579 to lead the group. Chad Campbell (GP) topped the Canadians in 12th, leading Alejandro Liverant (Praga) in 17th, Jamie McAllister (Italkart) in 20th, Devon Sandeen (Vemme) in 34th, and Marcus Brodie (Vemme) in 38th. As expected, the Group 1 racers were quick to take over the top of the timing monitors, when they rolled on-track in Las Vegas. Charles Leclerc (ART GP), who was quickest in practice on Thursday, in the end captured the pole with a time of 46.058, edging the young Dennis Olsen (Energy), Canadian Michael Valiante (Italkart), Austin Elliott (Top Kart), and Aussie David Sera (Arrow). Other Canadians in Group 1 included Scott Hargrove (Italkart) in 15th, Luke Chudleigh (Maranello) in 21st, Remo Ruscitti (Italkart) in 27th, Adam Isman (Italkart) in 31st, and Cory Cacciavillani (Kosmic in 44th.
With the chase for one quick lap in the books, it was time to get down to some racing via the opening Heat races for the morning contingent.
The chase for S4 supremacy got underway with Group A vs. Group D going head-to-head. When the green flag waved to get the 12-lap affair underway, Moulton made the most of his P1 position to hold off P2 starter McAlister. With the lead duo repeatedly trading fastest race laps, it was apparent that either one could take home the victory. McAlister ultimately made his move on lap eight, holding the advantage for a narrow Heat 1 win. Jim Inglebright (GP) was the third driver to the stripe, leading Eduardo Martins (Tony Kart), and Marks, who took over fifth place with a late race pass.
Immediately following the checkered flag waving, Group B and C of S4 were on-course for their 12-lap duel. Like the opening run, the polesitter Fisher made the most of his starting position to hold off the charges from behind through the first few corners. This ultimately proved to be the deciding factor in the race, as a duel between Olpin and Musgrave for second place allowed for Fisher to steadily pull away. The fight for the runner-up position lasted the majority of the race, eventually going in Olpin's favor. Coy Dayton (Tony Kart) and Rob Logan (CRG) completed the top-five. Canadians McGregor and Perreault were ninth and 26th respectively.
When the green flag waved a short-time later for S5's first Heat race, the fans on hand witnessed their first opening lap pass of the day, as Williams immediately relinquished the lead to Andrew Evans. In fact, in what was pre-cursor to difficult race (finishing sixth), he was down a further position by the end of the lap one. Evans run out front, didn't last, as O'Ward soon found a way past. Behind the lead pair, the action was just as entertaining to watch, with Erik Nelson (Kosmic), Axel Matus (GP), Carter, and Micah Hendricks (Praga) in close formation. While Evans closed in the final stages, O'Ward held on for the win. Nelson completed the top-three, leading Matus and Hendricks to the stripe. For the championship leader McKinney, a slow green light to begin the race led to a flooded carburetor as the race began and he was hit from behind, collecting a handful of karts as well to end the first race on the sidelines. Learn was 15th at the stripe
The KZ2 standouts were the next group to go racing. Verstappen enjoyed a solid launch when the green flag waved, leading Hajek and the rest of the field through the opening sequence of corners. Just as it appeared Verstappen was headed for a straight forward victory, he mysteriously fell back to third behind Hajek and Ardigo, and come under attack from Abbasse. The Dutch up-and-comer, however, remained calm, promptly string some very fast laps, work his way back into second by lap eight. Closing the gap on Hajek, Verstappen passed for the lead and the win, albeit with via some contact, a few laps before the checkered flag waved. Ardigo followed the pair across the start/finish, several kart lengths ahead of Abbasse. Dreezen completed the top-five via a last lap pass of Carlton. Meyer was the top Canadian, 14th, ahead of Fattore in 24th, Orcic, who was caught out in an early race incident, in 28th, and Vincec, who failed to complete a lap after contact, in 32nd.
The final races of the morning classes featured the highly regarded TaG Senior, with Heat A versus D first on tap. Leclerc led the large field to green, and promptly held the P1 position, as Sera slotted into second. With Sera immediately coming under contact from Elliott, the lead steadily grew. In fact, the fight for second rapidly became a multi-kart affair, with Olin Galli (Energy) and Tommy Andersen (Kosmic) joining the fray. While Sera was ultimately able to separate himself from the dice, he never got within striking distance of the leader, giving Leclerc an easy opening Heat win. Behind the duo, order was only decided with the waving of the checkered flag, with Galli taking home third over Andersen and Elliott. Chudleigh earned a strong top-10 with an eighth place finish, while Campbell, Isman, and McAllister came home in 25th, 29th, and 30th respectively.
After two failed starts, the Heat B vs. C TaG Senior encounter witnessed 2011 Pro Tour TaG Junior champion Jake Craig (Kosmic) getting an ideal launch to take over the top spot ahead of Olsen and Valiante. Subsequent contact between the chasing pair allowed Kiel Spaulding (FA Kart) and Andre Nicastro (Italkart) to move into the top-three. That, however, proved to be just the start of the action, as the race progressed, so did the intensity of the fighting among the lead pack. With plenty of bumping and banging going on, the order repeatedly changed, particularly in the final few tours. Spaulding in the end emerged with victory over Olsen. Louie Pagano (Birel) enjoyed a great late race charge, beating Nicastro and Craig to the checkered flag. Valiante ultimately took the checkered flag in sixth, just in front of his teammate Hargrove. Ruscitti was the next Canadian in 15th, ahead of Cacciavillani in 23rd, Sandeen in 25th, Brodie in 30th, and Liverant in 33rd.
After the lunch break and warm-up runs, it was time for the afternoon classes (TaG Cadet, TaG Junior, TaG Master, S2, and S1) to go after the pole positions.
With a huge field on hand, the TaG Cadet class was broken into two groups. In the opening Group 2 outing, Max Hewitt and Dante Yu repeated swapped fastest laps, before Hewitt secured the provisional pole via a time of 52.607. Canadian Griffin Dowler (Energy) was 19th. As expected, Group 1 proved even quicker, with several racers trading the top spot on the timing monitors in the first part of the run. Canadian Antonio Serravalle (Tony Kart) in the end proved quickest of the bunch, circulating in 51.846 to better Hunter Kelly by just five-hundreths of a second - leaving the Pro Tour championship contender that short from gaining ten bonus points. East coast drivers David Malukas (Birel), Zach Holden (Top Kart), and Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) rounded out the fast-five. Canadian Roman DeAngelis (Kosmic) was 16th.
TaG Junior was next up, and it too was divided into two groups due to its large size. Parker Thompson (Energy) proved to be the driver to beat in Group 2, posting a lap of 47.085. Fellow Canadians Jordan Redlin (Zanardi) was 14th, Gianfranco Mazzaferro (Zanardi) 25th, Tyler Ripani (LH) 26th, and Ethan McDade (Italkart) 31st. The Canadian's run as the qualifying leader was short-lived, as the Group 1 leaders were quick to make their mark. After what was a back and forth affair featuring several drivers, defending race winner George Russell (OK1) secured the pole via a lap of 46.636 seconds. Canadian Lance Stroll (Zanardi) was next on the timesheets, followed by Yurik Carvalho (Italkart), Davey Manthei Jr. (Kosmic), and Dalton Sargeant (Tony Kart). Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo (CRG) Devlin DeFrancesco (CRG) were 22nd and 29th.
As close as the young racers had been in qualifying the elder TaG Master fight for the pole was even more impressive. Going right down to the wire, Pro Tour point leader Scott Falcone (Arrow) came away with top honors, thanks to a fast lap of 47.241, mere hundredths of a second faster than Larry Fraser (Tony Kart). Two-time defending champion Leonardo Nienkotter (Kosmic) was P3, ahead of Robby Mott (Corsa) and Paul Bonilla (Arrow).
The S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto class did not disappoint as well when it took to the track for qualifying, with several racers in contention for the pull. The P1 position ultimately went to SpringNationals winner Billy Musgrave (Tony Kart) following a lap of 44.827. Canadian Remo Ruscitti (Italkart) and Austin Schimmel (GP) completed the top-three, by bettering Connor Wagner (FA Kart) and Pro Tour point leader Sabre Cook (CRG). Scott Hargrove (Italkart) was the next Canadian in ninth, ahead of Adam Dowler (Energy) in 34th, and Austin King (PCR) in 36th.
Concluding qualifying at the 16th edition of the SKUSA SuperNationals was S1. In what was a strategic affair, many of the expected front-runners elected to sit in pit lane in the early parts of the session. When they did hit the track, the times at the top of the scoring charts rapidly dropped, with several racers taking a turn on top. European KZ2 champion Simas Juodvirsis (Energy) proved to be the fastest man, posting a lap of 44.917 to edge Kiwi driver and defending Pro Tour champion Daniel Bray (GP) for the pole by just 43-thousandhts of a second. Italian karting legend Alessandro Manetti (Praga) was third in his first start for the S1 category while NorCal drivers Nic LeDuc (CRG) and Jason Toft completed the fast-five.
Following the traditional Sunset break and the lights coming on, it was time to go racing once again at the Rio.
First up was TaG Cadet Heat A versus D, and Serravalle and Holden leading the field to the green. While Serravalle got away cleanly to hold off a hard charging Neil Verhagen (Arrow), Holden dropped down to seventh. The man to watch early on, however, was Gangi Jr., working his way into the lead by lap four. This proved to be the decisive move, as Serravalle was forced to duel Luiz Branquinho (Tony Kart) and Verhagen, allowing Gangi Jr. to build an advantage. Serravalle fought back, retaking the second spot and challenged Gangi to the final corner for the win. At the line, it was Gangi over Serravalle. Verhagen was third, leading DeAngelis, who enjoyed a superb drive that culminated in a last lap pass for fourth over Holden. Dowler was 25th.
The TaG Cadet Heat B versus C was next, and it proved great fun to watch. Right from the get go, the battle for the win was on, with polesitter Kelly and Leonardo Stoia (PCR) swapping the top spot several times in the opening tour. As entertaining as that was, Brandon Lemke (Merlin) generating a lot of interest, charging into the top-three by lap five. This subsequently resulted in a superb duel with Santiago Terife (Tony Kart). Despite fighting for position from corner to corner, the duo found a way past Stoia making a battle for second, albeit well behind Hunter. In the end, Hunter scored an easy victory over Lemke and Terife. Rasmus Lindh (Kosmic) came home fourth, thanks to a last lap pass of Jake Drew (CRG).
When the TaG Junior Heat A versus D race got underway, all eyes were on the polesitter Russell, and he did not disappoint. Making the most of disastrous first few corners for fellow front row starter Manthei., that him witnessed him fall to 12th, he built a comfortable early advantage. It was not to last though, as Dalton Sargeant (Tony Kart) not only worked his way into second ahead of Pedro Cardoso and Vitor Batista, but steadily reduced the gap to the leader. In the end there wasn't enough time, as Russell scored a flag-to-flag win over Sargeant. Batista, running alone most of the race was third at the flag, while Kurt Kostecki came home fourth via a strong late race charge. Nick Ramirez completed the top-five a pass in the final few corners. Ripani was 20th, while Thompson, was involved in a first lap crash was classified in 37th.
The second TaG Junior race (Heat b vs. C) proved to be a dramatic affair. Things commenced with the front-row of Stroll and Carvalho being sent back to row two after two failed launches. While this allowed Pro Tour point leader Luke Selliken (Kosmic) and Marino Sato lead the field to the green, Stroll still got the best launch, immediate vaulting into the led. Behind Stroll and Selliken, Colton Herta (DR Kart) were also on a charge, rapidly slotting into fourth, just in front of Thomas Schou. From that point forward the foursome battled for positions, with Selliken ultimately getting the best of Stroll, and Schou finding a way past Herta. While these battles garnered most of the attention, some late race drama occurred in the fight for fifth. Mauro Auricchio, having been among the fastest drivers in the closing stages, and Pro Tour title contender Brenden Baker (CRG) fought tooth and nail, subsequently resulting in contact that not only sent both down the order, but also allowed Carvalho to take home fifth. Claman DeMelo and DeFrancesco earned top-10s in seventh and 10th respectively, while Mazzaferro was 19th, Redlin 26th, and McDade 28th, after a first lap incident.
The TaG Master Heat 1 likewise was an exciting race. In untypical fashion, the start proved to chaotic, with lead duo of Falcone and Fraser getting involved in a first lap incident, giving Nienkotter the lead over Mott. With Billy Cleavelin (CRG) rapidly joining the fight care of some very quick laps, the trio regularly looked to find a way past one another. Not to be out done, title contender Paul Bonilla (Arrow) and Jim Russell Jr. (Parolin) squared off for fourth place. Only decided at the stripe, Mott scored a narrow win over Cleavelin and Nienkotter, while Bonilla and Russell Jr. completed the top-five.
When the S2 karts rolled on-course for their first Heat, it was anyone's guess how things would play out. Musgrave made the most of his P1 starting position holding the top spot through turn one. Behind the leader Sabre Cook and Connor Wagner got the best jump, vaulting into second and third as front-row starter Ruscitti fell back to fifth. Just as the field was beginning to space out, the Red flag waved for Dalton Egger (Tony Kart) having heavy contact with the turn four barriers. After seeing to the racer and ensuring his safety the race resumed with six laps to go. On the single-file restart, Cook tried to make a move for the lead, but was held back by Musgrave. That proved decisive, as he subsequently held the top-spot to the checkered flag. Behind the duo, the restart greatly benefited Scott Hargrove, as the Canadian jumped all the way up to third, holding the position to the finish, ahead of Wagner and Milan Dontje (Energy). At the line, King was 28th, Dowler 30th, and Ruscitti 39th, having retired six laps in.
The first day of racing concluded with S1 drivers battling. LeDuc was the racer on the move when the green flag waved, not only taking over the lead, but building a sizeable gap on the polesitter Juodvirsis. Initially it appeared as the advantage may last, but as the race progressed, Juodvirsis kart hooked up, steadily getting closer and closer to the leader. On lap 10, the European standout out-braked LeDuc for first and ultimately the win. Behind the duo, Bray had an eventful race. Falling back to sixth at the start, he slowly recovered, working his way into the top-five in the closing stages, before passing for fourth and third in the final two laps. Championship leader Fritz Leesmann (CRG) likewise was forced to work his way from aways back in the race, in the end taking fourth place at the stripe. Toft came home in fifth, having run as high as third early on. Wimsett, the second half of the championship chase, fell back to nearly last and worked his way up to 10th, gaining five points toward his total.
EKN Trackside Live continues with rounds two and three of the heat races and the Last Chance Qualifiers for the S4, TaG Senior, TaG Junior and TaG Cadet categories. Tune in to http://www.ekartingnews.com/live at 8:30am PST for the start of the morning categories with the afternoon groups beginning after that. Visit the EKN EVENT PAGE for everything you need regarding the SKUSA SuperNationals XVI.