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Only one day of the year is like Sunday (November 18) - SuperSunday at the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals presented by MG Tires. The atmosphere and excitement outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino was electric, as nine categories culminated a week’s worth of work around the temporary circuit, all to etch their name in the karting history books and earn a piece of the nearly $100,000 prize purse, all while crowning the 2012 SKUSA Pro Tour champions.
The SuperSunday quest for a SuperNats win and Pro Tour title commenced with the 42-kart TaG Senior field rolling on-course for a 25-lap run. Leading the talented field to the green were Dennis Olsen (Energy) and Austin Elliott (Top Kart), that, however, was the highlight of their race, as contact during the opening tour ended both racers chance at the victory. Having avoided the opening lap incidents, Joel Jens (Tony Kart) jumped into lead ahead of Canadian Scott Hargrove (Italkart), Kiel Spaulding (FA Kart), and Luke Chudleigh (Maranello). Unfortunately for the Canadian Chudleigh, the first of two incidents quickly halted his charge, ending his run prematurely. Out front, Jens made the most of a clear track to build a multi-kart advantage over Hargrove and the hard charging Gabby Chaves (Kosmic). Thanks to some fast laps, the distance between first and second steadily evaporated, culminating in Hargrove taking over the lead on lap six, with Chaves following him through into second. With Hargrove looking comfortable out front, Louie Pagano (Birel) became the driver to watch, slicing his way up to second and reeling in Hargrove. This ultimately led to a three-driver dice for the top spot. All three promptly took a turn out front. By lap 12, nine drivers made up the lead pack, including championship contender Phil De La O (Top Kart). Contact on lap 13, however, following some hard racing resulted in De La O and Canadian Michael Valiante (Italkart) retiring. This gapped the top-10 for the second half of the race, with Pagano leading over Chaves, as Hargrove fell down the order to just inside the top-10. With Chaves in the lead on lap 21, all eyes on where on Pagano who tried to go for the win. While he tried twice in the final lap, Chaves had the answers, holding on for the TaG Senior SuperNationals win. Pagano came home in second, while Spaulding came home third in his first SuperNats. Charles Leclerc (ART GP) was fourth, ahead of Pro Tour title contender Remo Ruscitti (Italkart), Jens, Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart) - having started 29th, Alessio Guazzaroni (Top Kart), Hargrove, and Jake Craig (Merlin). Canadian Cory Cacciavillani (Kosmic) ended the final in 21st. Post race, Hargrove was penalized five places for avoidable contact, advancing Jamie Sieracki (Merlin) to 10th. Despite the DNF, De La O earned enough points up to the main event to secure the Pro Tour championship, with the Canadian Ruscitti in second and Jens jumping over Matt Johnson (Energy) - who finished 16th from 42nd on the grid, and Elliott.
More TaG karts were next on track with 42 Cadet racers doing head-to-head. Leading the field to the green were Anthony Gangi Jr. (Tony Kart) and Hunter Kelly (Tecno), and while there was the expected bumping and banging through the first few corners, all the front-runners made it through. Not wasting any time going after the top spot, Canadian Antonio Serravalle (Tony Kart) slotted into second, before passing for the lead on lap four. Undeterred, Gangi Jr. immediately responded, with the duo swapping places virtually every lap in the first half of the 15-lap affair. Behind the duo, Kelly remained in the hunt, ready to capitalize on any mistake. Not far behind, the drivers on the move were Brandon Lemke (Merlin), who was on the charge in fourth, and Rasmus Lindh (Kosmic). With the top-six running nose-to-tail by lap eight, contact between championship contenders Kelly and Hunter Corbitt (Top Kart) took place through turn four, sending Kelly to the back of the top-10 and Corbitt much further back. Attention, however, quickly reverted back to the fight for the win, Lemke closing up on the top two drivers. It all came down to the final lap, with Gangi Jr., Serravalle, and Lemke going three-wide at least once, and Lindh and David Malukas (Birel) watching for any opening right behind. Only decided at the line, Gangi Jr. captured the victory over Serravalle and Lemke. Malukas was able to beat Lindh to the line for fourth. Santiago Terife (Tony Kart), Luis Branquinho (Tony Kart), Kelly, Pierce Dawlett (Tony Kart), and Leonardo Stoia (PCR) rounded out the top-10. Canadian Roman DeAngelis (Kosmic) narrowly missed the top-10 coming home in 11th. Kelly’s solid event results helped him jump into the Pro Tour title and a trip to the Rok Cup International Finals next year thanks to his championship. Corbitt fell to second with Anthony Sawyer (DR Kart) ending up third.
Little did the S4 Master Stock Moto drivers know before the green flag waved that the 20-lap race at the Rio it would be a one-man show, but that is what occurred. Defending race winner Bonnier Moulton (Tony Kart) may have started behind the front-row of Brian Fisher (DR Kart) and Trevor McAlister (Praga), but he got the holeshot, vaulting into the lead by the exit of turn one. Once out front, he never looked back, steadily pulling away from his pursuers. Behind the eventual winner, the crowd was entertained by McAlister and Fisher dicing for second, and Pro Tour point leader Eddie Olpin (Kosmic) and Eduardo Martins (Tony Kart) fighting for fourth. In fact, by the halfway mark, second through sixth were running as one big pack, with plenty of dicing. The order promptly shuffled all the way to the checkered flag. The story, however, was all Moulton, as the MSquared Karting driver cruised to a second consecutive S4 SuperNationals win, third overall at the event. McAlister ultimately held second place at the lone aboard his Leading Edge Motorsports entry, just edging former SuperNats winner Martins. Olpin was next to the line in fourth, clinching the Pro Tour title. Completing the top-five was DRT Racing’s Fisher, ahead of Rob Logan (CRG), Willy Musgrave (Tony Kart), Robert Marks (CRG), Jordon Musser (Birel), and Mike Mantel (Tony Kart). Canadians Chris Perreault (Vemme) and Don McGregor (Italkart), were 34th and 41st. McAlister also finished runner-up in the title chase with Musser ending the year with the SKUSA #3 plate.
After witnessing a dominating run right before rolling on-course, the young S5 Junior Stock Moto karters were looking to match that performance in their finale. Starting from the pole, Patricio O'Ward (GP) promptly did that. Getting a strong launch, he rapidly built an advantage over the karts dueling behind. Fellow front-row starter Carter Williams (FA Kart) though did not get the start he desired, dropping back to fifth. That allowed Erik Nelson (Kosmic) and Andrew Evans (Kosmic) to slot into second and third. As the duo were joined by the fast recovering Williams in the fight for second, O'Ward ran mistake-free lap after lap, comfortably holding a three to four second gap on the chasing back. The battle for the runner-spot dramatically changed on lap 10, when while dueling Nelson lost his front bumper. Under the rules this meant meatball flag and the end of his strong run. The bumping and banging that caused the damage also effectively secured second place in Williams favor. O'Ward in the end scored a superb win, easily leading Williams and Evans to the checkered flag. Axel Matus (GP) was next to the line, ahead of Salvador de Alba (CRG), Curtis Paul (Tony Kart), Santiago Fernandez (Energy), Jim McKinney (KGB), Micah Hendricks (Praga), and Ryan Rudolph (CRG). Canadian Nelson Learn (GP) was a strong 13th. With his eighth place finish, McKinney took home the Pro Tour title and the SKUSA #1 plate for 2013 as part of the ‘Circle of Champions’ program. O’Ward moved to second overall with Williams in third.
Next up was the always entertaining S2 Semi-Pro class, with 44 drivers looking to exit the weekend with a SuperNationals win on their resume. Lining-up on the front-row were Billy Musgrave (Tony Kart) and Sabre Cook (CRG), with the Pro Tour points leader Cook getting the better launch to take the lead into turn one. With Canadian Scott Hargrove (Italkart) slotting into third, the trio quickly set about building a gap on the rest of the field. On lap six, Musgrave elected to make his move, and with the decisive moment of the race he passed Cook for the lead. From that point forward, the SuperNats rookie set the pace, and while Cook kept it close aboard her CRG-USA entry she never was able to find a way back to the front. Behind the leaders, Ryan Kinnear (OK1) was one racer everyone was keeping an eye, joining the top-five by lap six after starting 15th, and continuing his charge up the charts in the closing stages of the 20-lap race. When the checkered flag waved, Musgrave and his 2Wild Karting Tony Kart was the 2012 S2 winner, over the Pro Tour champion Cook, who became the first-ever female to win a SKUSA title. Kinnear, making his debut with Leading Edge Motorsports, completed the top-three, edging Italian Motors driver Hargrove and the ‘Flyin Hawaiian’ Alex Gumpfer (Tony Kart) under the Pure Karting tent. Troy Diede (CRG), Remo Ruscitti (Italkart), Christian Schureman (Vemme), Cody Diede (CRG), and Garrett Boone (RK). Canadians Austin King (PCR) and Adam Dowler (Energy) were 26th and 32nd. Post race, Schureman penalized one position for a jumped start but still remained in the top-10. Cody Tracy (Tony Kart) drove to 12th, ending the year second in the points with Cody Diede placing third.
Fans were greeted to some history in TaG Master, thanks to yet another impressive run in Las Vegas. When the 43 strong field launched at the green, front-row starters Paul Bonilla (Arrow) and Billy Cleavelin (CRG) both got away cleanly, with Larry Fraser (GP) and Robby Mott (Corsa) slotted in right behind in the opening sequence of turns. Mott's run unfortunately ended soon after, as on lap three he found himself into the turn one barriers via contact with Cleavelin. Out front the fight for the win was heating up, with Fraser moving up to second and repeatedly looking for a way past Bonilla. That being said, the man on the move was Leonardo Nienkotter (Kosmic). Coming up from eleventh, he took over second on lap eight, and was out front one lap later. With a clear track ahead, he never relinquished the top-spot, becoming the second racer ever to win three consecutive SuperNationals wins in the same class. Several karts length back, the runner-spot was not decided until the closing stages, with Bonilla first coming under attack from Fraser then Cleavelin. In the end, the polesitter retained the position securing the Pro Tour title. Cleavelin, Fraser, and Brian McHattie (Exprit) completed the top-five, bettering Fernando Guzzi (Tony Kart), Bruno Fusaro (Italkart). Cleavelin however was moved behind Mott in the final results for the contact early on in the event, putting Guzzi on the podium and Fusaro to sixth. Chuck Gafrarar (Parolin) was the hard charger of the day, into the top-10 by the third lap after starting 27th in his Russell Karting Specialties entry. He would end up seventh in the final order and secure the SKUSA #3 plate, crossing the stripe ahead of teammate Jim Russell Jr. (Parolin), Francesco Ventre (Energy) and Pro Tour vice-champion Scott Falcone (Arrow).
The top shifter class - S1 Pro Stock Moto - took to the track next with Lithuanian Simas Juodvirsis (Energy) as the driver beat all weekend in Las Vegas. Holding the ideal inside line into and exiting turn one, the reigning European KZ2 champion maintained first place, just ahead of defending Pro Tour champ Daniel Bray (GP) and the ageless wonder Italian Alessandro Manetti (Praga). Thanks to some early race fighting for second and third between Bray, Manetti, and Jason Toft (GP), Juodvirsis soon had a comfortable gap out front. As entertaining as the fight for the runner-up spot was to watch, many on hand were focused on watching the charge of Pro Tour title chase contenders Fritz Leesmann (CRG) and Joey Wismett (CRG). Not content to just battle one another, they soon joined the top and kept on attacking. Leesmann was particularly impressive, not only capitalizing on Bray's day ending in the barriers, but regularly turning the fastest laps to work his way up to second. Initially, it appeared he might have something for the race leader, but Juodvirsis matched his pursuers in the closing laps, taking home a flag-to-flag win in his Buddy Rice Karting/Energy Corse entry. Leesmann - piloting a PSL Karting entry - secured the Pro Tour title by finishing second, while Manetti finished his S1 debut with a third place finish. Wismett was next to the line, ahead of Toft, Brett Buckwalter (Italkart), Tom Dyer (GP), Daniel Langon (CRG) up from 17th to eighth, Tyler Bennett (Tony Kart), and Nic LeDuc (CRG).
The penultimate race on SuperSunday at the Rio featured the large and talented TaG Junior class. Defending race winner George Russell (OK1), having won all his previous races during the weekend started P1 and held the top spot when the green got the action underway. Initially it appeared the British star was headed for a perfect weekend, thanks in part to fellow front-row starter Lance Stroll (Zanardi), Yurik Carvalho (Italkart), and Dalton Sargeant (Tony Kart) dicing for second. Stroll, however, was able to emerge from tussle and begin closing the gap. Getting with striking distance by the midway point, the Canadian worked his way into the lead on lap 12. The rest as they often say is history, as Stroll was mistake-free the remainder of the race, capturing the win. Behind the duo, things were not as straight-forward. Carvalho for a long period held third, but it would not last, as Pro Tour point leader Luke Selliken (Kosmic) made the most of a fast kart in the second half of the race to slice his way into third place a few laps before the checkered flag, securing his first Pro Tour championship. Sargeant also found a way past Carvalho to come home fourth, just ahead of second-generation driver Colton Herta (DR Kart), who had stormed his way forward from 23rd on the grid. Completing the top-10 were Carvalho, Thomas Schou (Kosmic), Vinicius Papareli (CRG), Thomas Howe (Kosmic), and Dorian Boccolacci (Energy) - who was penalized a number of positions for contact with Mauro Auricchio (Top Kart), thus moving Carter Williams into the 10th spot. That helped him to claim the second spot in the Pro Tour standings with Brenden Baker (CRG) ending the year third after placing 17th on SuperSunday. Canadians P22 Devlin DeFrancesco (CRG), Zachary Claman DeMelo (CRG), and Parker Thompson (Energy), were 22nd, 24th, and 40th respectively.
Video interview with TaG Junior winner Canadian Lance Stroll HERE
Concluding the 16th running of the world-renowned SKUSA SuperNationals was the headline KZ2 class, with a $10,000 winner's prize up for grabs. Thanks an impressive run in qualifying and the three Heat races, Max Verstappen (CRG) was the polesitter for the 25-lap feature race, with Patrik Hajek (Praga) alongside on the front-row. When the lights went green, it was Hajek who got the hole shot, edging out front ahead of Verstappen, Marco Ardigo (Tony Kart), Jorrit Pex (CRG), and Bas Lammers (Praga) On the opening lap, any hopes for an American on the podium was cut short when contact between Gary Carlton (Energy) and Ron White (CRG) ended their races in turn six. Out front, Verstappen - whose father was a Formula One racer - did not panic, and promptly retook his place at the front of the field on lap two. Many expected that this may have been the decisive move of the race. Unfortunately for Verstappen it wasn't, as on lap four he suddenly slowed with a mechanical failure, ending his superb weekend run in Las Vegas. This promptly promoted Ardigo into the lead, having worked his way around Hajek. As the two-time SuperNats winner set the pace out front, Hajek cane under increased pressure first from former winner Lammers, then additionally the defending SuperNats champ Anthony Abbasse (SodiKart). With a kart that was gaining speed as the race progressed, Abbasse worked his way into second and set about going after Ardigo. While he initially closed the gap, he never got within striking distance, allowing Ardigo to win the KZ2 feature race at the SuperNationals for a third time. Hajek completed the top-three, leading Lammers and Pex to round out the podium and the $20,000 purse awarded from Superkarts! USA. 2011 S1 winner Mirko Toresllini (Tony Kart) was sixth as Fritz Leesmann (CRG) led the USA in seventh. Armand Convers (who had started 30th) was eighth, while Andreas Fasberg (Tony Kart) and Chris Hays (Energy) capped off the top-10. The Canadian contingent was led by Michael Vincec (Vemme) in 12th, whule the races of Philip Orcic (Zanardi), Zach Meyer (GP), and Nico Fattore (GP) ended prematurely, being classified in 19th, 27th, and 33rd respectively.
Another SuperNationals went into the books, probably as one of the most-organized and exciting events in its 16-year history. The numerous people behind the scenes kept the event flowing and completed on time, leaving plenty of time for the competitors and fans to enjoy the Vegas night life. With just 360 days remaining until next years event, plans are underway to make the 2013 edition even better.