NEAL AND ZEEN SCORE IN PROKART CHALLENGE WEST COAST SHOOTOUT South tops North in inaugural battle that draws 110+ competitors to Buttonwillow BUTTONWILLOW, CA (May 19, 2009) -- The concept behind the inaugural ProKart Challenge West Coast...
NEAL AND ZEEN SCORE IN PROKART CHALLENGE WEST COAST SHOOTOUT
South tops North in inaugural battle that draws 110+ competitors to Buttonwillow
BUTTONWILLOW, CA (May 19, 2009) -- The concept behind the inaugural ProKart Challenge West Coast Shootout was to bring together the competitors of both the North and South PKC regional programs, and the approach certainly delivered -- as a thrilling day of racing was the outright result. More than 110 drivers hit the track on May 16 at the Buttonwillow Raceway Park kart track, and they were forced to battle extreme heat as well as each other. The mercury rose to over 100 at the California facility, but the SKUSA staff, their drivers and their teams all handled it extremely well. The racing itself was ludicrously good, with some stellar head-to-head battles highlighting the action --as the South edged the North for the overall regional crown. PCH Motorsports' Jacob Neal (CRG) turned in one of the finest performances in his young career, coming out on top of an exciting scrap in S3, while G-Phactory's Andrick Zeen (Sodi Kart) was the man to beat in TaG Senior.
Neal faced some serious challengers in the S3 category, qualifying third behind polesitter Jimmy McNeil (CRG) and Tommy Thompson (Trackmagic). McNeil was two tenths clear of the field to throw his name in the hat for the win, until he lost his airbox and had to pull off. Neal took over from there, winning both heat races to start on the pole for the main event. The 20-lap race took place on a very greasy track, made even more challenging by the high heat, as Select Shifter pilot Clinton Schoombee (CRG) grabbed the holeshot to lead the first half of the event. Neal would battle back from a tough start, getting past a pair of Team Aluminos drivers in Daniel Bray (GP) and Tom Dyer (GP) as they battled each other, eventually arriving on the rear bumper of Schoombee. The leader fought valiantly, but Neal would not be denied as he eventually slipped through to take the point. The win did not appear locked, however, as Utah's Patrick Cushenberry (Arrow) was coming on strong. 'Cush' laid down the fastest lap of the race as he reeled in the lead duo, leading many to believe that he was on his way to victory. Cushenberry came up just short, as he was not able to find a safe way by Schoombee, allowing Neal to inch away for the win, his fifth PKC triumph of the year. Schoombee and Cushenberry completed the podium, while Bray and Dyer capped the top-five.
PKC North driver Nic LeDuc (Tony Kart) paced the TaG Senior field to begin the day, laying down a 48.451-second lap to put himself on the pole of the opening heat race. Zeen was second in the timed run, less than a tenth back, while veteran Larry Fraser (GP) was up to speed as well, sitting third after the morning session. Fraser would work his way to the front in the opening heat races, but Zeen took the second as Fraser scrapped with Mason Marotta (Intrepid). In the main, Zeen led early but was overtaken by Fraser, who led the majority of the laps. Marotta took the point for a single lap, but the freshman senior could not hold back Zeen, who assumed the lead on lap 14 -- which he took to a 0.306-second triumph. Marotta capped a great weekend in second, while Fraser completed the podium following a stellar run that has allowed him to close on PKC North point leader Brett Felkins (Intrepid), who was not able to finish the main at Buttonwillow. Miles Maroney (CRG) and Brett Buckwalter (Italkart) completed the top-five.
Two-time eKartingNews.com Driver of the Year and former SuperNationals winner Gary Carlton (CRG) was back behind the wheel in Buttonwillow, turning up the heat in the S1 class. In qualifying, Carlton battled an issue that restricted him to just one timed lap, which was good enough for fourth in the order. Kartel Motorsports' Brendan Phinny continues to improve during his rookie campaign and turned up the wick in qualifying, putting his Top Kart on the pole with a lap of 47.251. Neal was doing double-duty and was second in the S1 order, just ahead of Peter Abba (GP). Carlton would not be denied in the heat races as he got out front and stayed there, securing the pole position for the 20-lap Shootout main event. After getting the holeshot, Carlton simply walked away from the field to score a 6.357-second victory over Neal and Abba.
In the S4 class, American steel found its way to the front as Emmick Cobra Racing pilot Cory Gwin was the lead driver, putting his new kart on the pole. Jamie Wilson (Birel) and Jeff Smith (GP) capped the top-three in qualifying. Gwin struggled a little in the first heat race, but battled back to win the second moto to start from the front row in the main. In the final, Gwin was chased aggressively by Jared Woolf (Intrepid) as the battles for both first and third were extremely entertaining. The scrap for the final podium position was waged between Smith and Ken Schilling (GP), as the duo fought back and forth for the spot. Schilling would eventually win out, making a great move to take the position for good late in the race. Up front, Woolf challenged Gwin at every turn, taking the lead for a time, but Gwin would not be denied as he took the victory by 0.379 seconds. Smith took fourth and was followed in the top-five by Rob Whitley (Tony Kart). In the S4 Magnum class, Luke Bianco led the way all day, finishing up 1st in the S4-M class and seventh overall for the S4 category. Tony Morrison and Michael Morgan completed the podium.
The HPV2 Jr. pilots raced well all day, led in morning qualifying by Joey Teves (Tony Kart), as the top six drivers timed in within less than two tenths of a second. After exciting heat races, the main event came down to a battle between David Vasquez (Tony Kart), Kiel Spaulding (Trackmagic) and Jason Hannegan (Intrepid), who was making his first PKC start. All three led at one time and it looked like Hannegan would eventually score the win after catching and passing the lead duo, but Vasquez rebounded to be first to the flag, edging Spaulding and Hannegan for the victory. In the TaG Junior class, Adrian Starrantino (CRG) was the driver to beat, qualifying on the pole and then walking away to a 4.024-second win in the main after pacing the second heat as well. Rookie driver Dylan Lupton (Birel) turned it on in the final, chasing down and passing Louie Pagano (Birel) to record an impressive runner-up finish. This freshman driver has shown tremendous natural talent since arriving on the scene late last year.
The PKC West Coast Shootout attracted a quality field of 11 KF2 drivers, which was led in qualifying by Alex Speed (Tony Kart). Brett Felkins (Intrepid) and Gustavo Menezes (Tony Kart) completed the top-three in the timed session, as Menezes would improve in the heats by taking both wins over Speed and Andrick Zeen (Sodi Kart). The main event was a spirited battle, as young Menezes grabbed the early lead after 'moving' Speed out of the way. Speed got back by to lead laps three and four, but Zeen was the charger through the middle part of the race. Speed would eventually gather things back up, taking the lead and powering away to the win over Menezes. Zeen held on to third, taking the final podium position ahead of Will Martindale (Tony Kart) and Ryon Beachner (Tony Kart).
Capping off the day's action, Team Aluminos' Fernando Diaz (GP) scored the win in the G1 class, defending an early lead from a charging PP Mastro. The arrival of Mastro on Diaz' rear bumper awakened the leader, who stepped up his game to score his first win of the year. Mastro just couldn't find a way by in the waning laps and needed to settle for second, as Roy Montgomery (GP) completed the podium. In TaG Masters, the Emmick name was up front again as Paul Hohlbein swept the proceedings en route to a 1.218-second win over Steve Wiener (Trackmagic). Jeff Bobbitt (Tony Kart) emerged as the fastest driver in the class by the end of the day, but mechanical difficulties prevented him from getting all the way to the flag in both the second heat and the main event. Jim Elia capped the podium in the TaG Masters group.
When it was all said and done, the South topped the North in the overall Regional Shootout, which took each region's best three finishes in the six cross-over classes. Race wins by Fernando Diaz and Andrick Zeen gave the South top points, but it was the sweep of the top-three in the S3 category that made the difference. In the end calculations, the South had amassed 134 points to the North's 114 markers. This will certainly become an annual battle for bragging rights in California.
With the annual SuperNationals set as the Superkarts! USA season finale -- it's date and location to be announced later this week -- the ProKart Challenge racers will be looking forward to the next events on their respective schedules. The North competitors will be back in action on June 13 at the Jim Russell International Karting Center, while the South pilots head to Santa Maria on June 27. For more information on the Superkarts! USA's ProKart Challenge, head to www.prokartchallenge.com.