SKUSA: PKC-S: Apple Valley round three summary

PROKART CHALLENGE SOUTH HITS GRANGE MOTOR CIRCUIT Neal scores second double victory weekend while Kelley sweeps TaG Senior in series debut APPLE VALLEY, CA (March 28, 2009) -- The third round of the Superkarts! USA ProKart Challenge South was a...

PROKART CHALLENGE SOUTH HITS GRANGE MOTOR CIRCUIT
Neal scores second double victory weekend while Kelley sweeps TaG Senior in series debut

APPLE VALLEY, CA (March 28, 2009) -- The third round of the Superkarts! USA ProKart Challenge South was a day of firsts for many at the Grange Motor Circuit in Apple Valley, California. The March 28 event saw over 60 competitors on hand for the 8/10-mile circuit, four of which -- including PKC TaG Senior newcomer Bobby Kelley -- earned their first victory of the 2009 PKC South season in four classes that have seen no repeat winners. On the flip side, hotshoe Jacob Neal duplicated his performance in round two by scoring two wins once again, while Phil Conte bagged his second straight victory in his division.

As he did last month at the Willow Springs event, Neal would run double duty on the day to compete in the S1 and S3 divisions. The S1 portion of the event was perfect for Neal, as he showed the way in every on-track session from qualifying to the main event. Neal took the feature win by nearly five seconds over Peter Abba and Imran Hussain.

In S3, the day began in the right direction, with Neal securing the top qualifier position by a tenth of a second over Patrick Cushenberry and Bobby Legate, who sat second and first in the standings heading into the weekend. Although he rolled onto the track late, Neal was improperly allowed to start in pole position, and therefore continued on to take the opening heat win by over two seconds, with Cushenberry in second of round two runner-up Jimmy McNeil. To correct the heat 1 start, Neal agreed to a sixth grid position start in the second heat (with the agreement of the rest of the drivers). He was able to work back up to third -- but not have enough for the lead as McNeil took the win over Cushenberry with a late race pass.

The opening laps of the feature were a wild one, as McNeil was slow off the line and fell to third while Neal was unable to get started and came from last on the grid. McNeil's chance at victory ended on lap two, however, as he made contact with Legate which resulted in him spinning off course. Though he was able to continue, it was well behind the pack; however, he battled up to sixth at the line. Neal on the other hand was able to get back up to the leaders by lap five, first putting Legate behind him. Lap 13 of the 20 laps scheduled would be Neal's time to steal the top spot from Cushenberry before posting solid lap times to extend a lead out to five seconds by the checkered flag. Cushenberry held second with Legate holding off Clinton Schoombee for the third podium step.

Bobby Kelley, a newcomer to the ProKart Challenge South program, was no stranger to the Grange circuit. Using his knowledge and experience of the track, Kelley earned top qualifier honors, posting a lap time over seven-tenths quicker than round one winner Brett Felkins. Kelley continued his torrid pace throughout the day -- which was a battle of attrition for the rest of the field -- to lead all the laps in the heat races and the feature. It was a seven second margin of victory for the first time PKC winner as he outran Felkins and championship leader Howie Idelson.

The second of four class sweeps on the day was courtesy of Phil Conte in the S4 division. The '08 S3 Heavy champion showed the way in qualifying, out-pacing Jason Attwood and '08 S4 Heavy titlist Ken Schilling. Like Kelley, Conte would pace the S4 field throughout the day as he recorded both heat victories and earned the top step of the podium, leading all the competition laps. Schilling ran a solid second for the majority of the feature, until he went off track 'at the top of the bowl' and fell back in the order. That moved championship leader Jeff Smith into second and Phil Dunford up to third for his first podium finish of the year.

ProKart Challenge North TaG Masters champion from 2008 Rob Soares made his first appearance in a kart in '09 at Grange, and it was a successful one as he dominated the field. A solid qualifying effort put him at the point for the opening heat. Soares would record both heat wins and the main event victory by a 14-second margin. Jeff Bobbitt settled for second on the day, while Jeff Deehan crossed the line third -- but was removed due to a technical infraction. That moved up fourth place finisher Pasha Mirhadi, who edged out championship leader Steve Wiener, to the third podium position.

The third driver to earn his first win of the season was PP Mastro in G1. However, Nick Firestone, who was making his first start of 2009, edged Mastro for the top spot in qualifying by just two-tenths of a second. Mastro would strike back as he got the holeshot and showed the way in the opening heat race, with Firestone settling for second. The two ran nose to tail in heat two, with Mastro earning the win once again with Firestone on his bumper. The feature looked to repeat the results of the heat with Mastro and Firestone running 1-2 until lap 13, when Firestone's engine experienced gearbox issues. That gave Mastro clear sailing to the feature win with Troy Butts and Roy Montgomery filling up the podium and the top two spots in the standings -- with championship leader Jason Campbell a no-show for round three.

The fourth and final driver picking up his first win of the season was Tony Morrison in the new S4 Magnum division. Added at the second round of the season, the heavier stock moto category saw Luke Bianco take the inaugural victory. Bianco showed the way in qualifying with Morrison slotted in second in the order. They would run that way in the opening heat until lap 10, when Bianco lost his exhaust silencer and was forced to pull off. That put Morrison at the point with Jim Miller placing second. Bianco recovered in the second heat, working his way to second by lap three; however, his comeback would be short-lived as his engine experienced a fuel pump issue, allowing Miller to finish second once again. Bianco's troubles continued in the main event as he attempted to climb back to the lead group only to last one lap longer than the final heat race as a broken coil wire put him on the sidelines for good. Morrison cruised to victory, with Miller in the runner-up spot and Gary Sanchez third.

Making its series debut, the new KF2 package ran its first official weekend with the ProKart Challenge South program. Filled with karting veterans and rising stars, the opener was an exciting one. Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice was scheduled to compete; however, an injury during testing prevented the Arizona driver from competing. Alex Speed, having spent the last three months racing the new package in Florida, earned the pole position over his teammate Will Martindale. Former national champion Joel Miller -- currently racing in the Star Mazda Championship -- returned to his karting roots and was third in the qualifying order. Speed took the heat one win, with Miller getting by Martindale for the second spot to start outside row one in the main event (as the class did not run a second heat). In the feature, Speed fell back to sixth, allowing Martindale and Miller to show the way. Martindale went on to take the inaugural win, with Miller falling back to fourth behind Brett Felkins and a recovering Speed.

Next month will be the fourth round of the seven event PKC South championship, taking the teams south to San Diego for the temporary circuit outside Qualcomm Stadium on April 25, as part of a joint race with the San Diego Karting Association. For more information on the event or the Superkarts! USA's ProKart Challenge itself, head to www.prokartchallenge.com

-credit: skusa

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Series Kart
Drivers Buddy Rice , Joel Miller , Jeff Smith