SKUSA: PKC-S: Santa Maria penultimate round preview

PROKART CHALLENGE SOUTH GEARS UP FOR SANTA MARIA KART TRACK South program nears the end of 2009 season with penultimate round next weekend TEMECULA, CA (June 19, 2009) -- The sixth round of the 2009 ProKart Challenge South program is set to...

PROKART CHALLENGE SOUTH GEARS UP FOR SANTA MARIA KART TRACK
South program nears the end of 2009 season with penultimate round next weekend

TEMECULA, CA (June 19, 2009) -- The sixth round of the 2009 ProKart Challenge South program is set to return to the Santa Maria Karting Association kart track on June 27. The penultimate round of the seven race championship will mark a joyous but somber return to the 7/10-mile circuit, or the 'National K-layout'.

Last year's PKC South season finale took place at what was schedule to be one of the last races held at the Santa Maria, California kart track. The facility, located on the grounds of the city's airport, was scheduled to close following the 2008 year. However, the karting organization that runs the day to day operation were able to strike a deal to continue racing on the grounds through June 30, 2009. The sixth round of the PKC South program is tapped as the final karting event to run on the circuit location of the SMKA. With that, many drivers are expected to be in attendance, including some PKC North competitors joining the South championship contenders.

The biggest question heading into Santa Maria will be if anyone can stop the winning streak of S3 championship leader Jacob Neal. The 18-year old is on a six feature race winning streak - including the South and North programs - winning four of five in the South. Due to a rib injury in the opening round at CalSpeed, Neal recorded a low point total from that round. Thus with the championship counting the best six of seven results, Neal will need to continue to run near the front to clinch the title. Patrick Cushenberry and Clinton Schoombee are sitting in the wings, waiting for Neal to make any type of mistake to take over the point lead. On top of that, Neal also holds the top spot in the S1 championship chase, with Peter Abba continuing to give chase each weekend. Both will be welcoming back former PKC champion and current Skip Barber National point leader Connor De Phillippi, as he will return to his karting roots for the weekend.

Six points is the margin between first and second in the G1 championship standings, with Troy Butts and Roy Montgomery continuing their battle in Santa Maria. Butts has only one feature win to his credit, while Montgomery is still searching for that first trip to the top of the podium. Montgomery had been the more consistent driver; however, Butts looks to have the speed each weekend to hold off his challenger. The run for the TaG Senior title has come down to just two drivers for now, with Larry Fraser and Howie Idelson only separated by 14 points entering the Santa Maria round. Fraser has just one feature win, while Idelson carries a zero in that category as the class has seen five different winners. However, if the two tie, Idelson currently holds the tie breaker advantage by besting Fraser in three of the five feature races.

The S4 battles are a close affair, as well, with Jeff Smith currently leading over Rob Whitley while Luke Bianco is on top in the Magnum division over Tony Morrison. Smith has yet to earn a checkered flag this season, but is among the quick drivers each weekend out. Whitley has two podiums to his credit, including a win at Qualcomm, and will need to add another to hope to close the 50 point deficit he faces. Thirty points is all that separates Bianco and Morrison, with their championship beginning at round two in Willow Springs. Each come in with two wins. However, Bianco's two runner-up finishes has him in front of Morrison's one second-place finish thus far.

Introduced at round three at Grange, the KF2 chase is down to two teammates - Alex Speed and Will Martindale. Speed has won the last two after Martindale won the opening feature, putting their point totals at 130 points different. The last round at Buttonwillow saw young driver Gustavo Menezes mixing it up with Speed for the win but eventually settling for second. The three, along with the rest of the field, should put on a great show in Santa Maria. The TaG Masters and TaG Juniors are all but wrapped up with Steve Wiener and Max Zacky controlling both divisions. Wiener has zero feature wins on the year; however, his point advantage over Mike Kelley in second may be too large to overcome - even with the drop race included. Zacky has run unchallenged for most of the season, with the exception of the Shootout last month where he was able to match his talent against the PKC North contingent.

Trailer parking begins Thursday evening from 4pm-8pm, with camping allowed (for a $50 flat fee) from Thursday night thru Saturday night. Practice day will be conducted Friday, June 26 from 9am to 5pm. The host hotel will be the Radisson Hotel Santa Maria, which is located just across the airport with a special rate of $109 by mentioning 'ProKart'. For more information on the Superkarts! USA's ProKart Challenge itself, head to www.prokartchallenge.com or call 951-491-0808.

-credit: skusa

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Series Kart
Drivers Skip Barber , Mike Kelley , Jeff Smith , Gustavo Menezes