Neal Secures Prokart Challenge South Titles at season finale Toft and others get in track time for SuperNats with victories as nine titles were decided FONTANA, CA (August 29, 2009) -- The final round of Superkarts! USA's ProKart Challenge ...
Neal Secures Prokart Challenge South Titles at season finale
Toft and others get in track time for SuperNats with victories as nine titles were decided
FONTANA, CA (August 29, 2009) -- The final round of Superkarts! USA's ProKart Challenge South took place during last Saturday's heat wave outside the Auto Club Speedway around the CalSpeed Karting facility. The seventh and final round of the fifth season for the Southern California-based PKC program was one of the most attended and most exciting -- with a number of competitors on hand preparing for the upcoming SKUSA SuperNationals XIII in November mixed in with those chasing down a championship. In total, nine champions were crowned following the action around the 'Grande-reverse' circuit.
Heading into CalSpeed, the attention in the S3 class was geared toward point leader Jacob Neal. Coming in with five straight feature wins, those chasing him would need to put in their best runs of the season to hope to dethrone him. Patrick Cushenberry -- who entered the event second in the points -- began the event in that fashion as he put down the fastest lap in qualifying, edging Neal by just 14-thousandths of a second. PKC North defending champion Jason Toft made the trek down for more track time, and was third in the timed session ahead of Clinton Schoombee and S5 Junior graduate Race Liberante. The first 10-lap heat race saw Neal lead flag to flag, with Schoombee advancing up to second while Cushenberry fell to fourth behind Toft. Schoombee, third in the standings, got the jump off the line and paced the field the entire second heat race - despite some painful injured ribs from a few weeks back. Neal slotted into second until lap three, when he was waved off track for no neck collar. Toft would go on to finish second ahead of Cushenberry.
The first half of the 20-lap feature saw a battle with just the top two, as Schoombee and Toft battled hard until lap 12 when Schoombee had to finally pull off track as the pain in his ribs became too severe to continue. This gave Toft all the space he needed, as he cruised on to a two-second victory over Cushenberry. In the tech barn, however, Cushenberry was removed from the results by being underweight at the scales. The surprise of the race was the newcomers that shined -- with Peter Abba placing third and Liberante fourth, each moving up one position on the podium due to Cushenberry's misfortune. The weekend was Abba's first S3 race after running S1 for the majority of the year; likewise, Liberante earned his first podium after just his third weekend as a Senior driver. Neal looked to make a comeback in the final until lap nine, when he clipped a tire and went off track losing a number of positions. Despite the disappointing 10th place finish, he garnered enough points to secure the class championship. Neal would also lock in the S1 championship with a victory in the feature, while Imran Husain and Jason Chott split the wins in the heat races, finishing second and third on the podium respectively.
The G1 category came into the finale with the tightest point battle between Roy Montgomery and Troy Butts. The event, however, saw former champion PP Mastro -- third in the standings -- steal the show as he swept the day's action. Mastro was more than two-tenths quicker than Butts, with Montgomery clocking in third. Mastro led all 10 laps of the opening heat with Nick Firestone breaking up the Butts and Montgomery battle. Issues, however, in tech for Butts put him at the back of the field with a disqualification for his kart being too wide. In the second heat, Mastro was challenge by Firestone early. On lap seven, Firestone made his move and assumed the point, going on to take the provisional victory until he was tossed out in tech for the same kart width infraction as Butts. This gave Mastro the win, with Montgomery slotted in second -- while Butts worked himself up to fourth behind Brad Dhesi.
Though Montgomery fought valiantly, Mastro was hooked up too well to challenge for the victory. Mastro would grab the holeshot and lead all 20 laps for his third feature win of the season. Montgomery was a solid second, while Firestone duplicated Butts' run in heat two, advancing up to third, relegating Butts to a fourth place finish off the podium. The win also put Mastro on top of the standings when figuring the one-race drop, claiming another ProKart Challenge championship. Montgomery ended the year second with Butts earning the third place season-end trophy.
Jeff Smith made it crystal clear just who was the top driver in S4 this PKC South season. Coming in as the point leader, Smith made sure nothing would let that slip away as he swept the class action on the day. Qualifying was close, with Ken Schilling coming just 24-thousandths from stealing the pole position during the timed session. A poor opening lap put Smith back to third in the first heat, but he would regain the lost positions to take the win with Schilling following through on his tail as he also had a bad start. Smith went unchallenged in the second heat, with Mike Goebel taking the second spot as Schilling again suffered a poor start. Smith was solid on his already warm MG Tires to extend an early lead en route to lead all 20 laps of the feature for his second straight win, locking in the title. Greg Nelson was able to work by Goebel for second, while Schilling ran a tough eighth place while suffering from heat stroke.
The PKC finale also witnessed its first double winner for someone not named Neal. Rising star Gustavo Menezes, who has spent most of his 2009 season racing in Europe, won both the TaG Senior and KF2 features. A more populated TaG Senior class saw Andrick Zeen as the early man to beat, as he led the way in qualifying and the first heat race. After a poor qualifying session, Menezes recovered in the first heat to place second, one-second behind Zeen, before going on to score the second heat race win ahead of Devin Lindsey and Zeen. In the feature, Zeen and Menezes went back and forth until Zeen retired on lap 12 with a failed coil, handing Menezes the victory. With championship challenger Larry Fraser absent from the event, the title was awarded to Howie Idelson.
Menezes did battle with KF2 point leader Alex Speed on the day, as well. After edging him for top honors in qualifying, Speed got the better end with the opening heat race win. Menezes finished third behind Andrick Zeen but was removed from the results for his kart being too wide in tech. Speed went unchallenged in the second heat race, with Cody Hodgson and Zeen finishing ahead of a charging Menezes. The start of the feature was an exciting one with the front group shuffling around. Menezes went from fourth to first with Speed falling back to third. Speed would eventually work his way to the point by lap eight, where he would stay until retiring on lap 17 following racing contact with Menezes. That would allow Menezes to retake the lead and go on for the victory over Zeen and Hodgson. Speed, however, would walk away from the weekend as the season champion.
The TaG Master division was controlled by series newcomers at the season finale. Making his first series start, Austin Dyne was the driver to beat throughout the day, as he topped the charts in qualifying -- and then led all 10 laps in both heat races. The start, however, in the feature shuffled Dyne back in the order as championship contenders Jeff Bobbitt and Steve Wiener fought for the lead. As Dyne was making his way back to the point, he would retire on lap 14 with mechanical problems. Bobbit, meanwhile, had begun stretching out a lead over Wiener, with Pasha Mirhadi challenging for the second spot. With one lap to go, Bobbitt's chance at victory ended with his engine seizing. This gave Mirhadi his first victory, as he edged Wiener to the line by just 0.071-seconds in just his fourth series start -- with Mike Kelley completing the podium. Bobbitt earned a fifth place finish despite not making it to the checkered flag while Wiener's runner-up finish locked him in for the class championship.
Securing the new S4 Magnum class championship was Luke Bianco. The point leader heading into the event swept the day's action. With its biggest turnout of the year, Bianco paced the field the entire day, taking the feature win over Todd Scholta and championship contender Tony Morrison. Also gaining more entries was the TaG Junior division, as drivers continue to prepare for the upcoming SuperNats. Already crowned the class champion, Max Zacky welcomed the challenge. However, it was Carlee Taylor and Corey Neveau who paced the day. Taylor led the way in qualifying and the opening heat race, while Neveau won the second heat after Taylor sat it out with sore ribs. Taylor returned in the feature, climbing up to the second spot until lap five when she would retire after contact with another kart disabled her kart. Neveau went on to take the win in his PKC South debut, with Zacky ending the season second on podium, ahead of another PKC South rookie Austin Thomas.
With the season now closed, the PKC South program will focus its attention on the awards banquet, scheduled for October 3 at the Grand Long Beach Event Center. More details on the banquet -- along with the upcoming ProKart Challenge North season finale on September 12 at the Jim Russell International Karting Center -- will be announced in the near future. For more information on the Superkarts! USA's ProKart Challenge itself or the upcoming SKUSA SuperNationals XIII, head to www.prokartchallenge.com or call 951-491-0808.