MENEZES EARNS STARS OF KARTING VICE-CHAMPION FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR Tony Kart pilot scores National Finals victory but come up five points short of JICA title LAS VEGAS, NV (October 12, 2008) -- It was an 'all-in' situation this weekend for...
MENEZES EARNS STARS OF KARTING VICE-CHAMPION FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR
Tony Kart pilot scores National Finals victory but come up five points short of JICA title
LAS VEGAS, NV (October 12, 2008) -- It was an 'all-in' situation this weekend for 14-year old Gustavo Menezes and the young Californian went into the Snap-on Stars of Karting season finale feeling little pressure. The National Finals event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV would crown this year's national champion in the Junior Intercontinental A (JICA) division and the '07 vice-champion, who went into last year's event leading the point chase, had the role reversed heading into this weekend this season as he sat third in the championship chase with nothing to lose.
The Stars of Karting organizers laid out a 7/10-mile temporary circuit inside the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the track kept the drivers and their crew on their toes with the ever-changing asphalt conditions as rubber was laid down throughout the opening Friday practice sessions. Menezes and his Tony Kart USA squad worked throughout the day to find the optimal grip on the around the green track. Sitting seventh in the final session of the day, things looked optimistic for Saturday morning qualifying session. Menezes stepped up to the challenge and posted the third quickest time of the run, besting his two championship rivals to position himself for a chance at gaining ground on the top two.
The three heat races that followed, which would set the grid for the main events, continued to bode well for Menezes as he remaining in the top-five. During the opening race, he fell one spot back to fourth but he would finish second in the final two motos. These results placed him on the outside of row one for the finals, not the optimal position taking into consideration of the opening turn that was a tough left hand kink. However, regardless of this challenge, he sat six spots ahead of the two championship leaders.
With the dirty outside line starting position, the opening lap of the first 20-lap final on Saturday saw Menezes drop to third in the early going. It wouldn't be long before he would strike back as they crossed the line for the first time, as he dropped to the inside of the tight 180 degree turn one to retake the second spot. A few laps later, he pulled the same maneuver for the lead. Showing the way, two drivers would join Menezes to make up the lead pack. The trio would shuffle positions throughout the remaining laps and with two to go, Menezes was sitting second when he used the same turn one pass to assume the top spot while receiving the white flag. Behind him, the challengers ran side-by-side, allowing Menezes to pull out to a comfortable gap and cruise to the finish line for the victory. With the win, Menezes was now tied for the championship lead with the former point leader falling to third, just three points back.
The second final began similarly to the first with Menezes dropping back to third in the opening lap. This time around, he would get shuffled back to fifth in the first half of the race although he was still able to stay in the lead pack. Contact on lap 13 mixed up the lead group and, in the process, Menezes lost touch with the front quartet as a pair of drivers emerged to pull away from the melee. This also allowed the second half of the top-10 to close in and challenge Menezes, including the driver tied in the championship. With three laps to go, over-aggressive driving by those not in the title chase put Menezes back to eighth, behind the championship rival. In the closing laps, Menezes put in a valiant effort and advanced back to fifth at the line, however, he would fall one spot short of earning the national crown.
Menezes has now boarded a plane set for Monaco to compete in the CIK-FIA Monaco Kart Cup for KF3, racing against the best young drivers in the world. When he returns back to the States, Menezes will prepare for his Senior division debut at the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals XII at the Rio Casino Hotel in Las Vegas on November 20-23 in the competitive TaG Senior division - which may reach 100 entries.