ProKART CHALLENGE NORTH ENDS 2009 SEASON WITH THRILLER EVENT Season ending championships came down to the final laps of the year in Sonoma, California SONOMA, CA (September 12, 2009) -- The seventh and final round of the Superkarts! USA ...
ProKART CHALLENGE NORTH ENDS 2009 SEASON WITH THRILLER EVENT
Season ending championships came down to the final laps of the year in Sonoma, California
SONOMA, CA (September 12, 2009) -- The seventh and final round of the Superkarts! USA ProKart Challenge North program took place on September 12 at the Jim Russell International Karting Center in Sonoma, California. The final race of the season could not have been scripted out more dramatically with the number of circumstances deciding the eight series championships.
After perfect weather during the Friday practice day, heavy storms rolled through overnight to greet the racers with unknowing conditions. PKC Officials nearly instituted the 'tough guy' bonus points had the day's weather continued downward and the rains returned; however, the skies cleared up and no rain race was called. Aside from the weather nearly becoming a factor in the championship chases, the action on track provided enough excitement with the titles pending on the last 20 laps of the season.
Coming in 40 points down in the TaG Senior championship chase, Brett Buckwalter earned his first 10 points of the event after dropping down the quick lap during the qualifying session, besting point leader Will Martindale and Brett Felkins -- who came into the finale tied for second in the points with Buckwalter. Felkins would make up the ten points he lost in qualifying, besting Buckwalter in both heat races. Felkins edged Buckwalter by 0.077-seconds in the first heat and only 0.098-seconds in the second heat, with JP Cadoux and Andrick Zeen joining in on the fight.
Entering the final, Buckwalter and Felkins were tied for the championship lead with Martindale trailing them by 15 points due to his DNF in heat two following contact with Larry Fraser. The title would be decided in the opening laps with Felkins pulling off track with a mechanical issue. Martindale's run at the title ended on lap one, as well, with an electrical issue on his powerplant --while Zeen's chance at the victory came to a halt on lap three with a broken chain. This allowed Buckwalter to proceed unchallenged and lead all 20 laps for his fourth straight feature victory to secure the class title. Fraser, fresh off his fourth place run at the Rock Island Grand Prix, climbed up to second in the final, but was removed in the tech barn for an illegal cylinder. This moved Kelsey Nilsson up to second for her best finish of the season, as she edged out Cadoux at the line.
The S3 finale was a precursor for the upcoming SKUSA SuperNationals XIII battle, with a number of contenders on hand getting in a final round of testing for the November event. The 2007 class winner Tom Dyer returned to action at the North program for the first time since earning the feature victory back in July. Dyer put down a blistering lap to secure the pole position over championship leader Jacob Neal, Grand-Am driver Memo Gidley, and New Zealander Daniel Bray. The complexion of the front of the field changed on the opening lap, as Neal made contact with Dyer through turn three, putting both drivers on the sidelines. This allowed Bray to outrun Tommy Thompson and Steve Reasoner for the first heat win. Bray repeated in the second heat as he edged out Reasoner and Thompson once again.
The beginning of the feature was a wild one as Dyer -- who started fifth after working his way forward in the second heat -- knifed his way to the lead for the first time by the scoring loop. He relegated Bray back to third behind Reasoner with Neal coming up from seventh to fourth, as Toft completed the early top-five. Bray, however, would be shuffled back to the tail of the field after spinning on lap three, ending his chase at another feature win. Up front, Dyer would get pressured early on by Reasoner before Toft worked himself into the second spot and began putting the heat on the leader. Dyer and Toft exchanged the lead a number of times before Dyer secured the point on lap 17. From there, Dyer would be able to edge out Toft to the checkered flag by just 0.177 seconds. Gidley was able to advance up to complete the podium, beating Reasoner and Thompson to the line. Neal's seventh place finish result did not factor in with the one drop race toward the point standings, handing Neal the title to sweep the North and South S3 programs.
The fight for the TaG Masters championship was a toss-up, with a number of drivers within reach of the title. Jim Zootis gained the bonus 10-points for the top qualifier honor, as he was the lone driver under the 52-second mark. Jeff Deehan was second, with Austin Dyne -- making his first start in the North program -- splitting up the top four in the championship fight as Steve Elo and Paul Hohlbein rounded out the fast five. After leading the opening lap, Zootis relinquished the point to Deehan en route to the win in the first heat. Shuffling during the first lap of the second heat put Zootis back to fifth, as Deehan led all eight laps for the win with Elo and Hohlbein completing the top-three.
Deehan continued on, doing what he needed to do in the Final, leading all 20 laps to score his second feature -- along with earning the 10 bonus points for the fast lap of the race. Elo entered the race still leading the way in the points, and slotted into the second spot behind Deehan until lap seven -- when hard contact with the rumble strips in the tic-tac-toe section broke the drive chain, putting him on the sidelines for the remainder of the race. The DNF would be costly for Elo, as he lost valuable points toward the championship with Deehan earning enough to jump to the top of the standings to earn the title. Hohlbein advanced to second in the race with Zootis placing third, putting him second in the point standings ahead of Elo.
With the S4 championship wrapped up, Jamie Wilson elected to sit out the finale weekend. On-track, Alex Keith shined as he nearly pulled off the weekend sweep. After locking in the pole position in qualifying, Keith went on to earn the heat one win. A DNF in heat two for a mechanical issue cost him a perfect weekend, however, although he rebounded to score the feature victory for his first of the year over Casey Scherer and Peter Workum. Defending S1 champion Cody Hodgson put in a weekend sweep to earn his second straight class title. Jacob Neal -- needing a feature win in order to dethrone Hodgson -- ran second all day until retiring in the feature on lap 18, moving first time PKC driver Patrick Kelly to the runner-up spot.
At the same time, the G1 division welcomed returning drivers mixing it up with championship chaser Jim Kidd locking in the title. Kidd squeaked out the fast lap in qualifying over returning drivers Kelly Baker and Fernando Diaz, with the top-three separated by just 0.080 seconds. Baker got the holeshot in the first heat to lead all eight laps for the win, with Kidd edging out former champion Craig Corwin for second. Baker took the second heat in the same fashion, this time with Kidd fending off Diaz. Keeping his machine rolling, Baker went three for three in racing action, as he showed the way in the 20-lap feature for the victory. Kidd held his ground in second, scoring the class championship, with Diaz putting the pressure on to complete the podium.
In Junior action, Kiel Spaulding repeated as the HPV-2 Junior champion, locking in the title with his fourth feature win of the season on Saturday. With the title all but locked up before the event began, Spaulding was scheduled to skip the finale until the uncertainty of the weather forced Spaulding to attend, arriving late to contest for the second heat and feature. Before Spaulding hit the track, Austin Keller earned his first top qualifier honors of the season, edging out Luis Tyrrell for the P1 spot to start the first heat. Tyrrell showed the way in the opening laps of the first heat, although he was pressured by Dylan Lupton -- with Keller falling back to third. On lap four, Tyrrell was relegated to the back of the field after scrapping with Lupton. That put Lupton to the point and the win ahead of Keller and Frankie Guerrini III.
In the second heat, Lupton led all eight laps, as Tyrrell worked himself back up to second with Spaulding coming from eighth to third in his first session on track. In the feature, Spaulding got the lead early and went on to lead all 20 laps for the victory. Behind him, Lupton and Tyrrell continued to duke it out before contact on lap eight sent them back a few positions. As the race went on, Tyrrell reclaimed the second spot with Marvin Gardner completing the podium -- as Lupton drove from last to fourth in the second half of the race.
Lupton, however, found the gold in the TaG Junior division with a win in the feature to score the class championship. Austin Thomas showed the way in qualifying, while Austin Elliott took the win in the first heat. Lupton picked up the lead after Elliott retired early in the second heat, earning the win -- and then leading all 20 laps of the final for his third feature victory of the season. Elliott recovered to pressure Lupton early, until another mechanical issue put him on the sidelines on lap nine. That moved Niki Luna up to second and Thomas to third to complete the podium.
As a final special treat, the winners of the S3 and TaG Senior classes -- Tom Dyer and Brett Buckwalter -- got a victory lap around track with driver Memo Gidley in a 1961 Aston Martin DB3 Zagato. A special thanks goes out to the Thomas family, for sponsoring both the Friday night BBQ at the finale event as well as the sponsorship for the end of the year banquet to be held October 17 at the 'Tuscan Car Barn' in Larkspur, CA. Details and ticket information along with more information on the upcoming SKUSA SuperNationals XIII can be found at www.prokartchallenge.com or by calling 951-491-0808.