CONCORD, N.C. – The 2012 WKA Mazda / Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup Series closes its 2012 season this weekend with the McLaughlin Motorsports Grand Nationals at the popular New Castle Motorsports Park in New Castle, Indiana.
The 2-cycle national sprint series, which began in the final days of 2011 at Daytona Int’l Speedway’s Sprint Course, finishes another strong season that has seen four of the first five events surpass the 550 overall entry count.
Pre-entry numbers for this weekend’s Grand Nationals have surpassed the count for the 2011 Grand Nationals at New Castle, which boasted a fine overall count of 570.
But when practice opens Friday morning entry counts won’t be on the racers’ and teams’ minds. National titles are on the line and dozens of drivers enter New Castle with a shot at one national title or more. In addition, feature race winners will be awarded prestigious Grand National Eagle trophies and 50 bonus points will go to all drivers that make weight and pass tech.
Here’s a breakdown of the national championship battles in the 17 Man Cup divisions.
New Jersey Sprint Series / Mike Doty Racing Yamaha Rookie
Seven final wins have propelled Connecticut Haase racer Alex Verhagen to a commanding 241-point lead over Samuel Paley. After bad luck at Daytona that resulted in a pair of DNFs, Verhagen went on a five-race winning streak before finishing third on Sunday at MRP. He swept the mains at Norway last month and looks like a good bet to win his first national title.
Paley has a slim 26-point lead on Jason Welage for second. Daytona winner Max Kaeser is fourth and Sam Mayer rounds out the top five.
Grand Products / Top Kart / RLV Cadet Sportsman
Jared Cordova has had an up-and-down season and even made a midseason switch from Haase to Birel. But the Virginia racer has been consistent in Cadet with two final wins at Daytona and Norway and a runner-up finish on day two at Daytona. Cordova enters New Castle with a 161-point advantage over MKP Birel pilot David Malukas, who has three Cadet wins but several bad finishes, as well.
Brandon Lemke has won races in Yamaha and Komet Sportsman but continues to look for his first Cadet score. He sits third, only five points back of Malukas. Zach Holden has two wins but like Malukas, also has some DNFs; he’s fourth. Braden Eves has one win at Kershaw and enters the weekend fifth, just ahead of his PCR teammate Leonardo Stoia.
Adkins Speed Center Komet Sportsman
Greenfield, Indiana, racer Zach Holden will be racing close to home this weekend and he has a chance to conquer multiple national championships in front of the hometown crowd. Holden and his Comet Kart Sales Arrow enter Komet Sportsman 30 markers ahead of Merlin pilot Brandon Lemke. Leonardo Stoia is 63 points out of the lead in third. David Malukas is fourth and Braden Eves fifth.
Holden has one win (Norway) while Lemke and Stoia each have won twice.
Comet Kart Sales Yamaha Sportsman 1
Zach Holden has the lead in the Saturday version of Yamaha Sportsman and the Indiana Arrow driver currently holds a better drop than his closest counterpart, PCR’s Leonardo Stoia, who enters this weekend 40 points back not counting the drop.
Kosmic racer Nick Luedeke has been top five throughout much of the season but is still looking for his first Man Cup victory. Brandon Lemke and David Malukas round out the top five.
MRP / Birel Yamaha Sportsman 2
Brandon Lemke and Zach Holden have dominated the Sunday version of Yamaha Sportsman. Lemke has three wins and a 42-point lead over Holden, who has won twice but struggled a bit in the last two outings.
Holden’s most difficult chore in his bid for a Triple Crown comes in this class because he needs help to win it. Unofficially, he’d have to win and hope Lemke finishes third or worse.
David Malukas is on the outside looking in. He’s third, 62 points back of Lemke, but his drop doesn’t help him. Leonardo Stoia is fourth and Neil Verhagen fifth.
PCR Komet Jr Lite
A few Junior drivers have a shot to equal Joel Jens 2011 Triple Crown accomplishment in the 12- to 15-year-old Man Cup divisions. The driver with the best shot probably is Illinois Merlin racer Kyle Kalish.
Kalish enters Komet Jr Lite a cool 180 points in front of Ashley Rogero, but if you calculate the drop, Kalish is only 71 points ahead of Rogero. Mike McAndrews has been hot as of late and enters the Lite version of Komet Jr third in the points. Jens is fourth and first year Junior wheelman Grant Quinlan sits fifth.
No driver has won more than once in the class. Kalish, Rogero, McAndrews, Kyle Kirkwood and England’s James Kellett, who won Daytona, have stood atop the podium.
Orlando Kart Center Komet Jr Heavy
Ironically, the top-four drivers in this class each has a “0” for a drop. Tony Kart racer Ashley Rogero has the lead by a slim 31-point gap over Kyle Kalish. Kyle Kirkwood missed Daytona but has won twice since, placing him third. Joel Jens did not race at Norway and is fourth. Mike McAndrews enters New Castle rounding out the top five. Rogero and Kirkwood both have two wins, while Kalish won the Daytona opener.
Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha Jr Lite
MRP Birel racer Mike McAndrews clings to an 11-point lead over Kershaw winner Brandon Jarsocrak, but when factoring in the drop Jarsocrak and third-place Kyle Kalish both overtake McAndrews, making it one of the tightest standings of any class heading into this weekend’s finale.
Grant Quinlan has been quiet this year but is top five in this class as well as Komet Jr Lire. Quinlan is only 56 back of McAndrews while Garrett Johnston is fifth, 66 points out of the lead.
Verde Speed Resources Yamaha Jr Heavy
Merlin racer Kyle Kalish and Arrow pilot Kyle Kirkwood have gone at it all year in Yamaha Jr Heavy, and while the points show Kalish ahead, when factoring in the drop Kirkwood actually holds a 30-point lead. After missing Daytona, Kirkwood has one win and three runner-up finishes in a superbly consistent campaign.
Joel Jens is third but needs a top finish and Kirkwood and Kalish to finish outside the top five for any shot at a championship. Mike McAndrews is fourth and Jake Johnston fifth in the series’ largest division. Seventy drivers have started a Yamaha Jr Heavy feature in 2012.
J3 Competition Komet Lite
Top Kart racer Mason Chelootz has it all but clinched in this one. Chelootz has three wins and enters the weekend 200 points in front of Birel driver Patrick Olsen. Jacob Donald is third, Jarrett Duncovich fourth and James Brock fifth.
TSRacing.com Komet Heavy
Mason Chelootz is looking to sweep the season in Komet Heavy, which is the first class of the weekend. Chelootz has won every race thus far and has a 180-point lead over Patrick Olsen. Jarrett Duncovich is third, Jacob Donald fourth and James Brock fifth. It’d be difficult to figure a scenario that doesn’t end with Chelootz winning the Komet Heavy national championship.
Grand Products / Top Kart Parilla Leopard
Mason Chelootz leads this division, as well, but by a much slimmer margin. The Grand Products racer holds a 45-point lead over PCR driver Robert Bujdoso, but Bujdoso has a slightly better drop which closes the gap to only 29 markers.
Cal Stewart won the opening two rounds at Daytona and Kershaw but has been shut out since. He’s still third in the points. Jacob Knueven is fourth and MRP victor Chris Wehrheim rounds out the top five.
Franklinkart.com TaG 1
Top Kart pilot Chris Wehrheim’s only win of the TaG 1 season came at the Daytona opener but that, along with three other top-five finishes, has him ahead in the standings by 100 points over Norway winner Tommy Andersen. Robert Bujdoso is third and Mason Chelootz fourth. Robby Seward sits fifth.
But when calculating the drops its much closer. Wehrheim is only 47 points ahead of Andersen, while Chelootz is only 52 points out of the lead and Bujdoso just 57 points back of Wehrheim.
OTK Kart USA TaG 2
Top Kart teammates Chris Wehrheim and Mason Chelootz are one-two in this one, but again, when calculating the drop, things change. Wehrheim is listed as the leader by 55 markers over Chelootz, but with the drops Chelootz is ahead by 20 points.
Robert Bujdoso is third with one win at Kershaw, Tommy Andersen fourth and T.J. Koyen fifth.
DRT Racing / Margay Racing Products TaG Masters
Top Kart racer John Ferris III is in the market for another TaG Masters national title with Margay pilot Jeff Jewell 153 points behind. Kim Carapellatti has had a solid season and enters the weekend third. Scott Ferris moved into the TaG Masters division at Pittsburgh after he turned 35 and has only been beaten once since; he’s fourth in the points. Bobby Cummings is fifth.
Yamaha Supercan Lite
Ohio Arrow racer Dakota Pesek holds a commanding lead over Patrick Olsen. Pesek has only one win on the season at Daytona but has been consistent and enters the final round with a 211-point lead, not counting the drop, which brings Olsen 128 points closer. But even with the drop calculated, a top-10 run should be good enough to net Pesek the title. Collin Griffin is third, Weston Moon fourth and Mark Boos fifth.
APPCO Karting Yamaha Supercan Heavy
Dakota Pesek has the inside shot at the Supercan Heavy championship, as well. With the drop calculated Pesek holds an 85-point lead over John McCusker. Patrick Olsen is third, Jackson Mears fourth and Weston Moon fifth.
There have been five different winners in five races. Pesek, McCusker, Olsen, Kyle Kuntze and Jimmy Clark have all won Supercan Heavy mains this season.
Pre-entry pickup runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday. Official practice is 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday. Eleven national classes run Saturday and nine on Sunday. Practice begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday with qualifying, pre-finals and final to follow.