Jacob Donald (Arrow), David Malukas (Birel) and Neil Verhagen (Haase) are double winners
CONCORD, N.C. (ALL PHOTOS BY SEAN BUUR / GORACING MAGAZINE) – The World Karting Association Mazda / Bridgestone Manufacturers Cup Series closed the doors on its 2012 campaign this past weekend at New Castle, Indiana’s New Castle Motorsports Park, where the McLaughlin Motorsports Grand Nationals took center stage in the 2-cycle sprint karting world at one of the premier karting facilities in the country.
Approximately 530 entries filled the New Castle paddock, giving the series over 500 overall entries at five of the six nationals this season. The largest divisions were Yamaha Jr Lite and Heavy, which both started 45 karts. Sunday’s TaG 2 boasted 39 entrants while 35 drivers started Saturday’s Parilla Leopard contest.
A sideshow to the on-track action was the race for the 2012 Manufacturer Championship, the award that goes to the chassis that wins the most finals in a season. In recent years, Birel has run away with the title, but this season Top Kart and Arrow waged a heated battle that came down to the weekend’s final main event.
After leading the chassis points since round three at Wampum, Pa., Top Kart entered the Grand Nationals with a four-win advantage over Arrow. When the races concluded Saturday, Arrow had posted four wins to Top Kart’s one, closing the points to a mere one-win advantage for Top Kart.
Sunday opened with Arrow winning two of the first three mains, giving the Australian make its first lead in the chassis points since round two at Kershaw, S.C. Arrow nearly took a two-win lead when Cody Robinson led the Yamaha Supercan Heavy main until getting passed on the final corner. If Robinson could have hung on, most likely Arrow would have won the title.
Two races later Scott Ferris wheeled his Top Kart to the TaG Masters Final 2 victory, once again tying the two chassis manufacturers. Ashley Rogero won the last race of the weekend on her Tony Kart, and both leading manufacturers ended with 24 wins on the season.
Highlights in the 20 McLaughlin Motorsports Grand Nationals main events included Connecticut’s Neil Verhagen, Pennsylvania’s Jacob Donald and Chicago’s David Malukas winning two races apiece. Verhagen won Yamaha Sportsman 1 and Cadet Final 2 while Donald swept the senior Komet classes. Malukas captured wins in Cadet Final 1 and Yamaha Sportsman 2.
Four different drivers won the four Junior finals. Mike McAndrews and Derek Dignan won Saturday’s Junior mains and Tony Kart racers Joel Jens and Rogero triumphed in Sunday’s races. Dignan and Rogero were awarded tests in a McLaughlin Motorsports-owned F3000 car at the Putnam Park (Ind.) Road Course later this year in a special program promoted by the event’s sponsor.
Tommy Andersen, Jacob Knueven and Colton Ramsey won the three senior TaG races; John Dixon and Scott Ferris split the TaG Masters contests; Sam Beasley and Patrick Olsen won in a couple of wild Yamaha Supercan races; Zach Holden won Komet Sportsman; Sam Mayer and Alex Verhagen were victorious in Yamaha Rookie Sportsman.
Here’s a rundown of each race.
TSRacing.com Komet Heavy
Jacob Donald (Arrow), Jonathan Kotyk (Tony Kart), Darin Marcus (Merlin) and TJ Koyen (Merlin) kicked off the weekend’s racing in fine fashion. The four drivers battled down to the wire to decide the Komet Heavy feature. After 14 laps of battling, Donald and Kotyk raced to starter Denny Long’s checkered flag side by side with Donald besting the Florida driver by a slight 0.008-second margin in what would turn out to be closest finish of the weekend. Marcus was just 0.043 seconds back in third, while Koyen was about two-tenths late of the winner in fourth.
Pole Award winner James Brock (Birel) faded in the main and finished fifth. Donald also was the eight-lap prefinal.
RLV Tuned Exhaust Cadet Final 1
Twenty-three karts started Saturday’s Cadet class and the HMD Trucking-sponsored MKP Birel pilot David Malukas swept the division for his fourth Cadet win of the year.
Malukas timed fastest over Anthony Gangi Jr. at a 1:15.311 around New Castle’s 1.0-mile course. He bested Merlin racer Brandon Lemke in the prefinal in a close race before leading every lap in the 14-lap final to win by a 1.3-second margin over fellow Birel racers Jared Cordova and Michael Cruz. Michael D’Orlando was fourth on his Kosmic and Leonardo Stoia rounded out the top five on his PCR.
Orlando Kart Center Komet Jr Heavy
A couple of Wisconsin racers led the way in the Saturday version of Komet Jr in Joel Jens (Tony Kart) and Mike McAndrews (Birel). Jens won the Streeter Pole Award and the prefinal over McAndrews and led most of the main event. With McAndrews in tow, the lead duo pulled away from the rest of the field to settle the final among themselves.
Another last lap, last turn pass would decide the final. With some contact made, McAndrews muscled his way past Jens in turn 17 and grab the score and deny Jens of his second win of the WKA season. Jens came home second and Merlin racer Kyle Kalish third. Top Kart driver Ryan Raffa had one of his best runs since moving up from the Sportsman classes at the beginning of the season; he finished fourth. Ashley Rogero rounded out the top five.
Franklinkart.com TaG 1
Houston, Texas, Top Kart racer Mason Chelootz claimed the TaG 1 Pole Award and prefinal, but in the main event, Kosmic pilot Tommy Andersen came to life after qualifying seventh and finishing third in the prefinal. Andersen wheeled his No. 8 to the front of the field and held on lap eight of the final and proceeded to stretch his lead out to nearly a half-second advantage over Chelootz by the time the checkers waved.
PCR racer Robert Bujdoso was 1.2 second back of the winner in third, Sam Beasley fourth and Jacob Donald fifth. Twenty-nine drivers started the final.
Comet Kart Sales Yamaha Sportsman 1
Haase racer Neil Verhagen flexed his muscle in the Yamaha Sportsman category for the second Man Cup in a row. Verhagen won his first WKA race at Concept Haulers Motor Speedway in August and backed it up with the win in Saturday’s Yamaha Sportsman 1 contest at New Castle.
Verhagen, who’s younger brother Alex has been on a tear in Yamaha Rookie Sportsman this year, won the Streeter Super Stands Pole Award and finished third to David Malukas and Jared Cordova in the prefinal.
When the final began, Verhagen’s closest competitors were Cordova and Arrow pilot Zach Holden. Cordova led the mid-part of the race before Verhagen and Holden raced past. Holden dogged Verhagen over the last four laps until the final corner, where Holden raced side by side with Verhagen. In a photo finish, Verhagen edged Holden by 0.013 seconds for the win, however, Holden would unofficially claim the national championship. Cordova was third, Brandon Lemke fourth and Malukas fifth.
New Jersey Sprint Series Yamaha Rookie Final 1
Dominating performances in Streeter Super Stands qualifiying and the prefinal had Connecticut Haase driver Alex Verhagen on the pole for the final. But in the 14-lap main, Verhagen didn’t pull away from the rest of the pack like he did in the prefinal. Sam Mayer (Merlin) and Max Kaeser (PCR) hung with the seven-time 2012 Man Cup winner and on the exit to the final corner, Mayer shot to the inside of Verhagen and beat him to the finish line by just 0.071 seconds – or about a half a kart length.
Kaeser crossed the stripe in third, only 0.178 seconds late of the winner. Nic Sheppard was fourth and Samuel Paley completed the top five of 24 starters.
Woltjer Racing Engines Yamaha Jr Lite
Derek Dignan added another win for Arrow in Saturday Yamaha Jr Lite. The win, while important for the chassis manufacturer, was a moment Dignan will never forget as it marked his first-ever WKA Manufacturers Cup triumph.
Dignan kept Tony Kart racer Joel Jens at bay in the final laps of the main. Jens worked on the Arrow but Mike McAndrews stuck his nose in the action on the final trip down the I-70 straight, giving Dignan a push and keeping him ahead through turn 17 and to Denny Long’s checkered flag. Jens was second, Kyle Tilley had a fine run for third, McAndrews fourth and Skylar Robinson fifth.
Kyle Kirkwood won the Streeter Pole Award and McAndrews claimed the prefinal victory.
Grand Products / Top Kart Parilla Leopard
Thirty-five karts entered the Leopard-only TaG class in one of the better Leopard fields of the year. Jacob Knueven won the Pole Award on his Arrow and Sam Beasley (Arrow) bested Chris Wehrheim (Top Kart) in the prefinal.
The final would be decided on a penalty as Beasley and Wehrheim were involved in a last-lap, last-turn incident that sent Beasley into the grass and Wehrheim across the finish line first. However, Wehrheim was penalized to 13th in the final rundown for his contact with Beasley, handing the win to Merlin pilot Colton Ramsey. Mark Boos was awarded second, Beasley third, Jacob Donald fourth and Billy Lewis fifth in the wild race.
Yamaha Supercan Lite
A couple of the craziest races of the weekend were the senior Yamaha mains. In Saturday’s Supercan Lite class, national point leader Dakota Pesek qualified fastest on his Arrow and won the prefinal over MRP Birel driver Patrick Olsen.
Pesek faded in the final, ultimately finishing seventh. On the last lap, Darin Marcus, Billy Lewis and local runner Jimmy Simpson raced three-wide for the lead into the treacherous turn 17. Heavy contact was made with Lewis and Simpson sliding off the track. This allowed Arrow racer Sam Beasley, who was running fourth and looked to be out of the running for the win at several times in the race, to sneak past the lead trio and throw his hands in the air on the big Supercan score.
Olsen was second and Marcus recovered from the turn 17 melee to take third. Colton Ramsey was fourth, Simpson fifth and Lewis sixth.
Adkins Speed Center Komet Sportsman
Arrow pilot Zach Holden had admittedly struggled in the KPV-powered Sportsman category in recent weeks at divisional events at New Castle. But the Greenfield, Ind., racer found speed at the Man Cup to win the Streeter Super Stands Pole Award. PCR racer Leonardo Stoia bested Holden by a slim margin to win the prefinal.
In the final Holden put his No. 2 out front with Stoia and David Malukas in tow. Stoia stayed tucked in behind Holden, knowing that a second-place result would be good enough to net him the Komet Sportsman national championship. Coming down the I-70 straightaway on the final lap, Holden protected the bottom groove and Stoia opted to follow, giving Holden his second win in a row in the class and Stoia his first WKA championship. Malukas was third, Brandon Lemke fourth and Jared Cordova rounded out the top five.
DRT Racing TaG Masters Final 1
John Dixon made his second Man Cup appearance of the season, but this time he did it on a Top Kart rather than the FA Kart he campaigned at Michiana Raceway Park in July.
The chassis swap looked to be a good one as Dixon swept the Saturday TaG Masters program. Things got interesting about halfway into the final when brothers Scott Ferris and John Ferris III began to run down the Indiana veteran. John Ferris III made his move on the inside into turn 13 on the final lap, but couldn’t make it stick, allowing Dixon to scoot away through the final handful of corners and score his first Man Cup win of the season and give Top Kart its only win of the day. John Ferris III was second, Scott Ferris third, Jeff Jewell fourth and Bobby Cummings fifth on his Birel.
J3 Competition Komet Lite
Jacob Donald proved to be a big reason why Arrow tied Top Kart in the Manufacturer Championship standings when he swept the Komet senior divisions with a Sunday afternoon triumph in Komet Lite.
Darin Marcus (Merlin) won the Streeter Pole Award before TJ Koyen looked stout aboard his Merlin on his way to the prefinal win. Koyen, however, had mechanical issues and dropped out of the final on lap seven, leaving Donald to battle Top Kart racer Mason Chelootz to the finish.
Donald crossed the stripe only 0.064 seconds ahead of Chelootz for the win in an important race in the Manufacturer Championship battle. Jonathan Kotyk was over three seconds behind in third, James Brock fourth and Marcus fifth.
Grand Products / Top Kart Cadet Final 2
Tony Kart racer Anthony Gangi Jr. and Haase pilot Neil Verhagen have improved all year in the Man Cup’s Sportsman ranks and the two are now a threat to win every time they take the track. In Sunday’s Cadet program, Gangi qualified fastest over Verhagen before Verhagen bested Gangi in the eight-lap prefinal.
The main event saw Saturday Cadet winner David Malukas muscle his Birel to the front and put himself in position to win the race, and a shot at a championship. However, on the last lap Gangi and Malukas made contact in the green corner, sending Malukas off the track and out of the event a half-lap from the finish. Gangi would be penalized in the running order to finish behind Malukas, although it was little consolation for the HMD Trucking racer as the incident cost him his first national title.
The green corner incident left Verhagen and Brandon Lemke to battle it out for the win. Verhagen bested Lemke by a mere 0.090-second gap for his second win of the weekend, while Gangi crossed the stripe third but was relegated to 21st for the aforementioned penalty. Three PCR chassis completed the top five with Leonardo Stoia third, John Paul Southern Jr. fourth and Adam Sturgill fifth.
OTK Kart USA TaG 2
Atlanta-based Top Kart racer Chris Wehrheim looked to be tough to beat entering Sunday’s TaG final after qualifying fastest and winning the prefinal by a comfortable margin over Jacob Knueven (Arrow).
Wehrheim jumped out to the lead in the final, but after a few laps he had three Arrows chasing him in Jacob Donald, Sam Beasley and Knueven. As the race progressed, it was evident the trio of Arrows weren’t going to let Wehrheim get away as he did in the prefinal. At the halfway point, the Arrows made their move on the Top Kart pilot. Knueven and Donald shot past Wehrheim on the inside on entrance to turn 17. Beasley attempted to follow but made heavy contact with Wehrheim, sending Beasley airborne and both karts hard into the fence.
Beasley and Wehrheim exchanged some heated words before exiting the track, and Beasley was suspended from competition for the rest of the day.
Back on the track, more drama ensued. Donald and Knueven battled wheel to wheel to the finish and entered turn 17 side by side. Donald crossed the stripe in front of Knueven but was disqualified in post-race tech for his bumper being detached. This gave the win to Knueven, who was just ahead of PCR racer Robert Bujdoso. Jonathan Kotyk was third, Mark Boos fourth and Mason Chelootz fifth.
PCR Komet Jr Lite
Verde Speed Resources Tony Kart racer Joel Jens swept the Komet Jr Lite program but not without some stiff competition from fellow Tony Kart chauffeur Ashley Rogero.
After winning the Streeter Pole Award and the prefinal, Jens battled hard with Rogero throughout the 14-lap main. On the final corner, Rogero ducked to the inside of Jens and the two made contact, sending the 2011 WKA Triple Crown champion off the track and Rogero across the finish line first. However, officials found fault with Rogero’s overtaking move and relegated the Florida racer to a second-place finish, and declared Jens the winner.
Rogero’s day didn’t get any better a few minutes later when her Tony Kart tipped the scales too light, disqualifying her from the race. This gave MRP Birel racer Grant Quinlan the runner-up spot, Gresham Wagner third, Kyle Kirkwood fourth and Matt Solarczyk fifth in the 32-kart field.
The win marked Jens’s first since triumphing in Yamaha Jr Heavy at the Daytona season opener last December.
Mike Doty Racing Yamaha Rookie Final 2
In Sunday’s version of Yamaha Rookie, Alex Verhagen finished what he started on Saturday aboard his Haase chassis. Verhagen again timed fastest in qualifying and won the prefinal in convincing fashion to start on the pole for the final.
In the main, Sam Mayer, Max Kaeser, Samuel Paley, Connor Ferris and Kaylen Frederick were able to hang with Verhagen in the early laps. But as he has many times this season, as the race progressed Verhagen pulled away from the field and ran uncontested to another victory. The win was Verhagen’s eighth of the 2012 Man Cup campaign and put the finishing touches on a national championship.
Mayer was second and Kaeser crossed the line third for the second day in a row. Paley finished fourth to finish off an ultra-consistent campaign that comprised 11 top-five podium finishes in 12 starts. Connor Ferris completed the top five with Frederick right there in sixth.
APPCO Yamaha Supercan Heavy
Merlin racers Adam Crepin and Colton Ramsey ran away from the field in the prefinal after Crepin scored the Pole Award. But several drivers made impressive moves to get to the front in the 14-lap final, including Jimmy Simpson, Billy Lewis and Cody Robinson.
Robinson secured his Arrow at the top of the leader board for most of the second half of the race, and with one lap to go, Robinson was in position to give Arrow another victory and most likely the Manufacturer Championship trophy.
As expected, the final straightaway and turn 17 settled the race. Robinson still led off turn 15, but kart fanned out behind him to make it three and four wide. No fewer than four karts went side by side into turn 17, and nearly all of them made contact. The driver in the right position was Patrick Olsen, who was behind the multi-abreast racing into the last corner, and shot his Birel to the inside off everyone on exit to beat eight karts to the finish stripe by less than a one-second gap.
Probably no one watching could tell you who crossed the stripe second and on back. According the AMB timing and scoring, Olsen beat out Chase Jones by 0.078 seconds. Simpson was third, Robinson fourth and Lewis fifth. Crepin took sixth, Colin Griffin seventh, James Brock eighth and Jackson Mears ninth, all within one second of the winner.
MRP / Birel Yamaha Sportsman 2
MKP Birel racer David Malukas made it two wins on the weekend in the Sunday version of Yamaha Sportsman, and effectively denied Neil Verhagen of a McLaughlin Motorsports Grand Nationals hat trick.
Verhagen qualified fastest and won the prefinal, while Malukas was third in both rounds of competition. Malukas and Verhagen battled hard in the final with Braden Eves, Michael D’Orlando and Brandon Lemke right there in the five-kart breakaway. Lemke spent time leading, as did D’Orlando. But Malukas grabbed the lead away from D’Orlando on the final lap and fended off challenges from Verhagen in turn 17 to win the race by a half-kart length over Neil.
Eves claimed third, D’Orlando settled for fourth and Lemke rounded out the top five in the excited race.
Margay Racing Products TaG Masters Final 2
Just as John Dixon did in Saturday’s TaG Masters class, Scott Ferris swept Sunday’s TaG Masters rounds. Dixon retired from qualifying with a mechanical issue, forcing him to start scratch in the prefinal. While Dixon was having problems and then forced to race his way through the field in the heat, Scott Ferris proceeded to win the Streeter Pole Award and dominate the prefinal.
Dixon made it all the way up to third in the prefinal to start behind Ferris and Jeff Jewell. He immediately passed Jewell for second and proceeded to pass Ferris for the lead on lap six. But Ferris would have too much for Dixon on this day. He dogged the Indiana driver throughout the middle of the race and with two laps to go, worked his way back by Dixon to retake the lead.
Ferris pulled away for a 1.3-second win over Dixon. Jewell was over nine seconds back in third. Steve Schiewer was fourth and Tim Bannon fifth. Ferris’s win gave Top Kart two on the weekend to tie Arrow in the final Manufacturer Championship standings.
Verde Speed Resources Yamaha Jr Heavy
Local runner Sam Cate (Tony Kart) proved you don’t have to be a national regular to run up front at a Man Cup event. Cate scored the Pole Award over national hot shoe Joel Jens (Tony Kart) and won the prefinal over multi-time national champion Ashley Rogero (Tony Kart).
In the final Rogero, Cate and MRP Birel racer Mike McAndrews waged a clean three-kart battle for the win. Rogero led the final laps with McAndrews and Cate right there. In turn 15 on the last lap, Cate negotiated an impressive crossover move on McAndrews to steal second, but as the two raced hard for the runner-up spot, Rogero hid up front and ran uncontested to the win. Cate secured second and McAndrews settled for third. Joel Jens was fourth and Kyle Kalish rounded out the top five.
SPL Kid Karts
Four kid karters gained laps and valuable experience around the challenging New Castle circuit. Aiden Hinds, Tanner Holwerda, Sinead Lynch and Carter Mears made every round of the Kid Kart exhibitions throughout the weekend. All three drivers looked good on the track as they prepare to advance to the Yamaha Rookie Sportsman division in the coming years.
Next up for the WKA Mazda / Bridestone Manufacturers Cup Series is the annual Sprint Championships at Daytona Int’l Speedway. WKA will release more information on this year’s Daytona KartWeek festivities in the coming weeks.