The Texas ProKart Challenge opened up the 2014 in style at the Dallas Karting Complex over the April 25-27 weekend. The Superkarts! USA and United States Rotax Max Challenge regional program welcomed roughly 200 entries on the weekend, including drivers from all across the country as well as drivers from Europe, preparing for the 2014 SKUSA SpringNationals. A prize package over $30,000 is set to be handed out this season, with many of the same drivers from 2013 planning for another run at championships.
The weekend brought some unique conditions, as the track gained a lot of rubber to increase the grip level throughout Saturday's action. A thunderstorm passed through the Caddo Mills, Texas area Sunday, bringing a wet track for the early portion of the event. The largest group of the weekend was the combined categories of Champion Racing/Intrepid S1 Pro Stock Moto and the Pole Position/DR Kart S2 Semi-Pro Stock Motowith 41 drivers taking part on the weekend. Texas PKC officials broke them up for qualifying each day, with 13 in S1 and 28 in S2.
British driver Jordon Lennox-Lamb edged out former Texas PKC champion Jake French by mere 48 thousandths of a second. Former Pro Tour champion Fritz Leesmann was third with Texas drivers Ryan Kinnear and Connor Wagner completing the fast-five. With the groups combined to form the grid for the heat race, Lennox was out-gunned at the start by S2 top qualifier Miguel Lopez. Lennox was shuffled back down to 11th on the opening lap, with Lopez in the lead. Leesmann took over the lead on lap two, going on to score the win with French a close second. Lopez settled for third overall, first in S2, ahead of Kolton Griffin. Leesmann led all 8 laps of heat two, with French and Lopez right on his bumper. Lennox climbed his way up to fourth in the order, setting up for a wild main event. Starting on the pole position, Leesmann led the way in the main event until lap seven. Lopez took over the top spot and Leesmann tried to fight back, jumping a curb the wrong way and spun out. That put French into the challenger position, taking over the top spot on lap nine. Lennox followed the Texan through and let him lead only one circuit before taking over the top spot. He led until the checkered flag waved, however, the European driver forfeited the win due to contact with French, which took him out of contention. The noble move dropped him down the order behind French, and promoted S2 driver Lopez to the overall victory with Colorado driver Christian Schureman as the S1 winner. Dutch driver Milan Dontje was second in S1, preparing for the Pro Tour event next weekend with Luke Shanahan the runner-up in S2. Alex Tartaglia completed the S2 podium with a fifth overall result at his home track, while Sabré Cook made it two Colorado drivers on the podium in S1.
Sunday saw a number of the Pro Tour drivers sit out the competition due to the changing weather conditions. New S1 drivers Garrett Boone and Ryan Kinnear led the way on the day, as they look to challenge one another for the series title as they did last year in S2. Boone got the bonus points for the top qualifier in the wet, but Kinnear led all 12 laps of the heat race. S2 driver Shanahan brought on a challenge in the 18-lap feature race, taking over the lead on the first circuit. Lap five, Kinnear took over the spot and had other S2 drivers – Griffin and Nathan Adds – follow through. Griffin took over the top spot overall on lap seven, posting fast laps of the race to earn the overall win and the S2 victory. Kinnear ran second, first in S1, acting as a buffer for Griffin with Adds in third. The 2013 Texas PKC S5 champion crossed the line second in S2, but he was removed for not having the correct timing plate inserted. That promoted Shanahan to second and Tartaglia to third for their second podium finishes of the weekend. Next to Kinnear on the S1 podium was Cook with Schureman in third.
Experience overcame youth during the first day of the Fernelius Alvarez Attorneys TaG Senior category. Young driver Jake Preston stole the pole position from Louie Pagano, posting a 53.410-second lap. Senior rookie Austin Osborne jumped to second in the order, off by 12 thousandths with Pagano back by just 19 thousandths of a second. Pagano went from third to first in the opening lap of heat one, driving to the race win over Preston. It was the same result in the short heat two event, as the west coast drivers went 1-2 leading into the feature race. Pagano walked away in the 11-lap run, recording a six-second margin of victory. Florida driver Dustin Stross worked past Preston for the runner-up spot. Preston added his second pole position with fast time in the wet qualifying session. The Senior rookie gained more confidence, fending off a challenge from Stross in the heat race for the win. Preston went unfazed in the main event, leading all 18 laps for his first TaG Senior victory in his young career. Stross fell down the order early, and Pagano retired three laps short, moving Luke Waller to runner-up and Colorado driver Jason Dempster third.
Last year's HPD/Honda S4 Master Stock Moto championship went down to the wire with Chris Jennings scoring the title over Superkarts! USA Pro Tour title winner Jordon Musser The stage is set for what could be another exciting chase as the two split the feature wins in Dallas. Round One was all Musser, as he swept the day's action. Jordon began by posting a 52.457-second lap in the timed qualifying session to clear the field by three tenths. He led all eight laps in each of the heat races, with Jennings second at the line both times. The fireworks began quickly in the main event with Musser leading after the opening circuit as Texas native Trevor McAlister stepped in to challenge. McAlister took over the lead from Musser on lap two, as the trio – including Jennings – went back and forth for position. Musser snagged the lead for good with two laps remaining, holding on to the checkered flag. Contact between McAlister and Jennings on lap eight changed the order after the karts crossed the line. McAlister was second, but place behind Jennings after the penalty. That promoted Roy Montgomery to runner-up with Florida driver Tim Ulmen in third.
McAlister got the jump on the rest of the field Sunday, picking up top honors in qualifying under wet conditions. A number of drivers sat out the session, including Musser and Jennings. The two climbed to the front of the field in the 12-lap heat race, joining McAlister in the lead by the end of lap two. Musser took over the lead on lap three, and paced the field to the end with Jennings placing third. The main event fight became a duel as Musser suffered a mechanical issue before the green flag waved, forcing him to watch from the sidelines. Jennings stepped up the pace in the 18-lap event, leading the way the entire time to earn his first win of 2014. McAlister settled for second, holding off Steve McCaffery.
Musser was a three-time winner on the weekend, adding two victories in the Dallas Karting Complex DD2 division. The four-time US Rotax Grand Nationals champion returned to his previous stomping grounds, stepping back in a two-speed Rotax machine for the first time since his last title in 2006. On Saturday, Musser swept the opening round, leading every lap to score the win over multi-time Team USA Rotax racer Nathan Mauel, with Ricardo Gonzalez third. Mauel set the pace in the wet for qualifying, earning bonus points for the fast time. Gonzalez was quicker once the track dried for the heat race, as he led Mauel by 2.75 seconds at the line. Musser, who sat out both sessions, started from the back of the field in the main event and fought his way forward. By lap 10, Jordon was into second and began running down Gonzalez for the lead. With two laps remaining, Musser found a way by and secured the lead to earn his third win of the weekend. Gonzalez settled for second with Mauel in third.
There was a number of talented young drivers at the Dallas Karting Complex over the weekend, filling up the categories under the age of 15. The Kart Life TaG Cadetfeatured 22 strong, featuring a good handful from the region as well as Pro Tour competitors. Florida driver David Morales was out front at the checkered flag for each session on Saturday. Morales was challenged by New York driver Michael d'Orlando and Canadian/American Lachlan DeFrancesco in the heat races. They, along with Jagger Jones, put on a show for the main event race win. Morales took the lead just before the white flag, and drove off to the victory as Jones edged out d'Orlando for the runner-up spot.
Morales began Round Two where he left off Saturday, at the top of the order in qualifying despite the wet track. After leading two laps of the heat race, d'Orlando came charging through the field to take over the lead and score the win. The feature came down to three drivers, Morales, d'Orlando and his brother Nicholas. The three never ran the same order in consecutive laps, exchanging the lead at least seven times. Nicholas put himself at the front of the pack on lap 12, going on to earn the victory. Morales was second with Jones up to third after Michael d'Orlando was dropped to fifth for blocking.
Many of the same drivers took part in the Chase Racing Mini Max division. Lachlan DeFrancesco overcame challenges throughout the day to score the overall victory. He posted the fast lap in qualifying, edging Riley Dickinson by 72 thousandths of a second. After dropping back at the start of heat one, he fought his way back to the win. He repeated the same thing in heat two, earning the pole position for the main event. The 12-lap was all DeFrancesco, leading each circuit toward the victory. Dickinson and Sebastian Alvarez completed the podium. Dickinson picked up the pace Sunday, posting fast lap in qualifying under wet conditions and drove to the win in the heat race. He could not finish the sweep as a mechanical issued put him on the sidelines during the warm-up lap of the feature. That set up a battle for the win with Alejandro Jaramillo taking over on lap seven. He led the remaining seven circuits to score his first series victory. DeFrancesco came just 33 thousandths short at the line, with Alvarez trailing in third.
The opening rounds welcomed the return of former Texas ProKart Challenge racer Patricio O'Ward. After spending much of 2013 racing cars, his return to the series sparked a four win performance. O'Ward swept the feature wins in the SwedeTech Racing Engines S5 Junior Stock Moto division. He was the top qualifier and heat one winner, but a DNF in heat two dropped him down the order and gave Raul Guzman the win. O'Ward came from 13th on the grid to first in just seven laps, thanks in part to the fastest laps of the race. The margin of victory was 1.7 seconds over Trenton Estep, who was penalized one position for unavoidable contact. Guzman moved to the runner-up step of the podium and dropped Estep to third. The momentum continued through Sunday with a clean sweep of the action, leading every lap of competition. Guzman finished second on the day again with Jacob Loomis third.
Enertech Rotax Juniorwas the third victory for O'Ward. The opening heat race was a nail-bitter with O'Ward edging out top qualifier Trenton Estep. It was another close finish in heat two with O'Ward on top once again. He went on to lead all 12 laps of the main event, securing the first main event victory. Estep was second with Nick Brueckner in the third position. Sunday was the final notch on the win total for O'Ward as he swept the day's action. O'Ward drove to a seven-second advantage over David Malukas with Parker Chase in third.
Four other drivers recorded double wins on the weekend. Jak Crawford nearly pulled off a perfect two days, earning victories in the Ribtect Micro Max. Crawford dominated the action Saturday, putting in a clean sweep to a 15-second margin of victory in the main event over Branyon Tiner and Logan Stretch. After missing the qualifying session, it was his only blemish of the weekend. Crawford bounced back to earn the heat win and score the feature victory by eight seconds. Tiner was runner-up once again with Vittorio Catino third. Conner Ford was the winner in the Gaddy Web Design Rotax Seniordivision both days. A DNF in heat one was the only session Saturday that did not see him at the top of the order, with Ford scoring the feature win by four seconds over Senior rookie Jesse Woodyard with heat one winner Thomas Beaudoin third. Woodyard was top qualifier in the wet session Sunday morning, but Ford returned to the front at the end of the heat race and main event. Bradley Smith improved to finish second with Beaudoin another podium finish.
Anthony Honeywell secured the feature win both days in the Dreams Captured Photography TaG Master. Honeywell scored the pole position Saturday, but retired early in heat one. That allowed former Pro Tour champion Brian McHattie to score the heat win, and repeat in the second moto. Honeywell completed his recovery, climbing his way to the top step of the podium, with McHattie second and Mathew Souza third. Sunday, Juan David Gomez was the top driver through the wet qualifying session and first dry session in the heat race. The main event was all Honeywell, as he took the win over Souza and Gomez. AJ Hayes was a double winner in the RPM Race Karts S3 Novice Stock Motodivision. After qualifying first, he was unable to finish the first heat race. That put Alex Nichols at the top of the order and once again in heat two. Nichols led the way in the main event and crossed the line first, however, was removed from the results for a broken exhaust. That place Hayes on top of the podium with Kyle Counts second and Conor Turnage third. No driver took to the wet track for qualifying, opting to save their equipment for the heat race with the drying track. Counts survived the race, crossing the line first. Hayes picked up the pace in the main event, scoring the win over Joshua Smith and Counts.
The Turbo Lube/Motul TaG Juniorclass was paced by Christian Brooks throughout much of the weekend. The California driver set the tone in qualifying, and won both heat races leading into the main event. A first lap incident dropped him to the tail of the field. That allowed CzechRepublic driver Petr Ptacek Jr., who now lives in the United States, to go on for the win. Brooks fought back to second with Max Hewitt in third. Brooks went wire-to-wire on Sunday, earning the top spot of the class in qualifying, heat race and the feature. Nick Brueckner switched over to the category on Sunday, placing second with Ptacek in third.
Defending Texas PKC champion Lance Lehrman and Dan Lubin split the wins in the Dallas Karting Complex DD2 Masters division. Lubin spent most of Saturday at the front of the field, until Lehrman stepped up the pace in the main event. After taking over the lead, Lehrman recorded a 4.5-second margin of victory over Lubin. Jason Morski was third in the nine driver field. Wet weather Sunday mixed up the order as the majority passed on qualifying. The heat race was the first on-track session for the day, with Mike Wherley scoring the win. The feature saw Lubin dominate, as he scored the victory by nearly 10 seconds. Conrad Park was runner-up with Wherley third. The 3G Kart Racing Rotax Masters had two drivers take part Saturday, with DJ Ortiz scoring the win over Tommy Vieth.
The next stop for the Texas ProKart Challenge is set for June 6-8 at the Oklahoma Motorsports Complex in Norman, Oklahoma. The double round weekend is the only event scheduled outside the state of Texas this year, and takes racers to one of the top circuits in the country. Visit texasprokartchallenge.com and 'Like' them at Facebook for more information on the 2014 Texas ProKart Challenge program.