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|McNeil and Daughters Victorious in Buttonwillow for California ProKart Challenge Event|
|Wednesday, 27 June 2012 08:04|
The second half of the 2012 California ProKart Challenge season got underway on June 22-23 at the Buttonwillow Raceway Park kart track. Visiting the Buttonwillow, California circuit for the second time this season, the California PKC program welcomed another strong contingent of new and current competitors to heat up the championship chases – all competing for a portion of the $65,000 prize purse. The 7/10-mile course was mastered in the headline categories by Jimmy McNeil and young gun Mason Daughters.
The day appeared to belong to rookie Jake Craig in the Leading Edge Motorsports TaG Senior division. The 2011 SKUSA Pro Tour TaG Junior champion was at the front of the 19-driver field all day. He began qualifying first with a 46.172-second lap, edging out Austin Dement, Enzo Mestre and point leader Matt Johnson -- all within 68-thousandths of a second. Craig fell back to third to begin heat one, but drove his way back past Dement and Johnson by the final lap to score the win. Johnson challenged once again in heat two, but Craig had the pace when the checkered flag fell, taking the lead over on lap six and holding on to the end. Craig led the field to the green flag for the 20-lap main event and held the point for the first two laps. On lap three, Craig hit dirt laid out on the track from other karts on the previous lap and went wide in turn 10, heading onto the straightaway. This shuffled up the front pack as Craig dropped to eighth while Mason Daughters advanced from fourth to first in the lap. Once out front, Daughters kept a consistent pace and led until the checkered flag to score the victory by nearly two seconds. The win is his first in his career at the ProKart Challenge program. Dement went on to finish second, his first podium of the season as well, with Johnson placing third. Andrew Wiener also recorded his best finish of the year, ending up fourth, with Travis Lowe in fifth.
McNeil was among the quickest in the Extreme Karting-sponsored S1 Pro Stock Moto class at the first visit to the Buttonwillow facility and duplicated that feat the second time around. Ryon Beachner was able to edge out McNeil in qualifying, however, posting a 44.301-second lap – with McNeil back by 19-thousandths of a second. McNeil grabbed the holeshot and drove off with the opening heat race win over Beachner, matching the same results in heat two. The 20-lap main event was all McNeil, as he drove wire-to-wire for a three-second victory to extend his point lead in the championship. Beachner was challenged early on, falling to fourth in the opening circuit behind Josh Lane and Clinton Schoombee. By lap three, he returned to the second spot and held it to the checkered flag for his second straight runner-up finish. Round three winner Nicky Freytag completed a drive from the back after electrical issues early in the day. He managed to advance to third for his third straight podium finish. Lane and Cory Milne completed the top five.
Billy Cleavelin is in fine mid-season form as he earned his third straight victory in the TaG Master category, sponsored by Buddy Rice Karting. Qualifying was a close affair as three drivers recorded times within one-tenth of a second. Randy Froom earned his third pole position of the season with a 47.392-second lap, edging out Paul Grey and Cleavelin. Froom and Cleavelin battled for the win in heat one with Froom crossing the line first. The win, however, went to Cleavelin as Froom was removed for a rear bumper issue in tech. Cleavelin cruised to the win in heat two as he led all 10 laps, after a brief challenge from Paul Bonilla in the opening lap. The two-time SuperNationals winner then scored the feature victory by nine seconds over Grey. Froom worked his way into third but was edged out by Bonilla at the checkered for the final podium position. Andy Seesemann made his first series start, finishing fifth.
The Russell Karting Specialties-sponsored TaG Junior division witnessed another great fight throughout the day, with point leader Carter Williams coming through with his second victory of the season. Noah Grey was at the top of the charts when qualifying wrapped up, posting the only sub-47 lap in the class, with Williams in second and Colton Herta in third. Each took a turn at the point in heat one with Grey taking over to earn the win. Brenden Baker joined the mix in heat two. Making his second start of the season, Baker drove up from sixth to the lead by lap six, holding on for the win over Williams and Grey. The feature was a great display of racing by the young drivers. The opening lap saw Baker lead the field while Williams and Herta dropped outside the top-five, bringing in round three winner Christian Brooks and Grayson Browne into the fight. Baker led the first three laps before Brooks and Browne each had their turn at the point. Meanwhile, Williams was on the charge back to the front and rejoined the lead group by the halfway mark. With some quick moves, he retook the lead on lap 11. From there, he held the point until the checkered flag waved to earn the victory by a half-second over Browne with Brooks in third. Baker ended up fourth as Grey placed in fifth.
The S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto class, sponsored by Phil Giebler Racing, saw the third different winner in four rounds as Troy Diede scored his first California ProKart Challenge victory of the season. The ‘Flyin Hawaiian’ Alec Gumpfer made his second start of the year and led the way in qualifying over Michael Leib and Augie Lerch. Trouble struck Gumpfer early in heat one, as he retired after leading the opening lap when his rear bumper became loose and he received the meatball flag. He handed the point to Leib who went on to win over point leader Matias Podboj, who drove up from eighth. Matias grabbed the lead to begin heat two and led the first five laps until a mechanical issue put him on the sidelines. This gave Leib the point once again and the win over round three winner Justin Miller. The main event was a wild 20-lap battle with Miller jumping out to the lead early. Vivek Tandon worked his way forward, taking over the lead on lap five, only to have Diede steal the point the following lap. Once out front, Diede laid down some solid laps, putting some S1 drivers between he and Tandon. At the checkered flag, Diede earned his first California PKC victory – just weeks after winning at the Rocky Mountain PKC event. Tandon crossed the line two seconds back, with Gumpfer fighting back up to third. Leib ended up fourth ahead of Lerch.
Pure Karting-sponsored S4 Master Stock Moto was dominated by two drivers – round one winner Robert Marks and round three winner Trevor McAlister. Marks won the first battle, posting the fast lap in qualifying by a healthy three-tenths of a second over point leader PP Mastro and McAlister. Heat one was McAlister’s turn at the point as he drove up in the first two laps to the lead and off to a two-second win ahead of Mastro and Marks. McAlister led the first eight laps of heat two until Marks found a way past for the lead. He went on to take the checkered flag, with Mastro and Darrell Tunnell also able to slide by ‘T-Mac’ for position in the final lap. McAlister struck back in the feature right away, getting in a great opening lap and taking the lead as they crossed the stripe for the first time. Marks and Mastro battled for the runner-up spot for much of the race, allowing Trevor to cruise to a one-second margin of victory. Mastro won the battle for second with Marks settling for third, but recorded the fast lap of the race for 10 championship points. Tunnell ended up fourth with Ken Hromada in fifth, both recording their best finishes of the year.
It was a two-driver battle in the Select Shifter/DR Racing S3 Novice Stock Moto class as well – between championship contenders Todd Wilson and Steve Ryckebosch. Wilson led things in qualifying, posting a lap eight hundredths of a second quicker than Ryckebosch. After grabbing the holeshot to begin heat one, Ryckebosch drove to a four-second victory. Ryckebosch was unable to complete the opening lap of heat two with a mechanical issue, handing Wilson the win. Coming back in the feature, Ryckebosch knifed his way forward and earned the feature victory by over four seconds in front of Wilson, with Chalee Siengthai rounding out the podium. The S5 Junior Stock Moto division had its best race of the season. Point leader Carter Williams began the day at the front following qualifying. Micah Hendricks stepped up to win both heat races, only to see Williams go on to victory in the main event after Hendricks’ DNF on the opening lap with a mechanical issue. Curtis Paul ran second in his first start of the season. Ken Manning ran uncontested in the S4 Magnum Stock Moto category.
The championship fight in TaG Cadet, sponsored by Sunshine Daydream Creations, tightened up after the round four action with Jack von Quilich earning his first feature win of the season. The NorCal driver topped the charts in qualifying with a four-tenths margin ahead of point leader Anthony Sawyer and Hunter Kelly. Sawyer and Kelly got the better of von Quilich in heat one, working by for position early and battling for the win. Sawyer took the win by inches over Kelly, with von Quilich trailing. Von Quilich came back with more speed in heat two, driving by both to score the win. He kept the pace up in the main event as he went wire-to-wire for a five-second victory. Kelly finished second with Braden Waterman earning his first podium finish in third, as Sawyer was shuffled back to sixth in the final tally with mechanical challenges.
The California ProKart Challenge will take the month of July off for the second stop of the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour – the SummerNationals – on July 20-22 at the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. Action will resume on August 17-18 with the series making a return to the Santa Maria Kart Track in Santa Maria, California. Be sure to visit www.superkartsusa.com for updates on the California ProKart Challenge and the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour.