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California ProKart Challenge

California ProKart Challenge Opens 2024 Championship Chase
Thursday, 28 March 2024 15:03

(Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

The 2024 California ProKart Challenge hosted the first event of the season on March 23-24 at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in central California. Weather was a key factor on the weekend in Buttonwillow with rain threatening the opening round action of the 2024 championship program. The staff, teams and competitors worked together to push through the event schedule to avoid heavy rain toward the end of the main events, nearly getting every race in before the precipitation began falling heavily.

A last to first performance for Ethan Lampe in KA100 Senior (Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

The action was tight all weekend in the KA100 Senior by P1 Engines class, featuring 33 drivers. Qualifying featured over half the field within half a second, led by Jackson Menchu with a 51.312 lap time. He edged out Aiden Kempf by 44 thousandths with Junior champion Keagan Kaminski, Ayden Aquino and Luis Perez all within a tenth of Menchu’s time. It was Menchu showing the way the entire 12 lap distance in the Prefinal with 2023 CPKC champion Ethan Lampe coming up from 10th to second. Lampe however was removed from the results for being too wide in tech inspection. The early portion of the 22-lap Final was a battle between Menchu and Kempf until the latter retired on lap 10. By that time, Lampe was up into the third spot with Theo Kekati now fighting Menchu for the top spot. Coming to the white flag, Lampe was able to go from third to first, holding on through the final circuit to claim a third straight victory dating back to the final two rounds in 2023. Menchu crossed the line in second, but was penalized three seconds for contact, dropping him to sixth. That promoted Senior rookie Alexander Gonzalez to the runner-up spot on the podium who crossed the line ahead of Kekati. Kaminski ended up fourth with Camden Rumanes completing the top-five.

First career victory in KA100 Junior for Payton Westcott (Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

KA100 Junior by SuperSpeed Bearings welcomed a first time winner at the California ProKart Challenge. Junior rookie Matthew Cagle opened the weekend as the top driver, laying down a 51.760 lap time to secure fast time in qualifying. Cagle led the early few laps before Iain Kim and Johnie Stamps battled for the top spot in the middle portion of the race. Eventually, Cagle returned to the lead and held on for the race win, securing the pole position for the Final. After leading the opening lap of the main event, Cagle was shuffled outside the top-five with Kim taking over the position. Payton Westcott, who started ninth, was inching her way forward lap by lap. By lap 16, Westcott took over the lead and with fast laps of the race, drove away to a 1.4-second advantage to claim her first CPKC victory. Dean Pedersen drove to second, dropping Kim down to third. Alex Rantala improved 11 spots to fourth with Cagle ending up fifth.

Mini Swift welcomed JohnJohn McLellan as a first time winner at the series (Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

A weekend of firsts for the Mini Swift by Formula Works class in Buttonwillow. Sebastian Hauser celebrated his California ProKart Challenge debut with fast time during the wet qualifying session, clearing the 11-driver field by over one-second. When the track was dry for the Prefinal. Hauser remained at the front, leading all 10 laps for the win and pole position in the Final. Issues on the opening lap of the main event dropped Hauser down to the tail of the field. JohnJohn McLellan took over the top spot and was able to drive away to a six-second advantage to claim his first series victory. Daniel Ramirez came up from ninth to win the battle for second over Nathan Ramirez, Braydon Wagner and last year’s Micro Swift champion Drew Jensen.

Aidan Go won for a second straight time at the CPKC opener in Micro Swift (Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

Aidan Go established himself as the top championship contender in 2024 with a win in Micro Swift by Sanner Racing. It was Dante Rodrigues who claimed his first fast time in qualifying with a 56.44 to edge out Koa Saito by 12 thousandths. The Prefinal saw Go move up to the top spot by the end of the Prefinal, taking the win ahead of Hudson Hidalgo. It was Hidalgo that led the first half of the race until Go took control of the position. Leading the final 10 laps, Aidan held on to secure his third career series victory. Hidalgo held on for second with Saito joining them on the podium in third. Rodrigues crossed the line in fourth however was removed following tech inspection, promoting Byron Borneman to fourth and Josiah Cook to fifth.

Veteran Alan Sciuto opened up the 2024 CPKC season with victory in Pro Shifter (Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

One of the stars in the early years of Superkarts! USA – Alan Sciuto – is back behind the wheel more often, reaching the top of the podium in the opening round of Pro Shifter by HRT Driver Development. The qualifying session was met with a wet racetrack and Lucas Weisenberg – making his second start – was able to navigate the circuit quickest in qualifying. Sciuto found himself in fourth place on the time sheet before driving his way forward in the Prefinal for the race win. It was a holeshot victory for Sciuto, leading all 22 laps en route to a six-second advantage by the checkered flag. Anthony Freese was credited with the fast lap of the race, coming in runner-up position ahead of Weisenberg. Liam Jones and Michael Guasch completed the top-five.

Robert Switzler bested the X30 Master field in the main event (Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

Multiple drivers were in contention all weekend in the X30 Master by Nash Motorsportz class. 2023 vice-champion Tony Rossetti set the pace in qualifying, clearing Phil Mishaga by over two tenths in the timed session. Third in last year’s championship was Robert Switzler, who qualified third and drove up to the provisional win in the Prefinal until he was removed from the results for being too wide in tech inspection. That gave Scott Nealon the pole position for the main event. He led the first 15 laps of the Final until Switzler advanced his way from the tail of the field to the front. Once into the lead, Switzler powered away to a five-second advantage for the victory. Nealon ended up with the fast time in the race, placing runner-up ahead of Rossetti. Mishaga and Arman Cornell completed the top-five.

David Jones survived the weekend and the rain in Master Shifter for the victory (Photo: Spencer Russell – photosbysmr1)

David Jones was able to sweep the two-day event in Master Shifter by Mike Manning Karting. Jones set fast time in qualifying and led every lap of the Prefinal before surviving the rain soaked main event. Jones lasted the 14 laps to claim the victory over Scott Carvalho with Rod Streed joining them on the podium in third.

Podiums for the opening round of the California ProKart Challenge were postponed until the next event due to the heavy rain hitting the facility. Those ceremonies will take place during the next stop of the series, scheduled for the same Buttonwillow Raceway Park on April 20-21. Competitors will take on the circuit in the reverse direction for Round Two of the CPKC championship. Registration is now open with a deadline of Tuesday, April 16 at 11:59pm PST.