Pro Shifter 1
The 2019 SKUSA Pro Tour ushers in a new era for shifterkart racing with the IAME SSE 175cc engine becoming the headline powerplant. The engine made its 2019 debut at the SKUSA Winter Series in January and February. Names remained the same at the front as 2018 SKUSA Pro Tour champion AJ Myers and three-time SKUSA SuperNationals winner Billy Musgrave continued to be the drivers at the top of the results. Myers (MONR / Croc Promotion) won three of the four in Florida to claim the series title, with Musgrave (MRC / Aluminos) winning the third round after placing runner-up in the two opening rounds. Dating back to the Sunday round at the SummerNationals in August 2018, Myers and Musgrave have been the only winners at SKUSA events since. Myers won at New Castle, Musgrave scored victory at Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix and SuperNats, with the duo sweeping the Winter Series.
The two have solid challengers looking to dethrone them. Mathias Ramirez (PSL / Birel ART) is back to six-speed racing after placing third in the SKUSA Pro Tour standings back in 2017. SKUSA national #2 Kyle Wick (CRG Nordam) split up Myers and Musgrave in the title chase last year, coming off a solid rookie season at the Pro level. Hunter Pickett leads Gary Carlton’s GFC squad, making its SKUSA Pro Tour debut at the WinterNationals. Pickett is looking for a third straight season with a win at the SKUSA Pro Tour level. RIGP King of the Streets winner Rory van der Steur (MRC / Tony Kart) is another looking for more success in his second Pro season. New to Pro is Andrew Budjdoso (MONR / Croc Promotion), who showed well in Florida, Challenge of the Americas 2018 champion Alex Keyes (PSL / Birel ART) and Prescott Campbell (MRC / Aluminos).
Pro Shifter 2
The Semi-Pro division is also making the transition over to the IAME SSE 175cc engine for the 2019 season. Many of the same competitors who fought for wins and podiums in 2018 are returning with the new powerplant on their side. Among those returning include two of the championship podium – Blair Hosie and Michael Ilavia. Hosie (MRC / Aluminos) was quick all 2018, finishing the year with three podiums, including his first career victory at the SummerNationals. Ilavia (Crosslink / Exprit) came over to
The G1 name has been with Superkarts!
Numbers are a bit down in the X30 Master division heading into the WinterNationals, however, the talent pool remains. Former two-time champion Derek Wang (BBR / FA Kart) is among those returning from last year as Wang searches for a better result after missing the championship podium in 2018. Jess Peterson (PGR / Ricciardo) is the only top-three driver returning in 2019, carrying the SKUSA #3 national plate this season. Carlos Calderon (Aluminos), Jonathan Silva (CompKart) and Vatche Tatikian (PGR / Ricciardo) are among the veterans returning. Matt Johnson (Nash / FA Kart) won at the SpringNationals and starting out at his home track could signal a championship run for the now Master-level driver.
X30 Super Master
New for the 2019 season is the X30 Super Master division. The category is set to run within the X30 Master race group, with awards and championship set aside for those drivers above 45-years-old. Three drivers make the inaugural start with LAKC winner Jon Persing (Nash / FA Kart) joined by veteran DJ Ortiz (KRS / Tony Kart) and SoCal pilot Steve Wiener (Intrepid).
S4 Master / S4 Super Master Stock Moto
In total, there are five categories on the SKUSA Pro Tour for drivers over the age of 30-years-old. Two of them are the S4 Master and S4 Super Master Stock Moto divisions that feature the Honda CR125 powerplant. Unfortunately, there are only three total entries in the two Honda divisions for the WinterNationals. Miguel Garcia (Sodi) is the lone S4 with Ken Schilling (Aluminos) and Brett Harrelson (Nash / Sodi) as the S4 Super Master drivers.
There is no doubt the X30 Senior division under Superkarts! USA remains the largest category. The WinterNationals field features 48 drivers, set to begin a run at a podium, possibly a victory, and even a chance at the championship. All eyes, as they have been for the past three seasons, remain on Ryan Norberg. The three-time SKUSA Pro Tour champion is eyeing a fourth-straight, and momentum is on his side with a solid start to 2019. Norberg made the move to Rolison Performance Group / Kosmic just after the calendar turned over, coming away with three straight wins at the SKUSA Winter Series to claim the championship. He and AJ Myers are the only drivers in 2019 that can repeat their titles from the 2018 season. Myers is doing double duty with Croc Promotion, running both Pro Shifter and X30 Senior.
They are not the only former Pro Tour champions in the X30 Senior field with 2014 champion Jake Craig (RPM / Tony Kart). Craig left last season leading the championship heading into the SummerNats with his car schedule conflicting with the weekend. Add in former Junior champions Alex Bertagnoli (J3 / CompKart) in 2016 and last year’s champ Arias Deukmedjian (LEM / Praga) making the jump this year. Austin Garrison rounds out former champions in the field, as he won the S2 title in 2014 and is set to make his SKUSA Pro Tour debut with CRG Nordam.
SuperNationals winners fill up the field as well, including 2017 winner Joshua Car (Crosslink / Exprit). The Aussie native, who now lives in Texas, won the LAKC event last weekend in preparation for his return to SKUSA competition. Jak Crawford (Nash / FA Kart) and Arthur Leist (PSL / Birel ART) are former SuperNationals Junior winners in Vegas with Crawford making his Senior debut this weekend.
Regular class contenders include SKUSA national #3-plate holder Dante Yu (J3 / CompKart), Brandon Jarsocrak (KSNA / Kart Republic), Hannah Greenemeier (RPG / Kosmic), Ryan MacDermid (Prime / Birel ART) and Thomas Nepveu (PSL / Birel ART). International drivers are making the trek to Fontana with former Rotax and IAME world champion Oliver Hodgson (J3 / CompKart) along with Sebastian Montoya (Tony Kart) – son of two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya.
Another new part of the SKUSA Pro Tour is the addition of the KA100 package to the championship program. The Senior category is welcoming 12 drivers to the inaugural event, with 10 of them competing at the SuperNationals in either Senior or Junior divisions. Nick Ramirez (Yesnick / Fullerton) and Austin Osborne (LFM / Kosmic) were among those in contention in Vegas, with Ramirez landing on the podium in fifth. Blake Hunt (KSNA / Kart Republic) is the 2018 WKA Manufacturers Cup Series champion, set for a bid at the inaugural SKUSA Pro Tour title this year. Senior rookies include 2018 IKF Grand Nationals champions Oliver Calvo (PKS / Parolin) and Aiden Kempf (Fullerton), along with LAKC X30 Junior champion Alan Tang (Parolin). Calvo is coming off
The next largest category – X30 Junior – is 42 strong with a number of returning drivers in addition to some high profile Junior rookies. Many of those who finished toward the top of the standings have graduated, leaving a void for others to fill in 2019. If you look at those who were strong at the SKUSA Winter Series, it begins with Luke Lange and MacKenzie Clark. The two were among the four different drivers to win in Florida, with Lange (SCR / Tony Kart) placing third in the standings and Clark (Prime / Birel ART) in fifth.
Rolison Performance Group has a number of drivers under its tent riding on some momentum. Josh Pierson (Kosmic) and Jason Leung (Kosmic) ran 1-2 at the recent LAKC event this past weekend, with Branyon Tiner (Kosmic) winning the Prefinal before leaving early to head back to Texas. All are into their second season in the Junior ranks. Also winning at the CalSpeed facility in February at Challenge of the Americas was Jonathon Portz (Nash / FA Kart). Podiums at WKA Daytona KartWeek and COTA put him among the contenders at the WinterNats. CRG Nordam’s Noel Leon was among the quick drivers at the second event of the Florida Winter Tour, with the Mexican driver making his SKUSA Pro Tour debut at the WinterNats.
Others coming into the new season with Junior experience include USPKS champion Nicholas Terlecki (Franklin / Merlin), CIK Academy Trophy drivers Ethan Ho (APM / Tony Kart) and Colin Queen (IRM / Tony Kart), SuperNationals winner Connor Zilisch (TF / Tony Kart), and LAKC regular Cole Morgan (TF / Tony Kart).
Leading the Junior rookie
Along with the KA100 Senior division, KA100 Junior class makes its SKUSA Pro Tour debut. Six of the 15
The Mini Swift category is going into the weekend with 33 drivers registered. Over half of the drivers have chance at a podium, winning or to be in contention for the SKUSA Pro Tour title. It all begins with the top returning driver Kai Sorensen. The 2016 SKUSA Pro Tour Micro Swift champion carries the SKUSA #3-plate this year after a solid 2018 season. The Supertune / Tony Kart driver started out 2019 with the SKUSA Winter Series title, scoring two wins.
One of the other two winners from the SKUSA Winter Series is Christian Miles. The KartSport North America / Kart Republic driver is into his second Mini season, beginning 2019 with a sweep of the WKA Daytona KartWeek. Other returning SKUSA Pro Tour drivers include Sebastian Ng (Nitro Kart), Parker DeLong (Nitro Kart), Texas ProKart Challenge champion Jack Jeffers (Benik) and Challenge of the Americas winner at CalSpeed Enzo Deligny (Tony Kart). 2017 Micro Swift champion Elliot Cox (Vemme) is among the three former Micro champions in the field this weekend.
The third is 2018 SKUSA Pro Tour champion Max Garcia (Kart Republic), who leads a strong rookie squad into the 2019 season. Caleb Gafrarar (Birel ART) finished third at the SKUSA Winter Series standings. Cameron Weinberg is moving up to Mini under the Nitro Kart tent. And SKUSA Winter Series Micro Swift champion Matias Orjuela (Praga) is jumping up to Mini for the WinterNationals.
The youngest category of the SKUSA Pro Tour features a number of new names to the national scene. A number of last year’s contenders have graduated up, leaving for these young drivers to establish themselves as future SKUSA stars. Graham Trammell (Kosmic) was the 2018 California ProKart Challenge champion and is fresh off a sweep of the LAKC event last weekend. Texas ProKart Challenge 2018 champion Ethan Thomason (Parolin) is making his SKUSA Pro Tour debut on the weekend. Third generation driver Rocky Moran (Benik) is another notable name in the 10-driver field.
Find the complete schedule of the WinterNationals on the official website of the Superkarts! USA.
Text: David Cole / EKN
Photos: EKN, On Track Promotions