The 2023 United States Pro Kart Series completed its first weekend of the season on Sunday with the finals held for the Southern Grand Prix at Orlando Kart Center. The Orlando, Florida facility helped to usher in a new era for the organization, adding shifterkart racing and utilizing a new race weekend format. Included in that change were the main events held on Sunday, crowning one winner for each of the eight categories on the weekend. The temperatures rose on the day from the previous two, with the action on the 8/10-mile course intensifying with the heat.
The Franklin Motorsports X30 Pro division was the final feature race on the day, providing an exciting 26-lap event. The early portion of the race featured a three driver getaway including pole position driver Pauly Massimino (SCR / Redspeed), Senior rookie Brandon Carr (RPM / Tony Kart) and top qualifier Diego Contecha (RPG / Kosmic). After breaking away, they began to shuffle for position while the large second group battle immensely. After the halfway point, the gap from the top-three to now a two-driver duo of Arias Deukmedjian (CDR / DAP) and 2022 FIA World Karting Champion Matheus Morgatto (PSL / Birel ART) was around four seconds. Lap by lap, the two cut into that advantage and with six laps remaining, they arrived. At the same time, Contecha retired with a mechanical issue, losing his chance for the lead. Massimino was out front, but eventually reeled in by both Deukmedjian and Morgatto. With three laps to go, Deukmedjian and Morgatto worked past Massimino and decided the final run. On the last lap, Morgatto went for the lead with a dive into turn four, but pushed wide on the exit and Deukmedjian timed it perfect for the over-under. Morgatto then came under pressure from behind, and Arias was able to power away. It was the winning move for the Florida driver, returning to karting after a near two-year period away to claim the $5,000 payday.
Morgatto would go on to cross the line in second, however, was removed in tech. In the end the fight for third became the fight for second. It included two-time defending champion Ryan Norberg (RPG / Kosmic). Trailing the top-five on the final circuit, Norberg was able to close up on the last lap after fighting all race long. Into fifth coming to the last turn, he made an over-under move on both Carr and fellow Senior rookie Ayden Ingratta (SCR / Redspeed) to go from P5 to third on track, elevated to second in tech. Ingratta beat out Carr to the line for third with Tyler McIntyre (MottazSport / Parolin) up 10 spots to fifth to round out the podium. Massimino ended up ninth in the final classification slipping back in the final two laps.
What was a three driver fight in the new Pro Shifter presented by SRP Engines became just a duo racing for the inaugural victory. Polesitter AJ Myers (Magik Kart USA) was able to grab the holeshot and put himself out into the lead while top qualifier Marijn Kremers (PSL / Birel ART) fought off Danny Formal (RPG / Kosmic). Formal took the position a couple circuits into the 26-lap event and then on lap seven, Myers went wide into turn one, dropping back to third with Formal and Kremers going past. What was believed to be a mistake ended up as a mechanical issue as he went to hit the brakes into the turn nine hairpin and the kart would not stop properly. His day was done with what ended up as a broken seal in the master cylinder. This allowed Formal to control the field, and he did so with the fastest lap of the race enroute to the inaugural victory and $2,500 payday. Kremers had to settle for second with Giorgio Emiliano Carrara (IM /Lenzo Kart) driving to third. Hunter Pickett (PSL / Birel ART) and Justin White (Magik Kart USA) rounded out the top-five podium after a pushback bumper penaly to Karol Pasiewicz (IM / Lenzo Kart), dropping him from fifth to seventh.
The Mike Doty Racing KA100 Senior class provided its own share of excitement throughout their 26-lap main event, led to the green flag by top qualifier and three heat race winner Christian Miles (MDR / LN Racing Kart). Miles led the first six laps before the attack began, led by Nicholas Terlecki (HDD / Exprit). He and Terlecki went back and forth with several drivers also lurking behind. One of them was Noah Rosser (Gillard), who started sixth. A move from fifth to first around the outside in the turn nine hairpin put him out front as the rest of the pack went in defensive mode. A lap later however, Rosser made contact with the turn eight barrier, dropping him back to eighth. Terlecki took over the lead from there until Miles reclaimed the spot with 10 laps to go. From there, Miles was able to inch away from the group to a near one-second advantage to claim his second USPKS KA100 Senior victory in only his third start. Aiden Levy (Alonso Kart) was able to claim second after starting eighth as the fight for third behind him heated up on the final circuit. Peyton Phillips (Hi5 / Tony Kart) and Brandon Lemke (HDD / Exprit) were coming up through the field throughout the race. They challenge Terlecki coming out of the turn nine hairpin, and Terlecki mis-judged the gap slotting in behind Phillips and got his bumper locked in for just a brief moment, taking away the ability to turn in. He went straight off and did not continue. This allowed Lemke to slip past for the third spot, moving Phillips to fourth while Finnegan Bayliff (Trinity / Kart Republic) finished six spots up from 11th. The hard charger of the race was Spencer Mast (Kosmic), coming from the tail of the 46-driver field with the last transfer position in the LCQ to end up 31st in the final.
The 30-driver battle X30 Junior class presented by Rolison Performance Group came down to a battle between teammates. Pole position driver Ernesto Rivera (RPG / Kosmic) and Max Taylor (RPG / Kosmic) – who started fourth – were able to break away from the field. The fight for third is what helped pad the lead for the top two, including top qualifier Steven Miller (CDR / Kart Republic) as he led early before he was swallowed up by the second group. Eventually, he and Teddy Musella (RPG / Kosmic) were collected in contact, and slipped down the order. Up from, Rivera assumed the lead on lap four, and led the remainder of the race, holding off Taylor’s efforts on the final circuit to take away the position. At the line, Rivera won his first USPKS main event by four tenths over Taylor, who suffered a three-second pushback bumper penalty to retain the spot. Jackson Wolny (RPG / Kosmic) crossed the line in third, however, he was given a six-second penalty for a full pushback that put him down to eighth overall. That promoted Oliver Wheldon (JC / LN Racing Kart) to the third step of the podium over Emma Kate Scarbrough (CDR / Kart Republic) and Leonardo Escorpioni (Zanella / Tony Kart).
That win was Rivera’s second on the day, having already won the exciting KA100 Junior presented by BBS Race Engines to open up the main event action. In total, there were 19 official lead changes at the line over the 26-lap event. Top qualifier and pole position driver Steven Miller (CDR / Kart Republic) was in the mix along with Enzo Vidmontiene (MottazSport / Parolin), Ernesto Rivera (RPG / Kosmic), Leonardo Escorpioni (Zanella / Tony Kart), Fernando Luque (Tony Kart) and Teddy Musella (RPG / Kosmic). All six had a turn at the lead until the very end when Rivera was able to escape on the white flag lap. He was able to run unchallenged to the checkered flag, earning his first USPKS victory in the category by just over a tenth. Luque and Miller drove to third with Max Taylor (RPG / Kosmic) coming across fourth. Taylor suffered a three position penaly for contact, promoting Escorpioni to fourth and landing Eli Warren (JSR / Redspeed) the fifth spot on the podium. John Antonino (Tesoro / CRG) transferred in from the LCQ and gained 29 positions to end up 15th in the final results.
Mike Rolison (RPG / Kosmic) showed he was the class of the field in the 27-driver KA100 Masters presented by Speed Concepts Racing making its debut at USPKS. Rolison set fast time in qualifying however a busted battery took away the opening heat race win. With two heat wins, he started the Final in the seventh position and quickly found his way on the bumper of pole position driver Martin Stone (REM / Kosmic). The two were able to break away from the field with former series champion Laurentiu Mardan (Tecno Kart USA) trailing. Rolison began his attack on lap 17, and the two went back and forth for the top position. This allowed Mardan to close in the final circuits, becoming a factory in the end. Rolison made the right moves, leading the final three laps to hold on for his first USPKS victory. Mardan was able to slip by Stone for the runner-up spot while Tommy Andersen (HDD / Exprit) celebrated his return behind the wheel, making his class debut with a fourth place result ahead of former two-time series champion Scott Kopp (FMS / Merlin). Last year’s X30 champion Danillo Ramalho (URace / Tony Kart) drove from the tail of the field to finish sixth.
A statement was made on the weekend by Lucas Palacio (Trinity / Kart Republic) in the DNJ International Services Mini Swift class. Palacio came up from seventh in each of the heat races to win all three, starting the main event from the pole position. Palacio broke away from the field early and maintained the lead throughout the 22-lap event. The fighting for second allowed the gap to grow with each lap during the first half until Antonio Pizzonia Neto (Orsolon / Parolin) – up from 18th on the grid – and Tristan Murphy (RPM / Nitro Kart) worked together to cut into Palacio’s gap. It wasn’t enough as Palacio took the checkered flag for his first series victory in the category. Murphy was able to work past Pizzonia Neto at the line to grab second with Julian Rivera (AKT / Energy) – the provisional top qualifier until a pushback bumper penalty took his fast time away – putting in a stellar drive. Rivera was unable to get into the top-10 during the heat races, but shined in the Final to climb up 15 spots as well to finish fourth with fast lap of the race. Kai Mars (Trinity / Kart Republic) took advantage of contact ahead of him on the final lap to slide into the fifth spot at the checkered flag.
It was a three driver fight in the second half of the main event for Micro Swift presented by Team Ferris Racing. Pole position driver Parker Ives (RPM / Nitro Kart) was joined by Maxwell Macha (SLA / Kart Republic) and Colton Schniegenberg (GWR / Energy). Aston Wyatt (Speedsportz / Birel ART) was part of the mix early on, leading for five laps before he lost the draft. Macha led after him before Ives returned to the point. He was pressured for the remaining seven circuits, however, did not relinquish the lead and drove to his first USPKS victory by three tenths. Macha came away with the runner-up spot ahead of Schniegenberg with Wyatt along in fourth. Juan Diego Garciarce (Orsolon / Parolin) came across in fifth but was penalized three positions for contact, promoting Luke Giglio (RPM / Parolin) to the fifth spot on the podium.
The United States Pro Kart Series will host its second event of the 2023 season on April 28-30 at the Speedsportz Racing Park, making its first visit to the New Caney, Texas facility.