With the Carolina GP at the GoPro Motorplex less than two weeks away, it only seemed fitting that we take a look at where we left off in 2016, and what to expect in 2017.
2016 saw the crowning of Champions in four Yamaha and four IAME powered categories. Last year saw Paige Crawford become the first female class champion in USPKS competition, as she took home the top spot in Yamaha Rookie, with three feature wins and one second place finish. Elliot Cox was runner up in the final standings, followed by Eli Trull in third, and Danny Dyszelski fourth. The Yamaha Rookie category has been removed from the top level traveling series for this year, but Micro Swift is still in place for the 7-10 year old age group. So far, only Dyszelski is confirmed for 2017, with Crawford moving up to Cadets. In the 2016 IAME Swift Rookie (Micro Swift in 2017) class, it was Brett Crews besting Crawford, Trull, and Dyszelski for the Championship. Again, it’s early yet, but no word yet on whether or not this group will be competing again in 2017. We do know that young IL driver and rising star, Christian Miles will be on board a Praga chassis in both Micro Swift and Yamaha Cadet.
Moving to the Cadet categories, it was Comet Kart Sales driver Garrett Adams (FA/Comet) who bested Kaden Wharff for the Yamaha Cadet championship in 2016. Nicolas Terlecki (Merlin/Woltjer) finished third and Kyle Thome (Merlin/Woltjer) was fourth. Adams is confirmed to defend his title for 2017, as is Terlecki. It’s unlikely that we will see Wharff in 2017, as the TopKartUSA team has opted to not support the USPKS in 2017. Every indication is that Adams will have his hands full with Terlecki, as he has been very busy honing his craft craft over the winter. Expect this class to be an exciting one. Swift Cadet was dominated by Reece Gold (Benik) in 2016. Gold secured half the feature victories, en route to the class championship. Tyler Maxson was a double winner in the season finale, but it was only good enough for second overall. Thome, Colin Queen (Tonykart), and Terlecki rounded out the top five. So for the only confirmed returning driver is the Team FMS driver, Nicolas Terlecki. FMS drivers Keegan Bosch and Lucas Smalec will be worthy of keeping an eye on in Swift Cadet. Patrick Karting has also confirmed Tyler Wettengel (Benik/Woltjer) and Hunter Yaney (Benik/Woltjer) as their Swift drivers.
The Junior classes were hotly contested in 2016, with a number of top level drivers battling it out. In Yamaha Jr., Team FMS driver Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin/Woltjer) edged out fellow Franklin driver, Sam Mayer (Merlin/Woltjer) by a mere 23 points, after a Saturday DQ at the finale left Mayer few options for Sunday. An early dust up put Mayer out of contention and Bertagnoli put another bullet point in his rapidly growing, and already impressive, karting resume. Austin Schaff (Merlin/Woltjer), Aiden Harrington (Birel/Comet), and Ben Varner (Merlin) rounded out the top five in season points. Harrington is confirmed for 2017 as is Verde Speed Resources/Patrick Karting driver Grey Leadbetter (Tonykart/VSR Woltjer). Looking at the X30 Jr category for 2016, it was Bertagnoli again with the big prize, but this time it was Lance Fenderson (Tonykart) who was his main rival. A lot has changed since last year, with Fenderson and Bertagnoli both moving up to the Senior classes. This leaves the door wide open for a whole new crop of Junior racers. A couple of drivers worth paying close attention to in the Junior ranks will be Innovative Performance’s Matt Northrop (Exprit/Innovative Perf), Pauly Massimino, Maks Kowalski (Merlin/Woltjer), and Arie Venberg (Merlin/Woltjer). Northrop is coming off a good season, and this could be a breakout year for him in USPKS competition.
The Senior ranks are loaded with talent again in 2017. Taking a look at the brand new KA100 class first, which replaces the Yamaha 100 Sr class from 2016. The entry list includes a very eclectic group. We have everything from arguably the hottest Sr driver out there right now, Brandon Jarsocrak (Praga), to X30 Regulars like Alex Bertagnoli (Merlin/Woltjer), TJ Koyen (Kosmic/Innovative Perf), Nick Landi, and Josh Hotz (Merlin/FMS), to former champions like Ashley Rogero, Mike McAndrews (Switch), Colton Ramsey (Merlin/FMS), and the wiley veterans Chuck Tate (Switch) and Kevin Nelson (Switch). Don’t count out Route 66 front runners Jeff (Merlin/Adkins) and PJ Lyda (Merlin/Adkins) either. With a huge talent pool, and veterans of all ages, this class is truly going to be one for the ages. Add in all the unknowns of the new KA100 package, and this class is sure to have the fences lined with spectators.
Moving on to the premier pro class, X30 Pro, we will see a some brand new drivers at the front, as the top 3 from last year, Brandon Lemke, Braden Eves, and Zack Holden have all moved on to racing cars and have either scaled back, or eliminated kart racing from their programs. Fourth place last year went to Jarsocrak, and he is confirmed again for this year, and will likely be the man to beat at the opening event, given his past success here and this being his team’s (KartSport North America) home track. Other top contenders will be Lance Fenderson (Praga/Woltjer), who makes the move up from Jrs, Cal Stewart (Merlin/FMS), who makes his return to the seat after a short hiatus, as well as Jacob Donald (Praga) who is a past winner. Armin Cavcusic (OTK), Steven Dial (Merlin/Woltjer), Jake Venberg (Merlin/Woltjer) and Blake Hunt will all be in the fray as well. Checkered Motorsports is expected to have several contending drivers as well.
2017 is looking to be spectacular year for racing at USPKS. An unparalleled prize package that features four trips to the IAME World Finals at LeMans France, as well as five trips to the SKUSA SuperNationals with guaranteed SuperSunday starting spots in Las Vegas, NV this fall, make choosing USPKS easy. If trips to big events aren’t your thing, then there’s always the great tire prizes from MG and product from IAME, and our other sponsors. But wait, there’s more. There is great racing, an awesome complimentary cookout on Friday nights, fun games to unwind with at night, and great camaraderie all the time. If you’re looking for a fun, fair, feature packed pro race series to compete with, you’ve found it. If you aren’t already registered, there is still time to do so, up until April 2nd. Go to www.www.uspks.com to register.