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Exciting Final Day of Action at the McLaughlin Motorsports Grand Nationals

The Manufacturer's Cup comes down to the final day of action; and is New Castle the wrong choice for the season finale?

The 2012 WKA Manufacturer’s Cup Series came to an end Sunday at the McLaughlin Motorsports Grand Nationals in New Castle, IN.  For better or worse, some National Championships were decided in the final corner. You can read our thoughts on that in a moment.

Heading into day two, the Manufacturer’s Cup Championship had been slimmed down to a 1-win difference between Arrow and Top Kart. The first final of the day would immediately impact that championship race as Jacob Donald scored the win for Arrow in Komet Heavy.

TJ Koyen was your winner in the pre-final, impressively pulling away from the train of karts behind him.  In the final, however, Koyen would retire near the halfway mark. As they came down the final straight, neither the Top Kart of Chelootz (running third), or the Arrow of Donald (fourth) seemed to have a chance for the win. Johnathan Kotyk ran alongside Patrick Olsen into the final corner. Contact between the two would get in the way of Chelootz, slowing his pace to avoid collecting himself in the wreck. Donald would hold his line low enough to avoid all three, driving to the win. Chelootz would be a few feet short of Donald at the line, finishing second.

With all of the action in the final turn, TaG Final 2 may have had the most -- and it wasn’t even on the final lap. As you may recall from Saturday’s Parilla Leopard final, Chris Wehrheim made an overzealous move into the final corner that sent the two Arrow karts of Sam Beasley and Jacob Knueven spinning. Wehrheim was eventually penalized for his actions, but that didn’t stop the controversy from spilling over into Sunday.

Wehrheim had a very strong run in the pre-final, giving him the pole position in the final.  At the start, Wehrheim jumped to an early advantage over the Arrow Karts of Jacob Donald, Jacob Knueven, and Sam Beasley. As expected though, the three Arrow drivers teamed up to chase down the Top Kart leader. Nearing the halfway point, Donald and Knueven used the draft to pass Wehrheim comfortably before reaching turn 17. As Wehrheim slowed to make the turn, Sam Beasley launched over the rear bumper of Wehrheim, sending them off the track in a hurry. The two crashed into Tech-Pro barriers some 30-40 feet off the racing surface. Whether or not this was deliberate, we do not know. The drivers exchanged words with one another and went on their way.

Meanwhile, Knueven and Donald had a race to win. There would be contact in the final corner between the two, but Donald would cross the line first followed by Knueven who had to go through the grass. During the contact, Donald’s rear bumper would be knocked loose, resulting in a disqualification – handing the win to Knueven.  With either result, Arrow Karts had taken the lead in the Manufacturer’s Cup with the win. Lost in all of this was a great drive by Mason Chelootz from 37th to seventh in 14 laps.

The amazing finish in Supercan Heavy, led by Patrick Olsen
The amazing finish in Supercan Heavy, led by Patrick Olsen.
Photo Credit: Sean Buur/Go Racing Magazine

The top finish of the weekend went to Supercan Heavy on Sunday. As always (at New Castle even more so), the Supercan class produced great racing, and this one finished with  a .189-second separation of the top-five. Billy Lewis looked like he shot out of a cannon on the final straightaway, passing Jimmy Simpson for second and then ducked to the inside of Cody Robinson for first, all with little draft help.  Lewis and Robinson both got sideways after contact, opening the door for four other karts to vie for the win. Patrick Olsen found himself in the right place at the right time, as he scooted through the carnage from fourth to first. Chase Jones ended up second, .078 behind Olsen. Third went to Jimmy Simpson, followed by the two leaders going into the final corner, Robinson and Lewis.

Neil Verhagen
Neil Verhagen celebrates his win in Comer Final 2.
Photo Credit: Sean Buur/Go Racing Magazine

Neil Verhagen picked up the win in Cadet Final 2, adding to the win he picked up Saturday in Yamaha Sportsman, making him one of only two drivers to pick up multiple victories on the weekend with Jacob Donald.

Joel Jens was at the front of nearly every class he entered, but didn’t get a feature win until Komet Jr. Heavy. Jens led most of the way before Ashley Rogero was able to get by on the penultimate lap in the last corner. They crossed the line in that order, but a one position penalty was given to Rogero for her pass on Jens. Rogero was then found to be underweight at the scales, disqualifying her from the race and taking away some much needed points for the championship to overtake Kyle Kalish who finished well down the order after a first lap accident.

Joel Jens
Joel Jens and Ashley Rogero were quick in everything they drove this weekend.
Photo Credit: Sean Buur/Go Racing Magazine

Alex Verhagen made up for his second place finish the day prior in Yamaha Rookie by winning on Sunday. For as hard as it is to break away from the pack at New Castle, Alex made it look easy – winning by over six seconds.

David Malukas kept Neil Verhagen from a third win on the weekend, winning by a nose over the Haase driver in Yamaha Sportsman 2. Braden Eves finished third, followed by Michael D'Orlando - who was leading into the final lap - and Brandon Lemke.

The last shot for Top Kart to tie Arrow for the Manufacturer’s Cup was TaG Masters. The class has been dominated by Top Kart all year, and this weekend was no different. John Dixon (Top Kart) took the lead from Scott Ferris (Top Kart) at the halfway point of the final, but lost it back to his counterpart with two laps to go. Ferris took the win – his sixth of the year - regaining the dominance that he momentarily lost on Saturday when Dixon won.  Dixon would come home second, nearly one-second back.

The TaG Masters win evened-up the scorecard between Top Kart and Arrow for the Manufacturer’s Cup Championship. Unfortunately that would be the last win of the day for either chassis, ending the season long battle in a tie.  The WKA Tech Manual does not have a tie-breaker in place for such an occurrence, as they haven’t had one in their history.  We’ve heard that there may be a tie-breaker in the works, and we’ll report on that when we hear more.

Much like Jens, Ashley Rogero too was up-front regularly, but couldn’t get a win. She finally broke through in the last class of the weekend, Yamaha Jr. Heavy. She led for a majority of the race, while Mike McAndrews and Sam Cate followed closely waiting to make their move. Sam Cate was able to get by McAndrews down the final straight, but neither could get a draft on Rogero to make a move. Cate came in second and McAndrews third. Cate, a local driver, showed very well on the national stage this weekend.

Final thoughts

On the final lap, you would have had to lay long odds that there would not be contact of some sort in turn 17. The amount of accidents that occurred in this corner would make a NASCAR race look tame. It’s unfortunate too, having so much on the line.  The competitors and their families traveled all summer around the eastern side of the country for a chance at the National Championship in their respective class, all for it to come down to a roll-of-the-dice in the final corner.

We love the track at New Castle, so don’t get the wrong impression here. It’s a top facility in the United States, and series’ would be missing out if they chose not to go there; but WKA may need to think about having the facility host an event earlier in the year or move the start/finish to the I-70 straightaway.

What's your opinion on the final turn at New Castle deciding championships like it did? Sound off in our comments.