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SuperNationals 20: What to watch for

470+ entries have taken to the track in Vegas; let's look at some storylines.

Karting under the lights in Vegas
Nothing better than when the lights come on in Vegas.
Photo Credit: Kart360.com

For the fifth straight year, Kart360 will be On Location in Las Vegas, Nevada for Superkarts! USA’s annual SuperNationals. This year’s event marks the 20th running of what has been considered the largest race in the world, again taking place on the parking lot across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center after the Rio Hotel had hosted the event from 2008-2014.

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The turnout this year looks to be very similar to years past -- somewhere around 470 pre entries - which some will consider an achievement considering the CIK-FIA OK World Championships are this weekend in Sakhir, Bahrain. X30 Junior (down 17% from 2015) and KZ (down 25% from 2015) look to be noticeably impacted by the scheduling conflict, but all other classes remain well occupied.

Sera looks to drop bridesmaid moniker

We address this almost every year we preview this race: Can David Sera finally win? The Australian has made his name stateside as ’always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ in X30 Senior. The driver who created the Deadly brand returns for a sixth straight year and has never had a down weekend in Vegas. Last year Sera put forth yet another solid effort leading the field to the green on ‘SuperSunday’, only to fade in the final to seventh.

“Last year I was coming off a broken wrist, so with limited racing I was extremely happy with the pace we had shown,” Sera told us. “This year my focus has been with the KZ2 category in which we were able to win the Australian Championship, so to revert back to X30 will be a little different. Having started on the front row numerous times at the SuperNats, I’m confident our Deadly package has what it takes again on this new layout.”

Who really has a chance at the $20,000 purse to a repeat winner?

It was announced back in July at the SummerNationals that SKUSA would offer a $20,000 price to the winner of the KZ, S1, or X30 Senior category if they had won the class in a previous year. We made a list of drivers at the time to show who was eligible for the price and now we know who is going to give that a go this weekend.

Bas Lammers has our vote to win the coveted KZ title this year in Vegas.
Photo Credit: The RaceBox

In KZ, there are five drivers entered that can claim the prize and all five are viable candidates to take home the riches: Anthony Abbasse (2011, 2013), Bas Lamers (2009), Gary Carlton (2006, 2016), Jonathan Thonon (2008), and Paolo De Conto (2014). Neither of Sodi Kart’s factory drivers were in the house last year, but they’re back this time around. Lammers and Abbasse lead in our odds of KZ repeat winners, as they’ve shown great pace each time they stop in the desert. Carlton and De Conto would slot into our second tier. The Formula K star usually overperforms in Vegas compared to the season he has had up to that point and is why we remain optimistic in his chances.  De Conto took the win in 2014 aboard his Birel, but lacked the pace here a year ago on the CRG. Do they have the kinks worked out his time around to get the current World Champion to the top? Thonon, as far as we’re aware, has not been in the seat much this season and that could put him behind the proverbial eight-ball early in the week as he prepares for his first major event on the GP Kart.

In S1, we have three former winners in Danny Formal (2015), Joey Wimsett (2013), and Ron White (2002) set to compete. Formal is our clear front runner here as his attacking driving style is built for temporary circuits. The Costa Rican comes in as the current points leader, so a win here could turn into more than a $23,000 payday with the Pro Tour purse and prizes added in. Wimsett has outperformed our expectations this year and could very well be in the mix. The PGR/Ricciardo entry finished eighth a year ago, but his pace is much improved from that time. Finally, White will likely have a long shot chance, but the savvy veteran will use his experience to get around a tricky temporary circuit. White is one of the winningest drivers in American karting history and should he get out front, his ability to defend could make for some exciting racing.

In the 85-kart field of X30 Senior, there are four returning winners. Leading the group into Wednesday will be Marco Maestranzi. His ability to show up in Vegas, make it through qualifying and heats, and be there on Sunday has been matched by nobody else in this category. Three consecutive podium finishes tells us this Italian will be the favorite, not only to beat this list of drivers, but in the entire category. Defending winner, Louie Pagano, comes in with a bit of a lackluster 2016 Pro Tour season, but in no way does that count him out. Pagano is running for 2Wild Karting after all, the team looking to win their third straight SuperNationals. And lastly, we have Philip Orcic (Mach 1) and Andre Nicastro (ItalKart). Both drivers come in with limited seat time in 2016, but that’s been largely the case for a few years now and they still continue to impress.

Championship chases to keep an eye on

In the Pro Tour premiere class of S1, three drivers are still in contention: Formal, Daniel Bray, and Jake French. It would not be a surprise to see either one of these drivers walk away with the win. Formal has a pretty healthy advantage over the other two, so one of Bray or French needs to pick up some heat race wins to put the heat on the DR Kart on Sunday.

The amateur shifter category of S2 is a two-horse race with Texan Austin Wilkins (Sodi Kart) and Wisconsinite Kyle Kalish (Merlin) set to figure in the championship chase. Both drivers have a win on the season and multiple podiums and are only separated by 55 points, which is basically the points awarded for a heat race win.

S4 is incredibly tight at the top and it’s led by Ryan Kinnear (Intrepid) over fellow Texan, Jordon Musser (Intrepid). These two dominated the weekend in New Castle at the SummerNationals and it should come down to these two for the decision. Arizona resident, Alan Michel (GP), showed up in a big way at his home track in Tucson earlier in the year for SpringNationals, and keeps his name in the bid. Michel moves to a GP chassis for Vegas.

X30 Senior has been loaded with talent all year long but one driver has been able to stand out, and that is Ryan Norberg (Tony Kart). With three wins in four rounds and almost every heat race in between, Norberg is the odds on favorite to take the Pro Tour Championship back to Florida. His closest adversaries are Kyle Kirkwood and Braden Eves and they will need to immediately start earning points through the heats for themselves to have any chance.

Dante Yu
Can Dante Yu give Compkart two season championships in one month (Garrison/US Open)?
Photo Credit: Kart360.com

Dante Yu has been the most consistent in X30 Junior, but it’s Zoey Edenholm who leads the category into Vegas as she drops a poor first round performance to leap Yu in the 1-race drop system. Four other drivers all have a shot in the championship and those are: Alex Bertagnoli, Jagger Jones, Jonny Edgar, and Dylan Tavella. Tavella skipped the SpringNationals, so his chances of winning are slim but his beat-down in New Castle has given him an outside shot.

We’re looking at a five horse race in X30 Master, starting with Derek Wang. The Northwestern shoe has been a fixture in Master racing over the last few years and with the championship could grab himself a defining moment in his career. Erik Jackson and John Crow follow closely and will look to take advantage of any misfortunes with Wang. Franklin boss, Jamie Sieracki has elected to sit out this event to tend to his clientele under the tent. That leaves Nick Tucker as possibly the last opportunist to win the season championship and repeat his 2015 experience.

Two Benik’s and a Merlin make up the trio that have a shot at the Mini Swift championship. Kyle Thome (Merlin) is slotted in a Benik sandwich between Tyler Maxson and Diego Laroque. Thome has been the cinderella story this year matching up with the loaded Benik roster and now has a real opportunity to steal some thunder. Maxson and Laroque have had magical seasons each this year, with Maxson winning in every series all over the country while Laroque has done the same and then some overseas when he picked up the Micro MAX World Championship in October.

Micro Swift is essentially a two driver race between Kai Sorenson (Praga) and Brandon Carr (Benik). Sorenson has had the more consistent year, but with the 1-race drop, Carr is right there. Will it be the Californian running for Leading Edge or the Briton running for the fierce Benik squad? It’ll be interesting to watch these young guns adapt to the parking lot conditions.