You're lieing to yourself and everyone else if you believe you haven't been counting down the days to SuperNationals 19. The largest event in the world is now amongst us, which brings drivers from every corner of this globe, new helmet paint schemes, new chassis and components, and that Vegas skyline. After seven straight years at the Rio Hotel, SKUSA elected to move the event to the Las Vegas Convention Center this year. Temporary circuits always bring new challenges to drivers, mechanics, and series officials, but especially the brand new ones. We believe the change in venue was a needed one and we look forward to yet another great event starting on Wednesday with practice sessions all day. This year's coverage will be presented by Praga North America and we'll detail our plans in the paragraphs below.
Distinguished field in TaG Senior
This category is notable every year, but this year it's on another level, partly due to a few more top Europeans competing. On the entry list you'll find Felice Tiene (Fourth in KF European Champs), Pedro Hiltbrand (Vice-champion KZ European Champs), Kevin Breysse (X30 French Champion), Thomas Preining (Formula 4 driver; former SuperNats winner), and Marcu Dionisios (European KF challenger) are a few of the bigger names coming over. They are also joined by last year’s champion and Top Kart factory driver Marco Maestranzi.
The Americans have a host of drivers that can fight for the win. One of the most notable drivers is current KFJ World Champion Logan Sargeant and his older brother Dalton who was in position to challenge for the win last year. Then you have the championship contenders Oliver Askew, Jake Craig, Brandon Jarsocrak, Louie Pagano, and Jesus Rios Jr.
Last you have two legends of the SuperNats in TaG Senior David Sera and Andre Nicastro. These two have had some epic battles in years past and expect this year to be exactly the same. In the end there are too many drivers to name that could fight for the win or a podium results.
New Venue, New Track, New Challenges
After a solid seven years at the Rio Hotel, SKUSA felt it was time for a change. The circuit at the Rio kept essentially the same shape for the past three years, the surface was getting bumpier, and the drivers and teams were getting tired of the old casino. SKUSA has designed an 8/10ths of a mile circuit that shares some similar corners to the old design, but is quite different including a change in direction. We will bring you a full review of the circuit Wednesday night as we go onboard with Praga North America driver, Andrick Zeen.
This year’s KZ division may not be as deep with Europe’s top talent like years past, though 40+ positions will be full on the starting grid this week. Most notably missing are former winners Anthony Abbasse, Bas Lammers, Jonathan Thonon, and Marco Ardigo. With that being said, we have the return of former pole sitter and CRG factory driver Simo Puhakka. The Finnish driver will be one of our favorites for the victory joined by his teammate and defending champion Paolo De Conto. Other top talents include psuedo-teammates Rick Dreezen (Ricciardo Kart) and Jordon Lennox-Lamb (BirelART).
Formula K has brought their new hire and former SuperNationals champ Gary Carlton. “GFC” has had a rough few years at this event since winning, but is highly motivated to win the event once again. We'll use that to segrway into former Formula K driver and top KZ2 pilot Lorenzo Camplese. The Italian has shown speed on the temporary courses multiple times and comes over on his Parolin chassis with Russell Karting Specialties. A few other drivers that will fight for a top result are Daniel Bray, Kyle Ensbey, AJ Myers, and John Norris.
On the Pro Tour, you are allowed one race drop before you accumulate your total points for the season. However, you can not drop the SuperNationals from your total. This is why the pressure ratchets up during the heat races and finals as a DNF could possibly be catastrophic to the work you've put in all season. With that said, perhaps the most pressure comes in qualifying. A few bad laps puts you behind right away and you'll need to make a run through the heats to have a shot on Sunday. Adding to all of that is double the amount of karts on track as a normal Pro Tour race with half of them not having any personal interest in the championship.
TaG Senior is the only class where there are more than three drivers that could take home the crown in 2016. All of the drivers mentioned earlier have a shot: Jarsocrak, Askew, Craig, Pagano, and Rios Jr. The Mike Doty Racing driver of Jarsocrak leads the way by a slim margin over Askew, but Jarsocrak has had verry little luck with his prior attempts in Vegas, not making the finals in either opportunity. This year he will get the free pass into SuperSunday if need be, thanks to his lead in the points allowing him that convenience.
TaG Junior will most likely come down to the two east coast drivers David Malukas (COMPKART) and Brandon Lemke (Merlin). At nearly every stop this year, whether it be SKUSA or USPKS events, these two have found their way to the front and put on some fantastic racing. Malukas is coming off of his X30 World Championship in France a few weeks back and will have full support from J3 Competition on his fluorescent yellow machine. Lemke joined Malukas at the same event in France and ran very strong himself, finishing inside the top ten, and will look to end one of the greatest Junior seasons on record with a victory with help from Franklin Motorsports.
Lachlan DeFrancesco (Benik) and Jason Welage (Top Kart) appear to be the two biggest factors in the TaG Cadet points race. Welage has boomed over the last couple of months, winning races on the Pro Tour and USPKS competition as he matures behind the wheel. DeFrancesco has done a ton of laps in Florida and overseas the last six to eight weeks and should be in peak performance.
Other championship battles to have your eye on are: Dreezen, Billy Musgrave, and Fritz Leesemann in S1; Carter Williams and Miguel Lopez in S2; Darren Elliott and Jimmy McNeil in S4; Nick Tucker and Chris Giumarra in TaG Masters.
New coverage from Kart360
As we mentioned in the opening, it's almost becoming a rule that the manufacturers, teams, and drivers debut something new in Vegas each year; new chassis, new liveries, new helmets, and the list goes on. We are not immune to that at Kart360 as we look at new ways at covering events. Last year we debuted a new results system so we could show you more than a top ten within seconds of the checkered flag. We also helped produce the largest SuperNationals film of the year, currently closing on 25,000 views on YouTube.
This year, beginning Thursday evening and each night following, we will record a video broadcast from the Praga North America team tent, bringing in notable guests and replaying clips from the day. That same evening we will put the video through post-production and upload it live to the world on our YouTube channel.
We'll also be broadcasting our second Kart360 Podcast LIVE on Wednesday evening. Joining us will be J3 Competition and COMPKART co-owner Justin Stefani as we discuss the first day of action on track and talk about the first year of their new chassis line. We've extended a welcome to SKUSA CEO Tom Kutscher and will hopefully have him join us to talk #SuperNats19.
Below is our monumental video in collaboration with Erikson Media that we shot at last year's SuperNationals in the parking lot of the Rio. Enjoy!