Gearup Challenge concludes with epic Sunday championship racing at final round

NJMP Sunday race report.

Well folks, this is it. My final race report of the season. I know, I know, everyone is going to miss my incredible race reports so much, but don’t you guys worry: I’ll be back next season. It has been a totally awesome year here at the F-Series, as we continue to promote not only high levels of competition, but the growth of karting as a whole. We’ve got a lot in store for next season, and appreciate the support of the drivers, mechanics, and their families throughout the year. This season would not have been possible without our incredible sponsors and participating teams: Sherwin Williams, Contemporary Motorcars, KartWorkz, CPI Racing,Vortex Engines, GP Racing, Mike Rivera Racing, Checkered Motorsports, Italian Motors USA, 47 Motorsports, Alfano Timing, Compressed Air Equipment, Bertil Roos Racing School, Allison Racing Engines, DRT Racing, Kaos Kart Shop, Full Tilt Racing, Competitive Kartsport, Fisher Racing Engines, and of course, Gear-Up. Without further ado, onto the Championship Recap.

Formula Cadet

By Sunday, we had realistically limited our championship contenders down to Alfonso Lombardo and Daniel Binder. Unfortunately for Binder, Lombardo was just too dominant yet again. The two would spend all day Sunday battling it out, with Binder getting the early edge in equally by putting it on the pole position. Lombardo, Darren Long, Thomas Chrisman and Jesse Coon would round out the top five, although only Lombardo and Long were within a second.

In heat one, Binder lost the lead early, but would regain it back almost immediately. Lombardo would be close all race long, pestering the back bumper of Binder, but, in the end, Binder hung on and took home the checkered in heat one. Chrisman, Szabo, Long, and Coon would fill positions 3-6, and would all cross the line within a half second off each other.

Heat 2 saw disaster for Dan Binder. Binder would lead early, but he would be knocked off track by lap three. He would tumble down to P9 and a ways off the field, and would only end upon P8. This opened the door for Lombardo to win a heat race by his largest margin yet, as he would take the checkered flag by 1.75 seconds over Lucas Szabo, who just managed to fend off Darren Long, who would end up P3. Chrisman and Coon would round out your top five.

Heat three would see more shake ups. Szabo would fall way down to P5, Binder would only recover three spots to finish P6, and Lombardo would see a new challenger in the form of Darren Long. Darren Long would come up just short however, finishing behind Lombardo by just over two tenths of a second. This locked it up for Lombardo, as he would be crowned your 2019 Tag Cadet Champion. Overall for the day, Lombardo would take the top spot on the podium, standing on the podium with Daren Long and Thomas Chrisman.

Formula Junior

Formula J was set up yet again to be the premier class of the day. The championship here was again down to just two drivers: Chloe Chambers and Thomas Annunziata. All Annunziata had to do was not have another repeat of Saturday, beat Chambers, and he would be declared the champion. But, fate had different plans for Tom. Annunziata would be DQ’ed following an on track penalty for flying through the pits. He would have to start 17th in heat one. One of the main competitors from Saturday, Annie Rhule, wouldn’t participate in Sunday’s event in order to focus on her shifter class run. On top in qually, it would be Aidan Fox, followed by Christian Oldhafer, Chloe Chambers, Rowan Gill, and Dylan Flynn. Luca Mars would find himself mired back quite a bit in P7.

Heat one saw some shake ups in the field, but no real action in the front as Fox and Chambers were separated by 1.4 seconds. Second place starter Christian Oldhafer would end up DNFing following lap five. He would finish P17. The driver starting in 17th, Thomas Annunziata, would find himself in P7 at the end of heat one. Luca Mars would move up to P3, with Rowan Gill and Dylan Flynn rounding out the top five. Spots 3-5 were separated by just a half second.

Heat two saw another dominant performance as Fox would win again by 1.8 seconds over Dylan Flynn. Flynn would edge out third place driver Luca Mars by a hair: .05 of a second. Fourth place driver Chloe Chambers would only finish a tenth behind this battle for second, but she knew where she needed the finish to lock up the championship and elected not to force the issue. Rowan Gill would round out the top five. Christian Oldhafer would end up recovering to finish P7. Thomas Annunziata would struggle yet again, as he would fall down the running order,. Eventually, he would get back on track and recover to finish P9.

Heat Three saw Fox win by over a second yet again. But, in perhaps what was the biggest storyline of the weekend, Aidan Fox was disqualified not just from heat three, but from Sunday racing altogether after technical inspection revealed a header that was too large on his engine. So, coming all the way from P9, the winner of heat three would be Thomas Annuziata. It wouldn’t be enough to win him the championship, as Chambers would finish right behind him in P2. Yet, it was a fine ending to what was a terrible weekend for Annuziata. Dylan Flynn would come home third, with Mars fourth and Oldhafer fifth. Chambers would win both the day overall and the championship. Second for the day would be Luca Mars, with Dylan Flynn closing out his season with a podium finish in P3.

Formula TAG

There was no real championship battle here in Formula TAG, as Justin White already had the championship all locked up, as he had a big enough lead to not run. He would still run the day, and would battle Race Liberante for the overall day victory. Justin would get off to a good start, putting it on pole by over two and a half tenths of a second over Liberante, and no other driver would come within a half second. Julian Peacock would be third, with Heavlou starting fourth and Gelcius rounding out the top five.

Now, Heat one would see a battle for P1, and in the end, it would be Race Liberante who would come out on top. These two were neck and neck all race, and even their best laps were within a couple off hundredths of each other, Jake Heavlou would be third, about 1.6 back. No other driver was within five seconds of our front two, who were in a totally other universe. Alex Gelcius would be P4, and Garrett Johnson would round out the top five.

Heat two would see a continuation of the action in Heat 1. Liberante and White would be neck and neck yet again, but, it would be Justin White who would come out on top at the end of the ten lap shootout. White would end up in front by just over a tenth. Race and Justin were in a different world, ending up three seconds ahead of third place driver Garrett Johnson. Adam Pettit and Julian Peacock would have an epic battle at the line for the fourth position, as they were separated by three one hundredths of a second, with Pettit coming out on top.

Formula Tag heat three brought us the RACE of the weekend, as Race Liberante and Justin White had an absolutely incredible last lap battle. *Coming down the connecting straight, Liberante would make arguably the best I’ve ever seen on Tempest. He would get the outside heading into a left handed kink, managing to keep his momentum up somehow, and pull in front of White. In the very next corner, White and Liberante would make contact in the braking zone, and Race would end up off track. White would run away with the checkered, and Race would be stuck fending off Garrett Johnson, Julian Peacock, and Adam Pettit to hang onto P2. The top five (outside of White) would end up separated by just about a half second. You might mention a lack of Amelia Cangialosi in our Sunday report, as she would spend almost the entire weekend outside of the top five. This would allow Peacock to take third in the championship away by just ten points, behind Liberante and champion Justin White. Overall for the day, White would stand on the top step ahead of Liberante, with Garrett Johnson taking the final step.

Formula Shifter

Kyle Apuzzo would decide not to run, as risking a DQ was not worth it. Apuzzo had the championship locked up. With VanderSteur again electing to skip qualifying and only start the final, it Carlos Lopes out in front after qualifying. He would take the pole by just eight one thousandths of a second over the BirelArt of Owen Clark. Tyler Guilbeault would be P3 just under a tenth and a half off of the pole. Fourth would be the 379 of Chris Matthew, and rounding out the top five would be Chris Kierce. There would not be a whole lot of mixing and matching in the pre-final. Lopes would win by a half second over Tyler Guilbeault. Owen Clark would be third, and end up 13 seconds off the lead. Chris Matthew in fourth? Eighteen seconds off. And rounding out the top five was Vincent Fontecchio, who would be over 20 seconds off. After the initial chaos, things calmed down and most of the race was run with sufficient gaps between the fields. Marco Oldhafer, who was just outside the top five, would experience problems early.

The final would see an unsurprising twist: Rory VanderSteur sliced through the field and went onto win by over 14 seconds. It would take just two laps for Rory to get to the front. He was the class of the field, and took it to the Formula Shifter drivers. Tyler Guilbeault would come home second, with Owen Clark third. Marco Oldhafer would recover to finish P4. Vincent Fontecchio would round out the top five. Rory was in a different galaxy though, beating almost everyone by more than thirty seconds.

Mini Rok

Mini Rok saw a dramatic start to qualifying as Binder, Hernandez, and Lucas Szabo would all be separated by under a tenth of a second. The championship was still open, as both Coon and Szabo could both still steal the championship with good days themselves combined with a bad day from Binder. Binder would lay down the fastest lap in qually, but would be DQ’ed, meaning he’d start P5. This would lead to Ben Hernandez winning the pole position over Lucas Szabo by... *Ahem*... one one-thousandth off a second. Coon would be P3 with Chrisman P4.

Heat one saw Binder move up... just one spot. Meanwhile, the front row starters, Hernandez and Szabo, would end up 5th and 3rd respectively. This would leave both Chrisman and Coon at the top to duke it out. Thomas Chrisman, with his phenomenal defense, would be able to fend off the 98 of Jesse Coon to take home the checkered. Chrisman was now in the drivers seat to end up on top of Sunday racing.

Heat two would see the recovery from Binder that we expected in heat one. Binder would charge to the front, and would end up winning by 2.3 seconds. Ben Hernandez would also recovers and end up P2. Chrisman would fall to P3, missing out by just under a tenth of a second on the second position. Coon would be fourth, and Szabo would fall all the way to the fifth position.

Heat three would see the biggest gaps between these drivers that we’ve seen all weekend long. Binder and Hernandez would be fairly close running P1 and P2, but in the end, Binder was just too much. Outside of that, the rest of the field was separated by three seconds or more, with Chrisman, Coon, and Szabo rounding out the top five. Binder would win both the day overall and the championship, and would stand on the podium with Chrisman and Hernandez.

Formula 125

*Yawn*

I really wish John Bonanno would, I don’t know, make a mistake every now and again. The guy is unnatural. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some JB, but man oh man does he make F125 quite predicable. To the surprise of no one, Johnny B would not just win Sunday, but would go and sweep the weekend, winning most events by more than four seconds, and drivers struggled to stay within ten. There would be no drama either, as John had he championship locked up coming into the weekend. It started in qualifying, where John put it on pole by over six tenths of a second over Justin Dittrich, and over seven tenths ahead of David Krol. Piggy would qually P4, and Frank Runco would round out the top five.

Heat one, Bonanno runs away with a 4.1 second victory. Justin Dittrich would come home second. David Krowl would be P3, with Runco fourth and Pignataro fifth. Runco and Krowl were separated at the line by just over a tenth of a second, but outside of that, the separation across the field was immense.

Heat two, Bonanno runs away with a 7.6 second victory. Dittrich would come home second. Are you seeing the trend yet? It would be Piggy in P3 this time, with Krowl and Runco rounding out the top five. Unfortunately there just wasn’t a whole lot to talk about in F125, as the competition was pretty spread out all day.

Heat three, Bonanno runs away with a... wait... a 0.6 second victory??? Finally, after a weekend full of frustration, Justin Dittrich gave JB a run for his money. He didn’t have quite enough to get around John and his “Star Spangled Awesome” helmet, but he was there nonetheless. Franco Runco would pull together a P3, with David Krowl and Kim Carapellatti rounding out the top five. As mentioned earlier, Bonanno locked up the championship. In Ironman, Kim Carapellatti would just eek out the championship by 13 points over Phil Pignataro.

Overall for the day, it would be Dittrich and Krowl standing with Bonanno at the end of the day. For Ironman, it would be Piggy taking the top step on the podium.

KZ Shifter

So this is it: The final event of the 2019 Gearup F-Series Challenge. Unfortunately, one of the biggest players and most entertaining drivers in the history of the series, Kyle Apuzzo, would not be taking part for the same reason he did not participate in the Formula Shifter class: He had the championship locked up. But, we could still have a heck of a race. Rory VanderSteur would put his 429 machine on rails, and get the pole position by about four tenths of a second. Alex Manglass would be P2, with Stefano Lucente P3, Tyler Guilbeault P4, and Andrea Neiri P5. Lucio Masini would end up P9, and not the qualifying session he wanted to start his day. VanderSteur dominated the pre-final as well, winning by over five seconds. The only driver even within ten seconds was Alex Manglass, who piloted his 131 to a second place finish. Lucente would be third, with Masini P4 and Mike Rivera rounding out the top five. Guilbeault would DNF on lap five and wind up in the eighth position. Only three drivers would end up within 50, yes 50, seconds of Rory VanderSteur.

The final would see an unpredictable twist: VanderSteur would not win. It would be the 26 of Lucio Masini ending up on top at the end of the day. VanderSteur would end up second, with Manglass third, Neiri fourth, and Guilbeault fifth. There was not a whole lot of action outside of the initial pass for the lead.

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