Twenty years of the SKUSA SuperNationals are now in the books following another showing of fireworks in Sin City.
Once again, more than 500 entries travelled to Las Vegas, Nevada, USA to compete in North America’s largest karting event that has become known for international competition, major payouts, delayed schedules, intense racing action and viral GoPro videos of insane crashes only a temporary circuit can create.
Here’s our headline breakdown of SuperNationals XX.
SKUSA pays out big time in S1 and KZ2
A few months back when SKUSA announced the $20K for SuperNats 20, many around the world wondered if anyone could pull it off. After all the eligibility lists were made and the entries poured in, a handful of drivers had legitimate shots at taking home the largest prizes in SKUSA history and come Sunday evening, not one, but two drivers put a dent in the SKUSA bank account by repeating as race victors in the headline categories.
It started in the morning with S1. Danny Formal dominated the race a year ago to put his name on the list. He remained up front all week long and a beautiful holeshot from P2 scored him the lead into turn one. Under pressure from AJ Myers throughout the race, Formal managed to keep his lead at three to five kart lengths all race long to score the win, the Pro Tour championship and the massive payday!
After taking the checkered flag, Formal made it not even 100 feet from the finish line before he stopped on track, jumped out of his kart with hands in the air, screaming his lungs out in front of a jam-packed grandstand. An epic celebration.
While no driver in TaG Senior was able to repeat, with Andre Nicastro the closest with a fourth place finish, it was down to the final race of the weekend, the big show, KZ2. And there were a few drivers fully capable of winning again.
Frenchman Anthony Abbasse led the way into turn one but he was immediately under threat from KZ World Champion Paolo De Conto. The Italian didn’t wait long and jumped to the lead on lap two. Holding off a charging pack for only a couple laps until Abbasse was challenged by last years winner Gary Carlton. The two made contact, Carlton spun, slowed up the pack enough and De Conto checked out. Twenty-five smooth sailing laps later, De Conto completed a dream season for CRG with the win and the payout, even if he did have to give up his race winning helmet to SKUSA owner Tom Kutscher in exchange for the paycheque.
Add in the $10K that Jake Craig took home for winning TaG Senior and that’s a whopping $50K to the race winners of only three classes. I wonder if anyone put it all on red?
Indycar stars struggle against karting regulars
It is normal to see motorsports starts join in on the action at the SuperNationals, however this year there were only a few of them.
2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi and fellow Indycar driver Conor Daly added their names to the entry lists in Las Vegas along with Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez, who arrived with a namesake kart from GPI. But that was it.
Surprisingly, both Rossi and Daly were well off the pace in the KZ2 class, racing against some of the best shifter kart drivers from around world while Perez maintained himself around the top-ten, but withdrew early in the Final Sunday evening. It just goes to show how strong the calibre of karting talent there is right now.
Epic final lap sees Nepveu emerge on top in Mini Swift
76 drivers were entered into the Mini Swift category and as expected the competition of drivers from around the world was fierce. A ton of BENIK Karts filled the grid while a selection of others took to the defending race winning manufacturer.
A five-horse race emerged in the Final and as expected it came down to the Final lap. Just like he was at the Rotax Grand Finals in Italy, Canadian driver Thomas Nepveu was in the race for the lead but coming to the final lap he was just a few lengths back of the leaders, this time in fifth.
Action in turn one, allowed him to close in, but it was a melee in turn six that helped move Nepveu to second. Emerging onto the main straight with his eyes on the prize, Nepveu dove to the inside of the leader and stole the lead and the win as the group turned the final corner and the Canadian added another impressive international podium to his resume!
GoPro crash videos go viral, again
A temporary circuit of any kind will always provide crashes and action. Run-off areas replaced with barriers, tight chicanes with nowhere to escape to and bumps that chatter your teeth are always expected. But the SuperNationals has also been known for drivers and spectators posting videos of spectacular crashes, bad driving techniques and accidents that go viral very quickly around the karting world when bandits who crave attention continuously share them.
Once again it has happened this year, with a few below to show examples.
There was one more we were hoping to share, however it appears it was taken down.
The SuperNationals does attract some of the best drivers in the world, however it also attracts many of the worst driving tactics and inexperienced drivers that are way out of their elements at a race of this calibre.
Indycar team owner Sam Schmidt makes appearance to check in on the latest karting talents
It was great to see Indycar and junior formula team owner Sam Schmidt make an appearance at the SuperNationals, chatting with friends and catching the action. He was also sporting a ‘Vote for Hinch’ t-shirt to support his Canadian Indycar driver in the Dancing with the Stars finals. Kudos Sam!
Craig steals the victory from DeMelo in IAME X30 Senior Spectacular
For the single speed categories, nothing is bigger than X30 Senior (formerly TaG Senior) at the SuperNationals. Around the circuit, it is standing room only when the class rolls out onto the track and once again it was another nail biter.
Early on it was Marjin Kremers in the lead until he found the barriers coming onto the main straight. Then for most of the race, Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo was out front and being chased by Jake Craig, Andre Nicastro, Brandon Jarsocrak and Marco Maestranzi.
A couple swaps by Craig and Nicastro for second in the final laps allowed DeMelo to pull a small lead but in the final laps his lead declined and leaving just enough room on the inside of the third to last corner allowed Craig to snugly slip inside. It hung DeMelo on the outside as the group roared down the straight where he fell to fourth. Craig defended to the inside to secure the victory as DeMelo undercut Nicastro and a speedy Joshua Carr to retake second at the line.
Gonzalez Caps Off Incredible 2016 Season in Style
Florida driver Tyler Gonzalez, who just recently was crowned Motorsport.com Driver of the Year by MaxSpeed Entertainment, added more hardware to his 2016 collection. The Florida Winter Tour and US National Rotax Mini-Max Champion of this year just recently moved up to the Junior ranks in his two trips to the Las Vegas, he stole the show from those much older and more experienced than him, taking the victory in X30 Junior.
It was a rather exciting race, especially in the final laps when rain began to fall and create a very slick surface, especially in the final corner that claimed two drivers inside the top-five on the second to last lap.
Congrats to Tyler Gonzalez.
Last Chance Races Rather ‘Boring’
Another attribute to the SuperNationals that is almost always headline grabbing are the Last Chance Races. With entries as high as 88 drivers is some classes, the last chance races will usually feature some of the best last ditch efforts for drivers trying to go from zero to hero, especially in the TaG Junior and Senior classes.
However this year, all of the Last Chance races were quite lacklustre and aside from the Juniors racing to start one position higher on the grid in the final laps, there really was little to report on. Maybe constant reminders from the officials finally got through to their heads this year?
And with the race now complete, so is our race season. It was an incredible 2016 season that saw us attend over twenty-five races around the world.
Stay tuned to CKN as we close out the year with our annual awards and more!