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SKUSA SuperNational XIV Preview: KZ2

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted November 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm Karting, SKUSA SuperNationals

Gary Carlton
(Photo: JuniorOpenWheelTalent.com)

The SKUSA SuperNationals has developed into the largest go-kart event in North America. It’s renowned for drawing the biggest names in motorsports to Las Vegas every November and this year — the 14th edition — is no exception.

As in years past, there are several incredibly-talented drivers making the trek to Nevada from all over the world. While the stock-moto S1 division has been declared the headline class, I’ve decided to preview the larger, and arguably more talented, KZ2 field.

With 40 drivers on the provisional entry list, the preview gets pretty long (as in 2,294 words) so I’ll post the entry list and few details on each driver after the jump.

SKUSA SuperNationals XIV KZ2 Entry List (provisional)

Raphael Matos, No. 2, Zanardi/Maxter— Matos was the 2009 IndyCar Rookie of the Year.  In 2009, at the SuperNats, he qualified 16th out of 44 drivers in the SuperPro division, but was unable to stay out of trouble; earning a DNF in the Main.  Aside from karting, he has one of the most impressive CV’s in North American junior formula car racing.  He will look to post a better finish in 2010.

Bobby Wilson, No. 3, FA Kart/TM — Wilson a former SKUSA No. 1 plate holder and World Final victor will make his return to the karting ranks this weekend for the SuperNats after spending the last several years in the junior formula ranks (most recently in Indy Lights). Wilson competed in the KF2 division at the SuperNationals XIII.

Danilo Dirani, No. 4, Kart Mini/TM — Dirani, a Brazilian shifter kart champion, will be returning for his fourth year at the SuperNationals. Last year he finished 11th in SuperPro. With a wealth of car experience (including the Atlantic Championship) under his belt, he shouldn’t be counted out for a top-10 this year. He has spent the last two seasons in Formula Truck where he has compiled two poles and two podiums.

Gary Carlton, No. 5, CRG/Maxter — Carlton, a California native,  should be considered the favorite for a North American victor come Super Sunday. The CRG driver spent the 2010 season in the WSK World Series; earning two podiums in three races for third place overall. He’s known for his incredible kart control, hard work and raw speed by everyone in the business. Watch for him to be a front runner in every session this weekend. He’s finished on the podium in four out of the last five years.

Matt Jaskol, No. 5Y, Intrepid/TM — Jaskol is a seasoned veteran in both the karting and car ranks. In 2000, he became the first SuperNats driver to win five-straight heat races. Last year, the Las Vegas native qualified 13th but ultimately finished the Main 22nd. His experience should help him find his way up the rankings in 2010.

Ken Allemann, No. 6, Birel/Maxter — Allemann is the brother of fellow KZ2 entrant Cyndie Allemann. Ken has won two Swiss ICC Championships and brings a tremendous amount of gearbox experience to Vegas. This season he raced in the CIK-FIA KZ1 European Championship and the KF2 Swiss Championship.

Andrew Vargas, No. 7, CRG/Maxter — Vargas will make his third consecutive start in the SuperNationals this weekend. He finished 17th in 2008, but failed to finish the Main Event last year after qualifying 39th.

Derek Tillett, No. 8, CRG/TM — Tillett has been quiet this season, but showcased his speed in the 2008 SuperNationals in the S1 division. The California native has been working with good friend, and fellow KZ2 entrant, Ron White to prepare for this weekend. Watch for him to surprise a few people.

Anthony Abasse, No. 9, SodiKart/Maxter — Frenchman Anthony Abasse was quick at last year’s SuperNats running near the top-five in almost every session. Trouble in the final relegated him to 19th at the checkered. He should be a front runner again this weekend. A top-five finish isn’t out of the question. He qualified second in 2008, a mere 3/100s off Jonathan Thonon’s fast time.

Joao Goncalves, No. 10, CRG/Maxter — Brazilian Joao Goncalves will make his SKUSA SuperNationals debut this weekend at the Rio driving for PSL Karting. Goncalves has a background in gearbox racing and ran the 2009 Machismo 500- Pro division with Raphael Matos. Their team, RDD Motorsports, finished fourth.

Josh Adams, No. 11R, GP/Maxter — Adams will be making his debut at the SuperNationals aboard a GP chassis. The Canadian driver spent the 2010 season in the Brian Stewart Racing Karting Championship, where he finished third in the F125 class. He will pull double-duty this weekend competing in both KZ2 and the semi-pro S2 division.

Matthew Wall, No. 15, Kosmic/TM — Wall travels to North America with the help of the Australian Karting Association after winning the prestigious CIK Stars of Karting KZ2 championship in 2010. He will be one of two Australians competing in KZ2.

Rick Dreezen, No. 18, Tony Kart/Vortex — Dreezen will be making his return to the SuperNats after entering the SuperPro division in 2007. He qualified 13th for the event, finished fourth in his heat race, but failed to start the main event. This season he concluded the year ranked second in the WSK World Series and third in the WSK KZ1 European Series. He will be a driver to watch in Vegas.

Tony Lavanant, No. 21, Energy/TM — Lavanant finished sixth in SuperPro last year at the SuperNats. He is the 2008 CIK-FIA European KZ2 Champion. Last year I wrote, “[Lavanant] always seems to be near the front.  I wouldn’t expect anything different in Vegas.” I stand by that statement again this year, …watch for him at the sharp end of the grid.

Cyndie Allemann, No. 22, CRG/Maxter — Cyndie brings years of karting experience with her to Las Vegas and a pretty solid SuperNationals resume. Last year, the former Indy Lights competitor, finished ninth in SuperPro just 4/10s off eventual winner Bas Lammers’ fast lap. Earlier this year, she ran two races in the FIA GT1 sports car championship.

Daniel Fuchs, No. 23, Energy/TM — Fuchs had a breakthrough year in 2010; finishing third in the KZ2 WSK Euro Series. He will be forced to face several drivers with KZ1 experience this weekend in Vegas, but could easily surprise onlookers.

Michael Bo Andersen, No. 24, GP/TM — Andersen will be returning to KZ2 competition at The Rio for the third straight season. He finished 14th in 2008 and 23rd last season in SuperPro.

Kristian Jeffrey, No. 26, GP/TM — Jeffrey spent the majority of his 2010 season racing an ICC kart in the BSRKC. He finished sixth in the overall championship. The jump to KZ2 competition at the SuperNats will be a big one, but should prove to be extremely good experience.

Thomas Mich, No. 27, Birel/TM — Mich, 22, will look to make a splash this weekend in his SKUSA SuperNationals debut. The talented Frenchman certainly has the potential to come away with a win this weekend. Mich finished third in the ultra-competitive CIK-FIA KZ1 European Championship this season. He will be a driver to watch.

Pierre Ragues, No. 28, SodiKart/TM — Ragues, who is an LMP1 driver for Signature Plus, finished 15th in SuperNationals XIII. In an effort to stay sharp, and continue his karting endeavors, he ran the Monaco Kart Cup this summer, finishing eighth. A top-10 finish at the Rio certainly isn’t out of the question.

Alessandro Piccini, No. 31, TonyKart/Vortex — Piccini, 46, will return for his second SuperNationals having ran the 2007 XI edition. He failed to complete the opening lap in 2007, but was fifth quickest in the morning warm-up on SuperSunday. He brings an astronomical amount of experience with him, so anything could happen. He finished eighth in the 2010 CIK-FIA KZ1 European Championship.

Tyler Wheeler, No. 37, PCR/TM — Wheeler was set to represent Team Canada in the Rotax Grand Finals for the fourth time, but passed on the opportunity in order to compete in a KZ2 kart this weekend in Las Vegas. After winning the Western Canadian Rotax Championship, Wheeler traveled to Europe to further develop his gearbox skills. Last year he finished 16th at the Rio in KF2.

Simo Puhakka, No. 42, PCR/TM — Puhakka should be a front runner this weekend. He doesn’t have a ton of wins, but he’s always near the front. He ran the 2008 XII edition of the SuperNats and finished ninth. Another top-10 is entirely feasible this weekend. He finished a stellar seventh in the 2010 CIK-FIA KZ1 World Cup.

Kevin Ludi, No. 43, Birel/TM — Rotax specialist Kevin Ludi has transferred most of his focus to the KZ category this season while also testing some open-wheel cars. He has proven speed in a Rotax-powered kart, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be fast this weekend.

Marco Ardigo, No. 51, Tony Kart/Vortex — Several race fans have picked Ardigo to stand atop the KZ2 podium this weekend in Las Vegas. It wouldn’t be a stretch. Ardigo, a two-time world champion, won the 2007 XI edition of the SuperNats. He finished fifth last year. Anything less than a top-five would be surprising.

Matthew Di Leo, No. 56R, Evolution/TM — Matthew Di Leo is looking to cap off a busy year with a solid result at the 2010 edition of the SKUSA SuperNationals. The young Canadian moved up to the senior ranks this season competing in the Eastern Canadian Karting Championship and the BSRKC, as well as running internationally in the Rotax Max Euro Challenge.

Zack Meyer, No. 66, GP/TM — Meyer will enter the SuperNats top division for the second straight season. Last year he finished 33rd.  The young Canadian pretty much dominating the BSRKC fields this season en route to the championship and had some pretty stiff competition along the way; including former SuperPro Lorenzo Mandarino. He wrapped up the year with five wins, securing the championship for the second-consecutive year. Qualifying well will by key for Meyer in Las Vegas.

Ron White, No. 71y, Zanardi/Maxter — White returns for another shot at the $10,000 prize. He won the SuperPro division in 2002 and qualified on pole in 2005, but hopes for a repeat win against the best this weekend. Undoubtedly, his experience will aid his performance this weekend. White won a KZ2 European ICC Championship race in Sarno, Italy during the 2004 season, so the level of competition he will face this weekend is nothing new.

Kel Treseder, No. 75, CRG/Maxter — Five-time Australian national champion Treseder will make the trek to Las Vegas this weekend for his SuperNationals debut. The 25-year-old pilot finished runner-up (by six points) to fellow SuperNats KZ2 entrant Matthew Wall in the 2010 CIK  Stars of Karting championship.

Bruno Melo, No. 77, CRG/Maxter — Longtime Brazilian karter Bruno Melo will make his SuperPro debut this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Felipe Fraga, No. 80, CRG/Maxter — Brazilian Felipe Fraga made the transition to the senior ranks after finishing eighth in TaG Jr. at the 2009 SuperNationals. He won the 2009 Panamerican Sudam ICC Junior Championship before spending some time in Florida last winter racing a Rotax kart. The transition to this level will be big, but Fraga has flown under the radar of many.

Daryle Redlin, No. 90r, Vemme/TM — Canadian Daryle Redlin looks to make his KZ2 debut this weekend after winning the Westwood Karting Assoc. TaG Shifter Championship for the last two years. He ran G1 in the 2009 SuperNationals, finishing 31st.

Morten Christensen, No. 99, GP/TM — Morten Christensen of Denmark will make his KZ2 debut at the SKUSA SuperNationals this weekend. Christensen finished 3rd in Super RoK in 2008 and 16th in DSK KZ2 in 2009.

Christian Arends, No. 111, Tony Kart — Arends will travel to Las Vegas from Aruba for this weekend’s event. His background includes Rotax, Easykart, KF1, KT100 and ICC.

Alex Speed, No. 141y, GP/Maxter — Top gearbox competitor and perennial front-runner Alex Speed will look for his first KZ2 SuperNationals victory this weekend. He won the S1 division in 2001 and finished runner-up in the 2006 SuperPro race to Gary Carlton. Speed is incredibly smooth and will likely be in contention for a top-five this weekend. His hands just don’t move.

Fritz Leesmann, No. 161y, CRG/Maxter – Leesmann is fast. Last year he was set to be the highest finishing American in SuperPro; until his Maxter engine let go on the white flag lap, that is. He’s been logging a lot of seat time this off season and has the potential to run near the sharp end of the grid. He and Speed will both pull double-duty running KZ2 and S1.

Don McGregor, No. 171, Italkart/TM — McGregor will pilot his No. 171 Italkart in the KZ2 class for the first time after finding success across the country in TaG ICC. The up-and-coming Canadian finished tenth in SuperNationals XII S1 competition. He should be fast this weekend.

Alex Grandahl, No. 184, SodiKart/TM — Grandahl will be making the transition to a SodiKart this weekend after previously competing on a CRG chassis. The up-and-coming career-minded driver has been testing with the team in Southern California to prepare for this weekend’s event. He’s had a busy summer and will look to cap things off with a solid finish this weekend.

Nicolas Costa, No. 999, Tony Kart/Vortex — Costa, who won a half season of Skip Barber National racing in the 2009 Karting Scholarship Shootout, will make his KZ2 debut at the SuperNationals this weekend. The Brazilian driver has shown speed on several occasions and has a fairly diverse karting background, so watch for him to surprise a few people this weekend.

Beitske Visser, Intrepid/TM — Visser will be the second female driver in this year’s SuperNationals. The 15-year-old Dutch driver made the transition to the senior ranks this season with relative ease. She finished runner-up in the ultra-competitive WSK KZ2 Euro Series this season and posted a 13th-place finish at the Monaco Cup against some strong competition. While she’s flown under the radar for many in the States, she likely won’t be an unknown commodity after this weekend.

Update: Check out the KZ2 Photo Gallery from Las Vegas here.

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