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2013 SPORT KART GRAND NATIONALS: MASTERS CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
For those drivers 40 years of age and over, the 2013 Sport Kart Grand Nationals will not only be a quest for the overall championship, but for the Masters Championship as well. This year about a third of the entry list is made up of Masters drivers, with 35 in all coming from all over the states, and even Germany to compete. The depth in this championship has increased as well, with not only the main protagonists from last year returning, but also some new, and very talented faces making their debut.
 
In 2012, the Masters championship came down to the final race between local talents Dave Messimer and Diego Morales, the two drivers each pulling away from the rest of the masters field heading into the final day. Morales put the pressure on the point leader by taking the win in round #6, and then backing it up with a strong run in the pre-final, closing to within 1.5 points heading into the Super Final. In the end it however, it was Messimer out scoring Morales in the final battle, holding on to the lead by 3.5 points, and claiming the inaugural Masters National Championship.
 
Below is a look at some of the biggest names on the entry list, including all the drivers who made it to at least the LCQ last year, and those who should have a very strong shot at the 2013 Master National Championship…
 
The Champions, and the Challengers…
 
#1 Ranked, Defending Masters Champion:
Dave Messimer: Lake Forrest, CA – CalSpeed Karting
[ 1 pole, 3 top 3’s, 5 top 5’s, 1 Fastest Lap ]
The reigning Master’s Champion, Messimer has a very tough crowd entered this year to defend from, and will need at least as strong a performance as he had in 2012 to keep the crown. With equal parts speed and consistency last year, he finished as the highest point earner on both day one and two, and was the highest finishing Master in 3 of the 8 rounds. Although winless in the stat category, he was a constant at the sharp end of the field, both in qualifying and the races, finishing 8th overall to go along with his Title. Proving to be the definitive pace setter last year, he’ll look to build on the previous year, stay mistake free, and in turn bring home back-to-back titles.
 
#2 Diego Morales: Brea, CA – Anaheim Grand Prix
[ 1 win, 2 top 3’s, 5 top 5’s, 1 Fastest Lap ]
Taking a bit of a sabbatical from racing thus far in 2013, Morales won’t be dead cold coming into the Grands, as he plans to do a warm-up event the week prior at CalSpeed. That said, Diego hasn’t ever really been adversely affected by time out of the seat, consistently being able to find the pace he had where he left off. A former Master’s champion in his own right, the name Diego Morales is synonymous with the best in the category, and will be on every Master’s watch list. Narrowly missing out on the title last year, he does go in to 2013 as the only Master’s driver to win a race during any of the preliminary rounds, and will again be a threat at the front.
 
#3 Sergio Bravo: Hermosa Beach, CA – CalSpeed Karting
[ 1 pole, 1 win, 3 top 3’s, 4 top 5’s ]
The back-to-back CalSpeed Super Series Masters champion didn’t have the 2012 Grands he had hoped for, and will be keen to put last year’s event behind him. Sitting atop the Masters standings in the Super Series, Bravo added his name to the shortlist of Masters that have won an event here at CalSpeed only two rounds ago. The winner of the LCQ last year, Bravo would like to be much higher in the standings this year, and has the pace, and craft to do it. Arguably the best driver at CalSpeed in this category, he will be focused on bringing home the title of National Champion this year.
 
Jay Schreiber: Yorba Linda, CA – CalSpeed Karting
[ 2 top 3’s, 5 top 5’s, 1 Fastest Lap ]
Jay is having a career year so far at CalSpeed, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it continue at the Grand Nationals either. Already winning a round of the Super Series, Jay is in the hunt for the local Masters title, and has stepped up his game tremendously here in 2013. Forced to transfer from the LCQ after a rough first day last year, Jay was one of the top two point earners in both day 2 and 3, and if he can put together strong results on all three tracks, will certainly be a strong possibility for the championship.
 
Craig Stanton: Long Beach, CA – CalSpeed Karting
While he has never contested a full arrive and drive championship before, Grand-Am driver Craig Stanton has been lightning quick every time he has entered a Sport karting event. Whether a Super Series or and Enduro race, Stanton is immediately one of the strongest shoes out there, and will hit the ground running on day 1. In his four Super Series appearances, Stanton has some strong stats, proof that he can’t be counted out for the title in his debut run this year: 1 pole, 1 podium finish, six top 3’s, eight top 5’s, and has made the A-Main every time.
 
Martin Hanhardt: Duisberg, Germany – German Endurance Karting
Martin enters the 2013 championship with the knowledge he gained from the previous year, and plenty of seat time since. A former indoor karting Masters World Champion, his 33rd overall point’s finish in 2012 doesn’t accurately show the progression made throughout the weekend. With a highest finish of 4th in round #5, Hanhardt showed that the pace was there, and now with more experience under his belt, I suspect he could be a dark horse for the championship this year.
 
Steve Lattanzi: Phoenix, AZ – Octane Raceway
The lead Masters driver coming from Arizona, ‘Kandyman’ Lattanzi is one of the most well liked people in the paddock, with an infectious fun-loving nature, and love for the sport that is near unmatched in karting. Lattanzi was a constant threat inside the top ten in 2012, scoring three 7th place finishes en route to a 29th overall finish, and 5th in the Masters category. Running towards the front in the LCQ last year, Lattanzi’s goal has to be to make the Super Final, and challenged the front-runners here in 2013.
 
 
The New, and the Improved…
 
Jeff Saiani: Roy, UT – Octane Raceway
Making his debut at the Sport Kart Grands, and making one of only a few starts outdoors, Saiani is one of the strongest talents to come out of Octane Raceway in Arizona, consistently challenging the sharp end at national events. A smooth and consistent driver, Jeff should be able to take to the outdoor layouts of CalSpeed quickly, and immediately start challenging for solid points.
 
Kevin Bligan: Wayne, PA – Lehigh Valley Grand Prix/Endurance Karting
One of the biggest names to come from the east coast, especially in the Masters division, Bligan is no stranger to big events, either indoor or outdoor. With countless wins under his belt on outdoor track in endurance formats, Bligan will be right at home at CalSpeed, and could very well challenge for the top spot. The biggest question will be how he, and many of the other debutants adjust to the style of racing at the .75 mile circuit.
 
Richard Zimmerman: Oceanside, CA – K1 Speed
A former formula car racer and current driving coach, Zimmerman carries the Masters torch for the K1 Speed team, and could be another of those dark horses for the championship. Although he hasn’t run any events recently at CalSpeed, he has done a pair of tests, so he won’t be going in blind. With a strong background in racing, his craft is not in question; just how fast he will come up to speed, and how quickly he will adapt to the pack racing characteristics that are prominent at CalSpeed.
 
Ben Blank: Santa Clarita, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Currently sitting 5th in the Super Series Masters championship, Ben Blank has been on a constant rise in results, and driving improvement. Now a regular in the A-Main races during the Super Series, his sheer improvement in pace and craft over the past season will pay dividends in his Grands debut, and he should be a regular inside the top ten, and put pressure on for top 5 finishes.
 
Steve Spring: Alhambra, CA – CalSpeed Karting
While not many know it, the current Super Series rookie point leader is also a Masters driver, and should raise quite a few eyebrows over the course of the weekend. For Spring, the Grands may be more about development than going for the championship, but when the chips are down, he won’t the guy who backs out. This will be his first big national event, and will certainly be a learning experience, but one that should see him fighting inside the LCQ at least.
 
Dennis Kimbrell: Anaheim, CA – CalSpeed Karting
35th overall, 10th masters, highest finish was a 6th in round #3
The elder Kimbrell returns to the Grands, but possibly in limited form, as he may be forced to miss Friday’s competition. Regardless, Kimbrell will be looking to improve upon his 6th place finish he had in round three of last year, and with the improvements he’s made, should absolutely be a threat for the top 5.
 
David Kelmenson: Pacific Palisades, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Kelmenson enters his second Grand Nationals with a highest finish of 9th to his credit, but he has changed a lot over the past year. Regularly at the front of the CalSpeed IronMan series should see him do quite well with strategy in the final day, and his increase in pace will pay off through out the event as a whole. Having made the LCQ last year, his goal has got to be the SuperFinal here in 2013.
 
Mark Robinson: Puyallup, WA – Pacific Grand Prix
Mark had an up and down 2012 Grands, battling a bit of illness throughout the event, but showed his true pace during the Semi Final when he finished an impressive 4th. That performance vaulted him inside the top 40 and saw him compete in the LCQ, but one has to wonder where are healthy Mark Robinson would land in the overall standings. One of only two drivers coming from the Pacific Northwest, it will interesting to see what Mark can do in his second Sport Kart Grands.
 
Steve Jasinski: Torrance, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Momentum can have a big effect on a driver’s performance, and Steve Jasinski is a driver with a lot of momentum going his way. Fresh off one of his best career performances, first in the Super Series, and then in his own kart at the local club level, Steve is riding high right now. Finishing just inside the top 40 in 2012 saw him compete in the LCQ, something he’ll be aiming to at least duplicate this year as well.
 
Mike Kinney: Olympia, WA – Pacific Grand Prix
Kinney had an eventful 2012 as a couple of strong runs were cut short with incidents, one in spectacular fashion. That said, he was still able to log a pair of 9th place finishes, and was always a threat for the top 10. Getting in practice time at the Pacific Grand Prix track in Kent, WA, Mike is a driver that has always been able to find a little bit more, taking his analytical approached to improving lap times, and zeroing in on where to find a better result.
 
 
2013 Sport Kart Grand Nationals | Masters Championship | Official Entry List
 
Ary Jogasurya: Clifton, VA – All Sports GP
Ben Blank: Santa Clarita, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Ben Morse: Redondo, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Bill Dickey: Ontario, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Brian Starr: Santa Maria, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Bruce White: Hawthorn Woods, IL – Chicago Indoor Racing
Carlos Carneiro: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Octane Raceway
Charles Crowe: Chandler, AZ – Octane Raceway
Chris Carter: Culver City, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Chris Hebert: Chantilly, VA – Summit Point Kart Track
Craig Stanton: Long Beach, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Dave Messimer: Lake Forrest, CA – CalSpeed Karting
David Kelmenson: Pacific Palisades, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Dennis Kimbrell: Anaheim, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Diego Morales: Brea, CA – Anaheim Grand Prix
Greg Reinhardt: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Gregg Hall: Redding, CA – Need 2 Speed
Jay Schreiber: Yorba Linda, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Jeff Hall: Modesto, CA – Need 2 Speed
Jeff Saiani: Roy, UT – Octane Raceway
Jeff Latimer: Paramount, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Jose da Silva: Duarte, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Kevin Bligan: Wayne, PA – Lehigh Valley Grand Prix/Endurance Karting
Mark Robinson: Puyallup, WA – Pacific Grand Prix
Martin Hanhardt: Duisberg, Germany – German Endurance Karting
Mike Birkle: Charlotte, NC – Victory Lane Karting
Mike Kinney: Olympia, WA – Pacific Grand Prix
Richard Zimmerman: Oceanside, CA – K1 Speed
Rodney Bryant: Highland, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Scott Swayzee: Scottsdale, AZ – Octane Raceway
Sergio Bravo: Hermosa Beach, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Steve Jasinski: Torrance, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Steve Lattanzi: Phoenix, AZ – Octane Raceway
Steve Spring: Alhambra, CA – CalSpeed Karting
Tom Birchard: Chapel Hill, NC – Rush Hour Karting
 

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