EKN Trackside: Rotax Challenge of the Americas – PKRA – Saturday Report
Arscott, Rudolph and Rocha earn second win of season, as Owen outlasts in DD2
Challenged early in the main event, Phillip Arscot prevailed with the Senior Max victory
(Photo: Sean Buur - Go Racing Magazine)
The third round of the Rotax Challenge of the Americas was completed on Saturday at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility in Glendale, Arizona. Weather continued to challenge the program with colder temperatures and a small threat of rain over the area, but the action on the Formula K Raceway was exciting all day long. The first of two rounds welcomed four new winners on the year, as three others added to the win column for 2013.
Buddy Rice Karting Senor Max
The Senior Max field of 37 drivers was split into two groups, similar to the Tucson rounds. The first group was led by Dakota Dickerson (FA Kart), as he posted a 46.428-second lap late in the session, with Arizona driver Augie Lerch (Tony Kart) making a late charge at the provisional pole. They quickly fell down the order as the fast group from Friday’s final practice hit the track. Round 2 winner Phillip Arscott (Kosmic) went to the top of the charts right away, and bettered his time until his seventh circuit. His time of 45.898 seconds held through the 15-minute session to secure the pole position and five bonus points in the title chase. Mason Marotta (FA Kart) made a run at it, but came two tenths short. Friday fast driver Louie Pagano (Birel) was third, with Senior rookie Jake Craig (Kosmic) in fourth. Andrew Zimmer (Energy) completed the fast five.
The Prefinal was all Rolison Performance Group’s Arscott, as he led the entire 17-lap race. He pulled out to a two-second advantage, with his only issue a lapper on the final circuit to make his margin of victory down to 1.3 seconds. Pagano led the rest of the field with Marotta, Fritz Leesmann (CRG) – doing double duty, and Craig making up the early top five. Contact during the opening corners mid pack collected a host of drivers, including Phil DeLaO (Arrow). Marotta was another victim, as he lost his rear bumper on lap two and was forced to pull off. Pagano and Craig pulled away from the second pack and fought it out for the runner-up spot, with Craig stealing the spot on the final circuit. Zimmer charged back to finish fourth, with Alejandro Fernandez (Energy) going with him in fifth. Andrew Palmer (Kosmic) came from 18th in the field, receiving a penalty for a tire issue in the warm-up session, to finish sixth with Bailey Murphy (Arrow), Nick Rivellini (Kosmic) Leesmann and point leader Parker McKean (Kosmic) completing the top-10. Zimmer, however, was removed for a carburetion infraction, moving everyone behind him up a position in the order.
Twenty-five laps is typically a long race, but in Senior Max, it could have gone another 25. The drivers went hard each and every circuit, with Arscott coming away with his second straight in the series. Pagano, Craig and Palmer were able to relegate Arscott down to fourth on the opening circuit, beginning the long battle. With the top-10 all together, a number of drivers took their turn at the point. Lap eight, Arscott finally returned to the lead with the rest of the lead group fighting it out for second. Arscott continued to lead the remainder of the race, pulling out to a three-second advantage. With Arscott out front, it was a heavy dice for second including Pagano, Craig, Palmer and McKean. In the closing laps, Pagano was able to secure the position, earning his third straight podium finish. Palmer and Craig fought for the final podium step, and contact was made coming to the checkered flag. Palmer dropped a wheel on the exit of the final corner and spun around while crossing the stripe with Craig just ahead. Officials, however, laid down a one position penalty to Craig for the contact, and put Palmer on the podium. McKean completed the top-five, ahead of Leesmann and Murphy. Marotta recorded another drive from the tail of the field after his DNF in the Prefinal, finishing an impressive eighth from 35th. He was able to pass Fernandez and Rivellini in the final few laps.
Dallas Karting Complex DD2 / Billet Performance DD2 Masters
Defending champion and current DD2 point leader Fritz Leesmann (CRG) continued from his sweep in Tucson to being the Phoenix round on top. His lap of 45.314 seconds gave him the pole position with Sean Owens (Sodi Kart) in second, about four tenths back. Andrew Evans (Kosmic) was third in the order, with Bill Kann (Zanardi) fourth. Alan Rudolph (CRG) – the DD2 Masters point leader – began his first national event at his home track in over 13 years by qualifying on the pole position. Rudolph was about five tenths off Fritz’s time, a good four tenths quicker than Round 1 winner Mike Jones (Sodi Kart). Daryle Redlin (Zanardi) and Paul Bonilla (Arrow) were within a tenth of a second of Jones time.
Leesmann and Rudolph went wire-to-wire in the 17-lap Prefinal run. Leesmann put down laps quicker than qualifying, pulling out to a 10-second advantage. Owens, Evans and Kann ran close together, holding their respective positions. Jones trailed Rudolph early on, but was unable to stay close and then came under fire from Bonilla. Once Bonilla worked by for the second spot, Jones pulled off after lap 10 as he was under the weather with possible food poisoning. That moved Redlin to third.
Leesmann was out to a solid lead early on in the 25-lap Final race, but just seven laps into the race he fell two seconds off his pace. Once Owens went around for the lead, Leesmann pulled off with a broken shifter linkage with his DD2 engine stuck in second gear. The DNF was his first in nine feature races, ending his win streak at eight. This allowed Owens, Kann and Evans to dice it out for the victory. Owens held a slight advantage over Kann and Evans, as the gap moved around lap after lap. At the checkered, the Dallas Karting Complex driver Owens earned his first Challenge victory, with Kann and Evans rounding out the podium. Jones gave Rudolph a challenge early on in DD2 Masters, taking the lead briefly before Alan retook the position. Rudolph proved to be too consistent lap after lap, as he extended his advantage with each circuit. In the end, Rudolph took his Team WRS/PSL Atlantic entry to his second victory of the season by six seconds, with Redlin taking third as Bonilla retired early, feeling ill and spinning during the main event.
Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
The 29-driver field for Junior Max – including six female pilots – was split into two groups, with Jake Boyle (CRG) the top driver in the opening group. When the second group completed, he fell to 13th overall, as they were quick to jostle the provisional pole position. Christian Brooks (Energy) was the first to strike, and was shuffled down by Brenden Baker (ART GP). Championship leader Luke Selliken (Kosmic) was inching his way toward the top, when his Rolison Performance Group teammate Blaine Rocha (Arrow) took over the pole position on lap four. His 47.090-second lap stood the remainder of the session, although he tried to better the time in the closing minutes, but contact with Noah Grey (FA Kart) impeded his attempt. Brooks finished second, with Baker in third, both within one tenth of the Rocha. Selliken was fourth, with Grey in fifth as the top eight were within two tenths.
Rocha controlled the Prefinal race as he led all 17 laps. With Rocha pulling out to a three-second advantage, the race to watch was for second. Selliken, Brooks, Baker, and Grey made up the group fighting for the position early on, until Baker retired on lap eight with a flat tire. This left three in the battle, which would see Grey as the quicker of the group. He charged his way to the second spot and led the group to the checkered flag. Austin Versteeg (CRG) improved on his seventh position, recording the fast laps of the race to move up to the third spot over Brooks and Selliken.
The 25-lap Final was all Rocha, as he completed a sweep in the category to take over the championship lead. Blaine secured the top spot through the start of the race, and laid down consistent laps to earn his second straight victory of the series with a five-second margin. Versteeg was able to break away with the second spot and held a good gap on the rest of the field until Selliken was able to break away. Lap after lap, Selliken inched his way closer to set up a battle for the second spot with Versteeg. They exchanged personal fast laps with Versteeg able to hold the position to the checkered flag. Selliken ran third for his third straight podium finish of the series to remain close to Rocha at the halfway point. Grey ended up fourth, but was penalized 10 seconds for contact with Brooks. That moved Marco Eakins (Tony Kart) up to fourth, with local driver Jake Boyle (CRG) placing a solid fifth. Two more local drivers filled the top 10 with Sara Houston (Birel) in seventh and Vincent DePalma (Tony Kart) in ninth. Grant Copple (Kosmic) was sixth with ART GP driver Phillippe Denes in eighth. Baker had a great run, moving up to the 10th position with a recovery from his flat tire.
CRG-USA Masters Max
The top three in the Masters Max qualifying session battled the entire 15-minutes for the pole position. Ken Maxfield (Arrow) and Justin Peck (Tony Kart) swapped the provisional position while Donald Durbin Jr. (Birel) was just off the pace. Maxfield was able to get even quicker, using a bit of a draft to lay down a 47.689-second mark. Peck finished the session in second with Durbin unable to improve as the checkered flag waved to complete the session. Larry Hayashigawa (Tony Kart) was fourth with George Patton (Arrow) in fifth.
The Masters field was clean through the opening corners of the 17-lap Prefinal as Maxfield showed the way. Peck kept Maxfield honest the entire time as they ran nose to tail, with Maxfield edging out for the win by two tenths. Durbin ran third with Hayashigawa close behind in fourth. Colorado driver Scott Berryman (Arrow) improved up to fifth, working around Patton for the position.
It was a great jump for Durbin as they began the 25-lap feature, moving around both Peck and Maxfield in the opening corners for the lead. It was short-lived, as Maxfield and Peck drafted past Durbin to complete the first lap. They drove away to make it a duel for the victory. Swapping the lead a few times, Peck established himself as the leader with Maxfield dropping back. He was able to reel in Peck in the closing laps, but unable to make a move for the lead. Peck crossed the line first to earn his first Challenge victory, with Maxfield on his bumper. Durbin ran alone in third for another podium finish to keep all three drivers in the championship chase. Hayashigawa was able to fight off Berryman in the final lap for the fourth position.
HoleShot Drive Systems Mini Max
Qualifying for Mini Max was the first official timed session of the day on-track in Phoenix, with the 15 drivers setting the tone of the weekend. It was Roy Fulmer IV (Arrow) that set the pace in the timed run, as he posted an impressive fast lap of 49.385 seconds. Championship leader Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) was just six-hundredths off his mark, and was unable to better the time. Friday fast driver David Rafailov (CRG) was third, with Chase Farley (Energy) and Round 1 winner Horatio Fitz-Simon (CRG) completed the fast five.
The Mini Max class got the Prefinals started with a clean start into turn 10 to begin the 13-lap event. Fulmer pulled out with the lead, as Rafailov slotted in behind. Robb and Fitz-Simon was a full second behind after the completion of the opening lap. Sting Ray was able to catch them, and formed a three driver battle for the win. Fulmer held the lead to the white flag, with Robb and Rafailov on his bumper. Their final laps were near identical, as Fulmer scored the win ahead of Robb and Rafailov. Fitz-Simon was a clear fourth, as Farley won the fight for fifth ahead of David Ilavia (Sodi Kart).
The Final race began with Texan Evan Bennett (Sodi Kart) going over on the exit of the opening corner, but since he was able to walk away, the race continued on. Fulmer continued to lead the way with Robb, Rafailov and Farley on his bumper to make up the four driver lead group. The lead pack became three on lap 10, when Rafailov spun on the exit of turn 10 while battling. With two laps remaining, the trio was nose to tail when all three spun on the exit of turn one. Farley came away unscathed, as he took over the lead as Fulmer and Robb regrouped. When the checkered flag waved, Farley took the victory for his first in the series. Fitz-Simon and Canadian Griffin Dowler (Energy) benefitted from the others mishaps, coming through for the second and third positions to round out the podium. Robb crossed the line in fourth, but was assessed a 10-second penalty for a start infraction, putting Fulmer up to the position. That also moved Ilavia into the fifth spot.
Overdrive Motorsports Micro Max
The fight for the pole position in Micro Max was tight, as Arizona driver Anthony Willis (DR Kart) edged out Round 2 race winner Payton Durrant (Birel) for the spot. Willis laid down 57.476-second lap as Durrant was off by 98-thousandths of a second. Diego LaRoque (CRG) was third in the session, with Canadian Marco Kacic (CRG) and Round 1 winner Liam Letzsch (KGB) rounding out the fast five.
Willis led the field to the green flag for the 10-lap Prefinal, and held the spot briefly, until he fell off the pace. He continued on until he retired on lap seven with carburetion issues. That put Durrant and LaRoque at the point as they pulled away from the field. LaRoque was able to edge out Durrant on-track for the provisional win, but a three second starting penalty placed him back to second and gave Durrant the win. Letzsch improved to third, with Ellie Musgrave (CRG) and Kacic in fourth and fifth.
The 14-lap Final was a great battle between four drivers, as LaRoque led Durrant, Letzsch and Musgrave making up the lead group. LaRoque was at the point for most of the race, as the remaining three trying to find a way to take the front spot from him. In the end, LaRoque was able to secure the position and earn his first series victory. Durrant fought off Letzsch in the final corners for the runner-up spot, with Musgrave trailing. Kacic solidly ran in the fifth position the entire race.
Action for Round 4 of the Rotax Challenge of the Americas will get underway at PKRA with qualifying set to begin at 9:30MST, and will broadcasted all day at http://www.ekartingnews.com/live . For complete coverage, visit the EKN Event Page