EKN Trackside: Rotax Challenge of the Americas – PKRA – Sunday Report
DeLaO, Leesmann and Rudolph sweep as Selliken triumphs for second win of season
The final day of action for the Rotax Challenge of the Americas series at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association completed the fourth round of racing in the six-round championship program. Clear skies provided a perfect day of racing around the Glendale, Ariz., facility, with 117 drivers competing in the seven Rotax Max Challenge categories – four of which were racing for a ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals in New Orleans later this year. Five drivers added to the win column, as two others earned their first of the season to complete the weekend.
Buddy Rice Karting Senior Max
The 15-minute qualifying session for Senior Max was another tight battle, as the 36 drivers fought for the five bonus points and the pole position. Defending champion and local driver Phil DeLaO (Arrow) was able to move to the top of the order right away, laying down his fast lap on his fourth circuit (45.742). Saturday winner Phillip Arscott (Kosmic) recorded his fast lap in similar fashion, but came up just short. Later on, Andrew Zimmer (Energy) split the two, as he came within two hundredths of besting DeLaO’s time. As the session went on, DeLaO and Arscott played a little cat-and-mouse, and at one point they both sat at a complete stop on the backstraight, neither giving the other the opportunity of measuring up one another. DeLaO held on to the top spot, as no one was able to better their times late in the session. Zimmer was second, with Arscott in third. Jake Craig (Kosmic) was fourth, with Mason Marotta (FA Kart) putting in a late run to move up to fifth.
DeLaO took advantage of the pole position in the Prefinal, as he drove away with the 17-lap win. Leading the entire race, he ran to a 2.656-second margin of victory. Second place was earned early on, with Zimmer holding off an early battle from Arscott, before being able to break away. Arscott was shuffled back early on after a brief run at the second spot, eventually finishing seventh. Pagano was the driver on the move, coming from seventh and moving close to the top three when he slowed on lap eight with a flat tire. He was classified 33rd. This moved Marotta up to third, where he finished, placing Craig in fourth and Andrew Palmer (Kosmic) in fifth. Palmer worked his way up to fourth, with Parker McKean (Kosmic) into fifth, dropping Craig down to sixth in a hard fought battle.
The 25-lap main event was an eventful race, with the exception of DeLaO. He drove the AZ Kart Werx Arrow, tuned by Eric Jones, to another wire-to-wire win in the main event for his first victory of the season. Unchallenged the entire 25-lap race, DeLaO secured the victory by over three seconds. The spotlight, however, was on Pagano, as the DPK Birel driver started the main event from 33rd with sights on making the podium. With some great moves, he was into the top-15 by lap five and on a charge. The top-five continued on fighting as they did in the Prefinal, setting up for Pagano to take advantage as the race wore on. The second spot was shuffled around until Arscott finally grabbed hold of the position on lap 13 and began to pull away from the group.
By that time, Pagano had reached the pack of six fighting for the final two spots on the podium. Lap after lap, Pagano picked off drivers with moves into the tight turn three, the turn eight hairpin, and at the end of the long back straight. With five laps to go, he had the third position in hand. By that time, DeLaO held his advantage over Arscott, who had a comfortable gap on the rest of the field. The top three finished that way, with Arscott gaining valuable points with the runner-up position behind DeLaO, and Pagano keeping himself in the title chase with an amazing drive to third. Craig won the battle for fourth, with McKean placing fifth. Zimmer ended up in the sixth spot, with Palmer the fourth Kosmic in the top seven. Marotta placed eighth, with Fritz Leesmann (CRG) and Dakota Dickerson (FA Kart) rounding out the top-10.
Dallas Karting Complex DD2 / Billet Performance DD2 Masters
Fritz Leesmann (CRG) and Alan Rudolph (CRG) led the way in the DD2 group qualifying. Leesmann improved on his fast lap from Saturday, dropping down to a 44.909-second lap to secure the pole position by half a second over Andrew Evans (Kosmic). Saturday winner Sean Owens (Sodi Kart) was third in the order, just a few hundredths over Evans time, with Bill Kann (Zanardi) in fourth. Rudolph posted a 45.632-second lap for the pole position in DD2 Masters. Mike Jones (Sodi Kart) was second, within two tenths, as Paul Bonilla (Arrow) and Daryle Redline (Zanardi) rounded out the top four.
Leesmann went back to his winning ways in the Prefinal race, as he drove off to a seven second victory. Evans kept it close early, but fell off as the race went on. Owens pressured Evans for the second spot, but was unable to make a move with Kann in fourth. Rudolph went wire to wire in the Masters class, with pressure from Redlin in the closing laps. Jones pulled off early with a tire issue, and Bonilla eventually did the same as well after trailing Rudolph most of the race. Redlin ran the fast lap in class to stay on the bumper of Rudolph, but the Team WRS/PSL Atlantic machine was too strong at the end of the straight to secure the win.
In the Final, Leesmann’s PSL Atlantic CRG stayed together for the full 25 laps to pull out his third victory of the season. Right away from the start, Leesmann stretched his lead, building to 13 seconds after 25 laps. Owens felt some pressure early on from Evans, but the Kosmic driver retired on lap five with a mechanical issue. This allowed Owens a clean run to the second spot, with Kann running alone in third. The Masters drivers ran nose to tail for roughly half the race, with Rudolph getting pressure from Jones, Bonilla, and Redlin. Bonilla was the only one to move inside of Rudolph, but the Phoenix driver retook the spot very quickly. Contact however on lap 13 between Jones and Bonilla left Redlin as the lone challenger. Rudolph kept the Tru-North driver at bay lap after lap, despite Redlin running the fast lap of the race. In the end, the 2012 DD2 Masters US Grand Nationals champ earned his third win in the series, with Redlin a close second and Jones rounding out the podium.
CRG-USA Masters Max
Qualifying for the Masters Max category was the Ken Maxfield (Arrow) and Justin Peck (Tony Kart) show, as they once again showed the way in the 15-minute session. They swapped the top position until Maxfield secure the spot with his seventh lap, a 47.468. After some time on pit lane, they both hit the track together, sizing each other up for the upcoming racing laps, and Peck improving on his time. He came within eight hundredths of Maxfield time, but was unable to better it. That gave Maxfield the pole position and five critical bonus points in the championship. Donald Durbin Jr. (Birel) was third with Larry Hayashigawa (Tony Kart) and George Patton (Arrow) completing the fast five.
The Prefinal was another dual, this time Maxfield was joined out front by Durbin. Maxfield led the field to the green flag, with Durbin quickly into the second spot. By the completion of lap one, Durbin was into the lead. He stayed there with Maxfield on his bumper, and with Peck and Hayashigawa trailing. Eventually, the top two drove away from the other two. It looked as if Maxfield had the win in hand, but Durbin got racey in the final laps, making a move on the final circuit for the lead in turn 10. It stuck and he went on to score the win. Maxfield settled for second, with Peck holding off Hayashigawa for third. Scott Berryman (Arrow) was fifth most of the race, before Patton was able to retake the spot back on the final lap.
Durbin and Maxfield continued their run at the front of the field in the 25-lap Final. Hayashigawa and Peck kept it close, but once again lost the top two as the race progressed. Durbin led Maxfield until lap 12, when the Utah driver took over the top spot. From there, Maxfield continued to fight off Durbin lap after lap. On the final circuit, Durbin tried inside of Maxfield into turn 11. Contact was made and Maxfield went wide on the exit, but Durbin allowed him to recover and cross the line first. Durbin settled for second. Peck was able to work past Hayashigawa for third after the halfway point, and secured his fourth straight podium finish. Berryman finished fifth for a second straight day in his series debut.
Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
The qualifying for the Junior Max field has been tight both weekends thus far in 2013, and it continued Sunday morning. Point leader Blaine Rocha (Komsic) was the first to hit the top of the time sheet, with Austin Versteeg (CRG) throwing his name into the mix. Christian Brooks (Energy) joined the two near the top of the order, with Brenden Baker (ART GP) and Jordan Redlin (Zanardi) all within a tenth of each other. It seemed that Versteeg was going to claim the pole position until Brooks put down his fast lap with two minutes to go, getting some drafting help. His 46.953-second lap ended as the best, as Versteeg settled for second. Baker ended up third, as Marco Eakins (Energy) slotted himself into fourth, pushing Rocha and Redlin down the order.
The initial start to the Prefinal was waved off, as over half the field was collected in the opening corner wreck with too fast of a start for the field. Once the officials got everyone regrouped, they went for another attempt which was clean. Brooks to the lead, with Eakins sliding through to hold the second spot after the opening lap, over Versteeg, Grey and Rocha. By lap four, Eakins was shuffled back outside the top-five, as Rocha began his run at Brooks, bringing Versteeg with him. They ended the 17-lap event in that order, Brooks scoring his first Junior Max win, with Noah Grey (FA Kart) in fourth and Round 1 winner Luke Selliken (Kosmic) fifth.
The Junior Max Final ended the Phoenix weekend, and left the event on a high note. Brooks led the field to a clean start for the 25-lap battle, with Versteeg, Selliken, Rocha, Grey, and local driver Jim McKinney making up the top-six. By lap five, Selliken was into the lead as the lead pack continued to fight tooth and nail, neither driver giving up an inch of space. Shuffling after the halfway mark left the top five some room, as Selliken continued to lead the way over Brooks, Rocha, Versteeg, and Grey. Attention turned to Baker, as he was into sixth by lap 15 after starting 27th via a DNS in the Prefinal. Running the fast laps of the race, it was only a matter of time before he joined the top-five out front. It seemed he hit a wall, as the top-five ran real close with all running similar lap times, and Baker unable to make up ground without them jostling for position.
With five laps to go, Versteeg was the driver looking to advance, as he worked his way past Rocha for third and began looking for a way around Brooks. On lap 23, he tried a deep move inside of Brooks, and they bunched up the group. Grey and Baker took advantage, sliding past Rocha who drifted wide and dropped to sixth. This fighting allowed Selliken a clean run to the checkered flag, as the Rolison Performance Group driver took his second victory of the season. The fight for second went to the final few corners, as Versteeg tried Brooks once again. Able to get by in turn eight, Brooks came back in turn 11. Their fighting gave Grey the opportunity to slide past both, and ge scored the second spot. Brooks held on to the third spot at the stripe, crossing ahead of Baker, who finished up a great drive from the back. Versteeg completed the top-five, but a one position penalty to Baker swapped their positions in the final classifications.
HoleShot Drive Systems Mini Max
Saturday winner Chase Farley (Energy) began the Mini Max qualifying session as the provisional pole sitter. His time was bettered by Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) on his sixth circuit of the 15-minute session, with a49.304-second lap. Farley spent the rest of the timed run trying to better Robb’s lap, but came up 65 thousandths short. On the final lap, Horatio Fitz-Simon (CRG) laid down his quick lap, putting the top three drivers within one-tenth of a second. Saturday top qualifier Roy Fulmer IV (Arrow) was fourth, with David Rafailov (CRG) in fifth.
Farley led the field to the green flag for the 13-lap Prefinal, but it was Robb who led after the opening circuit. He brought Fitz-Simon with him to drop Farley back to third, as Fulmer trailed the top trio. Rafailov was fifth, but dropped off the track and fell to the tail of the field on lap three. The top four broke away from the rest of the group, with Farley and Fulmer able to work past Fitz-Simon to the checkered flag. Both Farley and Fulmer were handed three-second penalties for starting infractions, thus moved back to third and fourth behind Robb and Fitz-Simon in the final order as Jacob Blue Hudson (Energy) finished fifth.
Sting Ray was able to use the pole position to his advantage of the pole position as he went wire-to-wire in the 18-lap Final. Robb drove away early as eight others made up the chase pack behind him. As the laps went on, Robb pulled out to a sizable lead. In the end, the Rolison Performance Group pilot won the race by nearly three seconds. Fitz-Simon led the chase group for the entire race, and he put some distance on the rest to secure second. The race was for the final podium spot, as Fulmer was able to hold off Sophia Price (Kosmic) for the position, with Rafailov coming from 11th to fifth.
Overdrive Motorsports Micro Max
A trio of drivers worked together during the 10-minute qualifying session to put themselves out ahead on the time sheets in the 17-kart field. Tucson winners Liam Letzsch (KGB) and Payton Durrant (Birel) were joined by Anthony Willis (DR Kart) on track, as the trio exchanged the top spot multiple times. The final few circuits decided the pole position, as Letzsch recorded a 52.562-second lap for the five bonus points. Durrant was second with Willis in third. Saturday winner Diego LaRoque (CRG) was fourth, with Filip Niemkiewicz (Energy) rounding out the fast five.
Letzsch was able to outrun the competition in the 10-lap Prefinal after the first attempt at the start of the race brought out a red flag. No drivers were hurt in the wreck, but a host of drivers had to sit the race out. Letzsch drove to a 1.1-second margin of victory over a charging Niemkiewicz. Willis held his third position, with Durrant back to fourth and Ellie Musgrave (CRG) up to fifth.
A five driver pack formed at the front of the field for the 14-lap Final, led by Letzsch as he had all day. The pack behind him included Willis, Niemkiewicz, LaRoque, and Durrant. The group behind him shuffled around, with Durrant making the biggest moves. On lap 10, while running third behind Willis, he drafted past for the second spot and was able to duck inside of Letzsch in the process. That move solidified the victory for Durrant, as he drove off to a two-tenth victory. Letzsch ran to second, with Niemkiewicz slotting in for the third podium step. Willis ended up fourth with LaRoque alone in fifth.
The series will crown its 2013 champions on March 8-10 at the CalSpeed Karting facility in Fontana, California. Be sure to have www.ekartingnews.com/live bookmarked for that weekend for live broadcast of every competition lap. For complete coverage of the PKRA weekend, visit the EKN Event Page.