EKN Trackside: Rotax Challenge of the Americas – CalSpeed Preview
Four tickets to 2013 Rotax Grand Finals on the line in Fontana
‘March Madness’ in the karting world has arrived – and the Rotax Challenge of the Americas 2013 season finale weekend is next the round of competition. Roughly 100 drivers from the United States and Canada will be competing at the CalSpeed Karting facility in Fontana, California – just outside the Auto Club Speedway. The series will host the final two rounds of the six race championship, with the best five rounds counted toward crowing champions in the seven Rotax Max Challenge international divisions. On the line for Senior Max, DD2, DD2 Masters and Junior Max, is a ticket to the 2013 Rotax Grand Finals in New Orleans come November. For the remaining categories, the title winner will be awarded a paid entry to their country’s Rotax Grand Nationals.
The CalSpeed Karting circuit will host the series finale for a second straight year, with a number of local, regional and national events held on the grounds over the 12 months out of the year. Racers will be taking on the Grande Course in the counter-clockwise direction, same as in 2012. It measures at 3/4-mile with 15 turns, including some elevation change and a unique surface that will challenge both man and machine. Friday will host a full day of practice with two independent rounds on Saturday and Sunday featuring qualifying, prefinal and final runs. Each on track session will be important toward the series championship, with five points going toward top qualifier, up to 10 points in the prefinal, another five for fast lap in the main event and 100 points for the victory.
Every session will count this weekend, as drivers in the title hunt will need them in order to stand on the podium Sunday afternoon with the championship ticket in hand. Another added bonus for the Mini Max and Micro Max drivers will be one ticket to the 2013 Rotax Grand Finals invitational event awarded in each class to the driver who scores the highest points on the weekend.
eKartingNews.com will provide their ‘Trackside Live’ coverage throughout the March 8-10 weekend at the CalSpeed Karting facility in Fontana. Live audio broadcast begins Friday with the final round of practice, and will carry the entire action Saturday and Sunday from qualifying to the final lap of the main events athttp://www.ekartingnews.com/live . Recordings of the previous events from 2013 can be downloaded through iTunes by searching ‘eKartingNews.com’.
Experience is the word to describe the top of the Senior Max standings. Championship leader Phillip Arscott (Rolison Performance Group/Kosmic) is the 2009 US Rotax Grand Nationals winner, and probably has more years of karting than anyone in the field. 2010 Junior Max Challenge champion Louie Pagano (DPK/Birel) is up there in skill, although in just his third season as a Senior driver. The two have put themselves atop the championship standings, Arscott a win at each event and Pagano a podium finish in each of the four main events. While Pagano has yet to earn a victory this season, he’s heading to his home track, which may be the advantage he needs to overtake Arscott. Making it a trio of drivers contending for the Challenge title and the Rotax Grand Finals ticket is Parker McKean (Rolison Performance Group/Kosmic). A win in round one this year puts McKean 60 points back of Arscott heading into the finale. Last year’s champion Phil DeLaO deleted a 61 point deficit to secure the title, and McKean took one of the victories at finale a year ago for his first series win.
Certainly the championship is on the minds of those three, a victory is the only thought for the rest of the field, filled with a number of talented drivers. DeLaO made his 2013 debut in Phoenix, earning a victory on Sunday and is set to return to CalSpeed for more action under the KartSport North America/Arrow banner. Former Challenge DD2 standout Daniel Burkett (LH Kart) will make his 2013 debut prior to starting his campaign in the USF2000 Championship next week in Sebring. Another DD2 driver will run for the first time this season – Troy Casteneda. A former member of Team USA with strong finishes at the Rotax Grand Finals will run Senior Max under the ART GP America banner in CalSpeed. Adding more talent to the already stout field is the inclusion of Canadian Phillip Orcic. The young driver contested European events in the KZ category for the past few seasons aboard a Zanardi, and will make his Challenge debut.
The opening event in Phoenix saw a healthy group of DD2 competitors. Unfortunately, the series finale will see a limited amount of drivers on-track with the championships nearly decided in both classes. Defending DD2 champion Fritz Leesmann (PSL Atlantic/CRG) saw his main event streak end in Phoenix, however, leads the title chase by 84 points over rookies Andrew Evans (Rolison Performance Group/Kosmic) and Bill Kann (True-North Zanardi). Alan Rudolph (Team WRS/PSL Atlantic/CRG) has been the measuring stick in the DD2 Masters category since he joined the program last year. Earning the FWT and US Grand Nationals title in 2012, he’s out for the Challenge title in ’13. Rudolph enters CalSpeed with a 112 point advantage over Daryle Redlin (True-North Zanardi), who’s looking to end Alan’s three-win streak.
Luke Selliken finds himself in nearly the same position as a year ago. Last March, the Rolison Performance Group/Kosmic driver entered the CalSpeed weekend with two wins in the series and a 16 point lead in the point standing. A wreck in the prefinal on the final day of competition killed his chance at the title and the Rotax Grand Finals bid – with Canadian Zacharie Scalzo earning the crown. This time around, it’s Selliken leading his teammate Blaine Rocha by 17 points. Rocha also has two wins to his credit as he and Selliken split both weekends. Trailing them is Utah driver Austin Versteeg (CRG-USA), who was also in the same place as he was last year, sitting third in the points heading to CalSpeed. This time out, Versteeg is behind by 66 points. All three have matured and developed on and off the track, and it will be interesting to see how it develops.
A fourth driver could be in the mix with a strong weekend in Fontana. If you factor in the drop now, the top four in the points will be separated by just 44 points with Noah Grey moving up to the third spot. The Phil Giebler Racing/FA Kart driver has been in the hunt all season, and CalSpeed could be his time to stand on the top of the podium. Phoenix showed just how tight the field is, in qualifying and come the final laps of the main event. Brenden Baker (ART GP America) and 2012 Mini Max Challenge champ Christian Brooks – moving back to a Tony Kart this weekend – were among the contenders and each have plenty of laps around the Fontana circuit. They could be factors for the race win and have a deciding factor on who is crown the 2013 Challenge champion.
The tightest fight for a championship in the Challenge this year heading to the finale weekend is in Masters Max. Thanks to the unique point system of the Challenge, three drivers are within five points of one another – Justin Peck, Donald Durbin Jr. and Ken Maxfield. Peck (Rolison Performance Group/Tony Kart) leads the standings with four straight podium finishes, including his first series win in Phoenix. Dubrin (Cambrian Go Karts/Birel) has yet to claim the first place trophy this year, but has been consistently there for the challenge. Utah driver Maxfield (Arrow) was another first time winner in Phoenix, and is third in the title chase.
The wildcard in the title hunt will be the number of drivers making a one-off run at CalSpeed. Two champions from 2012 will be in the category in Fontana – Paul Bonilla and John Crow. Bonilla (Full Throttle Karting/Arrow) – the Masters Max champion a year ago – will move back from DD2 Masters, as will Crow (Arrow) who was the two-speed champ last season. Newly crowned EKN Rotax Driver Rankings #1 driver Scott Ripslinger (Energy) will make his 2013 season debut, in addition to the return of double Tucson winner Diego Pelosi (FA Kart) scheduled to be at CalSpeed. The weekend should be interesting for sure.
In the driver’s seat for the Mini Max championship are two drivers – Horatio Fitz-Simon and Sting Ray Robb. It’s Fitz-Simon (CRG) holding the lead after four rounds with a 15 point advantage. Robb (Tony Kart) however leads in the win column with two feature victories to Horatio’s single in round one, and if you factor in the drop already, Sting Ray moves to the top. Robb was in position last year to battle for the title, but came up just short. Fitz-Simon has been up and down the order, but come main event time he’s been on the podium in all four events. Chase Farley (Energy) is the only other feature winner, while David Rafailov (CRG), Sophia Price (Kosmic) and Roy Fulmer IV (Arrow) have been right there, inching their way closer to a victory. They all still remain mathematically in the hunt, and could be the lucky driver who scores the most points on the weekend to earn a ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals invitational.
It’s a similar duel in the Micro Max division with the top two drivers separated by 16 points. Liam Letzsch and Payton Durrant have been the head of the class this season. Letzsch (KGB) has four straight trips to the podium to control the standings where Durrant (Birel) has been there the last three main events, including two wins. Anthony Willis (DR Kart), Canadian Marco Kacic (CRG), Filip Niemkiewicz (Energy) and Diego LaRoque (KGB) have all been to the podium as well, and could be wildcards in the title chase as well as contenders for the Rotax Grand Finals invitational ticket.
Rotax Challenge of the Americas CalSpeed Provisional Entry List
|305||Parker McKean||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Gig Harbor||WA|
|307||Troy Castaneda||ART GP America||ART GP||Rocklin||CA|
|311||Phillip Orcic||True-North Zanardi||Zanardi||Vancouver||BC|
|314||Hailey Groff||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Richland||WA|
|315||Andrew Wiener||ART GP America||ART GP||Spring Valley||CA|
|317||Sabre’ Cook||CRG-USA||CRG||Grand Junction||CO|
|319||Andrew Wilson||Energy||Westlake Village||CA|
|321||Andrew Palmer||J3 Competition||Kosmic||Chicago||IL|
|323||Will Owen||Full Throttle Karting||Arrow||Castle Rock||CO|
|324||Bradley Dezall||Overdrive Motorsports||Tony Kart||Okotoks||AB|
|325||Louie Pagano||DPK||Birel||Santa Rosa Valley||CA|
|326||Alejandro Fernandez||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy||San Bernadino||CA|
|331||Artie Carpenter||Tony Kart||Oregon City||OR|
|333||Carlos Calderon||Aluminos||CRG||San Jose||CA|
|336||Mason Daughters||Phil Giebler Racing||FA||Huntington Beach||CA|
|355||Ben Schermerhorn||Schermerhorn Motorsports||Arrow||Highlands Ranch||CO|
|357||Phillip Arscott||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Portland||OR|
|373||Andrew Zimmer||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy||Tigard||OR|
|379||Phil DeLaO||KartSport North America||Arrow||Peoria||AZ|
|382||Carlee Taylor||Tony Kart||Yucaipa||CA|
|397||Jonathan May||Phil Giebler Racing||FA||San Marcos||CA|
|398||Daniel Burkett||LH Kart||Winnipeg||MB|
|413||Bill Kann||True-North Zanardi||Scottsdale||AZ||Zanardi|
|427||Andrew Evans||Rolison Performance Group||Sammamish||WA||Kosmic|
|461||Fritz Leesmann||PSL Atlantic||Elk Grove||CA||CRG|
|577||Alan Rudolph||Team WRS/PSL Atlantic||Gilbert||AZ||CRG|
|590||Daryle Redlin||True-North Zanardi||Aldergrove||BC||Zanardi|
|200||Josh Kurtz||Unser Racing/Gphactory||Kosmic||Huntington Beach||CA|
|209||Blaine Rocha||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Oakdale||CA|
|211||Antonio de Lis||Sodi Kart||Huntington Beach||CA|
|214||Vincent Combret||CRG West||CRG||Kaleden||BC|
|216||Brenden Baker||ART GP/D-Power||ART GP||Palmdale||CA|
|218||Marco Eakins||Buddy Rice Karting||ART GP||Beaverton||OR|
|219||Jim McKinney||Overdrive Motorsports||KGB||Chandler||AZ|
|224||Noah Grey||Phil Giebler Racing||FA||Dana Point||CA|
|231||Jeff Fulham||LH Kart||Winnipeg||MB|
|234||Christian Brooks||Tony Kart||Santa Clarita||CA|
|251||Jake Preston||Phil Giebler Racing||FA||Renton||WA|
|252||Brittney Zamora||Tony Kart||Kennewick||WA|
|263||McKay Snow||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Pleasant Grove||UT|
|277||Austin Kuehl||Ruthless Racing||KGB||Cave Creek||AZ|
|290||Jordan Redlin||True-North Zanardi||Zanardi||Aldergrove||BC|
|291||Sara Houston||Mike Collins Racing||Birel||Glendale||AZ|
|298||Phillippe Denes||Buddy Rice Karting||ART GP||Carmel||CA|
|608||David Pergande||Full Throttle Karting||Arrow||Katy||TX|
|616||Randy Stover||Full Throttle Karting||Arrow||Scottsdale||AZ|
|617||Jacob Zamora||Full Throttle Karting||Arrow||Chino Hills||CA|
|618||Billy Kann||True-North Zanardi||Zanardi||Scottsdale||AZ|
|620||Paul Bonilla||Full Throttle Karting||Arrow||Cypress||CA|
|625||George Patton||Full Throttle Karting||Arrow||Anaheim||CA|
|626||Ed Quinn||Corsa||San Diego||CA|
|627||Tyler Brooks||Tony Kart||Riverside||CA|
|632||Steve Dzurilla||Birel||Midway City||CA|
|646||John Distelzweig||Birel||Santa Barbara||CA|
|649||Justin Peck||Rolison Performance Group||Tony Kart||Sandy||UT|
|654||Steve Wiener||ART GP America||ART GP||Spring Valley||CA|
|679||Donald Durbin Jr.||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Campbell||CA|
|100||Chase Farley||Energy||Walnut Creek||CA|
|103||Max Fedler||Unser Racing/Gphactory||Sodi Kart||Denver||CO|
|107||Sting Ray Robb||Rolison Performance Group||Tony Kart||Ontario||OR|
|117||Sophia Price||Utah Contingency||Kosmic||Heber City||UT|
|153||Jacob Blue Hudson||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy||Keizer||OR|
|156||Horatio Fitz-Simon||Clayton Snow/Ricky Luther||CRG||Pleasanton||CA|
|176||Everest Fedler||Unser Racing/Gphactory||Sodi Kart||Denver||CO|
|186y||Roy Fulmer IV||Arrow||Placerville||CA|
|198x||Jagger Jones||Pure Karting||Tony Kart||Scottsdale||AZ|
|5||Marco Kacic||CRG West||CRG||West Kelowna||BC|
|10||Filip Niemkiewicz||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy||Breckenridge||CO|
|19||Cooper Becklin||Black Flag Racing||Energy||Medford||OR|
|23||Ellie Anna Musgrave||CRG West||CRG||Snohomish||WA|
|48||Cole Thompson||Sodi Kart||Conifer||CO|
|50||Jacob Yesnick||Birel||Rancho Palos Verdes||CA|
|88||Austin Torgerson||Overdrive Motorsports||KGB||Central Point||OR|
|91||Tanner Hudspeth||Birel||San Diego||CA|
|99||Joshua Pierson||NRC||Tony Kart||Oregon||OR|