EKN Trackside: 2013 United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals – Friday Report
Grids set for seven categories entering Championship Saturday at GoPro Motorplex
Sam Beasley showed speed to put him in contention for the Senior Max title
(Photo: Ken Johnson - Studio52.us)
For complete coverage of the 2013 United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals, visit the EKN Event Page
Be sure to post your comments regarding the opening day of the event below in the EKN Global Members Discussion section – Ed.
It was ‘Frantic Friday’ at the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina as the 2013 United States Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals moved another step closer to crowning this year’s champions. The second and third round of heat races decided the Prefinal order for Saturday’s action, which saw changes in the way the fields are shaping up for Championship Saturday. A few drivers shined to complete a perfect score, while others continued to improve their position to set up for a better position moving forward. On the flip side, a few contenders ran into some trouble, and will need to make up for it in tomorrow’s long race events.
Oliver Askew (Tony Kart) led the field to the green flag for the A vs. D heat race to begin the racing action for the Senior Max field. Dan Roeper (Tony Kart) was on the outside of row one, and nearly nipped the lead from Askew as they made their way through turns one and two. The group was shuffled up with Nick Neri (Tony Kart) dropping a wheel on the exit of turn nine, moving Roger Rolston (FA Kart) to third with Derek Dignan (FA Kart) and Stepanova Nekeel (FA Kart) in fifth. Rolston was quick early, working past Roeper for second on the second circuit of the 10-lap event. Neri continued to charge after he fell back to ninth, as he was up to fifth by the end of lap five. Lap eight, while trying to work past Dignan for fourth, contact was made as Neri slide past and Dignan slowed on the exit. He continued on, but the damage was done. Askew drove to a 1.3-second win over Ralston. Neri moved past Roeper for third on the final circuit, but was given a two position penalty for the contact. That moved Dignan back to fourth and Neri down to fifth.
AJ Myers (Tony Kart) and Sam Beasley (Tony Kart) filled out the front row for the B vs. C heat race. Beasley was shuffled from the outside lane and fell back to fifth with Evan Mehan (Sodi Kart) up to second with Jonathan Kotyk (Tony Kart) and Andrew Palmer (Kosmic) filling out the front five. Lap two, Palmer fell down the order with Beasley making contact, dropping Palmer to seventh and official calling in a four position penalty on Beasley. Up front, Myers held a six tenths lead over Mehan who was feeling pressure from Kotyk. Beasley however was the quickest driver on the track and moved around Kotyk in turn four to take the third position. He then turned his sites on Mehan in the second spot. To his bumper by the end of lap six, he made a move in turn four again on lap seven. Giving chase to Myers, Beasley posted the fast lap of the race on the eighth circuit, cutting the gap to just seven tenths. Not enough laps were left for Beasley as Myers held on to win by two tenths, despite Beasley recording another fast lap. Mehan ran third with Kotyk fourth and Palmer up to fifth. Beasley’s penalty moved him down to sixth in the order, placing Will Owen (FA Kart) to fifth.
Senior groups A vs. B began round three as Askew and Myers went head to head for the first time, starting on the front row. Askew held the lead through the opening corners with Neri jumping ahead to second place as Myers dropped back to third. Ralston held fourth with Kotyk in the fifth position. Completing lap three, Neri was able to draft past Askew for the lead, moving Askew back to second with Myers trailing. With Neri out front, he and Askew began pulling away from Myers with Ralston closing in to make it a battle for third. Behind them, Kotyk had his hands full of Palmer, as the J3 driver was looking for another good finish. That battle brought in Jake Craig (ART GP) and Dustin Stross (Tony Kart) in the closing laps, as the leaders looked comfortable running first, second, third and fourth. They would finish that way after 10 laps with Palmer holding off Craig, despite running his fast lap of the race in the final circuit, as Koytk ran seventh.
Beasley and Roeper led the way to the green flag for Group C vs. D heat race, and were able to slot in position as they exited the opening corner. The rest of the five fell in place, setting up for the 10-lap battle. Lap two however Mehan was shuffled back due to contact, and fell out of the top five. Beasley, as he did in his second heat, recorded some fast laps to pull away from the pack. He left Roeper behind to deal with a charging Dignan, who was up to third. Further back, it was a scrap for fourth place including Tesoro, Nekeel, Owen and Mehan. Adjusting well to his new Dallas Karting Complex Sodi Kart, he fought back to the fourth spot, leaving the rest of the group to battle for fifth. Lap 10, Nekeel was drafting past Tesoro into turn one with Owen trying to come through. Contact was made and Tesoro spun around with Owen losing positions. Out front, Beasley took the win handedly with Roeper, Dignan and Mehan trailing. Nekeel crossed the fifth with Michael Pagano (FA Kart) with Owen in seventh.
Myers earning two heat wins have him placed onto the pole position for the Prefinal Saturday afternoon. A post-tech penalty for Askew moved his second place result in his third heat to a fifth, dropping him to third in the point total and moved Beasley outside pole position. Roeper will start fourth with Neri making it an all Tony Kart top five for tomorrow’s Prefinal grid.
Daniel Formal (Tony Kart) timed the start just right and put enough pressure on polesitter Nathan Mauel (CRG) to take away the lead at the start of heat two. Mauel settled into the second spot as the rest of the field fought for the third position. Formal was able to drive away with the win, by one second over Mauel. The driver who was quickest was Michael Ilavia (Sodi Kart), who started sixth. Dropping the fast laps of the race, he drove up to third over Sean Owens (Sodi Kart) and CJ Cramm (Sodi Kart). Alan Rudolph (CRG) led the field to the green flag for the Masters group and pulled away quickly despite the field keeping close on the opening lap. His advantage was four seconds after 10 laps. Ariel Castro (AM Racing Kart) was slow again at the start but fought his way back to second ahead of Rene Martinelli (CRG). John Crow (Kosmic) advanced from sixth to fourth with Mike Jones (Sodi Kart) in fifth.
At the start of the third heat, Mauel pulled off before receiving the green flag, as his throttle cable was stuck wide open. This mixed up the order up front, aside from Formal who was left to run out front with Owens and Ilavia giving chase. The two kept close with Formal until about the halfway point with the 2012 Senior Max champ pulling away. Ilavia scored the second spot over Owens with Mitch Carey (CRG) and Alex Tartaglia (Sodi Kart) completing the top-five. Rudolph held the lead through the start of the Masters race with Castro and Martinelli slotting in behind. A few laps into the race, Castro slowed on the track with a broken shifter system. With Castro gone, Martinelli moved to second with Bonilla up to third. They would finish that way as Castro ended up ninth in the order. Jones was able to finish ahead of Crow to complete the top-five.
Formals three wins put him on the pole position for Saturday’s Prefinal with Ilavia onto the front row. Mauel will move back one row to start inside row two, with Owens in fourth. Rudolph retains the pole in Masters, with Martinelli moving to outside the front row. Bonilla and Castro will go from row two.
The A vs. D heat race began the day with polesitter Ashley Rogero (Tony Kart) leading the field to the green flag. She would pace the group all 10 laps, as she felt pressure from Luke Selliken (Kosmic) the entire time. Selliken looked on the final circuit, but did not force anything to hold onto second with Juan Manuel Correa (Tony Kart) on his bumper in third. Trenton Estep (Tony Kart) ran fourth and Brian Lockwood (Tony Kart) advanced up to fifth.
Kyle Kirkwood and Christian Munoz made it a Tony Kart 1-2 to start the B vs. C heat race. A good handful of drivers were caught up in an opening corner wreck, from about mid-pack and back as Kirkwood led the way over Munoz with Ethan Tyler (Kosmic), Derek James Sobel (Tony Kart) and Austin Garrison (Tony Kart) making up the lead group. Tyler was shuffled back to fifth on the second circuit, making it a Tony Kart 1-4. Those four pulled away more on lap three as Tyler came under pressure from Jamaican Thomas Issa (Kosmic). Kirkwood ran fast laps of the race to pull out to a good advantage as they fought for second. At the line, Munoz took the second spot behind the winner Kirkwood. Sobel was third with Garrison fourth while Issa jumped to fifth.
A vs. B was the first run in the third round of heat races with OGP teammates Rogero and Kirkwood on the front row. Rogero blasted away from the inside line, and was out to a seven tenths advantage with Kirkwood falling down to 10th after the opening circuit. Estep was up to second with Lockwood, De Boever and McKay Snow (Kosmic) entering the top five for the first time on the week starting 15th this race. Kirkwood was on the charge back, up to sixth in just a few laps and ran down Snow. Lap six, he was able to draft past Snow for the fifth spot, but saw a big gap in front of him to DeBoever. Rogero drove away to the win, with Estep back by nearly four seconds. Lockwood held third with De Boever fourth as Kirkwood closed in the last few laps.
Groups C vs. D wrapped up the Junior Max heat race action, to set the final lineup for the Prefinal and calculate those who would have to contest the Last Chance Qualifier. Munoz and Selliken filled out the front row with Munoz taking the lead as Selliken dropped to sixth behind Jordan Perry (Tony Kart), Garrison and Austin Versteeg (Tony Kart). The lead group shuffled up on the second lap with Garrison first, Selliken advancing to second, Versteeg following through in third. Jake Preston (FA Kart) found himself in the top-five for the first time with Norberg into fifth. Lap four, all of the top-seven posted their fastest lap of the race to that point, with the quickest being Correa as he now ran in the fourth spot, pushing Norberg and Preston back a spot. The top three continued to stretch out some distance on lap five, posting another fast lap of the race for the trio as Versteeg reset the overall fast lap. Selliken continued running quicker the following circuit, posting another personal best as he closed up on Garrison. Correa, now running alone, struck back with the fast lap overall again on the seventh circuit, trying to creep up on the lead trio. At the checkered, Garrison held on to score the heat win over Selliken and Versteeg. Correa drove to fourth with Norberg capping out the top-five.
Rogero will be the driver everyone is chasing on Saturday, as she will lead the field to the green flag for the Prefinal with Garrison alongside. Selliken will go from inside row two with Kirkwood P4. Sobel and Correa are set to go from the third row.
Diego Pelosi (FA Kart) and Tyler Brooks (Kosmic) filled out the front row as the 25-kart field took the green flag to begin heat two. Pelosi held the top spot with Scott Falcone (Arrow) breaking up the Ryan Perry Motorsports teammates to begin the opening lap. Rob Maier (Tony Kart) and Scott Roberts (Tony Kart) filled out the early top five as the front three broke away some. Brooks put the pressure on Falcone lap two, allowing Maier to close back up and Pelosi to pull away some. Roberts and Max Papis (Tony Kart) were also able to close up to make it six drivers in the lead pack. Lap three, Brooks took over the second spot from Falcone and began pressuring Pelosi out front. Fighting between Maier and Roberts in turn eight allowed Papis to jump to fourth with Maier falling down the order more a few corners later. Lap six, Pelosi pulled off at turn nine as his chain snapped off completely and put him on the sidelines in the 23rd position. This moved Brooks to the lead and Falcone second, pressured by Papis. The top three remained unchanged to the checkered flag with Brooks earning his second win with Falcone and Papis right there. Roberts finished fourth with Randy Sampson (Arrow) fifth and Andy Seesemann (Arrow) sixth.
Heat three began with the outside line with a huge jump on the inside line with Roberts moving from sixth on the grid to first in the opening corner with Pelosi slotted into second over Brooks, Corey Mitchell (Kosmic) and Falcone. Roberts continued out front with shuffling taking place all over the track, including Pelosi dropping a number of spots. Falcone put himself back into second place after the halfway mark with Mitchell third, Pelosi back to fourth and Brooks fifth. They ran that way until the final lap with Pelosi diving inside of Mitchell in turn nine, bringing Brooks with him. Roberts would cross the line first but was assessed a three-second penalty for a start infraction. This moved Falcone to the win with Pelosi in second. Brooks was behind him, but given 10 seconds for his start infraction. That placed him down to 12th with Mitchell fourth and John Bonanno (Kosmic) fifth in the final order.
Falcone will pace the field to the green flag in the Prefinal with Brooks holding the second spot once again. Roberts is set to go from third with Papis fourth and Pelosi fifth.
Heat two for the Mini Max division had top qualifier Nick Brueckner (Birel) and Devin Boutot (Tony Kart) leading the field to the green flag from the front row of the 36 kart field. Brueckner led a five driver lead pack with Boutot, Mathias Ramirez (Tony Kart), David Rafailov (CRG) and Joshua Sirgany (CRG) filling out the group. Brueckner lost the led briefly on lap two, but regained it before they hit the stripe. David Malukas (Birel) was able to jump forward in the opening laps, getting into fifth by the end of lap three from the ninth starting spot. On lap four, Ramirez pulled off on the last corner with a lost chain. The racing continued to be fierce with Malukas up to second behind Brueckner with Sirgany making it a three driver breakaway. Boutot was shuffled back through a few corners as Neil Verhagen (Arrow) and Michael d’Orlando (Tony Kart) led the big second group of drivers. The lead group continued to shuffle with Sirgany leading for the first time as they took the white flag with Malukas up to second. This brought in more drivers to the lead pack. Malukas drove defensive into turn eight, giving Brueckner a better run and bolted into the lead. Sirgany tried to get Malukas into turn nine, but was shuffled out and fell back to seventh. This moved d’Orlando to third with Kollin Stuart (Birel) fourth and Enzo Fittipaldi da Cruz (Tony Kart) in fifth. Verhagen ended up sixth with Rafailov eighth. Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) had another solid drive from 20th to ninth as Michael Benyahia (Tecno) tenth.
Brueckner set the pace to the green flag but it was Horatio Fitz-Simon (Sodi Kart) who timed it perfectly, going from 12th to third in the opening corner, slotting in behind Brueckner. KRex Frederick (Kosmic) got the same jump and was into the lead by the end of lap one. Brueckner returned to the point at the end of lap two as he and Frederick pulled away. Fitz-Simon lost a spot to Ramirez and came under pressure from Fittipaldi. Ramirez was able to close up on Frederick and take the second spot away on lap six with Brueckner pulling away. At the checkered, Brueckner took the victory by over a second in front of Ramirez and Frederick. Boutot was fourth in the order with Fittipaldi in fifth. Aiden Keel (Birel) came from 16th to sixth, marking another solid drive forward with Stuart, Sirgany, Fitz-Simon and Robb rounding out the top-10.
Brueckner’s perfect score has earned him the pole position for the Prefinal on Saturday with Stuart outside row one. Malukas is set to go from third with Enzo beside him in row two. D’Orlando and Boutot will start from row three.
The second heat race began with Reece Gold (Tony Kart) and Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) on the front row. Tavella got the jump with Harry Coulton (Birel) slotting in between the two on the opening. Gold flip-flopped back to the second position on the second circuit, looking to reel in Tavella as he led a host of others behind him. Beginning lap four, Coulton got a good push from Gold as they drafted past Tavella for the top two spots, and began pulling away from the rest of the top-10. Lap six, Tavella moved back into second with Gold jumping up to the top spot as Coulton fell to third. Their shuffling did not hurt their advantage over the fight for fourth, led at the time by Nicholas d’Orlando (Tony Kart). On the final circuit, Tavella timed it well in turn four to take over the lead with Coulton moving to second through the esses. Coulton made a move in turn eight for the lead, with Gold trying to pass Tavella in turn nine but contact was made. This gave Coulton a clear path to the race win with Gold crossing second and Tavella third. Payton Durrant (Birel) and Sebastian Montoya (Birel) worked their way up from 10th and 11th to finish fourth and fifth to lead the second group behind the leaders. Gold however was penalized two positions for the contact with Tavella, moving him down to fourth. Following the race, it was discovered the Gold was competing with a UK stamped engine. Officials thus removed him from the remainder of the event for an improper engine.
Tavella and Coulton set themselves up front in the third heat race, as the two drivers swapped the lead in the opening laps of the eight-lap event. Coulton was able to pull away as they reached the halfway point, with Tavella feeling pressure from the group behind him, looking for a way around. Coulton however would make a slight error, allowing the drivers to close up and work around him on the sixth lap, dropping down to fourth with Tavella back in the lead. Tavella now felt pressure from Tyler Gonzalez (AM Racing Kart) who worked hi way up to second on the final circuit. Coulton worked his way back to third and pressured Gonzalez, allowing Tavella to cruise to the win. D’Orlando was up to fourth with Maxwell Waithman (Kosmic) fifth.
With Reece gone from the results, this moved Tavella into the top spot in the points following his victory in the third heat to score the pole over Coulton, earning the tie-breaker with a better qualifying result. D’Orlando will start third with Verhagen and Derek Carmenate fifth.
Be sure to post your comments regarding the opening day of the event below in the EKN Global Members Discussion section: