Can-Am Karting Challenge Ends 2013 Season in Medford
Champions crowned, eight Rotax Grand Finals tickets awarded in Southern Oregon
Seven of the eight drivers were awarded their tickets to the Rotax Grand Finals during Sunday’s award ceremonies (Photo: Sean Buur / Can-Am Karting Challenge)
The final stop of the inaugural Can-Am Karting Challenge took the drivers and teams to the JacksonCountySportsPark facility, home of the Southern Oregon Karters. The September 20-22 event was a challenging one, with the circuit among the toughest to conquer and adapt to, and the wet weather around the Medford, Oregon area brought on its own unique test to keep everyone on top of their game throughout the weekend.
On the line during the weekend, aside from two rounds of competition, were the championship chases in all the Rotax Max Challenge and Superkarts! USA categories. For the Rotax divisions, four tickets to the Rotax Grand Finals were up for grabs with four more awarded toward the Micro & Mini Invitational, held at the NOLAMotorsportsPark in November. A number of the series drivers, families and team members enjoyed time away from the race track with…indoor karting. Go Kart Hero Indoor Raceway, Medford’s premier indoor karting facility hosted a season-ending party that enjoyed food, games and laps around the indoor circuit.
The weekend was contested with thoughts on the passing of a Can-Am Karting Challenge family member. Jennifer Campbell Ward, wife of Masters Max driver Dayna Ward and mother of Senior Max pilot Artie Carpenter, passed away August 31. The 41-year old was a crucial part in racing scene in the Northwest area of the country, and for both Ward and Carpenter as a wife and mother along with a being a mechanic when needed. Working with Artie, she met Dayna at the race track, fell in love and the two married. All competitors raced with a heavy heart on the weekend, and competed in celebration of Jennifer Campbell Ward’s life.
The championship and ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals in the HoleShot Drive Systems Rotax Senior division was suppose to go down to the wire. Jake Craig however dismantled that notion as he went on to win both feature races and secure the championship. Craig started the weekend behind as wet weather conditions soaked the more qualifying session for Saturday’s round of racing. Championship contender Joey Wimsett posted the quick lap of the session, just ahead of point leader Stepanova Nekeel and Kyle Byers. Craig was fourth in the order. Once the heavy rain moved away, Craig found the grip needed to move to the front as he drove to the win in the 15-lap prefinal over Wimsett and Byers. Wimsett would fight back early on in the 20-lap final, but Craig proved too strong as he muscled away to a five-second advantage. Wimsett had to fight off Nekeel for the second spot, as the top three title chases finished on the podium. Parker McKean and Artie Carpenter finished fourth and fifth.
The following day, Wimsett put himself at the top of the order once again in qualifying, edging out Craig for the pole position. Third place qualifier Marco Eakins put himself in the running as the trio fought for the lead early on in the prefinal. Wimsett led the first seven laps before Craig assumed the position to the checkered flag. Nekeel fought his way up to third after starting outside the top-three, as the three podium finishers led the field to the green flag for the last main event of the season. With the top spot in hand, Craig used it to his advantage and broke away from the pack in the opening circuits. That was all he needed, as he continued to pull away lap after lap, securing his second victory of the weekend, third of the series to secure the championship. Shuffling for position dropped Wimsett back as far as eighth, with Nekeel and Eakins fighting for second during the first half of the race. As the race progressed, the quickest driver on track next to Craig was Andrew Zimmer. He would eventually work his way up into the second position by the checkered flag. Nekeel would finish third with McKean and Wimsett rounding out the top-five.
The Rotax Grand Finals tickets were anyone’s for the Neilton Racing Concepts Micro Max category. The rain brought on new names at the front in qualifying as Cooper Becklin posted a blistering lap in the rain ahead of series newcomer Austin Torgerson while point leader Max Wright found himself back in fifth. With a drier track and karts on slick tires, the order was jostled around in the 12-lap prefinal as Canadian Marco Kacic drove to the front and the win over fellow chase contender Diego LaRoque and Torgerson. Kacic set the pace in the main event, but it was point leader Wright that was the quickest driver on the course. Falling to eighth on the opening circuit, the young pilot drove his way to the front by lap 12 of the 15-lap battle. From there, he held off Kacic and Torgerson for his second victory of the season. LaRoque was fourth with Becklin a best finish of fifth on the year.
Becklin returned the following day as the fast driver in qualifying again, edging out the competition that saw the top four within eight hundredths of a second. Jonathan Portz was second, just three thousandths off Becklin’s time, while Wright was third and Torgerson fourth. The first half of the prefinal saw Becklin and Portz fighting for the top spot, but lap eight saw them drop down the order with Wright and Torgerson taking their place at the front. A last lap pass secured the win for Wright with Torgerson settling for second. Portz was third with LaRoque and Kacic completing the top-five. The two victories gave Wright the championship with Marco Kacic scoring the second ticket to the Invitational, edging out LaRoque by two points.
The streak continued for Luke Selliken in the CRG West Rotax Junior category as he scored his seventh feature victory of the season to claim his ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals. Selliken was third in the wet qualifying session, placing behind Jordan Redlin and Blaine Rocha who had their fast laps separated by just 64 thousandths. Rocha got the jump on Redlin to begin the prefinal, leading all 15 laps. Redlin ran on his bumper the entire time with Selliken a few ticks back in third. At the start of the final, Selliken was able to break up the top two, working past Redlin in the opening circuit. Rocha led the first five laps until Selliken took the lead for the first time on the day. As the race unfolded, rain began to fall harder to challenge the drivers even more with a damp track. Selliken was able to tip-toe around the Medford circuit, pulling away to a seven-second advantage over Rocha. Cole Franchini was able to move up to the third position for his first podium finish of the season with Kellen Ritter, the only driver on rain tires, advancing up to fourth ahead of Kyle Wick.
The front of the field welcomed more drivers into the mix following Sunday’s round eight qualifying session. Wick was the top driver in the session, edging out Utah driver Austin Versteeg by 76 thousandths. The prefinal saw Wick continue to pace the field, as he led all 15 laps of the race to score the win. Versteeg reclaimed the second spot after Rocha held the spot, but was shuffled back to fourth behind Selliken. It was similar in the main event as Wick finished off the best day of his young career with a victory. Leading all 20 laps, Wick scored his first major victory of his career and ended the perfect feature streak for Selliken. Early fights for second saw Selliken secure the position and hold it to the checkered flag to finish behind Wick. Versteeg rounded out the podium in his first weekend with the series, as Rocha and Redlin completed the top-five.
Championship leader Sting Ray Robb began his weekend in search of the Wicked Fabrication Mini Max championship with a rough start. Earning the provisional pole position in qualifying for round seven Saturday, he was removed from the results for an improper tech item. That promoted Trenton Sparks to the top spot over Mathew Morgan and Jacob Blue Hudson. Sparks would lead all 12 laps of the prefinal as Robb worked his way from the back to finish third behind Morgan. By lap three of the final, Robb was into the lead as he worked past Morgan and Sparks. He would go on to earn his sixth victory of the season and further is championship lead. Sparks ran second until he retired on lap seven with a mechanical issue. That moved Morgan up to second with Hudson on the podium in third.
Sparks would bounce back the following day for round eight, securing the pole position once again, this time by a half-second quicker than Robb. The two put on a show in the prefinal as they swapped the lead a number of times before Sparks secured the top spot on the final lap, with Robb put back to second. The two continued in the main event, as they ran nose-to-tail for the majority of the race. Robb stayed on Sparks’ bumper the entire time, waiting for the moment to strike. Sparks drove a solid race and fought off the challenges of Robb all the way to the checkered flag to score the victory by a scant seven hundredths of a second at the line. It was the second for Sparks on the season, and secured the second position in the championship chase to join title winner Robb at the Invitational in November. Hudson capped off the podium, placing third once again.
It has been a nail-biting season in the Masters Max division and it continued in Medford. Former US champion Mike Daniel secured the pole position in qualifying with rival Dayna Ward in second. Ward picked up the pace in the prefinal, working past Daniel on lap three and drove to the win. With the pole position in hand, Ward drove to lead all 20 laps and the victory in the final. Daniel drove a close second, earning fast lap honors, with Ward’s father Dennis in third. Daniel came to earn the pole position to begin round eight, edging out Ward. The two battled in the prefinal, as Daniel fought off Ward until lap 14 when the championship leader took over the lead and scored the win. Ward would not be denied as he ran away with the victory in the main event, locking up the championship. Daniel would finish second, both in the feature and the point standings, while Chad Wallace took the final podium spot over Dennis Ward.
Superkarts! USA Can-Am ProKart Challenge action wrapped up the season as well. Kory Estell doubled up on the weekend as he outran championship winner Dalton Egger in the S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto division. Series newcomer Roy Fulmer did the same in the S5 Junior Stock Moto category, pushing title winner Brady Egger to second on the weekend results. In the competitive S4 Master Stock Moto class, Steve Perdue was able to earn his first victories of the season as he won both feature races. Perdue led all 20 laps on Saturday, holding off a charging Ben Johnston with Brandon Brock in third. On Sunday, Perdue held off David Whitelaw and Johnston for the second victory. In the championship chase, Whitelaw would secure the championship over Johnston and Brock.
Rounding out the Rotax Grand Finals tickets awarded to series champions include Joey Wimsett earning the Maximum Velocity Performance DD2 title with Derek Wang stamping his name on the ticket through the Rolison Performance Group DD2 Masters division.
Following the last podiums of the 2013 season, including the championship awards, series administrator Mike Rolison was happy to announce the tentative dates for the 2014 season. The Can-Am Karting Challenge will include four weekends for the Rotax Max Challenge portion, with three designated for the ProKart Challenge in a best five of six round championship. Track venues to be announced at a later time.
2014 Can-Am Karting Challenge Tentative Schedule
April 25-27: Can-Am Rotax Max Challenge
May 30-June 1: Can-Am Rotax Max Challenge/Can-Am ProKart Challenge
July 4-6: Can-Am Rotax Max Challenge/Can-Am ProKart Challenge
August 15-17: Can-Am Rotax Max Challenge/Can-Am ProKart Challenge
“I can’t thank all the racers, families, teams and kart shops for all their support in the inaugural season of the Can-Am Karting Challenge,” added Rolison. “It was a pleasure to work with everyone, including our solid race staff that and everyone who lent a hand throughout the season. Next year is shaping up to be bigger and better, with four weekends of racing scheduled. Our opening event will feature just the Rotax categories, as we want to allow our Superkarts! USA racers time to compete at the 2014 Pro Tour SpringNationals. We anticipate more information to be announced in the coming months, and we look forward to the second season of the Can-Am Karting Challenge.”
More information regarding 2013 and for updates on the upcoming 2014 season can be found at www.rotaxcanamprokartchallenge.com.