EKN Trackside: Rotax Challenge of the Americas – Tucson Preview
Seventh season of International Rotax winter program gets underway at Musselman Honda Circuit
The 2014 karting season is now officially underway, and the Rotax Challenge of the Americas is primed for yet another memorable campaign. This weekend marks the beginning of the seventh season, with rounds one and two set to be contested at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona this weekend. Drivers from all over North America are primed to battle in the international Rotax Max Challenge program, with prestigious awards up for grabs once again.
Four drivers who survive each round, and come away with the most points in the best five of six championship events, will earn some of the first tickets available to the 2014 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. Senior Max, DD2, DD2 Masters, and Junior Max title winners will be presented with tickets to represent their respective countries at the ‘Olympics of Karting’, which will be held this fall at a yet-to-be-announced date and venue. Masters Max, Mini Max and Micro Max champions – should they be properly qualified through their local USRMC – will earn a paid entry at the US Rotax Max Challenge Grand Nationals in July at the Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.
In addition to a number of prizes, including the Rotax Grand Finals and US Rotax Grand Nationals tickets, the Challenge has partnered up with three more companies to provide prizes during the series. At each event, a new Ribtect4 vest will be raffled off. Acceleration Kart Racing, PKT Axles and K1 Racegear are providing $50 gift certificates for race winners over the course of the six rounds for all seven categories.
To reach those rewards, drivers must battle a record number of entries set to compete in Tucson this weekend. Just over a year ago, the Challenge was kicking off the 2013 season in unseasonable weather conditions for the Arizona desert, with temperatures dropping below freezing at night and barely reaching 50 degrees during the ‘heat’ of the day. This year, the comfortable 70 degree weather forecast returns for the Tucson weekend, and is a warm welcome to the competitors heading down for up north.
For those unable to attend, eKartingNews.com has partnered with FTK Promotions and the Challenge of the Americas for a third straight year to provide exclusive coverage for all three weekends of the series. The popular EKN Trackside Live program provides live audio coverage of all the action, streamed to your laptop, computer, or mobile device. Rob Howden, the voice of the Challenge, gives play-by-play call of the action as it happens, with live timing provided by Race-Monitor, viewable all at one page – eKartingNews.com/live. Daily reports, forum and social media updates, along with photos can be accessed through the EKN Event Page.
Holeshot Drive Systems Senior Max
Regarded as the top level in US Rotax racing, this year’s Senior Max field is loaded with talent vying for a piece of Challenge history and the Rotax Grand Finals ticket. For six years, there has been a different name at the top of the standings in the championship chase. All eyes are on defending Senior Max champion Phillip Arscott to see if he can be the first to become a repeat champion. The Portland native got off to a rough start at the opening round of 2013, but came back to score five straight top-two finishes, including three victories. With a win at all three circuits last year, there is no doubt the Rolison Performance Group Kosmic driver can win anywhere. The rest of the top four from last year’s standings are returning, all looking to knock Arscott off the top spot. This certainly raises the stakes and the Challenge continues to improve each winter. eKartingNews.com TaG Driver Rankings #1 driver Louie Pagano is a former Junior COTA champion, but came up just short last year in a bid for his first Senior title in the series. Now a Sodi Kart team driver for the Dallas Karting Complex operation, Pagano is ready to win this year, working with Kart Nation during the three-event series.
Parker McKean was one of three drivers to win in last year’s COTA series. It was his second year earning a victory, and the RPG/Kosmic driver could add a third in 2014. Jake Craig finished fourth last year, but did not garner the results for which he had hoped. The Can-Am Karting Challenge champion is starting out the year with a new team, driving for 2 Wild Karting aboard the proven Tony Kart chassis.
Adding to the strength of the Senior Max field is 2013 Rotax Grand Finals DD2 runner-up Joey Wimsett. The 22-year old is coming off a successful 2013 season, including a SKUSA S1 Pro Tour championship and the DD2 title at the Can-Am Karting Challenge. He will turn in the mechanic’s wrenches that we normally see him with during the winter months to pilot a CRG-USA entry, bidding for a return to the Rotax Grand Finals. Other notable national names include veteran Matt Johnson piloting an ART GP, Canadian Bryce Choquer (Kosmic) of BBR Karting, and Mason Marotta (FA Kart), who will be with Ryan Perry Motorsports.
The wild card for the 2014 Challenge is the solid group of rookie talent graduating to the big stage. The top two Junior Max drivers from last year – RPG/Kosmic pilots Blaine Rocha and Luke Selliken – are both fired up to ‘challenge’ the establishment. Rocha scored the championship in 2013 thanks to four feature wins. Like Arscott, Rocha won at each facility, including a sweep at the season finale weekend at CalSpeed. Selliken was runner-up the last two years, coming up five points short in 2012 and trailing his teammate last season. Jim McKinney, Brenden Baker, and Marco Eakins complete the solid rookie roster. McKinney (KGB) is a 2012 SKUSA S5 Junior Stock Moto Pro Tour champion, Baker (ART GP) has been among the top Junior drivers the past two seasons, and Eakins (ART GP) began racing at the Senior level at the end of last year, so he should hit the track running.
Senior Max Provisional Entry List
|300||Joe Criscione||Black Flag Racing||FA||West Linn||OR|
|303||Luke Selliken||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Portland||OR|
|304||Bryce Choquer||BBR Karting||Kosmic||Langley||BC|
|305||Parker McKean||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Gig Harbor||WA|
|313||Allan Cesarman||Karttech||CRG||La Puente||CA|
|314||Carlos Calderon||Aluminos||Aluminos||San Jose||CA|
|315||Andrew Wiener||ART GP||ART||Santa Ana||CA|
|316||Brenden Baker||Black Flag Racing||ART||Palmdale||CA|
|317||Matt Johnson||Black Flag Racing||ART||Las Vegas||NV|
|318||Marco Eakins||Black Flag Racing||ART||Beaverton||OR|
|319||Jim McKinney||Ruthless Motorsports||KGB||Chandler||AZ|
|321||Blaine Rocha||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Oakdale||CA|
|326||Alejandro Fernandez||Buddy Rice Karting||Energy||San Bernadino||CA|
|328||Jose Ruiz||Kosmic||San Antonio||TX|
|340||Jaden Conwright||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Newark||CA|
|342||Jake Craig||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart||Mission Viejo||CA|
|354||Mason Marotta||Ryan Perry Motorsports||FA||Bakersfield||CA|
|355||Ben Schermerhorn||FA||Highlands Ranch||CO|
|355||Noel Dowler||Ryan Perry Motorsports||Tony Kart||Sherwood Park||AB|
|357||Phillip Arscott||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Portland||OR|
|371||Ryon Beachner||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart||Lake Forest||CA|
|382||Carlee Taylor||2 Wild Karting||Tony Kart||Beaumont||CA|
|392||Christopher Patterson||Tony Kart||Calgary||AB|
|398||Matthew Moniz||BBR Karting||Kosmic||Vancouver||BC|
Snow Racing Engines/Energy Corse North America DD2
The numbers are a bit down from last year’s opening weekend in Tucson for the DD2 categories. This year will be two different stories to follow: 1) who is going to emerge as the DD2 champion, and, 2) who can knock off Alan Rudolph in DD2 Masters. Two-time defending series champion Fritz Leesmann is not scheduled to contend for a third straight championship this year, opening the door up for a new name to take the title in 2014 and the Rotax Grand Finals ticket. Following in Fritz’s path are up-and-coming shifterkart stars Sabré Cook and Christian Schureman. The last two S2 Pro Tour champions, both will be going from six-speed to two-speed in Tucson, fighting for the win as both running under the CRG-USA tent. Sports car drivers Alec Udell (Sodi Kart) and Andy Lee (CRG) could be the upset factors heading into the opening rounds.
CRG-USA DD2 Masters
Karting veteran Alan Rudolph (CRG) is the defending series champion, and is going for his second straight title. Rudolph has been a Team USA member the last two season, and was a contender both times at the Rotax Grand Finals. The DD2 Masters roster includes four drivers from four different states. Rudolph represents Arizona, with Brent Harper (Kosmic) coming from Texas. Mike Urban (CRG) returns from Colorado, while Oregon driver Ben Johnston (CRG) makes his COTA debut.
Provisional DD2/DD2 Masters Entry List
|411||Harrison Mills||Snow Racing||Vacaville||CA|
|412||John Buzza||CRG West||CRG||Winnipeg||MB|
|417||Sabre Cook||CRG-USA||CRG||Grand Junction||CO|
|418||Alec Udell||KartNation||Sodi Kart||Angleton||TX|
|513||Brent Harper||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Lubbox||TX|
Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
Like the Senior Max category, the Junior division has seen a number of talented drivers score a championship, and move on to great things as they progressed in the Senior ranks. Last year’s champ Blaine Rocha has graduated, leaving 2014 open for a new driver.
Three drivers are among the early favorites in the title chase for the Junior Max category. The last two years, Austin Versteeg has been the most consistent, placing fourth in the standings each year. 2014 could be his breakthrough campaign with a solid outing aboard his Rolison Performance Group Kosmic in Tucson. Noah Grey (Kosmic) is the top returning driver, placing third in last year’s standings on the strength of four podium finishes. 2011 US Rotax Grand Nationals Mini Max champion Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) is looking to get off to a better start in 2014. Last year was a slow going in the first few rounds, but he ended strong.
At the start of each year, the new freshman class of Junior drivers is exciting to watch as MiniMax pilots move up into the bigger karts, and the faster Rotax engine configurations. 2013 Mini Max champion Sting Ray Robb (Tony Kart) and runner-up Horatio Fitz-Simon will be making the move up to Junior. Both are projected to battle for the top Junior rookie on the season. Colorado driver David Rafailov finished third last year, and moves to Junior as well. His movement also includes jumping over to Rolison Performance Group – the defending team champion. Max Fedler (Kosmic) and first-time COTA drivers Parker Chase (CRG) and Nick Brueckner (Birel) make up the remaining freshman class.
Provisional Junior Max Entry List
|200||Sting Ray Robb||BBR Karting||Tony Kart||Ontario||OR|
|203||Max Fedler||Unser Racing||Kosmic||Denver||CO|
|209||Kyle Wick||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Auburn||WA|
|211||Nicky Hays||FA||Huntington Beach||CA|
|212||Stevie Pugsley Jr.||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Eagle Point||OR|
|213||Blake Milton||Snow Racing||Energy||Rancho Murieta||CA|
|216||Ryan Martin||Ryan Perry Motorsports||Tony Kart||Edmonton||AB|
|218||Walker Hess||Tony Kart||Park City||UT|
|219||Parker Chase||CRG West||CRG||New Braunfels||TX|
|224||Noah Grey||Kosmic||Dana Point||CA|
|229||Jake Drew||Phil Giebler Racing||OTK||Fullerton||CA|
|231||Jeff Fulham||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Winnipeg||MB|
|233||Miguel Ruiz||Kosmic||San Antonio||TX|
|234||Christian Brooks||Seth Nash Motorsportz||Tony Kart||Santa Clarita||CA|
|242||Corrie Hiatt||Cambrian Go Karts||RK||Englewood||CO|
|243||Garrett Gulenchyn||Tony Kart||Hadashville||MB|
|253||Callum Smith||Snow Racing||Energy||Wilton||CA|
|263||McKay Snow||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Pleasant Grove||UT|
|277||Austin Versteeg||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Sandy||UT|
|279||David Rafailov||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Aurora||CO|
|281||Justice Lepe||Tony Kart||Bonita||CA|
|298||Phillippe Denes||ART GP||ART||Carmel||CA|
|Kellen Ritter||CRG West||CRG||N. Vancouver||BC|
Nash Motorsportz Masters Max
The opening rounds of the Masters Max category should be exciting, as a possible 20 drivers are expected to contend the events in Tucson. Four of the top-five drivers are returning to battle once again. The top three drivers fought to the very end of the series for the championship, with Donald Durbin Jr. (Birel) claiming the title. The NorCal driver is back for a second straight year, looking to begin 2014 with another two-trip podium performance. Colorado pilot Ken Maxfield (Arrow) came up 21 points short in the championship chase. Justin Peck, while not on the entry list, is expected to be in Tucson. Both he and Durbin were the only drivers to stand on the podium in the first four events of 2013. Peck (Tony Kart) is back with Rolison Performance Group, and hoping to contend for the title again. Larry Hayashigawa (Tony Kart) missed the podium in 2013, with the goal of reaching the steps in 2014 and be within the championship chase.
Making a return to Masters class, coming back from DD2 Masters, is former series champion John Crow. In his one Masters Max starts last year, the Tony Kart driver finished third. Texan David Pergande (Arrow) and COTA newcomer Kurt Fisher (CRG) from Washington will challenge at the front of the field.
Provisional Masters Max Entry List
|609||John Breidinger||FA||San Francisco||CA|
|617||Jacob Zamora||FTK||Arrow||Manhattan Beach||CA|
|624||Max Gaxiola||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Morgan Hill||CA|
|631||John Crow||FTK||Tony Kart||Anaheim||CA|
|641||Larry Hayashigawa||Tony Kart||Downey||CA|
|654||Steve Wiener||ART GP||ART||Santa Ana||CA|
|655||Andre S. Eriksen||CRG||Morgan Hill||CA|
|659||Brian Phillipsen||Tony Kart||Huntington Beach||CA|
|671||Richard Hensley||Unser Racing||Kosmic||Erie||CO|
|676||Kurt Fisher||Snow Racing||CRG||Richland||WA|
|679||Donald Durbin Jr.||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Campbell||CA|
|685||James Dix||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Millbrae||CA|
BBR Karting Mini Max
In 2013, a total of 20 drivers contested the Mini Max division. Opening 2014, at least 20 drivers will race the first two rounds of the COTA season. Drivers are coming from coast to coast, and represent three different countries to make it the most diverse category of The Challenge. A number of contenders from last year’s season graduated to Juniors, leaving a new name to claim the championship this year. Only two drivers who stood on the podium in 2013 are competing this year – Canadian Griffin Dowler (Tony Kart) and 2012 Micro Max champ Jacob Blue Hudson (ART GP). Trenton Sparks (FA) is among the contenders who are returning, coming off a runner-up at the Can-Am Karting Challenge last summer.
A number of drivers represent the west coast, but only one can claim the east coast as home, as Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) is trekking west to the COTA. The 2013 Micro Max Grand National champion is jumping up to Mini Max, and will make his Challenge debut after successful trips in 2013. He is among a number of others graduating up the Rotax ladder system. Series 2013 Micro Max champion Payton Durrant (Birel) is among the rookies, and he will be joined by Canadian Marco Kacic (CRG), Colorado driver Hannah Greenemeier (Arrow) and Cash Tiner (Tony Kart). Sebastian Alvarez completes the full North American field, coming up from Mexico for his series debut.
Provisional Mini Max Entry List
|106||Griffin Dowler||Ryan Perry Motorsports||Tony Kart||Sherwood Park||AB|
|108||Hannah Greenemeier||KartSport North America||Arrow||Parker||CO|
|109||Nick Persing||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Morgan Hill||CA|
|111||Colin Queen||Ryan Perry Motorsports||Tony Kart||Coto De Caza||CA|
|114||Dylan Tavella||GT7 Motorsports||Tony Kart||Massapequa||NY|
|115||Edward Portz||BBR Karting||Kosmic||Corvallis||OR|
|119||Conner Wick||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||Auburn||WA|
|121||Zoey Edenholm||BBR Karting||CRG||Scottsdale||AZ|
|122||Cody Dempster||Unser Racing||Kosmic||Parker||CO|
|127||Collin Mullan||Cambrian Go Karts||Birel||Danville||CA|
|128||Trey Brown||Iron Rock Motorsport||Tony Kart||Lemon Grove||CA|
|151||Marco Kacic||CRG West||CRG||West Kelowna||BC|
|153||Jacob Blue Hudson||Black Flag Racing||ART||Keizer||OR|
|169||Cash Tiner||Motorsports Group/CRG West||Tony Kart||Angleton||TX|
|176||Everest Fedler||Unser Racing||Sodi||Denver||CO|
|185||Valdemar Eriksen||CRG||Morgan Hill||CA|
|194||Sebastian Alvarez||PSL Karting||CRG||MEX|
Black Flag Racing Micro Max
The Micro Max division has also experienced growth heading into 2014 season, welcoming 20 drivers, with over half making their COTA debut. Seven drivers who competed at last year’s program return, led by Filip Niemkiewicz (AM Racing Kart). The Colorado driver had three podium finishes last year, but was shut out in the win column. Diego LaRoque (Birel) was the youngest winner last year, and is back for more in 2014. It’s anticipated that we could potentially see six different winners this year, as the young drivers continue to learn with each passing lap.
Provisional Micro Max Entry List
|2||Ashton Torgerson||Ruthless Motorsports||KGB||Central Point||OR|
|03||Palmer Mahoney||Unser Racing||Kosmic||Longmont||CO|
|5||Cole Keith Cotham||CRG||Corona||CA|
|15||Jonathon Portz||BBR Karting||Kosmic||Corvallis||OR|
|19||Cooper Becklin||Black Flag Racing||FA||Medford||OR|
|21||Corbin Emery||Arrow||Greenwood Village||CO|
|25||Max Wright||Black Flag Racing||Energy||Damascus||OR|
|28||Esteban Jimenez||CRG-USA||CRG||San Diego||CA|
|49||Ethan Arndt||Iron Rock Motorsport||Tony Kart||Leander||TX|
|50||Jacob Yesnick||Cambrian/2Wild||Tony Kart||Rancho Palos Verdes||CA|
|52||Jak Crawford||Seth Nash Motorsportz||Birel||The Woodlands||TX|
|54||Tait Blum||Rolison Performance Group||Kosmic||St. Helena||CA|
|69||Branyon Tiner||Motorsports Group/CRG West||Tony Kart||Angleton||TX|
|78||Paden Hall||Team WRS||CRG||Tucson||AZ|
|88||Austin Torgerson||Ruthless Motorsports||KGB||Central Point||OR|
|110||Filip Niemkiewicz||AM Racing Karts West||AM Racing Kart||Breckenridge||CO|
|Tyler Ruth||Ruthless Motorsports||KGB||Glendale||AZ|