EKN Trackside: Rotax Challenge of the Americas – Tucson Preview

Seventh season of International Rotax winter program gets underway at Musselman Honda Circuit

Rotax Challenge of the Americas logo 2014

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.

ekn-live-banner-COTA1-FINALIn 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.

Arscott looks to become the first repeat Senior Max champion in COTA history (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Arscott looks to become the first repeat Senior Max champion in COTA history (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

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

No. Driver Team Chassis City State
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
309 Dylan Stalker Karttech CRG Lakewood CA
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
325 Louie Pagano KartNation Sodi Camarillo CA
326 Alejandro Fernandez Buddy Rice Karting Energy San Bernadino CA
327 Joey Wimsett CRG-USA CRG Beavercreek OR
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

Veteran Rudolph is searching for his second DD2 Masters title (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Veteran Rudolph is searching for his second DD2 Masters title (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

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

No. Driver Team Chassis City State
411 Harrison Mills Snow Racing Vacaville CA
412 John Buzza CRG West CRG Winnipeg MB
417 Sabre Cook CRG-USA CRG Grand Junction CO
471 Christian Schureman CRG-USA CRG Thornton CO
418 Alec Udell KartNation Sodi Kart Angleton TX
513 Brent Harper Rolison Performance Group Kosmic Lubbox TX
522 Ben Johnston CRG-USA CRG Salem OR
525 Mike Urban CRG-USA CRG Parker CO
577 Alan Rudolph CRG-USA CRG Gilbert AZ

Entering his third season in Junior Max, Versteeg is an instant championship contender (Photo: Studio52.us)

Entering his third season in Junior Max, Versteeg is an instant championship contender (Photo: Studio52.us)

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

No. Driver Team Chassis City State
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
226 Jake Boyle CRG Anthem AZ
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
274 Nick Brueckner Birel Hockley TX
277 Austin Versteeg Rolison Performance Group Kosmic Sandy UT
278 Toni Breidinger Kosmic Hillsborough CA
279 David Rafailov Rolison Performance Group Kosmic Aurora CO
280 Annie Breidinger Kosmic Hillsborough CA
281 Justice Lepe Tony Kart Bonita CA
291 Sara Houston CRG Glendale AZ
298 Phillippe Denes ART GP ART Carmel CA
Kellen Ritter CRG West CRG N. Vancouver BC

Durbin is hunting for a second straight Masters Max title (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Durbin is hunting for a second straight Masters Max title (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

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

No. Driver Team Chassis City State
608 David Pergande FTK Arrow Katy TX
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
656 Kevin Peltier Karttech CRG Fullerton CA
659 Brian Phillipsen Tony Kart Huntington Beach CA
662 Ken Maxfield Arrow Murray UT
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

A new crop of drivers projected up front in Mini Max, including Trenton Sparks (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

A new crop of drivers projected up front in Mini Max, including Trenton Sparks (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

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

No. Driver Team Chassis City State
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
132 Trenton Sparks FA Bakersfield 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
181 Payton Durrant Birel Lehi UT
185 Valdemar Eriksen CRG Morgan Hill CA
194 Sebastian Alvarez PSL Karting CRG MEX

LaRoque is hoping to add to his COTA win total in 2014 (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

LaRoque is hoping to add to his COTA win total in 2014 (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

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

No. Driver Team Chassis City State
2 Ashton Torgerson Ruthless Motorsports KGB Central Point OR
03 Palmer Mahoney Unser Racing Kosmic Longmont CO
5 Cole Keith Cotham CRG Corona CA
14 Joshua Pierson OTK Wilsonville OR
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
56 Diego LaRoque Birel Laveen AZ
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

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