EKN Trackside: Rotax Challenge of the Americas – Tucson – Sunday Report

Reichelt and Rudolph double in DD2, Craig and Brooks win first of the year

Gavin Reichelt scored both DD2 wins on the weekend (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Gavin Reichelt scored both DD2 wins on the weekend (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Sunday was the completion of what was among the best opening weekends for the Rotax Challenge of the Americas program. Welcoming the most drivers in the seven year history, the racing at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona elevated with the numbers. Each of the seven Rotax Max Challenge categories set the contenders for the 2014 championships, as two drivers doubled up in the win column while a number of others added to the list of first time winners.

Rolison Performance Group Junior Max
Familiar faces were at the top of the order to begin Sunday’s qualifying session as the podium finishers from yesterday were among the quick drivers early, including yesterday’s polesitter Sting Ray Robb (Kosmic). Christian Brooks (Tony Kart) held the provisional pole position for much of the session, until Robb got a great draft toward the end of the session to steal the top spot. His 51.952-lap was better by two tenths to Brooks fast lap, putting them on the front row for the prefinal. Saturday winner Austin Versteeg (Kosmic) was third, with Rolison Performance Group teammate Kyle Wick (Kosmic) fourth and Jake Boyle (CRG) completing the fast-five.

Christian Brooks was awarded the Junior Max victory (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Christian Brooks was awarded the Junior Max victory (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

From the inside of row one, Robb was able to break away from the field on the opening lap of the Prefinal by already a second, as Versteeg stumbled through turns two and three, stacking up the field behind him. Versteeg gathered himself up and cut three tenths off Robb’s lead with Brooks, Boyle and Wick trailing. Lap three, Versteeg went purple on the timing screen, trailing Robb by only a few kart lengths. Starting lap five, Versteeg moved to the lead in turn one, with Robb trying to fight back on the exit but thought better, slotting in behind. They ran 1-2 for much of the race, as the gap grew and then shrunk, with the young drivers playing chess around the circuit. Behind them, Brooks continued to feel pressure from Boyle with Wick waiting for something to happen, running right there. Versteeg would hold on to the lead for the remainder of the prefinal to cross the line first, as Robb settled for second. Brooks was four seconds back in third, as Boyle and Wick were close behind.

Versteeg got the jump on Robb as the green flag waved for the 25-lap main event, with the outside polesitter dropping back to fourth, but up to third by the end of the first lap. Completing the opening circuit, Versteeg led Brooks, until they entered turn one with the Nash Motorsportz driver taking over the lead. Versteeg came right back to take the spot away the following lap. They continued shuffling around, allowing the lead pack to grow to eight drivers. The top four of Versteeg, Brooks, Robb and Wick continued shuffling position, but were able to get away from the remaining four, now led by Saturday runner-up Phillippe Denes (ART GP).

They ran static until Robb fought for the second spot on lap 19, moving past Brooks into turn one. Versteeg, with that pass and some quick laps previous, pulled out to a six tenths advantage. Robb responded with the fast lap of the race, finally with clean track in front of him and trying to reel in Versteeg. The four then began to exchange fast lap of the race, in place of position, all trying to get their machines ready for a final push to the checkered flag. Receiving two laps to go, Robb made his move inside at turn one, and then they shuffled it up at turn four. Versteeg went off while Robb and went wide, that opened the door for Wick to take over the point. Brooks took the spot from Wick at turn one beginning the final lap, but Wick came right back in turn four for the spot. Wick drove the final circuit, holding on to the position to the checkered flag. Officials however penalized Wick for contact, dropping him two positions to third and handing the win over to Brooks. Robb would be classified second, earning his first Junior podium. Versteeg settled for fourth with Denes up to another top-five finish. Canadian Jeff Fulham (Kosmic) put in a stellar drive, going from 20th to 10th.

Black Flag Racing Micro Max
Much like the racing was on Saturday, the qualifying session was tight again at the top of the order. The same two from the timed session yesterday were the quickest out of the both in the morning, with Saturday winner Jak Crawford (Birel) posting the fast lap by 55 thousandths over Austin Torgerson (KGB). Sebastian Davis (Tony Kart) was third with Josh Pierson (Tony Kart) and Cooper Becklin (FA) making up the fast five.

Jak Crawford fought back again to win a second Micro Max feature (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Jak Crawford fought back again to win a second Micro Max feature (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

A four driver lead group formed at the start of the prefinal, with Crawford leading Torgerson, Davis and Ethan Arndt (Tony Kart). They ran static for much of the race until two laps to go when Arndt took over lead from Crawford, mixing it up for the final lap. Crawford was able to take the top spot away in the final corners, crossing the line first but was penalized three seconds for a start infraction. That dropped him back to fourth in the order, moving Davis to the pole position for the main event with Arndt outside row one. Torgerson was classified third with Crawford fourth. Jonathon Portz (Kosmic) won the fight for fifth.

Arndt got the jump on the field to begin the 14-lap main event for the Micro drivers. From third, Arndt led Davis, and Crawford across the stripe for the first time. Crawford was quick early, up to second after the second circuit and focused on Arndt’s bumper. Lap three, he went right to the lead and pulled out a bit of a gap once in the top position. Arndt and Davis were able to lock up to catch Crawford, bringing Torgersen with him. They split up while working a lap driver, but rejoined after a couple laps until Torgersen lost the draft. Crawford worked his way to the point and with two laps to go, it was a three-driver fight for the win. Arndt went to the outside of turn one and made it stick, but Crawford fought back in turn four to retake the top position. From there, Crawford held on to score his second victory of the weekend. Arndt crossed the line second with Davis completing the podium. Torgerson was fourth with Max Wright winning the fight for fifth.

Nash Motorsportz Masters Max
Shuffling early was on the order for the elder category with Saturday winner Donald Durbin Jr. (Birel), John Crow (Tony Kart), and a host of others shuffling position at the top. Crow held the provisional position, came into the pit to check the order, went back on course without any changes, and dropped an even faster time. The 52.340-lap time stood for the remainder of the 15-minute session for the pole position, a full three tenths quicker than second place driver Brian Phillipsen (Tony Kart). His best lap came toward the end of the session, besting Durbin’s quick time. Saturday pole winner Kurt Fisher (CRG) was fourth with Bruce McKean (Kosmic) rounding out the fast-five.

It was a clean sweep on the day for John Crow in Masters Max (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

It was a clean sweep on the day for John Crow in Masters Max (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Crow led the field to the green flag for the prefinal with Fisher able to advance up to the second spot on the opening lap, dropping Phillipsen back to fourth behind Durbin. Ken Maxfield (Arrow) moved up the order quickly, dropping Phillipsen another position. By lap three, Crow’s lead was over a second as Durbin fought with Fisher for the second position. Fisher continued to fight off Durbin, who went wide on lap five allowing Maxfield and Phillipsen to move past. Maxfield took it to Fisher quickly, taking over the second spot which triggered a few laps of the drivers exchanging position behind him. Crow’s lead was now five seconds, with Maxfield getting reeled in by Fisher with Durbin and Phillipsen still fighting for position. At the checker, Crow took the win by over five seconds. Fisher held off Maxfield for second with Phillipsen fighting back Durbin for fourth with Larry Hayashigawa (Tony Kart) trailing. Penalties after the race would shake up the order, as Fisher would be removed in tech for an airbox issue. Maxfield was given a 10-second penalty while Phillipsen three for starting infractions.

Crow was able to get away from the field early to begin the 25- lap main event with Durbin having to fight Hayashigawa for second. By the end of lap two, Durbin secured the position but found himself trailing by 1.5 seconds, with Crow extending it to over two seconds after five laps. Peck ran fourth with James Dix (Birel) in fifth until Phillipsen took over the spot. Second through fifth ran nose to tail, but the gap continued to grow with the ‘Crow Show’ extending his lead with each circuit. The top five remained unchanged through the halfway point, but the top-10 lost Maxfield as he retired with the pulse line on his fuel system disconnecting. The driver on the move was Fisher, coming up from 18th and into the top-10. Fisher was able to get to sixth by the end of lap 19. Crow made it a boring race to watch, but one exciting for him as he took the checkered flag by nearly five seconds. Durbin settled for second with Phillipsen driving to third over Hayashigawa and Peck.

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Holeshot Driver Systems Senior Max
Matt Johnson (ART GP) was the provisional pole position holder after the first session for the Senior Max category, looking to stay within the top-10 of the final order after the second group hit the track. Just three laps into the second group, drivers began bettering the time, with a host of drivers shuffling the top spot. eKartingNews.com TaG Driver Rankings #1 driver Louie Pagano was the top pilot early on, putting his Sodi Kart in the provisional top spot. Drivers hit the pit lane after the halfway point, but no one toward the top of the order were able to better the time set previously. Pagano’s time of 51.054 held on to the very end, edging out Jake Craig (Tony Kart) by 16 thousandths of a second. Senior rookie Jim McKinney (Tony Kart) was just a few hundredths off in third. Joe Criscione (FA Kart) had his best Challenge qualifying effort in fourth with defending champ Phillip Arscott (Kosmic) placing fifth. Saturday winner Phil DeLaO (Arrow) could only muster an 11th place in the session, leaving work to be done moving forward on the day. An amazing stat after the session was the fact that the top 24 drivers were within a half second of each other, showing the true competitiveness of the Challenge in 2014.

Jake Craig held on to earn his first Senior Max victory of the Challenge (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Jake Craig held on to earn his first Senior Max victory of the Challenge (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

It was a clean start for the Senior Max prefinal event, aside from about six drivers getting mixed up in the opening corner. Pagano and Craig got away with Arscott up to third over McKinney with Criscione fifth. Craig would eventually take over the lead, with Pagano dropping back all the way to the fourth spot by lap three. By that time, Johnson had worked his way to the fifth position, working around Criscione. He would post the fast laps of the race to close up on the front four. McKinney tried a move on Arscott on lap 15, and that allowed both Pagano and Johnson to move past for position. At the end of the straight, Johnson took over the third spot from Pagano. They would finish that way with Craig holding a three tenths advantage over Arscott. Johnson, Pagano and McKinney completed the top five with Criscione pressuring at the end. DeLaO was able to climb up to seventh, putting him in position to challenge in the main event.

The start was not as clean as we’ve seen throughout the weekend, with drivers getting shuffled off, including Pagano and McKinney, as they both dropped to outside the top-20. Out front, Johnson used the inside row two position to secure the lead on the opening lap ahead of Arscott with Craig falling to fifth behind DeLaO and Senior rookie Blaine Rocha (Kosmic). Lap three, both Arscott and Craig moved past Johnson for position, with Craig leading as they completed the circuit. As they measured each other up, the top eight ran together. Johnson moved into the second spot, and helped to push he and Craig away from the fight for third with Arscott fighting off DeLaO and Alejandro Fernandez (Energy). Johnson would push until lap 13 when he took over the top spot from Craig in turn one, putting the 2 Wild Karting driver in the runner-up spot. They ran that way until the final circuit, when Johnson began a defensive line. Craig found just enough space in turn five, with a little contact, and moved into the lead. Arscott was able to slide past for second, as Johnson ran wide. No attempts were made in the final corners, with Craig scoring his first Challenge victory in Senior Max. Arscott and Johnson completed the podium with Senior Max rookie Luke Selliken (Kosmic) coming through with a solid end to the weekend in fourth, moving past DeLaO in the late stages of the race, with RPG teammate Rocha in sixth. Pagano was able to move up to the 15th position with McKinney pulling off early with a broken rear bumper.

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Energy Corse America DD2/CRG-USA DD2 Masters
The close speeds from Saturday’s racing carried over into qualifying on Sunday. The same drivers that were fighting for the win, battled for the pole position. Sabré Cook (CRG) and Saturday winner Gavin Reichelt (CRG) were the quickest drivers early, but a late adjustment put Christian Schureman (CRG) on the pole with a 50.137-lap. The top three, including Cook and Reichelt were within three hundredths of each other after the session was over. Alec Udell (Sodi Kart) picked up some speed, placing fourth with Harrison Mills (CRG) fifth to put the top-five within 15 hundredths of each other. Alan Rudolph (CRG) was the provisional pole driver for a time during the 15-minute session, but ended up second overall with a 50.145-lap to put him at the top of the DD2 Masters field. Brent Harper (Kosmic) found speed overnight, pacing within two tenths of the defending series champ. Ben Johnston (CRG) and Mike Urban (CRG) completed the order.

Alan Rudolph continued the streak in DD2 Masters (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Alan Rudolph continued the streak in DD2 Masters (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Schureman kept the top spot through the prefinal, but not without a fight. The was bunched up once again early on, with Cook slotting into the second spot behind the leader. It seemed Reichelt was the quickest on the track, making a stellar move from third to first entering turn two, taking over the lead. Schureman locked on his bumper and they were able to break away with Cook coming under pressure from Andy Lee (CRG). Schureman made his move after taking the two laps to go signal, holding on to take the win. Reichelt was second with Cook third, Lee fourth and Mills fifth. Rudolph drove to sixth overall, first in Masters with Harper about eight seconds back – ahead of Johnston and Urban.

It was a three driver fight for the entire 25-lap main event, with Schureman, Reichelt and Lee making of the lead group. Cook fought with Udell for fourth, and was unable to close up on the leaders and then retired after 14 laps with an electrical issue. Mills, making his first DD2 start, pulled off the opening lap with a broken shifter cable. The three at top went back and forth with Reichelt and Schureman leading most of the way. Lee challenge for second, but never reached the top spot. The scramble continued into the final lap, with Schureman trying to find a way past Reichelt for the lead. Reichelt fought strong and held on for his second victory of the weekend, securing the point lead heading into Phoenix. The door opened up for Lee in the final corner, stealing the runner-up from Schureman. Udell would finish fourth, with John Buzza (CRG) fifth. Rudolph completed the perfect weekend, with Harper holding second and Johnston completing the Masters podium.

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BBR Karting Mini Max
Momentum is a valuable asset in motorsports and Jacob Blue Hudson (Energy) maintained his speed and confidence on Sunday morning, coming off a perfect day on Saturday where he topped Mini Max qualifying and swept the Prefinal and Finals.  In Sunday qualifying, Hudson turned a 56.587-second lap to edge Griffin Dowler (Tony Kart) for the pole, securing the inside of the front row for the Prefinal.  New York’s Dylan Tavella (Tony Kart) got his day off to a much better start when he qualified third, putting himself directly behind Hudson for the start of the 13-lap Prefinal.  Payton Durrant (Birel) and TrentonSparks (FA) capped the fast five during the 15-minute timed session.

Dylan Tavella scored the Mini Max win on a last lap pass (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Dylan Tavella scored the Mini Max win on a last lap pass (Photo: SeanBuur.com)

Hudson got his first challenge of the weekend in the Prefinal, when Tavella locked onto his rear bumper at the beginning of the race.  The duo worked together to build a gap over the new group of karts, knowing that they would fight it out amongst themselves to see who would get the pole for the Final.   Hudson led early, set the fastest lap, but Tavella would not be denied as he slipped through to take the lead and the win.  Durrant led the chase group, finishing third ahead of Sparks and Brown to give himself the inside of the second row for the start of the main.

In the final, Hudson and Tavella pulled away once again, putting their challengers out of sight.  The duo remained locked together throughout the entire event, with Hudson holding the lead, running a pace that continually built more cushion between them and the next pack.  The race would go down to the final couple of corners, as Hudson ran the defensive line down the backshute in an effort to protect his lead.  Tavella positioned himself even further to the inside waiting for enough room, which only came when Hudson drifted to the right to set up for the left-hand Turn 10.  When the opening appeared, all 50” of it, Tavella shot to the apex and got the car to rotate enough to hold the pass.  Tavella would beat Hudson to the line by 2.4 seconds, as the former leader needed to wheel his kart to keep it on the track.  It was an incredibly impressive pass against a tough young competitor.   The fight for third was waged all race long between Sparks, Dowler, Trey Brown (Tony Kart) and Mini Max rookie Marco Kacic (CRG), as they swapped positions constantly.   Brown came out on top of the 18-lap dice to take the final spot in the podium.  Dowler ended up fourth, ahead Kacic and Sparks in the final tally.

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