EKN Trackside: 2014 Cold Stone US Grand Nationals – Preview – Part 3
Epic battles set to unfold in Senior Max and DD2 categories
This week is officially ‘Rotax Week’ in the United States as the racers from all across the country have traveled to the Miller Motorsports Park for the Cold Stone US Grand Nationals. The 14th annual event is set for the second time at the Tooele, Utah facility with close to 200 drivers battling over a three-day period (July 18-20). Drivers in seven Rotax Max Challenge categories will be competing for a chance to claim the only true national championship.
The Miller Motorsports Park complex is among the most state-of-the-art facilities in North America, featuring road racing, off-road, and of course a karting circuit. The layout will be exact to that featured during the 2011 edition of the Rotax Grand Nationals, held at MMP, utilizing the 9/10-mile ‘StarTrek’ course. The MMP facility was opened in 2006, and has been a great foundation for the growth of karting and the Rotax Max Challenge in the state of Utah, along with the surrounding Rocky Mountain region.
Competitors began traveling to Tooele over the weekend, setting up for unofficial practice held Tuesday and Wednesday, with official practice beginning Thursday, setting the stage for the remaining three days. Qualifying and the first round of heat races are held on Friday. Saturday is the final two rounds of heat races to set the stage for Championship Sunday. The final day will host a Prefinal, which sets the lineup for the main events to crown the seven national champions. This year’s event has moved one day later than typically seen, with the final day held on Sunday, rather than Saturday like in year’s past.
On the line, aside from the national titles, will be tickets to the 2014 Rotax Grand Finals, set for the new Kartodromo Internacional Lucas Guerrero in Valencia, Spain where racers from around the world will compete for the four world championship categories. The top two finishers in the Senior Max, DD2, DD2 Masters and Junior Max divisions will be awarded spots to the event, while the top Masters Max pilot also earns a ticket. All will become a member of Team USA, already featuring seven championship drivers from the Rotax Challenge of the Americas and the Florida Winter Tour.
EKN will once again be providing the popular Trackside coverage. Be sure to follow the Official Discussion Thread for top-10 results of every on-track session as the event unfolds, and follow all the coverage through the EKN Event Page. Also, get updates through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Junior Max, Mini Max and Micro Max were previewed first on Monday, with DD2 Masters and Masters Max published on Tuesday. Today is a look at Senior Max and DD2, with Trackside coverage beginning on Thursday.
Ocala Gran Prix Senior Max
Over 30 drivers will assemble this weekend in Utah to decide the national championship for the Senior Max category. Names like Lobaugh, Musser, Rolison, Arscott, Neri, Formal…they all have seen the checkered flag at the end of the week long battle to claim the US Rotax title. The newest name to that list was last year’s champion Oliver Askew, and the spotlight is on the young Florida driver.
The Ocala Gran Prix/Tony Kart driver had a phenomenal rookie season in the Senior category in 2013. He battled strong against some of the best and previously mentioned names at the Florida Winter Tour, earning his first major victory. He used that momentum to the US Grand Nationals, scoring the win in convincing fashion to earn a spot on Team USA for the Rotax Grand Finals. Prior to the New Orleans event, he bested a stout field at the Pan American Challenge event, and rallied back from some misfortune to land on the podium at the world championship with a third place result. His efforts placed him at the top of the eKartingNews.com Driver Rankings. Already locked for the Rotax Grand Finals through his FWT championship, this week is all about defending his crown.
Two former US Grand Nationals champions reside in the field, looking to add their second title to their resume. In 2012, Joey Wimsett drove to victory in the DD2 category to land himself on Team USA for the first time. He returned last year as the Rotax Can-Am ProKart Challenge champion, driving to a runner-up finish to record the best result by an American in DD2 at the world championship. This year, he’s working directly with CRG-USA on producing results in the Senior Max division, and contend for a podium result at this year’s US Grand Nationals. Stepanova Nekeel is the other former Rotax champion, and is always among the quickest drivers at any event he attends. His 2010 championship story is something of a Hollywood movie, purchasing a used chassis at the track, building it up and going on to score the victory. In 2011 at Miller Motorsports Park, Nekeel won the Prefinal but was removed for a carburetor issue, thus dropping him to the tail of the 34-kart field for the main event. He drove a stellar race, advancing up to seventh in 20 laps.
Another driver that has been impressive in his rookie Senior season is Oregon’s Luke Selliken. The Rolison Performance Group opened up the season, progressing his way forward throughout the Rotax Challenge of the Americas program, eventually finding the podium at the end of the series. This summer, he’s fighting for the championship and Rotax Grand Finals ticket on the line at the Rotax Can-Am ProKart Challenge, already gaining his first three Senior victories, and drove the a win at the Rotax Summer Shootout last month. Other rookies that could be a factor on Championship Sunday include Kyle Kirkwood and Thomas Issa, both members of Team USA last year as Junior drivers. Kirkwood was the top qualifier at the Rotax Grand Finals, but dropped to 11th at the Final. This winter, he finished second to his Ocala Gran Prix/Tony Kart teammate at the Florida Winter Tour, showing promise for contention this week. The Jamaican Issa (J3 Competition/Kosmic) was the FWT Junior Max champion in 2013, earning his spot to the Rotax Grand Finals. He would finish eighth at the track, and was excluded by officials until being reinstated following an appeal completed in January. His progression during the week will be one to watch.
One driver the karting community has been watching for roughly a decade now is California Louie Pagano. The DKC/Sodi Kart USA pilot was solid in his Cadet years, a champion in the Junior ranks, but has yet to claim the top step at a major event as a Senior. He finished sixth in his first Senior Max US Grand Nationals back in 2010, and is looking to better that result this year. Just behind him a few years in the SoCal area was Jake Craig. The 2Wild Karting/Tony Kart driver was the 2013 Rotax Can-Am ProKart Challenge champion, and competed at the Rotax Grand Finals. It was his second trip to the world championships after earning a runner-up result at the 2011 edition of the US Grand Nationals at Miller in the Junior category. This is his second as a Senior driver, placing 13th a year ago at GoPro Motorplex.
Other drivers to watch for include another Californian, Mason Marotta (Ryan Perry Motorsports/Tony Kart), Florida driver Dan Roeper (BN Racing/Birel), and May GoRotax.com Driver of the Month Lincoln Steel (Tony Kart) who leads the local contingent.
Senior Max Provisional Entry List
302,Gabe Bargas,Crosslink Racing/KRS,Tony Kart,Hurst TX
304,Jesse Woodyard,Iron Rock Motorsports,Intrepid,Macloud OK
305,Mason Marotta,Ryan Perry Motorsports,Tony Kart,Bakersfield CA
307,Breanna Miscione,Full Throttle Karting,Birel,Capistrano Beach CA
309,Lincoln Steel,,Tony Kart,Stansbury Park UT
312,Myles Pederson,Red Apple Racing,Tony Kart,Meridian ID
316,Morgan Healey,Ocala Gran Prix,Tony Kart,Ocala FL
319,Jim McKinney,Ruthless Karting,Tony Kart,Chandler AZ
320,Stepanova Nekeel,,Tony Kart,Seattle WA
321,Blaine Rocha,Rolison Performance Group,Kosmic,Oakdale CA
322,Michael Gregory,Chi Chi Racing,Tony Kart,Orange CT
327,Joey Wimsett,CRG-USA,CRG,Beaver Creek OR
328,Kyle Kirkwood,Ocala Gran Prix,Tony Kart,Ocala FL
338,Oliver Askew,Ocala Gran Prix,Tony Kart,Ocala FL
342,Jake Craig,2Wild Karting,Tony Kart,Mission Viejo CA
343,Ronnie Price,Iron Rock Motorsports,Tony Kart,San Antonio TX
347,Ayden Goodfellow,Call Racing,Kosmic,West Bountiful UT
351,Blaine Cavin,DKC/Sodi Kart USA,Sodi Kart,Baton Rouge LA
352,Bradley Smith,Champion Racing,Intrepid,Irving TX
354,Louie Pagano,DKC/Sodi Kart USA,Sodi Kart,Caddo Mills TX
355,Lane Vacala,,Birel,Antioch IL
358,Jeremy Doll,Chi Chi Racing,Tony Kart,West Creek NJ
359,Elliot Finlayson,Koene USA,Tony Kart,Yorkville IL
361,Dan Roeper,BN Racing,Birel,Delray Beach FL
371,Max Mallinen,Yardley Racing,,Liberty Lake WA
382,Carlee Taylor,2Wild Karting,Tony Kart,Yucaipa CA
388,Garrett Maxfield,Msquared Karting,Arrow,Murray UT
394,Thomas Issa,J3 Competition,Kosmic,Fort Lauderdale FL
396,Thomas Beaudoin,DKC/Sodi Kart USA,Sodi Kart,Rowlett TX
,Luke Selliken,Rolison Performance Group,Kosmic,Portland OR
,McKay Snow,Rolison Performance Group,Kosmic,Salt Lake City UT
Dallas Karting Complex DD2
Each and every year, the DD2 category brings about excitement and drama, no matter the size of the field or the talent pool level. This year’s field is stacked, with any one of the drivers set to battle this weekend able to claim the final checkered flag on Championship Sunday.
The driver that stands out among them is racing to be part of history. Nick Neri became the first driver to win a Mini Max, Junior Max and Senior Max title when he won the 2011 US Grand Nationals. After racing in Senior the past two season, the Ocala Gran Prix driver is looking for his fourth overall in a fourth different category. That feat was accomplished by Daniel Formal last year, with Neri looking to move even with him and Jordon Musser with four total US Grand Nationals. Neri locked up the Florida Winter Tour championship, and is set for another trip to the Rotax Grand Finals. Victory is on the mind for Neri, hoping for a second title at the Miller Motorsports Park.
What will be the next storyline throughout the event in DD2 is the entry of two-time DD2 Masters champion Alan Rudolph. The ageless veteran already has locked up the DD2 Masters ticket from the Rotax Challenge of the Americas, set for his third appearance at the Rotax Grand Finals as part of Team USA. Since becoming part of the USRMC, Rudolph has shown pace that matches the regular DD2 competitors, all at 15lbs over their minimum weight. Throwing that extra led off his PSL Karting/CRG, Rudolph will now test his skills against the young guns in the DD2 category.
Making his first US Grand Nationals start, Italian native Alessandro Bressan is looking to crash the party. The J3 Competition/Kosmic driver scored both wins during the Rotax Summer Shootout, each by over 10 seconds in 20 laps. With Tony Kart factory race team experience, the now Las Vegas resident is set to contend for the two Rotax Grand Finals tickets on the line, as well as the title. Already locked up for his first trip to the Rotax world championship is Rotax Challenge of the Americas title winner Gavin Reichelt. The rookie DD2 driver made the long trek from New York, and piloted his PSL Karting/CRG to three series wins. Working with veteran Rudolph, Reichelt is poised for a run at the podium.
Two drivers that stood on the podium at the Rotax Summer Shootout alongside Bressan were Sabré Cook and Michael Ilavia. Cook was Reichelt’s led title competitor at the Rotax Challenge of the Americas, and has picked up a couple wins at the Rotax Can-Am ProKart Challenge in her CRG-USA ride. She is trying to become the second female to win at the US Grand Nationals, with January Grove as the first official female champion (DD2 Masters – 2009). Ilavia moved over to the J3 Competition stable this winter, and swapped podium positions with Cook at the Shootout. The Texan was among the quicker drivers at last year’s event, hoping the new chassis and new team can put him on the podium this weekend.
Two other Lone Star State drivers are looking for some strong results, with a total of four Texas ProKart Challenge drivers taking part at the US Grand Nationals. Like Ilavia, CJ Cramm (PSL Karting/CRG) was fast last year, and among those challenging for the podium. Nathan Adds (DKC/Sodi Kart USA) is making his first DD2 start at the national championship, hoping some recent shifterkart success can transfer over. The driver with the most experience in the DD2 category is Nathan Mauel. The Oklahoman is a five-time Team USA member, returning with the PSL Karting/CRG stable this year. Jonathan Kotyk (Ocala Gran Prix/Tony Kart) could be the wildcard, as the successful Florida driver is also making his DD2 debut.
DD2 Provisional Entry List
403,Michael Ilavia,J3 Competition,FA Kart,Houston TX
416,Nathan Mauel,PSL Karting,CRG,Broken Arrow OK
417,Nick Neri,Ocala Gran Prix,Tony Kart,Ocala FL
418,Nathan Adds,DKC/Sodi Kart USA,Sodi Kart,Rowlett TX
444,CJ Cramm,PSL Karting,CRG,Spring TX
448,Alessandro Bressan,J3 Competition,Tony Kart,Las Vegas NV
457,Jonathan Kotyk,Ocala Gran Prix,Tony Kart,Ocala FL
471,Max Mallinen,Yardley Racing,,Liberty Lake WA
477,Alan Rudolph,PSL Karting,CRG,Gilbert AZ
482,Gavin Reichelt,PSL Karting,CRG,Rhinebeck NY
,Sabre Cook,CRG-USA,CRG,Grand Junction CO